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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXII: Yesteryears

Junior year boasted one of those moments that would forever be commemorated in a 5k walk/run title, but it started innocently enough with a local news reporter who fancied himself a hot shot journalist. The man—Tony Kepuchar—did a spotlight piece on cop favoritism. Election year and all that, with the sheriff being incumbent and his friends and family like an ant network spread about the county. Kepuchar did his research, no one could fault him for that, and yet, one little line and the word “allegation” was enough to set off a chain of events that would forever haunt Brendon’s neighborhood.

“Taylor Lee Barry, grandson to County Sheriff Joseph Barry, is one such example, having been implicated in illegal street races, but never charged, with an allegation against him of heroin dealing that has, interestingly, not been investigated.”

Casey’s father threw that paper across the living room, smacking a row of DVDs to the ground in a haphazard cascade of porn and 90s flicks. Then he went on a rampage, the alcohol singing in his veins. He found Casey in the garage, fiddling with replacing the Mustang’s water pump, and proceeded to beat him with the first thing that came to hand—the rubber serpentine belt Casey had removed and not yet returned.

“No good druggie! I knew that man was bad news!”

Though the hits remained weak, they came fast and no amount of confused questions, and then later, insistences that Casey had never participated, would assuage his father’s self-righteous fury.

Casey showed up on Brendon’s doorstep on foot, bruises starting to show across his neck and shoulders, but he paid them no heed, instead ranting and raging as loud and crass as his father had the hour earlier before finally calling his mother and—partially in demand and partially begging—asked to move in with her and Becks.

“It’s not like we’re doing anything together. The Mustang’s been done and in my name, not his and I can drive the extra fifteen minutes to school in the morning, no biggie.”

Brendon listened with a palm against Casey’s back and cheek to Casey’s shoulder, gently though, afraid of hurting him further.

“I don’t care if it’s a closet, Mom. Could be a fucking couch for all I care.” Then a muttered, “Sorry.” Probably on account of the cussing.

When Casey hung up the phone with a choked sigh and a rare “I love you,” Brendon kissed him chastely against the temple and held him for two hours, waiting for tears that never came. Casey gasped and worried words over his tongue and groaned and complained and murmured “I hate him” so often that they became rote, followed at the end of every story.

“I don’t even fucking do drugs. I hate him so much.” And “He fucking yelled at me for not cleaning up my mess, but I hadn’t even gotten that far. Hadn’t even finished with the car. I hate him.” And repeatedly, “He’s the one who never cleans shit up. Place has gone to hell since my stepmom went to visit her parents and it’s cause of him. I’m never there because I fucking hate him.”

“You boys want dinner?”

“Yes, mom!” called Brendon, chest lifting Casey’s head with the effort.

“Wish I had your family,” murmured Casey.

“You do.” Brendon held him closer. At the time, the words felt right and true, but they never had been, not really. Casey had likely known that, even as he sank further into Brendon’s embrace.


Next Chapter Coming July 28th