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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXIX: Yesteryears

The inside of Dylan’s house was a mausoleum of white and ivory granite and tile. Folded tables and oak cabinetry were staples of the décor, while old, knitted rag dolls stared down from the hall shelf. One of his parents must have been military because paraphernalia dotted the walls—giant photos of airplanes, spread eagle wings, a service award.

Though Robbie’s nose leaked blood between his fingers, he held his head back in a solid attempt to keep from splashing a mess across the floor before Brendon could help him to the bathroom. There, Brendon wet down a gray washcloth and helped to wash the blood away, smearing it so much that it painted Robbie’s freckles and poured into his mouth to line his teeth when he smiled grimly.

“What set him off?”

As if Casey was a bomb with a fuse that could be lit by just any passing stranger. A fuse shrinking over time, getting tired of flaring, traveling that same, well-worn path to an inevitable explosion.

But that was Casey’s Dad. Not Casey. Casey wasn’t a bomb; he didn’t have a fuse.

“Other than you?” asked Brendon, admittedly annoyed because of course there was something to see in Casey. There was everything to see. And Robbie’ question over what Brendon saw in Casey hadn’t been one that deserved an answer.

Robbie shrugged and leaned further forward over the sink, letting fat, blood-tinged drops dribble out against the porcelain. “I’d been talking to you. Not him.”

“I know.”

“I meant it too.” Robbie turned his head sideways to look at Brendon. “Why are you with him?”

“Because I want to be,” said Brendon with a sharp jut of his chin. “You wouldn’t stand for questions like that when you were dating Tori Kel.”

“That’s different. And you know it.”

It was different. Sort of. Not really.

Race. Class. They weren’t things that could be separated. Not completely.

“He’s been having a rough time of it. His dad being…”

“Being his dad. Right. That’s no excuse for coming over here like a crazy man.”

Brendon shrugged. Let the water from the washcloth drip between this fingers and into the sink. He turned off the water. Listened to it glug down the drain with a gurgle.

In the sudden silence, Robbie no longer making small, pained grunts as he examined his face in the mirror, they could hear shouting. Brendon looked over his shoulder as if he’d be able to see Casey and Dylan through the walls of the bathroom. See them sniping at one another in the garage, Casey shaking his hand out, Dylan keeping his distance now, proving he’d been more bluster than bite.

 “He’s got his car packed full of his things,” said Brendon softly.

That gave Robbie a momentary pause. “He running away to L.A.?”

“He’d be more likely to run to Nashville.”

Robbie chuckled, then winced. “Yeah. He would.”

“I think he’s just going to his mom’s.”

The unintelligible shouting diminished. There came the sudden rumble of a muscle car, a bass line throbbing through the walls like an incessant mutter, reminding Brendon who he’d driven in with, who he should leave with. Like Casey was sending a two minute notice.

“I should go.” He didn’t mention the poster for the comic he’d been working on, sitting half-finished on his bed where he’d abandoned it less than an hour ago. Didn’t mention the comics at all. Brendon started out the bathroom, but paused when Robbie spoke.

“Maybe…” started Robbie. He dabbed at the space under his nose, pressing on the reddened, risen flesh of his cheek. “Maybe it’ll be good for him then, to stay at his mom’s. Get away from his dad for a while.”

Brendon had been about to agree—at least he thought he’d been about to agree—but he never got the chance. There came a squeal of rubber against asphalt that heightened into a screech. Then the screech sank into a roar. Robbie had enough time to roll his eyes and drop the washcloth in the sink.

And the roar morphed into a crash that shook the house, rattled the mirror, sent both Robbie and Brendon racing for the garage.


Next Chapter Coming September 15th