Once upon a time, there were two brothers: Big Bro and Little Bro. As these names likely suggest Big Bro is the bigger and elder of the two, while Little Bro is the smaller and younger.
Around eighteen months ago, Big Bro’s exploration found him trapped in the darkness, deep underground. For a month, Big Bro was alone, fighting for survival outside the reach of his family. Out of reach for everybody other than Little Bro, that is; small enough to fit into tight gaps, small enough to visit his big brother. Unable to rescue Big Bro, Little Bro found himself keeping his big brother company as he endured the bowels of Hell.
About one month ago, Little Bro found himself lost and injured, fearing for his life. All it took was a single night spent partying, enjoying the nightlife before his pelvis was shattered by an errant car. It took nine days for Little Bro to find his way to a friend’s house, where they were able to call his family and let him know he was safe. Over the course of those nine days and nights, Big Bro fought past his PTSD, searching everywhere for his little brother. And over the course of those nine days and nights, Big Bro returned home empty-handed, losing faith that he would ever see his younger brother again.
This is not either of those tragic tales. This is the story of two bros; the story of tonight, a night just like all those other nights spent together, trying to push past the other’s propensity of pissing them off in an attempt to live in harmony. It is also a night where Big Bro finds himself channeling his anxiety into an unadulterated rage. He stands firm and stares deeply into Little Bro’s eyes, pressing all his weight firmly onto the floor. Big Bro knows what he must do: demonstrate that he’s that proverbial immovable object. Big Bro is resolute: no matter what it takes, he will win this battle of wills.
His body tenses. Each and every muscle tightens as Big Bro resists the temptation to unleash his pent-up anger by way of the most violent attack he can muster. Despite outweighing Little Bro by two to one, Big Bro fights dirty. Fists are for those who care for rules after all, and whether it’s obliviousness to said rules, or simply a total disregard of them, Big Bro is happy to hack and slash his way to victory, and will always do so with a smile. As he holds himself back with all the restraint he can muster, Big Bro opens his mouth. Like a long-dormant volcano erupting for the first time in centuries, he unleashes a hellish growl. All that rage, all that animosity, all those years of being followed around incessantly by the little wannabe spew forth from Big Bro’s mouth, directly at Little Bro. He has been warned.
Little Bro looks up at the elder. He steps forward. Looking at Big Bro, the younger brother takes another step. And another. As Big Bro holds his ground, the rage continuing to flow through him and threatening to explode from within, Little Bro takes his last step forward. As the brothers stand nose to nose, Little Bro smiles.
“Get along,” I tell the children. It is late, well after midnight. If the children weren’t such animals, they’d be in bed by now. After all, Big Bro is still only nine. Little Bro is four.
Ignoring me, Little Bro shoves up against his brother. His willpower holding strong, Big Bro takes a step back, all the while thinking just how easy it would be to relieve his little brother of his throat. The elder glares at the younger, itching to be pushed into a position where such violence would surely be considered nothing more than self-defence.
Lording his age over Little Bro, Big Bro pushes past his younger brother, almost knocking him from his feet, and heads towards the door. At the ripe old age of nine, he is allowed outside at this ungodly hour. On the rare occasion that Big Bro finds himself in a good mood and not wishing grievous bodily harm upon his brother, he leaves the house as discreetly as possible. But his little brother has not left him alone for hours. Big Bro relishes the opportunity to rub his freedom in his little brother’s face.
Still nursing his broken hip, Little Bro limps after Big Bro, determined that even with the entire world at their disposal outside, he will not—under any circumstances whatsoever—give his brother more than a metre’s space. No, it’s not a safe social distance, but they’re brothers. And Little Bro loves his brother.
The dining room rumbles; the force of Big Bro’s growl filling the room and bouncing off the walls, ceiling, and tiled floor. Little Bro sits patiently, convinced that he will be exiting the house with his brother for a night of murder, mayhem, and all-round delinquency.
“If you two are able to get along while you eat, you’re able to get along now,” I chastise. This gets their attention.
Stepping away from his brother, Little Bro decides to give him a reprieve from the constant attention and demands of affection. Instead, he moves towards me, offering cuddles in the hope that I will decide to feed him. Big Bro takes the opportunity to sit down by the door and look at me expectantly.
“Fine, you can eat,” I tell them. “After I have had some medicine.”
After removing a pill from its packet, I place it into my mouth and wash it down as the Bros watch on. As I swallow, I await the relief that will shortly come, numbing the injuries from roughhousing with these vicious children. I wonder how many of today’s cuts they have inflicted upon me will scar. It doesn’t much matter, I’m sure that tomorrow’s antics will leave me with more scars. But that’s a problem for Tomorrow Me to concern himself with.
Little Bro hobbles over to me before I can retrieve their meals, and offers a cuddle. “No sucking up hoping I’ll feed you sooner,” I tell him before he backs away.
Their eyes locked onto me, the Bros watch my every step, my every movement, my every breath. I don’t fear them; at least I don’t let them in on that dirty little secret. I am getting them a late night/early morning snack because I “love them.” It most assuredly has nothing to do with the blood that will spill throughout the dining room should I back out now.
“Beef?” I ask, “Or chicken?” Regardless of what they choose, their meals will be accompanied by seafood. Their meals are always accompanied by seafood.
The Bros’ eyes don’t even glance at the meals. Instead, they are locked into mine, their death glares wanting to ensure that I will come through with the goods. Without breaking eye contact, I determine that beef it is. If it’s not what they happen to want, maybe they’ll learn to answer my questions in future.
“Now!” Little Bro’s voice howls throughout the dining room, into my ear, and then lodges itself directly inside my brain as he makes his demand. Big Bro watches from the opposite end of the dining room. “Now, now, now, now…now!”
Shaking my head at the disrespectful tone, I look down at Little Bro, then across the room to Big Bro, who is waiting patiently with a rare smile strewn across his face. “Big Bro goes first. He’s not being demanding.”
The only way to ensure the Bros eat in peace is to ensure they are eating at opposite ends of the room. This way, nobody can “accidentally” encroach on the other’s space. If one brother decides to knock the other away from his meal and steal it (and one of them will; they always do), the other will have advanced warning of his approach. Followed by Little Bro, I make my way across the room and hand Big Bro his meal.
As expected, Little Bro pushes past his bigger brother, determined to be the first to eat. Big Bro raises his hand, poised to leave a permanent scar across his brother’s face. But he doesn’t. Likely out of fear of having his meal taken from him, the elder takes a breath, cools his head, then looks to me in deference.
“That’s not yours, Little Bro; wait.” A few seconds later, Big Bro has his meal placed in front of him, ready to be devoured. “Come on, I’ll give you yours now.”
As Little Bro follows me to the far end of the room, I hear a muffled “Thanks” through the surf and turf being shoved into Big Bro’s mouth.
“Now?” Little Bro is contrite, not wanting to cause further delay of his meal.
“Yes, now,” I answer as I hand Little Bro his meal.
I leave the room as Big Bro and Little Bro dive into their meals, filling their mouths faster than they can swallow. It lacks even the most minor illusion of eloquence, but what else would I expect from these damn animals?
Fucking cats, I think as I leave the room, my exit completely unnoticed while they stuff their faces.