Brother Love Ch. 02byqhml1©
I sat at the desk, looking at the camera.
"Good news! At least for me. I found two people to do my research."
"Let me rephrase that. I had a lot of resumes sent to me, but these two took the initiative to hunt me down, and threatened me with bodily harm unless I hired them."
"So welcome Josh and Amber to my project. I also got a bonus. Amber has a best friend, Sarah, who is a radio and television major. She came on board, convincing me I needed a producer/director, to keep me from saying something stupid. I hired her, but I've got to tell you, nobody is that good."
"Also, I got another cameraman at the suggestion of Carlos, my original cameraman. No, it's not instead of, it's in addition to."
I paused to look at the cameras Sarah told me to in my ear bud.
"In the future, thanks to these guys, I might actually look like I know what I'm doing."
I turned around to the pictures on the wall. There were two new pictures there, The Scream, and a Wyeth painting, the one of his pig.
"Like these prints? I love art. If you like to watch for little details like that, you'll note they change for every show."
I turned back around.
"Like I said in my original broadcast, this is a show about me, and what I'm interested in. Sarah is pushing me to get to the point, so here it is."
"What do I want to talk about, what do I want to know? Short answer, everything."
"How politics really work. Are the current parties doomed? What will this country be like in fifty years? Will it be better?"
"At some point I want to talk about religion. Why is your God better than ours, and why are you willing to kill me to prove it? Is there really a God? Is it male or female?"
"You name it. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. Food. Global Warming. Murder. Violence. Love. Marriage. Death. Growing Old. Guns. Education. Hunger. Health Care. Poverty. Wealth. Alternative Lifestyles. Illegal Immigration. Art. Afterlife. Which did come first, the chicken or the egg?"
I stopped for a breath.
"There is a bunch more, but that'll do to start. I have a list, and think of things every day to add. I'm sure I'll run out of money long before I run out of topics."
"My first, official show will be in two weeks. My gurus of communication have established a website. It will be on the screen shortly. Please, go on it and state an opinion, something you'd like to see discussed by real people. We may ask you to be a guest, maybe not, but we will always appreciate your input.
"I'll have the subject lined up next week, and will be taking volunteers for guests. There will be another half hour show next week, then the week after it will be a full hour. Maybe longer. If it's a good topic, we might do two shows on it."
"I have one more picture I'd like to show you. Can you zoom in, Carlos?"
It was a young woman, in her early twenties. Long curly hair, she had on a peasant blouse and a long skirt. She was barefoot and there was a wreath of flowers in her hair.
"This is my great aunt Elsa. It was taken in 1967, in San Francisco. That's right, she was a flower child. The stories she would tell! It's due to her I'm getting to chase this silly quest. She gave me the money, but more importantly, she gave me the motivation. More on her later. I hope you're smiling down at me from wherever you are, Elsa. You were always my favorite relative. I love you."
I wiped a tear out of my eye.
"I need to get a little more thick skinned, I think. Maybe not. I don't mind showing emotion, it's what makes us human."
I looked at the camera one more time.
"Remember, hit the site and tell me what you'd like to hear discussed. Until next week."
Just before I faded out, I made one more comment.
"One more thing. In this world, and especially this economy, people need a hand up, more than they need a handout. Goodnight, all."
As the lights came up Sarah was standing there smiling. Carlos and Ed, the new cameraman, were grinning.
She hugged me.
"we're going to have so much fun. The link to our site has only been up for fifteen minutes, and it's already gotten three hundred messages. I guess someone is out there watching."
That made me feel good. I only paid the group for one day a week, so I would have to read the bulk of them. I hoped I was up to the task.
I went back to the huge house I lived in. It could easily qualify for a mansion. Eight bedrooms, two stories, a two bedroom bungalow for the house and groundskeeper. I felt more comfortable there than I did in 'the big house'. Maybe my tastes were a bit more plebian.
I grabbed my great aunts' old guitar. I was taking lessons, something she suggested as a coping technique. She was right, as usual. As I did my scales and worked on chord progressions, my mind emptied. I played a few simple songs, singing. I didn't have a very good voice, but there was no one else around to hear.
Gently placing it on the stand, I rubbed my hand lightly over the autographs. Jimi Hendrix. Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh. John Sebastian. And a small scribble at the bottom, barely legible. John Lennon. Her very first autograph.
She had met him on a beach in Florida, where they were resting in between dates. It was their first U.S. tour. They were known, but not as famous as they would become, so they could still walk a quiet beach in relative security. She was trying to tune the guitar. After several minutes, he couldn't stand it and came over, offering to do it for her. He stayed, sang a couple of songs with her, drank one of her beers. He invited her to their next show. She never went, and never saw him again. She cried when he got shot, over a nice boy that had helped her tune a guitar, not the rock legend recluse he had become.
The guitar was valued at two hundred twenty thousand, just for the autographs.
I needed to sell the house. Not for financial reasons, I just didn't need the space, and everywhere I looked there were memories of her. God how I had loved that old woman.
I was ten when I met her the first time, in 1993. She was standing on the porch when I opened the door. She hadn't knocked, I was going out and she didn't have time. She was probably fifty at the time, but looked younger. She had on one of those flowing dresses she favored, sunglasses, and a large straw hat.
She jumped a little when I opened the door.
"Who are you? I hope you're not one of those Jehovah people. They really irritate mom."
She laughed, and I fell in love instantly. It was warm, bubbly, and heartfelt.
"You must be Barry. You look just like your grandmother. And as far as the irritation level, wait until your mom sees me. I'm your great aunt Elsa. Your grandmother and I were sisters. Do you remember her?"
I did, barely. I was five when she passed away. All I remembered was grey hair, big hugs, and a great smelling kitchen.
Mom came to the door.
"Barry, who are you talking to? It's not those religious people again is it? I've already told them not to bot...."
She stopped, her mouth hanging open.
"Hello Carol" said Elsa, quietly. "Bet you never expected me at the door, did you?"
I looked from one to the other, wondering what was going on. Mom opened her mouth several times before she could make enough words to invite her in.
"What are you doing here?" She finally came out with.
Elsa had regained her good humor by then.
"Well hello to you, my darling niece. Graham had to go to a conference here in town and I thought I'd tag along, maybe see the only family I got left."
She turned to me.
"I feel like ice cream. Want some?"
What ten year old doesn't like ice cream. She took my hand and looked at mom.
"Coming, Carol?" Mom was speechless again when she saw the limo. For a woman that had been all over the world, she never once held a drivers' license.
We went to the ice cream parlor. Banana splits, something mom rarely let me have. She talked to me more than mom, and I loved it. She asked mom for the time. She never owned a watch in her life, either.
"Goodness! Time to collect Graham from that stuffy old meeting. Well, it was good to see you again, Carol. You guys are the only family I have left. I'd like to see more of you, if that's all right."
I was all for that, but Mom said we'd have to see. I don't think she saw the pain in her eyes, but I did. I took her hand, shocking my mom. I was almost phobic about people touching me.
"I'd like to see you again, Aunt Elsa."
She kissed my cheeks, something else I didn't allow.
"I hope I get to, young Barry. Call me, Carol."
She handed her a card and whirled out to the car.
Mom told Dad about the visit at dinner. He had never met her. They had sent her a wedding invitation, but she was out of the country, doing something in Africa for the Peace Corps. He had never met her.
"She's an odd old girl, wild as can be when she was young. Maybe she's changed, and Barry sure likes her."
Dad raised his eyebrows at me.
"She was fun. I thought so, anyway."
I heard them talking later.
"Maybe we should let her suck up to him. They have no kids, and her husband is loaded. Might work out well for us."
That was my Mom. She constantly obsessed about money, but not enough to get a job, even part time.
My Dad was annoyed, I could hear it in his voice.
"Don't worry about the money, Carol. If they like each other, let her spend some time with him. You know how he's been since Junie died. It might bring him out of his shell."
Junie had been my twin sister, hit by a car as she rode her bike to the corner store. I was with her and saw it all. He was flying, and crossed the line. I saw her go flying over his car, landing headfirst on the pavement. She was dead before I got to her. He kept driving, they never caught him. We were nine, proud that Mom would let us ride that far. It was three years before I got on a bike again. I just shut down.
Looking back, I should have been in therapy, but we didn't have the money, and it never occurred to them at the time. Aunt Elsa was the first thing that had sparked my interest since the accident.
When I was twelve and seeing her regularly, I opened up and told her about it. She held me for two hours while I cried myself out. To lose a sibling that young is hard enough, but a twin? It was like half of me died with her.
It started out slowly. I sent her a homemade birthday card. She sent me a gift certificate for two hundred dollars on mine. It paid for most of my school clothes that year.
The she moved to our town and she and her husband bought the huge house, in the best neighborhood. I was soon a fixture. Her husband was a bit older, but seemed to take a liking to me. He took me fishing for the first time, pleased when I caught a nice bass. He had our picture taken, and Aunt Elsa had it framed and put on the coffee table.
When I was sixteen, she talked my parents into letting me go with her to Africa, to help put in a safe water system for two villages. I loved it, and for the first time got a glimpse of how different life could be for others.
We slept on mats on the floor, used an outhouse, boiled our water before we could use it until the system was in place. I loved it. I almost got married, by mistake.
She was the daughter of the chief by his third wife. Already eighteen, she had been married and widowed. He died in a border skirmish. She liked me. I liked her, especially when she showed me her boobs. She asked me out to another village for some kind of ritual. Luckily Aunt Elsa caught wind of it.
"It's a group marriage ceremony. If you went, and she got you into the circle, you would have been legally married in this country. That could lead to all kinds of complications."
She smoothed it over, presenting the girl with a small dowry, to make her a better marriage prospect. Late the next night, I woke to feel ample breasts pressed against my arm.
"Huh?" I said drowsily, trying to process what was happening.
She put her hand over my mouth, the other went to my crotch.
I was sixteen, a mass of raging hormones. Of course I let nature take its' course. Halfway through the second time I heard Aunt Elsa giggle, and she got up and left.
We did it four times, and by the time we were done I had a pretty good grasp of female anatomy, and what girls liked. I was deflowered by a genuine African princess. I tried to talk about it the next afternoon.
"Hush" Aunt Elsa said, giggling. "Legal age in this country is fourteen, so no one was breaking any laws."
"Plus, I heard she gave you a pretty good report. It was her way of thanking us for the dowry. Accept the gesture as it was given."
She sat for a minute before breaking into laughter.
"Watch out for the other girls. I think they were gambling to see who got you next."
I was glad when we left three days later. The girls would catch me alone and be all over me. Aunt Elsa finally talked to them, and they backed off, a little. Didn't stop them from flashing their boobs or their butts when no one was looking. I had a constant erection.
I blushed so much the team leader asked if I was coming down with a fever, which sent my aunt into fits of laughter.
"Jungle fever" she said solemnly. "The only know cure is eleven thousand miles of distance."
The other guys, all older, gave me a ration of shit all the way home. I think they were jealous. Needless to say, when my parents asked if it was interesting, I could definitely say yes.
Her husband died while I was a high school senior, from a stroke. He was the total opposite of Elsa. Conservative, quiet, he possessed a razor sharp mind. She was thirty nine when she met him. She said it was the first time she ever fell in love. She pursued him relentlessly until he gave in. They loved each other deeply for the seventeen years they were together.
He left me a little trust fund, that I used to help pay for college. I was one of his pallbearers, and sat with Aunt Elsa through the service. I lived with her two months while she recovered.
She finally sent me home, saying she had it together. I heard her crying often when she didn't know I was around, but I obeyed her and went home.
It was her time to comfort me when in my sophomore year of college my parents died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A faulty oil heating system. Mom was always after him to have it checked.
I got a nice insurance package and sold the house, knowing I wouldn't ever sleep there again.
Aunt Elsa invested it for me, and I spent most college holidays with her. We were the only family each of us had left.
I met Deb my senior year. She too was a bit of a wild child, spoiled rotten by her parents. They apparently had 'no' erased from their vocabulary.
We were at a fall mixer, held at her sorority house. I wasn't in a fraternity, but my best friend was, so I often tagged along.
I was dancing to a slow song when I felt her eyes on me. I had let my hair grow long, mostly due to Aunt Elsa. One too many flower power stories, I guess.
When the song was over, I half carried the girl I was with back to a couch, sitting her down carefully. She wanted another drink but I wouldn't give it to her. She was almost passed out by then. I tried to get her up. When she wouldn't go, I grabbed the first girl that wandered by, asking for help. She giggled and staggered on.
The jocks were watching her, waiting for her to pass out. I was stuck. She was a big girl, and dead weight. I felt a tap on my shoulder.
It was Deb.
"Help me pull her up. We'll walk her to her house."
Luckily she lived next door. A couple girls helped us get her to her room. She started snoring as soon as her head hit the pillow.
"I'd hate to be her head in the morning" I thought, as I turned to leave. Deb grabbed my arm.
"Where are you going? You looked like the most interesting guy at the party, but you were with her. She's out of the picture now, care for a glass of wine?"
I declined. I had already passed my limit.
"Okay. No booze. Walk me to the coffee shop."
The coffee shop was a popular hangout, especially to those trying to sober up after a party. They served a good breakfast, too.
We ordered two coffees, this was at the beginning of the specialty coffee craze, and the Starbucks was closed.
She held out her hand.
"Debra Swinson. Call me Deb."
"Barry Silversmith. You can call me Barry."
She looked me over, trying to tell if I was being facetious, before she broke into a grin.
"So, what fraternity do you belong to?"
"None. I was there with a friend. I don't have the time or inclination for that type of lifestyle."
She decided I wasn't making judgements because she was in a sorority. I found later she was constantly like that, trying to find hidden agendas and meanings in the slightest comment. Apparently she wasn't of the 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar' school of thought.
"If you don't belong to a fraternity, what dorm are you in?"
"None. I have an apartment just off campus. Not too large, but it beats sharing space with loud slobs."
"An apartment? That's great. There have been many times I would have killed for a little privacy."
We talked for an hour, before she went back to her house. I went back to the party, found my friend passed out on the couch under two coeds, decided he would probably like waking up like that, and went home.
She had given me her number, but I threw it away by accident. We had spent less than two hours together, and to be honest, she seemed too high maintenance.
Two weeks later, there was another mixer. Jerry told me about it after class.
"I wouldn't go if I were you. Deb has been asking about you, and she seemed pissed. Bitch has got a hell of a temper, so if you go, keep an eye out."
I went despite the warning. I had a few beers, talked junk with the guys, danced a few times. I had been there an hour when she walked in. Jerry saw her coming and split.
"Good luck man" he said as he left.
She came right up to me. Before I could speak, she put her finger in my face.
She turned and strode off. Everyone was staring, so I decided another beer would be in order. Twenty minutes later she stormed up to me again.
"I thought I told you to be outside!"
I grinned at her.
"You did. How'd that work out for you?"
Her mouth hung open. It never crossed her mind that I wouldn't obey her.
She drew a breath when I started talking.
"Too bad. You're very attractive. I'd have loved to get to know you better, but if I wanted a bitch, I'd get a golden retriever."
I walked out, grinning. The look in her eyes made my night.
It was the talk of the campus, the bitch queen of sorority row, shot down in flames. She caught a lot of grief over it, girls had waited a long time to see that happen.
I was a bit of a hero to the fraternity guys, the brunt of most of her aggression.
I never thought much about it until a few sorority girls started flirting with me. I laughed. I didn't have the time and the inclination for what amounted to revenge fucks, getting the guy who shot her down.
Two weeks later she came into the coffee shop. She started over, but drew up when the girl I was with came back from the bathroom.
I glanced at her from time to time. No denying her beauty. Long blond hair styled for the time, great breasts, nice ass, long legs. She was the package, and she knew it. Too bad her personality was so fucked up.
Another week went by. I saw her in the library. As I was leaving, she came up to me.
"Barry, if you've got a minute, I'd like to talk to you. Please."
What the hell, she had asked nicely.