Quick Note: I was too lazy to think up a better name for Keane's other uncle (who's only mentioned in this chapter) so he's Uncle Same and wants YOU to read this story.
Also, this chapter mentions spanking, so if you have a problem, I'm sorry. It doesn't give details or anything like that, so please don't attack me.
Mom and Dad had never been very…well, I guess you could say 'hands on', but in the literal sense. They had cared for both of us, sure, but, especially with me, they were gentle in their parenting. In my defense, I didn't act up very much as a kid. I had a lot of breathing problems when I was small and throwing a fit meant quickened breathing, which would lead to an asthma attack, and no one wants to watch a small child crying while desperately trying to breath no matter how angry they may or may not be.
Usually, it was our cousins who got into trouble. The ones on my father's side of the family were always thinking up pranks and the ones on my mother's side – our city cousins – liked to explore, which sent their parents into a frenzy when they would turn around and find their child had run through the traffic-laden streets to look down the dark alleys and pretend they were Batman. Nathan, who would've gladly joined either of our cousins in their adventures, avoided punishment by sticking close to me. He was used to being told to look after me when my parents were out of eyesight, because I couldn't exactly tell an adult what was wrong with me if I was having an attack, but Nathan could.
The days I was sick inside were the ones when Nathan would end up in serious trouble. The trouble we got into together consisted mainly of getting dirty or wet or refusing to go to bed when we were told. I held Nathan back in his boyish naughtiness and our parents were comfortable leaving us alone for longer than five minutes, unlike our aunts and uncles who were always watching their restless children. In fact, my father probably hated the days I was confined to bed more than me, because it meant Nathan was outside with the cousins, sure to come back in trouble and Dad never liked having to punish us.
I only remember being smacked by Dad once, because he had tentatively let me out that morning after a night of ragged breathing and I had disappeared with Nathan for hours in the countryside. He had been angry when we had gotten back and we both got it before he sent us to bed. It had been the only time he had ever spanked me, and I only remember about three of four times he gave one to Nathan – normally we just got time-outs or early bedtimes when we were little (which changed to groundings when we got older).
It wasn't the only time I had gotten it, though. I rarely spoke as a child because of my constantly sore throat, and the family members we regularly saw knew not to expect an answer from me when asked a question. One uncle (he was probably just a distant, older cousin, but we called him our Uncle Sam all the same), who we only saw maybe once a year while surrounded by our cousins, told me do to something – some little chore; to clean something up or go get someone, maybe – and expected a 'yes, sir' in return. I didn't say anything to him because my throat wasn't feeling too well that day, just nodded and turned to do what he asked, but he thought I was being cheeky (lwhich would've been the case for any other child in the house at the time) and pulled me back.
"What do you say to your uncle, boy?" he had asked, grabbing my arm.
He wasn't trying to be mean, I know that. He was trying to teach me manners, not be cruel. In truth, he was just reminding me to answer him respectfully, but when I didn't say anything and he repeated himself, he thought I was being disobedient and shook me a bit. Nathan, never being far from my side, saw this and came to my aide, which, coincidentally, landed us in more trouble.
Nathan told him to let me go and refused to back down when Uncle Sam told him to watch his tongue, earning us both a short lecture on how to treat our elders before being dragged outside to be punished. Dad had only used his hand before, so the thin switch our distant cousin-turned-uncle used shocked us. Nathan held out courageously, but it never took much to make me cry. Which led to my loss of breath. Which then led to Nathan going into a screaming fit of 'you're killing him, you're killing him!'
Uncle Sam let me go when he heard me choking on large gulps of air. He tried to pat my back, but Nathan lashed out and dragged me a few steps away. He was sobbing while he hugged me, still screaming that I was dying.
Our Uncle John – a real one, my father's oldest brother – who knew about my breathing problems rushed outside when he heard Nathan crying. Nathan rarely cried, even as a child, and when he did, it was usually for someone else (mainly me).
No one in the family (other than my father a few times) had ever seen the need to punish either of us and often spent the afternoon telling our parents how well-behaved we were, so it was a shock to my uncle to see his cousin holding a switch to us.
"What are you doing to them?" he had almost shouted. It was a strange thing to hear, considering Uncle John is a very quiet man.
"The little one wouldn't listen, and then Nate started pitching a fit," our cousin-uncle, Sam, explained.
"Wouldn't listen?" Uncle John repeated, incredulous. "These boys wouldn't even know how to be disrespectful."
"I told him to say 'yes, sir,' but he wouldn't," the younger man replied, looking confused.
"He don't talk much. You hit these boys for nothing! Keane, Peachy Keane, you gotta breath, baby. Deep breaths." He kneeled next to me and patted my back firmly, managing to get Nathan away from me.
"He dying?" Uncle Sam had asked, sounding genuinely worried now.
"He's not," Uncle John had assured him, scooping me up to take me inside where he gave me a glass of water and patted my back until I could breath again. Nathan and I had stayed with him the rest of the day, wary of the new family members who we barely recognized roaming the house. The cousin-uncle had come to apologize and gave us both some sweets to bribe our forgiveness later in the day, and, though we did forgive him, we still stayed clear of him until we got a bit older.
Why bother recounting such an embarrassing time? Well, it's a four-day weekend and we're driving up to Uncle John's house to visit him, so I figured I'd give you some background on him.
I mean, why not? I love the guy and he's made it more than obvious that I'm his favorite nephew. John is the perfect build for someone usually surrounded by kids, seeing as how he's six foot five and mostly muscle; a perfect playground for a kid and he's almost always in jeans and a plaid shirt or overalls, so there's no worry about ruining his clothes. He always has two pairs of heavy work boots and when I was little and I tried to stomp around in his extra pair once but fell down every step I took. Uncle John had watched and laughed before swinging me up into his arms and carrying me around on his shoulders when I had happily declared that I was trying to be like him.
John should have children. He should have a whole house full of little, happy children running around and calling him Daddy to his heart's delight, but he doesn't. He's a handsome man, but has no wife, no children, and no hopes of getting either anymore.
The year before I was born, he had gotten married to a pretty woman in town. He had been happy with her, and she was happy being married to someone considered the prettiest man in town. He wanted children, though, and she did not. No one understood her cold view towards children. This was the south! Everyone had at least one child and happily became parents, but this woman didn't. She wanted to move to Houston, where she could wiggle herself into the city life there and pretend she had always been a city girl, instead of a small town one.
When I asked my father about her, he told me she had grown up very poor and her daddy was a drinker. He had left her and her mother to fend for themselves while he wasted the money on liquor. She had decided that she wanted to forget her past, but had married the wrong man to do it. Uncle John had always been a family man and had no plans to leave his hometown, unlike his pretty wife. His wife, who was once known as Aunt Sarah, had settled for a little while, but secretly took birth control pills behind Uncle John's back – she let him believe it was just hard for her to get pregnant.
I only have a few vague memories of Aunt Sarah. I remember she was tall and pretty with long, blonde hair and smooth skin, but as cold as ice to all the little children that came to visit. Nathan and I were once left to stay with Uncle John and Aunt Sarah for two days when I was about four. My mother left instructions for my medication and gave them to Aunt Sarah. Once my mother was gone, Sarah looked at me in disgust and set the bottle of medicine and my inhaler on the table before stalking away from Nathan and I. Two hours later, with Uncle John out back, thinking his wife had given me what I needed, I had an asthma attack and it was Nathan who scaled the table to get my inhaler and force me to breath again.
Four months later, Sarah left. She had been too busy to fill her birth control prescription one month and her nightmare became a reality. She told poor Uncle John that she had gotten pregnant and had the baby aborted before she walked out the door with her bag. I don't know why she decided to tell my uncle this twenty minutes before my family arrived at his house for a visit. Maybe she had forgotten we were coming, or she was trying to be cruel, or maybe, with the last bit of love for my uncle she had, she made sure someone would be there for him after she was gone.
We lived with my uncle for a month after that. A time that I feel scarred me for life. When we came into the house, we found him sobbing into his hands in his big chair in the living room. Always eager to be with my favorite uncle, I had rushed into the house first and found him. When I went to his side, he sat me on his lap and hugged me close while he cried. I think he wanted me for his boy, but resigned himself to asking my father to visit him as much as possible.
Uncle John didn't get married again, although many women who wanted children – his children – had been available. He didn't trust them after what Sarah did, and I didn't either. I liked being my uncle's light in life.
Nathan twitched in his sleep. He was practically laying on me in the car and I was smashed against the side door as we drove to Uncle John's house.
"Mom," I complained. "Nathan's doing it again."
"Just push him off," Dad advised.
"Gently, dear, you don't want to wake him," Mom added.
Living up to my well-planned method of obeying our rules, I shoved Nathan roughly to the other side of the car. The lug that he is, though, he didn't wake, even when he thumped solidly against the opposite door.
"Keane," my mother chided.
"You boys don't start fighting when we're at your uncle's. I won't have any problem putting you two back right," Dad warned.
"Yes, Dad," I sighed, crossing my arms and leaning back into the corner of the car to fall asleep.
It had been almost a month since the whole sex thing, and Nathan and I were already settled back to our old pattern. Nathan was worried about trying again, but after he almost drowned me in corn oil, he finally went for it again but only got so far as jacking each other off. It wasn't as fulfilling as we would've liked, but at least it was something.
"Keane, did you remember your jacket?" Mom asked, turning halfway in her seat and craning her neck to look at me.
"I brought my hoodie, Mom."
"Not that brown one, right?" At my nod she sighed angrily, "Keane, I told you! That one is too thin, you'll get sick."
"Its burning, Mom," I whined.
"But we're going out to see the fireworks at night, and you know it gets cold."
"I'll be fine."
"Your mother told you to bring your jacket, Keane," Dad said, as if that would solve the problem.
"It won't get that cold, though," I argued.
"I don't care. You do what your mother says and bring your jacket next time. If Nathan packed his sweatshirts, you're wearing one."
I sighed and thunked my head against the back of the seat and Dad gave me a warning glare, but this happened every time we went to see the President's Day fireworks. I never bring the right jacket on purpose because it gives me an excuse to wear one of Uncle John's big jackets that are lined with wool and keep me warm all night, even when Nathan finally buries himself under the blankets we bring along. Uncle John always stands with his head rolled back to look up at the sky when we see the fireworks and going under the blankets would mean having to leave his side.
"Oh, you know he just wants to take one of John's big jackets, anyway," my mom said, remembering all the years before.
"That brother of mine spoils him," Dad said, shaking his head, but he was smiling anyway.
"Uncle John!" I shouted once I got out of the car. I had only waited long enough to shove Nathan against the door to wake him up before bounding to the house. Sure, maybe it's a childish thing to do, but I really don't care.
Uncle John was already at the door when I made it there and smashed myself against him in a hug.
"What a loud boy you got here, Arthur," John said his usual line when I came to the house. When I had grown out of my constant illness, I had become more talkative and when I first saw Uncle John after I found that talking was a fun thing to do when my throat wasn't aching, he had smiled broadly and lifted me up, saying, "Well, lookee here, Peachy Keane's learned how to talk!"
Mom and Dad grabbed their bags out of the car as Nathan jogged up to me and Uncle John holding both our bags.
"Hey there, Uncle John."
"Hey there, Nathan. You been doing good on that team of yours?"
"Yes, sir, we've won the last three games in a row."
"Good for you, boy." Uncle John released me from his bear hug and pushed me towards Nathan, nodding towards the bags. I grabbed my own and thanked Nathan before we headed upstairs to the room we always shared when we visited Uncle John.
"Excited there, Keane?" Nathan grinned.
"Its been a long time since we saw him," I said, pulling my clothes out of my bag to put them in the small chest of drawers that had been sitting in the room since I was five. "And I love coming out here for the fireworks."
"Uh-huh," he hummed, setting out his clothing on the bed. "You know, sometimes I think I should be a little jealous of you and Uncle John."
"He's our uncle!" I said, making a face. The thought of Uncle John doing anything other than love me as a son was disgusting!
Nathan looked at me for a little bit before shaking his head and going back to unpacking. I caught the look, though. He was going to point out our relationship. I'm glad he was smart enough not to, or he would've learned what I kick in the balls felt like.
"You got smarter," I snapped. "You kept your mouth shut."
Nathan looked up at me and smiled weakly, making me immediately regret my words. He had been doing that ever since the…oil incident. He'd let me yell at him and not say a word back, letting me get as mad as I wanted. I hated it, because it made me stay mad. When he defended himself or laughed at my huffing, it made me laugh and calmed me down.
Glancing out the door, I made sure no one was coming. After closing the door, I sat on the large bed in the middle of the room and tugged Nathan over to me (which was seriously hard for me to do), forcing him to fall onto me. I caught his face when he fell and plopped onto my back with him, crashing our lips against each other in the momentum. After a minute of hesitation, he wrapped his hands around my head and stuck his tongue into my mouth as well as any high school boy desperate for sex could.
Yola, readers! It's been a while since I've updated this story and I feel really guilty! I'm so, so sorry I haven't updated this for a while, but at least I'm updating right? Right? Yeah. Right. Anyway, praise my awesome beta, HurtMe, because she corrected this nine-page chapter in one day!
My friend told me I write "this is the south" too much, but its not to flame the south or anything or say its bad, its just to show that Keane wants to live in the city and he compares his life to other places than the south. I do not hate southern people. At all. So please don't think that. Seriously. I'll cry. A lot.