Bad Brothers Can't Be Best Men

Barry Madrid was sitting in the lawyer's office as his father's will was being read. He and his family had buried him just three days earlier. He still couldn't believe he was gone. He knew his father had been sick for a long time, but he'd been helping his mother take care of him. He thought he would get better.

Barry was happy about the inheritance he was getting. Sixty thousand dollars. He looked at his fiancée, Laura, and they smiled. It would be enough to help pay for their wedding, which was just seven months away, as well as their honeymoon. But the lawyer had just read a better part, probably just revised when Barry announced his engagement: "In the event that I should pass before Barry marries, I would request that he not ask his brother, Jackie, to act as best man. Jackie is not deserving of this honour."

Barry looked over at his father's siblings. They were all shocked and bewildered and began whispering amongst themselves.

Barry left the office with his mother, his mother's family, and Laura. Laura was holding his hand, looking sympathetic. She said, "I know how horrible it was to lose your father. Are you sure you don't want to put the wedding of until next summer?"

"No, dear, keep the wedding on as planned," Mrs. Madrid said. "At the ceremony, we can light a candle for your father, and at the reception dinner, we'll have a moment of silence after the blessing. And, I want to encourage you to do as requested in your father's will, and ask someone other than Jackie to be your best man. Have you thought of someone?"

"I've been thinking of asking Kenny," Barry replied. Kenny had been Barry's best friend ever since childhood. They did everything together, even going on family vacations. Whenever he had problems, Kenny was always there to help work them out. And when Barry's father died, Kenny helped the whole family get through.

The rest of his mother's family looked at him encouragingly. He decided that Kenny would be perfect. He looked around at everyone, "Yes, I'm definitely going to ask him."

"Terrific," Mrs. Madrid said, beaming.

Moments later, his father's family joined him outside the office. One of his father's brothers, his Uncle Ralph, said to Barry, "Barry, we just finished speaking with the lawyer, and now we're going to tell you."

"Tell me what?" Barry asked.

"That we don't agree with that part about the wedding request," said another brother, Uncle Charles. "We think it would be appropriate if you did ask Jackie to be best man. Only brothers deserve this honour."

Barry and Mrs. Madrid were horrified. Jackie was his only brother, four years younger than him, but they knew he didn't deserve to be best man. Barry thought back to when they lived together. Jackie never got along with their father at all. And no wonder – Jackie was always the difficult one.

One day, when Barry was in college, Mrs. Madrid called him and said, "Jackie just moved out. He knocked your father down during a fight, and said he never wanted to see him again." That was ten years ago, when Jackie was sixteen. Barry tried everything to get him to reconcile, but had no success.

"Forget it, big brother!" Jackie told him. "Dad was always a tyrannical dictator to me, a total big-shot! I never want to talk to him again!"

A year after Barry graduated from college, he moved back in with his parents. His father became sick, and required lots of care. Barry and his mother pleaded with Jackie to move back home, but he just blasted, "Put Dad in a nursing home!" That was the last they heard of him.

Thankfully, some of the relatives helped them out. Kenny and Laura came over regularly to help, too. And when Mr. Madrid died, Jackie didn't even come to the funeral. Barry remembered his mother crying louder for her son's cold-heartedness and her dead husband. She even ranted to family members, "Oh, how could Jackie do this? How could he put his own wants before his family's needs? Elmer would still be here if it weren't for him!" So, why did his father's family want Jackie?

Barry stopped daydreaming and shook his head at his relatives. "Sorry, everyone," he said, "I've decided I'm going to ask Kenny. He seems far more deserving of it than Jackie."

Uncle Ralph frowned. "Now, Barry, think about this rationally…" he began.

"What is there to think about?" Mrs. Madrid asked. "Jackie always hated his father. Never cared about what Elmer wanted – or what I wanted, for that matter. He was very unappreciative, always rebellious, always wanted his own way, and never even gave a thought about his family. And he never even came back and said he was sorry. Did you see him at the funeral? Do you see him at the will reading now? Personally, I'm glad that he's not in the will. He doesn't deserve anything – not even the role of best man at Barry's wedding."

"Elmer never thought clearly or rationally when it came to Jackie," said one of his father's sisters, Vivian.

Mrs. Madrid started to get frustrated. "And that's a credible reason to give him something he doesn't deserve? I'm sorry, but I'll not allow this to happen. Barry has decided to ask his friend, I'm going to support this, and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise." She left the building with Barry, Laura, and her family.

A few days later, Barry went to check the e-mail. It was mostly from his father's family. He read them all, and they said the same thing. They were still pressuring Barry to choose Jackie over Kenny.

"Mom, come get a load of this!" he called.

Mrs. Madrid went to the computer, and Barry showed her all the messages. "Unbelievable," she muttered. "Still hoping you'll change your mind. And all this stuff about family harmony. I wonder what your father would say to all this."

Barry started to think about his father again, back to just days before he died. He was remembering the warm conversation they shared.

"Barry, I just want you to know what a good son you've been all these years," Mr. Madrid had said rather weakly. "You were always so polite and obedient, always willing and wanting to do whatever I said."

"Thank you, Dad," Barry replied. "I really appreciate it."

"I'm sorry I won't be around to see you and Laura get married. She's a wonderful girl, and you two seem perfect for each other."

He motioned for Barry to lean in closer, then said, "You understand what a bastard Jackie has been all these years. Always mouthing off and rebelling against your mother and me. Even when we tried to pick out the college and career path for him, just like we did for you, and you agreed to it. I still can't believe he knocked me down the stairs for that." He slowly brought his hand and took Barry's. "Listen, son, I don't want you to ever ask Jackie to be the best man in your wedding, even if it is a family obligation. He is no son of mine. You can ask anyone else but him."

"Kenny has been so helpful to you and Mom, and this whole family," Barry replied.

"Then you can ask Kenny."

"I'll think about him, Dad."

Barry was now thinking about the will reading, as he read over the messages again. Uncle Ralph's message was the preachiest, so he decided to call him.

When he answered, Barry said, "Hi, Uncle Ralph. I got your e-mail."

"And?" he replied. "Are you going to drop this Kenny as your best man, and choose Jackie?"

"No," Barry answered. "It's like Mom and I told you. Kenny deserves it more than Jackie does."

"I don't care what you and your mother think, Barry. Jackie's your brother, your flesh and blood. It makes more sense to have him as the best man. You put family first always!"

Barry sighed. What about when your brother stubbornly rejects your father and doesn't reconcile with him? he thought. But he couldn't say that. So he asked, "Look, remember when Jackie lived with us, and Dad would call you guys to complain about his latest scrape?"

"Not really," Uncle Ralph replied. "I'm sure Jackie wasn't like that. And even if he did, that doesn't matter. Just because he made a few mistakes, it doesn't mean you can't include him in your wedding."

Barry started to get frustrated. "A few mistakes?" he cried. "Uncle Ralph, Jackie's a black sheep! He's so cantankerous and uncaring! If he shows up at my wedding, he'll spoil it!"

Suddenly, his mother appeared before him. "Who are you talking to?" she asked.

"It's Uncle Ralph," Barry replied. Mrs. Madrid took the phone then.

"Ralph, this is Blanche," she said. "I read all your messages, and I'm still siding with Barry on this one. Kenny will be the best man in the wedding, and I don't want to hear anymore about it."

"Blanche, you'll not encourage your son to put friends before family!" Uncle Ralph protested. "It's not right, and you know it!"

"Don't you give me your family-oriented sermon, you preacher!" Mrs. Madrid retorted. "I'll have you know that Kenny was there for us all when Elmer died. Jackie didn't even bother to pick up the phone!"

"That's doesn't mean he can exclude him from the wedding."

"Oh, really? You want to know what he said when Elmer died. He said, 'Good, I'm glad that bastard's gone!' His own father! Now does that sound like someone who would be best man at a wedding?"

She heard a faintly gasp from Uncle Ralph. "Blanche, I am shocked at you! You know blood's thicker than water."

"That may be so, but I speak for my whole family when I say Jackie's a very bad penny."

"How could you say that?!" Uncle Ralph sounded very upset.

"What the hell do you mean by that?" Mrs. Madrid shot back.

"How can you say that Jackie – your own son – was bad? Do you know how cruel that is?"

"It's one thing to believe in family harmony, it's quite another to be stubborn and preachy about it! And that's exactly what you are!" She took a deep breath and calmed herself. "Elmer tried to get that family stuff through to Jackie as a reason why he should obey him, but he would never listen. If he were here right now, he'd be saying the exact same things as Barry and me."

"Like Vivian said at the will reading, Elmer never thought clearly when it came to Jackie," Uncle Ralph replied. "Perhaps he should've realized that Jackie was different from Barry."

"Well, you all can just deny everything if you want. We're not changing our minds." Then she hung up.

That evening, Barry and his mother went to Kenny's house. When they were there, he said, "Kenny, I just want to thank you for all that you've done when Dad died. You were phenomenal."

"Hey, you are my best friend," Kenny replied. "I'd do anything for you."

"No, really," Barry said. "You were there for the whole family, not just me, and words can't express your kindness." He paused for a few moments. "Kenny, I want you to be the best man at my wedding."

Kenny smiled and stood up. "Barry, I'd be honoured."

Barry and his mother were overjoyed. He went to hug Kenny. "Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me."

"Like I said, Barry. Anything for you."

Barry got home from work the next afternoon to hear the phone ring. Thinking it was Laura, he removed his shoes and ran to answer it. "Hello?"

"Barry!" said the voice on the other end. "This is your little brother, Jackie."

Barry froze, barely able to speak. He and Jackie hadn't spoken since Barry first moved back home, now Jackie was suddenly calling. He took a long, deep breath, reminding himself not to get too angry. "What do you want, Jackie?"

"Uncle Ralph called me last night," Jackie answered. "He said that you agreed to have me as your best man for your wedding, over your dog-faced friend, Kenny. Let me tell you, man, I am honoured."

Barry looked horrified. He couldn't believe Uncle Ralph had lied to him behind his back. He shook his head and said, "You're too late, man. I already asked Kenny, and he already accepted."

"Why? Kenny's not family, I am. C'mon, man, you know I deserve something like this."

"No, you don't!" Now, Barry was getting angry. "I would never ask you to be my best man. Why would I, after all you put this family through? I'll bet you don't even realize how much Dad suffered with you around!"

"How much he suffered?! What about me?! I was the one he always criticized and ridiculed. Nothing I did pleased him! In case you've forgotten, Dad never kicked me out, I left – and for a good reason! I couldn't deal with any more of his crap! That's no excuse to choose Kenny over me!"

"That's not an excuse, that's a reason!" Just then, Barry turned to see his mother.

"Now who are you talking to?" she asked.

He put his brother on hold and said, "It's Jackie, Mom. Uncle Ralph told him that I picked him as my best man."

Mrs. Madrid held out her hand and said, "Give me the phone, son." He did, and she spoke sharply with Jackie.

"Jackie, this is your mother," she said. "Listen here, your brother chose Kenny for a bloody good reason."

"Mom, there's no good reason for him to pick Kenny," Jackie protested. "The role of best man always goes to the groom's brother! You know that!"

"Kenny was considerate with this family while your father was dying. Meanwhile, you chose to cut him out of your life." She was rational, yet firm.

"Hey, he got what he deserved."

"He did not! He didn't deserve you knocking him down, or you telling us to put him in a home! And we never deserved you cutting off all contact after that! Tell me, where were you when we buried him?"

"I was in Vancouver, putting together an investigation report for TV news! It was an important assignment. I told you that as the reason why I couldn't make it."

"What garbage! You couldn't say, 'I can't, my father just died and I have to be back home!'"

"Why should I have? Dad never cared about me."

"What do you mean, he never cared about you? You never cared about him!"

"Mom, he always loved Barry more than me! Dad was browbeating me about everything, yet at the same time, he treated him like gold! And that was because Barry kept brown-nosing and kissing his butt. That's not fair!"

"Don't give me that, Jackie! At least Barry never gave him any problems! If he always fought with you, it's because you were bratty, selfish and spoiled, always wanting things your own way!"

"I was not! Dad was just a tyrant and a dictator! He was a modern-day Hitler to me!"

"Excuse me, Jackie, but you have no business talking about your father that way! You just wouldn't give him the respect he deserved!"

"Mom, he expected us to hand him respect on a silver platter! It doesn't work that way! If I did what Barry did, I wouldn't have moved out west when the Simon Fraser University accepted me, and I wouldn't have earned the journalism degree that I always wanted. Dad wanted me to stay home and go to the trade college downtown, just like Barry did. Carpentry, building and roofing, industrial welding – ooh, what fun. Not! Did you think I wanted any of that? It wasn't like I couldn't take care of myself!"

"Is that so? Well, let me tell you this – you're not even invited to Barry's wedding! I will not have his special day sabotaged because of you. And you can count on that!" Mrs. Madrid slammed down the phone and turned on the television.

Three days later, Barry had finished a list of wedding songs, and was prepared to call Laura when the doorbell rang. He went to answer it, and was greeted by another one of his father's sisters, JoAnn. She looked infuriated. Barry smiled for her and said, "Hello Aunt JoAnn."

She stomped into the house and slammed the door. "Don't you, 'Hello, Aunt JoAnn, me, you despicable bastard!" she spat.

Barry became shocked and angry. "What did you just say?" he cried. "I'm sorry, but you're not going to come into this house and talk to me that way! I think you'd better leave."

"I will not!" Aunt JoAnn spat again as she removed her coat. "I'm not leaving until I get something through to you. Your brother called me two days ago, crying like he never did before! I asked him what was wrong, and he said that you refused to make him best man in your wedding, and that you already asked your friend! I ought to smack you to a pulp!"

They heard Mrs. Madrid from the kitchen. "What's going on down there?" She went to the stairs to see Barry and Aunt JoAnn. She soon became angry with Mrs. Madrid.

"Blanche! I heard that you had a hand in this as well!" She grabbed Barry's arm and went to confront his mother. She repeated everything she told him, then pointed at the living room couch. "Sit down over there, both of you! I want you to know how miserable you're making everyone." They reluctantly obeyed her.

Aunt JoAnn glared at Barry. "Jackie said that you were very boorish with him," she said. "He told me every word you said. How can you say your father suffered because of him? I saw Jackie as a good boy who wanted a life separate from both of yours!"

"Oh, and I suppose you're going to say that Elmer was some uncaring louse who never understood him!" Mrs. Madrid interrupted.

"Silence!" Aunt JoAnn shouted at her. "You have no room to talk, Blanche! Jackie also told me what you said! How could you call him bratty and spoiled, and say that he'll sabotage the wedding? You call yourself a mother?!"

Mrs. Madrid stood up. "Look, stop defending him like he's some angel, JoAnn!" she cried. "You know Jackie isn't fit for this honour! Do you have any idea how terribly he's treated us over the years? Why, if Elmer were still here, he'd…"

"Save it!" Aunt JoAnn bellowed, then turned back to Barry. "I called everyone else and told them about your conversation. They're on non-speaking terms with you, Barry. I just came by to tell you that I will not come to the wedding if you don't contact Jackie and tell him he's best man! Your other aunts and uncles will do the same!"

"Quit giving him orders!" Mrs. Madrid shouted. "How many times do I have to tell you. Jackie's not…" But Aunt JoAnn silenced her.

Barry stood up and looked at his aunt. He said, "Look, I've given this more thought than it deserves, and I'm staying with my decision. To make Jackie the best man would be dishonourable to Dad."

"What?!" she cried.

"It was practically his dying wish for me to choose Kenny," Barry explained. "Kenny was gracious to us when we lost Dad, even you and Uncle Ralph, and the rest of his family. He deserves to be paid back nicely. This is the best way I know. And if you guys don't like it, you don't have to come."

Aunt JoAnn gave him a cold stare. "Fine! I'll inform everybody else!" Then she left.

Barry and his mother shook their heads. "They just don't understand, son," she said. "How could they be so blind?"

"Beats me, Mom," he answered.

He went to the phone and called Laura. When she answered, he said, "Laura? Laura, this is Barry?"

"Barry!" Laura replied. "Hi, sweetheart. Did you finish the list of songs for our wedding?"

"Yeah, but it's the guest list that I want to discuss with you," he answered. "I'm going to make a few changes."