Today is a day to celebrate, my peoples. Because today I’m starting to post my all-new story, Say Uncle for all to see.
So. The banner will make sense later on. (Shoutout to my awesome sister SprinkleSquink for drawing it <3) But the general concept being this is from the POV of a teenage kid, Micah, who hates kids. And babysitting adventures will ensue.
Hope you enjoy!
The nice thing about being a drummer is how it makes hitting things an acceptable coping method.
My hands tingled from the repeated smacking of the sticks on my palms. Music thudded in my earbuds and I kept hitting the drums in time. Sometimes double time to the beat that was already there.
I’d already memorized the rhythm long ago and drumming along was just reflex – muscle memory that would hopefully distract from all the yelling and slamming around that was going on upstairs.
Friends had told me all kinds of things about loss “strengthening the remaining family bonds.”
Mom and Dad’s bond had strengthened about as much as a block tower strengthens when you hit it with a stick.
So much for family coming together over tragedy. I pretty much just came to terms with everything about Ingrid on my own, since trying to talk to my parents only made things worse between them.
I stomped on the kick and crashed one stick against a cymbal hard before going into a drumroll on the song’s final riff.
“Stupid parents, right?” I muttered under my breath, pulling my phone out of my pocket. “They’ll figure it out.”
I turned on a slower song, still with the volume turned almost all the way up, and started drumming out the rhythm without even looking down at my hands. My gaze wandered around my basement room.
It looked a little weird since I’d actually cleaned some stuff up. Usually, my room was the mess in the otherwise clean house. Now, the rest of the house was a wreck and I could see the floors in my own space for the first time in months.
The walls still looked messy enough, with all the movie and band posters I had plastered all over them. But having all the junk cleared off the ground made the space look almost creepy.
I pulled one earbud out for a second. Another yell came from upstairs. I looked back down at the drums, jamming my earbud in again, hitting out the rhythm a little harder and humming along with the music.
It’ll blow over. Just fighting over what to have for dinner or something dumb.
Mom and Dad hadn’t always gotten along perfectly, butafter this long, it was starting to scare me more than I’d like to admit. Even if I mostly brushed it off by rolling my eyes and remarking on their advancement of the romantic mood of spring.
Actually, not scared, more just . . . concerned. I mean, come on. They’d been married for over thirty years now. This wasn’t gonna ruin their marriage, right? . . . even if they did seem to be bringing up old arguments from before I was even born.
In any case, they were giving me reason to come out of the basement even less than a normal teenager did.
The song ended and I blew out my breath, yanking out one earbud and setting my drumsticks down as I stood up. It had gotten a little quieter upstairs, thankfully. I’d already skipped lunch and just had a leftover pop tart instead, so I was starving.
If the fighting had stopped, that probably meant they’d figured out dinner. And if it had stopped that quickly, it probably meant some sort of takeout . . .
Hope springs eternal for pizza.
I stretched my arms up over my head, arching my back after hunching over the drums. I blew out my breath and dropped my hands back down by my sides. There was a second of temptation to just hang out down here a little bit longer and get to a new video game level. A grumble from my stomach pushed back the idea. I headed for the stairs.
My feet hit the wooden stairs with a clunking sound as I took the steps two at a time. I got to the door to upstairs and pushed it open, slipping through.
The only noises were of someone moving around in the kitchen, doing a bit of dish-slamming.
I looked down the hall before sticking my hands in my jean jacket pockets and heading off towards the kitchen.
Dad looked up from the stove as I came around the corner. His face was still stuck in a pained expression as he looked back down at the box of frozen fishsticks in his hands. It wasn’t the fishsticks causing that look. His face had sorta been stuck in different versions of that same expression for a month now.
I leaned against the doorframe, raising my eyebrows in question. “So, is dinner a thing?”
“Fishsticks,” Dad grunted back, going to the cupboard to get a baking sheet.
We’d had fishsticks for the last two nights in a row.
“Yum.” I kept my stance and watched as he spilled the frozen sticks out onto the pan. No other sounds came from the rest of the house. I looked up, peering back into the living room and down the hall again.
Hmm. Mom was usually an easy person to notice . . .
I pushed back the possibilities crowding into my mind and looked back at Dad. “Hey, where’s Mom at?”
He jabbed his finger viciously at the oven buttons as he set the temperature, not meeting my gaze. “Gone.”
And there was the worst possibility come to life right in front of me.
My stomach contracted, any hunger I’d had a few seconds ago disappearing. I blinked at Dad. “She’s . . . gone where?”
“Said she was going to her sister’s for . . . dinner.”
Well that was . . . it could be worse, I guessed. But the way that last word sounded tacked on to his sentence wasn’t giving me any more confidence.
What else would Mom be going to her sister’s for?
For . . . leaving. For getting away from Dad.
For possibly discussing divorce?
The knot in my stomach stayed, and I frowned at Dad for a second before following his lead and redirecting my gaze down to the pan of fishsticks.
The fighting was getting worse. That didn’t take a marriage counselor to figure out. I could tell from either being out of the house or down in the basement playing video games most of the day.
Holy crud, guys. Wasn’t losing Ingrid bad enough?
Yeah, apparently not. Let’s just have an avalanche of family disasters, while we’re at it.
Dad didn’t say much more for the next hour before going up to his room. He didn’t eat any of the fishsticks.
I took less than I had the last couple of nights and went back downstairs. Fish and video games had become routine by now, anyway.
I sat back on my beanbag chair, setting down the plate in my lap. I felt my phone stick out of my pocket and mentally toyed with the idea of calling Mom.
After remembering the way things had gotten even worse with my last attempted interference . . . and the way literally all of us had ended up yelling . . . I decided against it.
Shooting virtual aliens was much easier.
Avoiding real life problems actually seems to boost gaming skills pretty well. I’d gotten past two more levels I’d been stuck on for weeks, and I was in the middle of a third when my phone buzzed in my pocket, ringing out the opening riff of “Back in Black.”
I jumped, smashing a button I didn’t mean to, and throwing myself off balance in the game.
“Aw, no, no . . . come on . . .” I bit my lip and tried to get my advantage back, despite the soundtrack of my ringtone playing in the background. But I’d lost my concentration and was dead within seconds.
The screen blared my failure back at me and I leaned back with a groan. Great. Who was even calling? Fnu usually texted before he gave me a call . . .
I pulled my phone out just as it stopped ringing and the notification popped up on the screen.
Missed call: Bro-yo
I blinked at the screen. Henry? Man, he like, never called me about anything. He usually just called Mom or Dad. Must be big. Had one if his kids decided to play in a wood chipper or something?
I considered for a few seconds, then set my controller off to the side and swiped the bar to call him back.
He picked up on the first ring. “Micah?”
“No, this is his leaf blower.”
“Micah, really.” Henry blew out his breath in a loud sigh. Full dad-mode was activated.
I shifted my seat in the beanbag, drumming my fingers against my leg. “What’re you calling me for?”
“Other than the fact that you’re my brother and I should call more often, anyway . . . Because maybe you can tell me what on earth is happening back at y’all’s house?”
I cringed at his use of “y’all.” The South had been slowly infecting him since he’d moved to Missouri.
“And why didn’t you just call Mom, like you usually do?”
“Because Mom won’t answer any of my calls,” Henry responded. “Neither will Dad. And that’s why I’m worried.”
The lingering sick feeling came back to my stomach and any sharp comeback I’d had in my mind disappeared. So they weren’t even talking to Henry now? Mom always talked to Henry. For hours on end, sometimes . . .
I bit my lower lip.
“So just . . . what’s going on?” he asked. “Is everything okay? Dad and Mom alright?”
“Well, it . . . um . . .” I ran a hand over my hair and rubbed at the back of my neck. “They kinda . . . are fighting a lot, actually. But they don’t always agree anyway, so . . .”
“What are they fighting about? Did something happen with Ingrid’s . . .?”
“No, no, no. It’s just . . .” I looked back up at the frozen video game screen and shrugged while I looked for the words. “. . . little stuff, mostly. Like what to have for dinner. Or why Dad painted the walls green in their bedroom or . . . well, notlittle stuff – like whose fault it was that Ingrid died. But mainly little stuff.”
Silence from Henry’s end for a few seconds. He muttered something I couldn’t make out, and I frowned.
He’d been married for years now. He should know that fighting happened sometimes . . .
Henry’s voice came back, sounding more worried than before. “I knew things didn’t look good after the funeral. How often are they fighting?”
“Uh . . . more often than they eat? But it’s gonna blow over, right?”
I felt like a stupid little kid again for asking him that. He wasn’t here. He was states away. He couldn’t know for sure about whether it would blow over or not. But still, I felt like he could just say it would be fine, and everything would magically fix itself.
“Dang,” Henry muttered quietly, like he was saying a dirty word.
I shifted uncomfortably in my bean bag, sitting forward. “Dude, I’m pretty sure it’s just . . . you know, nerves after a family death or something . . .”
Henry blew out his breath. “No, Micah it’s . . . listen, could you just put Mom on for me? I need to talk to her.”
Easier said than done.
I tapped my fingers on my knee, sucking on my lip and trying to work out quite how to phrase this. “Mom’s not here right now, actually. Dad said she . . . went over to Aunt Em’s house for . . . dinner?”
Stony silence from the other end. Then an actual swear word.
My heart beat faster. “I mean . . . it’s just one night, that’s not too bad, is it?”
“From the last time I talked to Dad, yes it is. I even heard talk of divorce.” Henry’s voice was hard, but still sounded scared.
My fishsticks I’d just eaten suddenly felt like they’d come to life in my stomach. I swallowed hard.
So it really was all that bad.
I didn’t have a great relationship with my parents. I never really had, honestly. But that didn’t mean I wanted them to . . . to . . .
Shoot. I propped my elbow on one knee, holding the bridge of my nose and trying to get my thoughts back in some sort of order. “So, I mean . . . what can we do? What should I do?” I cleared my throat a little as my voice cracked.
“Listen, I was already forming a bit of a plan, in case this happened, and I think . . .” Henry stopped mid-sentence, like he’d hit on some problem while he was thinking about it.
His voice came back after a minute. “Would you be willing to help out? I can handle a lot of this with Cecily, but there’s one big thing I’m just not sure if you . . .”
Even with my family reputation for generally not putting a lot of effort in, I was offended. “Hey, I can do it. I’m not gonna flake out on a family crisis, if stuff needs to be done. Seriously, what can I do?”
Henry let out his breath. “Well, I think Cecily and I could maybe lend a hand up there and get Mom and Dad back on the same level. Being in church and all, we’ve helped in the marriage counseling department sometimes, but . . . it really works best having both a husband and wife address the problem together, so . . .”
I knew what the job was before he even said it, the realization hitting me in one big, icy cold wave of dread.
“You’d be watching the kids.”
Whooooo it has begun. I promise, it gets better than this. xD
Hope you guys enjoyed and will stick around for the ride. 😀
I’ll see you next Thursday for another part! Tell me what you thought below!