Cover image for Rotting Apples: Chapter 2 - Eve's First Bite

Driving home always forced me to turn my brain off. I could almost consider it a defense mechanism at this point. As I turned down those same familiar streets, getting close to the place that I occasionally referred to as home, I just knew that the best parts of my day were done and over with. Most people think of home as a place to go for comfort and tranquility. Essentially making it your own private escape from the rest of the world. For me it was the exact opposite. I didn’t find any comfort there at all. Prison walls might have been more to my liking, when I really sit down and think about it.

As I pulled into the dirt driveway, leading up to the ‘peeling paint’ supports of the raggedy shelter on the side of the house, I turned off the clunky engine of my father’s truck…sitting there at the wheel for a minute or two. Just trying to collect myself before taking the key out of the ignition.

Looking in the front window, I could see the flickering light of our only television dancing behind the shade. No curtains. Just a shade. There was a part of me that was hoping my father had already dozed off in front of the TV, but I’m hardly ever that lucky. Besides, my brother, Brett’s, car was parked on the street. So I wasn’t hoping to get much peace tonight. It’s one of the only reasons that I stay up so late. There’s peace in being awake when everyone else is asleep. There always has been. For me, at least.

Shit. I guess I might as well get out of this truck and go inside. Why not just get it over with? I swear, sometimes, going home is like ripping a band aid off of a fresh scar. I can’t remember a time when that wasn’t so.

I honestly hated myself for opening that car door. I HATED to do it! But…the sooner I get to my room and shut the door, the better.

I climbed out of the truck and locked it behind me. “Here goes another day of ‘nothing special’…” I mumbled quietly to myself as I headed towards the front door.

I stuck my key in the lock, and opened up to hear the television playing at a louder volume than what would be considered ‘normal’. I kicked off my shoes and hung the keys to the truck up on the rack by the door and the coat closet.

“Donovan? Is that you, boy?” My father said, a smoker’s cough following his brief greeting and rattling around in his chest.

“Yeah. I’m home.” I told him.

“Where the fuck have you been? It’s almost eleven O’clock!” He grunted. Even through his gritty, hazy, voice, I could hear the slightly drunken slur in his words.

“I was just out for a while. Calm down. Jesus…” I replied, but could hardly get the words out before I heard him cursing at the television in front of him.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! AGAIN?!?!” He shouted at the top of his lungs. “The Bears are playing Green Bay tonight, and they keep interrupting the game with this fucking ‘Emergency System’ bullshit!!! What the FUCK is going on??? Get back to the game! This shit is on every fucking CHANNEL!!!”

I walked into the living room to see my father with at least seven empty beer bottles next to him. Two MORE ice cold ones within arm’s reach to finish off what must have been a rather disorienting buzz. His once white t-shirt had been dyed a dingy grey with random splotches of dirty yellow stains from three days of wearing it in a row. But stains meant nothing to him at all as he sat back in his rickety old easy chair. A chair that was just a few loose screws away from tossing him backwards on his ass from overuse. I could practically smell the liquor on his breath from across the room. But how would that be different from any other evening?

I glanced at the TV. The emergency signal was sounding off with its usual, aggravating, alarm. ‘ERRNNN!!! ERRNNN!!! ERRNNN!!! ERRNNN!!!’ It was like fingernails on a blackboard to anyone who was unfortunate enough to be assaulted by the irritating tone of it. But as my father lifted his remote and surfed through all of the channels at his disposal, they all seemed to be broadcasting the exact same message.

I really didn’t think much of it. People run ‘tests’ for the Emergency Broadcast System so damn often that it’s hard to tell when it’s real and when they’re just crying wolf again. I mean…what are the odds that the entire city, much less the country, is ever going to be locked in a total state of emergency like this? It just doesn’t seem like something we’d ever need to worry about. You know?

Instead, as my dad drunkenly cursed at the TV screen, I sarcastically told him, “Too bad. God forbid, you were to actually miss another football game. Oh, the unfair catastrophe of it all. Sports are everything. More important than oxygen.”

He gave me an angry look. “You’re fucking RIGHT, sports are everything! You’d know that if you were a real man and not some sissy trying to pass.” I was used to the namecalling at this point, but luckily, he was more angry at the interruption of the Bears/Packers game than he was at me specifically. That’s why he didn’t see me rolling my eyes at his lame response. “COME ON!!! What is this??? What are they talking about? Stay in your houses? Don’t go outside? This is bullshit! Put the fucking GAME back on! What the actual FUCK is this???”

Sighing to myself, I chose not to engage him in any further conversation. Why bother? I might be a teenager, but I was far beyond my dad in terms of intellectually stimulating conversation. Nothing about him stimulated me at all. So I never pursued a relationship outside of some small talk and a couple of jokes here and there. Not since I reached the age of eleven. The more I strived to be myself, the less he made any attempts to get to know me for who I really was. And I was ok with that. Honestly…the more that he ignored me, the less I had to pretend that he and I had a ‘father and son’ relationship of any real value. We didn’t. Genetics was our only bond. And while I wish the blood relation was enough to make me feel close and forever grateful for the family connection…it just wasn’t.

It just wasn’t.

I heard a blast of rock music flood the house as my asshole brother, Brett, opened his bedroom door and went to the refrigerator to warm up a slice of cold pizza. He purposely bumped my shoulder as hard as he possibly could as he passed me in the hallway. He nearly knocked me against the wall, and I angrily shoved him back. “Fuck off!” I grumbled.

“You know you love me, bitch!” He said, and swallowed some air so he could turn around and belch in my face. I was disgusted by it, but that only gave him more of a reason to laugh at me. “DAD! I’m going out! I got a date with Eve tonight, and this little Pajama Pansy finally brought the truck back. So I’m out.” He said.

Why my father saw any difference between me keeping the truck out a bit late, and my brother…only two years older…doing the exact same thing, was a complete mystery to me. Not that I cared. I didn’t really feel like I was a part of this bullshit family unit anyway.

Feeling a rumbling in my stomach, I walked into the kitchen to see if I could find something to snack on. The sink was full of dirty dishes. Some of them were two or three days old. Food was caked on to the plates without shame, and as I saw a flurry of ‘movement’ in the sink and behind the knobs of the kitchen faucet…I whispered to myself, “And that’s how we get roaches.”

I opened the fridge to see nothing but leftover spaghetti noodles, no sauce, a half empty can of pineapple slices, some apricot jelly, and some leftover pork chops that I’m pretty sure were past their due date. A disappointing take, but it’s not like I expected much more. Maybe I could wait for my dad to fall asleep, and I could sneak out to the corner store to grab a small package of frozen corndogs or something. There were two left in the freezer, but I know I’d need more soon. My father isn’t the greatest when it comes to grocery shopping. Always best to keep a few reserves around for moments of scarce rations like this one.

Our microwave was a bit unpredictable when it came to warming things up, but I had grown used to compensating for its constant malfunctions. I just had to nuke my food for a minute and a half longer than usual. That usually gave me the desired effect without overdoing it. I just had to make sure that a few scarce squeezings of ketchup or mustard were left behind in the cabinet, so I could at least enjoy what little scraps we had to feed off of. Sometimes it worked…sometimes it didn’t. I was hoping for the former tonight.

Blowjobs give me the munchies sometimes.

I got those last two icy corndogs out of the freezer and put them on a plate to warn them up. My father wasn’t one for cooking dinner. Occasionally, he wins a few extra dollars off of the scratch tickets he gets at the gas station, and he’ll order us a pizza or a bucket of chicken…but other than that, it was simply understood that Brett and I were meant to fend for ourselves. Thanks, Dad. Way to make an example.

It’s not that my mom made life super enjoyable before she left us and now it had turned to shit. Life was always shit. The only difference was that I was once too young to care. Those days are gone now. I have a more mature world view now…and it’s enough to let me know that my life fucking SUCKS! I’d be happy to get away from here! Just…pack my bags and go somewhere. ANYWHERE! Just so long as I don’t have to spend one more day pretending that I’m happy in this house.

The ‘act’ can be so exhausting at times…

I took my microwaved snack to my bedroom, greeted by walls covered with 80’s and 90’s heavy metal posters, my floor littered with a few items of dirty clothes that I shucked off just moments before going to bed earlier this week. Having a dirty room was no big deal for me. As far as I was concerned, cleaning it up and putting everything in its proper place would have made my room a complete and total mismatch to the rest of the house’s natural décor. So…like I said…why bother, right?

I ate my corndogs, both of them, dipping them in the ketchup and mustard mixture I made in the center of my Styrofoam plate. Not the most satisfying of meals, but enough to fill an empty corner in the pit of my stomach. Then, contemplating the idea of how badly I wanted to get out of this house, hell…out of this whole STATE, if possible…and start living my life in a way that brought a genuine smile to my face every now and then, began to cross my mind. Being a dream of mine for so long that I had actually started putting all of my physical money into a sealed coffee can that I kept on my bedside dresser. Nickels and dimes, mostly…with a few singles thrown in to up the value a little. Even a few five dollar bills had crept into my private stash, a much needed bonus added to my evolving runaway fund.

However…when I counted it up tonight, I was EASILY twenty five dollars shorter than I should have been! I knew what had happened, and FUCK was I ever pissed!

I stormed out of my room and stomped my way into the living room. My older brother Brett had joined my deadbeat father, both of them annoyed by the emergency warnings on the TV and just wishing they could get back to the football game. I narrowed my eyes with anger and said, “Dad! Brett’s been in my fucking room again! He stole from me!!!”

Brett giggled to himself. “Get over yourself, pipsqueak! Why the fuck would I need to steal from somebody as lame as you?”

“I know how much money I had in my coffee can! And it’s GONE! Who else could it be but YOU!”

“Chill out, faggot!” Brett sneered. “So I took a couple of bucks to take with me tonight. So what? What were you gonna do with it? You’re not even 18. You can’t do anything yet. So fuck your queer little cash stash! Deal with it.”

I shouted, “You can’t just walk into my room and TAKE my shit whenever you fucking FEEL like it! I don’t care WHAT you need it for!”

He’s like, “Dad…you’d better tell your baby boy to calm down before I start choking the shit out of him. I’m not in the mood for his whimpering tonight.”

I’m like, “DAD! Are you just going to let him STEAL from me??? What the HELL???”

My father, more agitated by his lack of football footage than the quarrel at hand, practically ignored my pleas for a sense of justice in this household. Instead, Brett got his lazy ass off of the couch and came to tower over me as he stood toe to toe with his baby brother. A full six inches taller than I was, with a 40 pound muscular advantage, at least…Brett stared me down, his chiseled pecs brutally bumping into my subtle ’emo boy’ frame until I was almost knocked down to the floor…he said, “Guess what, punk? From now on, your money is MY fucking money! You hear me? You don’t get to have money unless *I* say so! That’s how it is, bitch!” I stared him in his eye, not backing down from him. But he called my bluff. “WHAT?” He shouted, making me flinch. “What the fuck are YOU gonna do? I’ll break you down, bitch! DO something! SAY something! I dare you to talk that bullshit in front of me! Do it! Let’s turn up in this mother fucker! Do it! DO IT!!” The whole time, he kept using his chest to push me back against the wall. And despite the anger and hatred in my heart…he was just plain bigger than me. I’ve been in plenty of fights before. I’ve held my own with bullies in the past. But this was my brother. He’s been ‘the boss of me’ since I was five years old. You’d be surprised how hard it is to break through that brainwashed mentality and grow into someone who doesn’t recognize it as being anything more than a fearful hallucination brought on by past beatings and bullshit intimidation. I think that’s why I remain so detached from him as well as my father. They exploit the weakness in me. Take advantage. I can’t have that. The moment someone sees weakness in you…from fear, from loss…from love…they’ll use it against you. Every time. Some people are just assholes like that. It’s best not to love anything at all.

Dwelling on that…I backed down. I didn’t have much of a choice.

Brett stared coldly into my eyes, knowing that I didn’t have enough strength in me to fight him off or even make a nasty comment towards him for fear that he’d pummel me to the floor right in front of my neglectful father’s eyes…and he wouldn’t give two shits about it. In fact, he’d probably tell me that I was a pussy for getting whipped in the first place. Fuck him. And fuck the hatemonger piece of shit that he spawned to keep me feeling so helpless in this goddamn house.

Not ready for the brutal confrontation that a fight like this might bring…I walked away. Angrily…but silently. What was I really going to do? My brother had biceps and six pack abs. I had bright blue eyes and dark curly hair. Intelligence doesn’t really count for much when it comes to a physical confrontation with a Neanderthal like Brett. All this work mankind did to evolve out of the muck…and brawny bullies still strive to bring Darwin’s law of survival into full effect every chance they get, whether it’s necessary or not. So STUPID!

I turned away from Brett as he was breathing down on me from an elevated position. It was almost like he WANTED me to push back. Just so he could beat me down and prove how much stronger he was than me. Guys who grow up with this level of extreme testosterone output, ALWAYS trying to fucking take control of everything and play ‘leader’, need to be shipped off to a fucking island somewhere so their alpha male bullshit can be put to the test with other assholes of their caliber who deem it as being equally important. That way, they can fight it out all on their own until there isn’t a single one of them left on the planet. That way, they can leave the rest of humanity alone.

I ignored his hostile stare and went back to my room, pretending that I was taking the high ground by dismissing his rude bully tactics, used to discourage and dishearten me, inside and out. My father merely kept drinking luke warm beer out of a bottle while steadily changing channels in order to find one without an emergency screen plastered on it. I wasn’t going to find any help or fairness there, that was for sure. It’s times like this that I wish I could have just slept in the truck out in the driveway.

Deep down, I was afraid. I wouldn’t DARE let Brett know that! Knowing that he got the best of me would only make things a million times worse. But, truth be told, I couldn’t fight back against him unless I did something excessively violent. Something WAY over the top, like bashing his skull in with a claw hammer, or poisoning his cornflakes. He was my BROTHER! I suppose, in some tragically obligatory sense…I loved him. I can’t deny that. But if it came down to us going to blows, and I had any chance of winning at all, I’d have to resort to tactics that might actually end up doing a lot more damage than I ever could have anticipated. I’m not sure that I was ready for that just yet.

So…I guess he wins.

Again.

I swallowed my pride, and I took the punishment he dished out. Walking away as he grunted, “Fuckin’ right! That’s what I thought! Sissy!”

It dissolved right through my ego like a sudden splash of corrosive acid. But I had no comeback. I had no protection. In my life…you take whatever is given to you and you don’t complain. That’s what it is. That’s what it’ll always be.

I was so utterly disgusted with myself for not taking a stand against him. Sure, I might have gotten hurt, but at least I would have shown Brett that he can only push me so far before I begin to push back. I’m not his punching bag, nor am I his source of ‘bully entertainment’. It’s pathetic how he uses his dominance over me to feel better about himself. He gets that from Dad. I can tell.

I shut the door to my room and just slumped back on my bed. It SUCKED knowing that some of my runaway money was gone, and that I wasn’t ever going to get it back…but that only made me realize that I needed to hide my cash in a better place next time. Somewhere that Brett couldn’t find it. There’s GOT TO be a place in my bedroom that he would never think to look in, right? There’s just GOT to be!

As I stared up at the ceiling, allowing my intense rage to diffuse itself by breathing and relaxing and embracing the fact that there was really nothing that could be done about it now…I found my mind wandering back to thoughts of Stephen in that truck tonight.

Not just the sexy blowjob that he gave me. If it had just been a naughty repeat of the physical pleasure that boy had given me a bunch of times before that…I think I would have been totally ok with the idea. But as my erection began to swell and tighten from the memory of this evening…I think I was more excited by Stephen’s boyish smile when I dropped him off than anything else. His cute little voice telling me that he ‘liked me a lot’…and that he wanted to see me again. Something about it was…soft. And comfortable. Maybe even adorable. I wasn’t used to be looked up to. It stirred up emotions in me that I wasn’t really prepared to deal with right now.

I tried to block him out. Stephen and all of his sissy affections for me. I really did. But the more I thought about him, the more I began to speculate on whether or not he and I could actually be…you know…happy.

That’s crazy right? It HAS to be!

It’s best that I let him remain my ‘pet’ and a dependable outlet for my sexually frustrated evenings without a girlfriend. Anything else…? And I doubt the rest of the world would understand.

Hell, I don’t even think that *I* understand.

An hour or two passes, without me leaving my room for anything more than putting my stupid corndog plate in the trash and getting some cool water from the tap. My brother had gone out on his precious date, and my father had gulped down enough alcohol for him to barely remain conscious. It was a weekly scenario that I had gotten used to. One might even say that I learned to appreciate the break from having him even talk to me. Fine. Go to sleep. STAY asleep! You know? More time for me and my thoughts.

But…as the house was falling into a vibe of peace and quiet…I suddenly heard a frantic series of rings of our doorbell!

I mean, it was like somebody was pounding on that bell as if they’d win a 20 dollar bill every time they pressed it.

What the fuck?

My dad was woken out of a deep sleep, and we both converged on the front door at the same time. He was limping a bit, his drunken stagger trying to compensate for his lack of balance. I watched as he opened the front door, and Brett came spilling into the house so fast that he dropped to his knees, shouting, “Close the door! Close the fucking DOOR! FUCK!!!”

My father shut the door, locking us in and keeping us safe. But it was a few seconds later that I noticed Brett holding the side of his neck with his hand. A hand that was completely covered in blood. And when he pulled it away, I saw a deep wound that I never thought possible on a living human being. It was like he had been…bitten there, or something. Right in the neck. And the chunk that had been taken out of him was so deep and so severe…it changed the very shape of the neck that he had before.

“What the fuck?” My father yelled. “What the hell is WRONG with you, boy???”

Brett sobbed, “I went to see Eve tonight…and when I got there, she fucking BIT me! I don’t know what happened! The streets are all full of these…these THINGS…and Eve took a bite out of me for NO reason at all!!! FUCK, this hurts!!! Get me some Peroxide or somethin’!!!!”

I think there was more to the story he was telling, but I was suddenly drawn to the front window of our house and moved closer. I peeked up under the shade, and what I saw sent chills up my spine.

More ‘people’…if I can call them that…just shuffling along past our house. They…they looked so…blank. Shadows on an already darkened street.

Where were they going? What were they looking for?

My father attempted to sober up as much as he could to handle the situation, pressing wet dishcloths against Brett’s neck, holding him tight and helping him upstairs to get him into bed. Hoping to allow his first born son to REST for a while.

My father. Heh…you know…he probably thought that this was some kind of bullshit accident that could be fixed with a little parental attention and some boy scout level first aid.

But…as images of that bite….the depth, the anger, the overall savagery of the wound that my brother came home with…

I’m thinking that this is something much more serious than a date gone wrong…

Published March 1, 2016

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