HAVE SINCE I CAN REMEMBER
HAVE SINCE I CAN REMEMBER by JOHN STILES
(Another, earlier unpublished short story. It was written in 1994 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was the fourth short story I ever wrote. It was inspired by Catcher in The Rye. I can imagine you might roll your eyes at that one. I used to show these stories to fellow wait staff at The Keg Halifax where I worked as a waiter. I was experimenting with the 'first person' voice. I remember this story, I found it in some old files. I liked the flow of it but I didn't have a place for it to go. I remember some of those waiters liked the story enough to quote the "Have since I can remember part." This was before I moved up to Toronto.
HAVE SINCE I CAN REMEMBER by JOHN STILES
My younger brother’s a tall guy with glasses, big ears, a funny way a walkin that makes it look like he got no ass. I guess you could say he slouches. I hang out with my brother as much as I can. I always hope some of what he got’ll rub off on me. Some of his brains. I always have wanted some a that. Have since I can remember.
Most times, if you ask me a question I can come up with a snappy answer. If you give me enough time, that is. That’s not to say I’m some kind of smartass, cause I’m not. It is just that most times I say what I want. And I hate tellin lies. I’ve always been that way I guess. Have since I can remember.
Me and my father, we don’t get along too good. But that’s no big deal. He don’t drink or nothin like that. He just likes his food on the table at twenty past five and likes tellin my mother what his buddies been up to at the lumber yard. He thinks he’s smarter than them boys at work the way he goes on about their antics. Sometimes I think if I walked in there, to visit him, I’d see him sittin by himself eatin his nice sandwiches that my mother made for him special and then I’d see the rest of the boys carrying on playin cards, jokin with each other laughing at him and the way he thinks he’s better than all them. Of course, I can’t really say for sure what goes on at the lumberyard. I ain’t ever visited my father. And he’s worked there a long time.
I see my brother a coupla times a week. He got some kinda new stereo system that he taught me how to use. I like to play the music he hates. It gets him real mad. He listens most times to Classical Jazz , shit like that. I’ll always love my Whitney Houston records. O, yeah I guess I should mention my brother sniffs a lot and his nose is always running like its winter outside. I always bring over a box a tissue when I come. My mother sends it with me. She thinks he got a cold. Still I don’t tell her otherwise. My brother’d kill me if I said anything. And I always have loved my brother. Have since I can remember.
The dog my brother lives with shits too much indoors. Usually when I come over I gotta clean it up before I can do too much else. The stink is just too much. Shit is shit no matter how old it gets. Stinks till it goes all mouldy. The dog’s name is Dyon – short for Dyon-is-i-us. Smart name for a stupid dog that always hides when I come inside. Still I don’t hit it or nothin like that. But I don’t pet it either. I tried that once and it was a mistake. The goddamn dog wagged its tail and leaked piss all over the place. And piss stinks just as bad as shit except piss don’t stink till it gets old. And then it stinks worse.
My brother got a scholarship at McGill to study classics. He never went though. My father said my mother would do something crazy if he left.
“Yah.” I said onetime to my father, “Like go an visit him on Saturdays.”
My father just gave me the look. I laughed at him and stared back at him. It made him get even more mad. My brother says you got to understand my father.
“He’s just angry” my brother says.
Lots of people are angry I’d say. Even them people my brother is with are angry. Of course, they’re smiling when they’re with him. But afterwards they just seem angry.
One girl named Sally my brother likes more than the rest. She got some kinda skinny ass body. Sometimes she writes a little poetry on paper she finds laying around the house. Sometimes she waits with me for my brother to come in if he’s out. Sometimes she helps me clean up the house. She told me I was cute a couple of times. I didn’t take it too serious though. Specially when she passed out right afterwards with a magazine open. One time she drooled onto the carpet and the dog came by and licked it up. She got all pasty white on me. And she didn’t wake up for awhile. Still I like Sally more than the rest a’ those girls that come around. Yep. Have since I can remember.
We got high class cousins up in Toronto. I met them once when my uncle Maury died back in the late eighties. They held a funeral for him in a place called Rosedale. There were a lot of people at that funeral and lotsa nice cars parked outside. I almost didn’t make it into the service cause I was checking out all the cars with them bright, shiny Mercedes logos on them. Musta been eight or nine of ‘em in the parcade. Red ones. Blue ones. Pretty well every colour except black. There was a Cadillac that was black, though. I started to check it out too. My father told me he was embarrassed of what I was doing. Said people might think I was a car thief. So my father pulled me back into the Church. I was kinda yelling at him. Best part was everyone stared at him and made him right embarrassed. He told my mother later it was me made him embarrassed. But I know different. He didn’t look nice like them rick folk, dressed in his dark grey suit.
My cousin Molly was the best. She told me about a school she goes to where everyone understands. She said she didn’t know why but it was better going there than staying at home. I always hated school I told her. She just kinda smiled at me. I did tell her after that I felt kinda hot for her. She just laughed and reminded me we were cousins. She did kiss me though before we came home. Afterwards my brother told me that Molly kisses everyone. Still sometimes I can’t stop thinking about her.
I learned a lot of big words from my brother. Sometimes I read his poems he got lying around. He sure is smart I guess. Sometimes I get sad when I read some of his poems. One time I read a poem and started crying. It started like this:
Please, the man
Anyways, I stopped reading it half way through. I was cryin real hard. Thing is - everyone keeps tellin’ me I got a low IQ. My father especially. One time he told me they shoulda stole some a’ my brothers brains and gave em to me. Them maybe both me and my brother wouldn’t have such a hard time.
Tonight I gotta go back home. I don’t really want to go cause I lose some a my freedom. I got to eat at exactly the same time everyday. Not watch too much T.V. and wait for when my father comes home. Worst part is he’s gonna ask me how my brother is doin. And I’m gonna have to lie. I’m gonna have to say my brother got his shit together, except I gotta say that without swearin’. My father says he hates swearing though he does it himself sometimes. Y’see I’ve always hated lyin. Have since I can remember.