Like Brothers, Like Sisters — Part 1
By Amy Lynn
A gentle breeze blew along the Sherman Street and the dandelions in everyone's yard waved back and forth in response, the fluff of those that had turned to seed hanging on for the ride. Tommy Stazny whipped his cruiser bike around the corner, a cloud of grass clippings trailing behind him. It was April of 1971 and the gentle scene on the street contrasted with the turmoil of America and the whirlwind Timmy was about to meet up with.
As he pulled his bike into the driveway, he overheard his mother screaming at the top of her lungs. He knew this wasn't a good sign.
'Just wait until your father gets home. How do you think he'll feel? Who would ever want something like this, someone like you?"
The breeze died down and a still silence added blackness to the scene. Timmy knew it was best to wait outside when his mother was in one of her moods.
"Go on! Get out of my sight. I can't even stand to look at you'
With that he heard the footsteps of someone running down the stairs from the second floor of the house. The screen door off the kitchen flew open smacking against the aluminum siding of the house as his brother ran past him. Jeff was 16, and 13 year old Timmy thought the sun rose and set in him.
'Jeff?' he called out.
Jeff paused and turned his head slightly and motioned with his hand for Timmy to leave him alone. He then slowly walked into the woods behind their house, as Timmy stood there confused. As Jeff faded into the shadows of the leafy sanctuary, the boy's mother opened from the kitchen door.
'Timmy, get in this house right now before I give you the same thing your brother got!' she yelled.
Timmy turned and slowly entered the house. As he suspected, a bottle of gin and a glass of ice filled with booze sat on the kitchen counter. The acrid smoke of a cigarette curled through the air.
'I need you to come upstairs with me, NOW!', Timmy's mom ordered.
Knowing that it was in his best interest to not risk getting slapped, Timmy followed his mother upstairs and then down the hall to his brother's bedroom.
Jeff's bedroom looked like that of any typical 16-year-old boy in 1971. A poster of the earth from outer space was tacked on the wall above Jeff's desk; above his bed was a poster of Susan Dey who played Laurie Partridge in the Partridge Family. About the only things among the peace signs and pop art posters that didn't quite fit the typical boy's room were a large poster of supermodel Twiggy, looking rather boyish with her short hair style on the closet door, and total lack of anything having to do with sports.
The disarray of a busted-up wooden and cardboard steamer trunk were strewn on the Jeff's bed. Timmy recognized the crate as the one thrown out by their neighbor Mr. Lehman last fall. Two big black garbage bags sat on the bed.
'I want you to take these out to the garage and then put them into the back of my car. That's an order!' his mother barked.
Timmy picked up one of the bags. It seemed quite heavy and felt like it had some books or magazines in it. He carried it down the stairs and out to the garage, where he placed it the back of his mother's Ford Country Squire Station Wagon. When he returned to the bedroom she had gathered up the broken pieces of the trunk and was tossing them out the bedroom window onto the drive way.
Timmy picked up the other bag. It was much lighter and felt all squishy as if was filled with clothes. A colorful bit of slippery fabric peeked out of a hole in the bag. Just as he was about to exit the room his mother grabbed the poster of Twiggy off the closet door and balled it up before tossing it out the window.
'This shit can go too!' she spat.
Timmy turned to walk down the stairs and his mother called to him.
'Timmy. Undo your jeans let me see your underwear. I need to see something. Do it NOW!' she said as grabbed him by the arm.
'Mom?' Timmy asked.
'Just shut up and do what I told you to do or you'll feel my hand across your face' she ordered.
Timmy did as he was told and stood there in just his shirt and boy's briefs. His tummy felt as if he had been kicked and dull pain coursed through his mid-section.
His mother smirked, 'Fine! Pull up your pants.'
As Timmy was pulling up his jean his mother's eyes narrowed to thin mean-looking slits.
'Has your brother Jeff, ever touched you?' she asked.
Timmy looked confused 'Huh?' he asked.
'Answer me you no good little bastard! Has Jeff ever touched your privates?' she demanded.
'Mom! No. He'd never....' Timmy sputtered.
'Ah shut up. You're probably as touched in the head as he is. Get that shit into my car, gather the stuff off the lawn, and then get your brother out of the woods for supper. I have to run to the city dump. Gawdamit if the neighbors ever found such shit in our trash.'
Timmy took the bag down to the car and then tossed the broken shipping trunk in with it. As he finished, his mother came out of the house, her glass of gin in one hand and car keys in the other
Timmy watched her pull out of the driveway and disappear into an angry cloud of burnt motor oil. Turning to the woods he went to find his brother Jeff. They had a special place near a cave, that no one, not even their parents knew about. It was a 15-minute trek up the hill, but well worth the walk for the solitude, where the sun was warm, the birds sang, and squirrels played.
Timmy reached the special spot and found Jeff staring off into space. He sat next to him, but Jeff didn't budge. He just continued to stare, his puffy red eyes giving up the fact that he had been crying. Timmy had never seen Jeff crying, except when grandpap John died a few years ago. To Timmy, this signaled that something really bad had happened.
'Jeff?' Timmy asked.
'What?' Jeff answered with a sigh tainted with sadness.
'Are you okay?' What happened?' Timmy asked.
'I can't tell you. I don't want to talk right now, okay?' Jeff answered.
For the next several minutes, the brothers sat at the mouth of the cave. Only the tweeting of the birds accompanied the sorrow. Finally Jeff spoke up.
'Where's mom?' he asked.
Timmy looked at him. 'She went to the dump with some garbage bags from your room. What was in them Jeff?'
A tear rolled down Jeff's cheek. 'I can't tell you, Okay?'
“I suppose.' Timmy answered. After another few minutes, Timmy spoke again. 'She was drunk again you know.'
'She tore up your Twiggy poster.' Timmy then told his brother.
Jeff turned his head away from Timmy and stared across the forest. 'She just doesn't get it' he laughed, 'She really doesn't get it.'
“Doesn't get what, Jeff' Timmy asked.
'Oh nothing. It doesn't matter. What else did she do' Jeff asked
It was Timmy's turn to cry and his eyes filled as he answered. 'She made me pull down my jeans and show her my underwear. I don't know why she did that, do you?'
Jeff leaned forward and put his face in his hands.
Timmy continued. 'Then she asked me the strangest question. She wanted to know if you ever touched my privates. Why would she ask me such a stupid question, Jeff?'
With that Jeff began sobbing. “I'm so sorry Timmy, I'm so sorry.' With that he hugged his brother. 'You know I'd never do anything like that to you or to anyone!'
Timmy looked at his brother. 'I know that, Jeff'
They sat there for a few minutes. Timmy had to say something to cheer up his brother.
'You know that I overheard some of the girls in school say that Carol Rullo has a crush on you'
'Really?' for the first time Jeff smiled.
'Yep, she thinks you're really cute, even cuter than any of the Osmond Brothers, especially since you have long hair.'
With that Jeff started to cry again. 'I think I might have to get my hair cut. Jeez, the first girl to really like me, and then this.'
'What? Oh no, I'm sorry.' Timmy knew how proud Jeff was of his shoulder length hair.
''Look, we better get home, Timmy. I don't want to get in any more trouble.'
'Jeff?' Timmy began, 'You're my big brother. I know that you'd never do anything bad or ever hurt me. I'm sticking with you.'
Jeff reached out a hand to help his brother stand up. 'I know. I know'
Quietly and slowly, almost like two prisoners sentenced to the gallows the brothers made their way down the hillside and through the forest.
A chill poisoned the atmosphere at supper that night. All that could be heard was that clanking of silverware as the bloody juices dripped from the rare roast beef their mother had prepared.
By the time Jeff finished he felt like vomiting, for he knew his dessert would be a slice of vindictive abuse from his father.
Jeff and Timmy's father set down his silverware, and poured a shot of bourbon over a small glass filled with ice. Jeff began to get up from the table.
'Did I tell you that you could leave?' he father growled.
'No sir' Jeff meekly replied as he sat back down.
Pointing a finger at Timmy, the boy's father directed his remarks to him. 'You! Get up to your bedroom and close the door. I don't want to see you or hear you, you little son of bitch.'
'Yes sir' Timmy replied.
Timmy went upstairs and closed the door. All he could hear was some muffled shouting. Timmy really couldn't make out any words, except for a few that sounded like pervert and faggot, although Timmy didn't have any idea what they meant. He then heard his brother cry out 'No! Please! No!'
After about 10 minutes he heard Jeff come up the stairs, run into his bedroom, and then slam and lock the door.
The following morning yielded a secret from the night before. Jeff sat at the kitchen table eating Cheerios. His beautiful long hair was chopped in a fashion that looked like he would need a rake to comb it. Timmy stood there shocked, and felt a venomous spite built inside himself toward his father. Jeff raised a finger to his lips and shook his head as signal for Timmy to stay silent.
As they walked to school, Jeff explained, 'Dad is making me get a real man's haircut.'
'What does that mean, Jeff' Timmy asked.
I don't know, but it doesn't matter. I might as well just die' Jeff answered.
Timmy stopped in his tracks. 'NO JEFF!' he shouted. 'I need you. Let me help you. This is what brothers are for.'
'I know Timmy, I know. I'll be okay, but I feel dead inside' Jeff sighed. 'Timmy? Do you think a real man would ever hurt his children?'
Timmy scrunched up his face, 'I don't think so, I think a real man loves his children. And so does a real father and a real mother.'
'That what's I used to think' Jeff offered.
As the next few weeks went by Jeff looked as if he was dead. The color of life seemed to have drained out of his cheeks as he plodded through school and his job at Ferguson's Market. For the first time ever Jeff got a C on a test at school. Jeff didn't even go up the cave anymore. He spent most of his time just staring at the wall of his room, a wall where a Crucifix hung. As he stared Timmy could see his lips moving. It was more than as if in prayer, but almost like a personal conversation.
Then one day, about four weeks later, Timmy noticed that Jeff was smiling. He looked as if Carol Rullo at school had kissed him. There was a spring in his step that Timmy hadn't seen since that fateful day in April.
He didn't need to ask him why his mood had changed, but when his parents informed them that they were going way to gamble in Las Vegas for the weekend he figured that had something to do with it.
'Jeff is going to be in charge. But I warn you, if either you little bastards get into trouble, I'll send you both to military school' the boy's dad grumbled.
Jeff mood change was striking. He started coming out of his room. Timmy watched as his brother seemed to grow happier. Some days he'd see him return for work at Ferguson's on his bike and then hustle off into woods with a paper bag under his jacket.
On the Saturday that Jeff and Timmy were by themselves, Timmy rode his bike to the library to do some research for a school paper. Jeff sat watching American Bandstand on TV. It was quiet and peaceful, something that this house hadn't felt in years.
After a few hours Timmy returned home. He could hear Jeff playing records in his room, the sound of Bette Midler singing Friends filled the air.
'…you got to have friends; the feeling's oh so strong …'
Timmy went upstairs and down the hall to Jeff's room. The door was partly opened and Timmy peeked inside. Someone dressed in a white slip sat at Jeff's desk, the outline of a bra and colorful pattern of a pair of bikini panties clearly seen through the silky fabric. A dress hung on the doorknob to Jeff's closet. Timmy's eyes grew huge as the person sat there putting pink nail polish on their fingernails. It was then that the person jumped and looked straight at Timmy. It was Jeff, he lips done in red lipstick, and his eyelids shining with bluish-green eye shadow.
'Ahhhhhhh!' Jeff screamed as he jumped to his feet!
'Jeff? Is that really you?' Timmy inquired.
Jeff quickly ran to the corner of his bedroom and slumped to the floor. The tears began to flow. 'Please Timmy; please don't tell mom and dad. Please don't let them hurt me again'
Timmy stooped down and looked at his brother, 'Why would I tell them? Over this? Is this why they hurt you? Is this what mom found?'
Jeff lifted his head and looked Timmy in the eyes, his tears making streaks of mascara down his cheeks. 'Yes' he replied.
Timmy got up, pulled Jeff's desk chair turned toward the bed and then sat on at the end of the bed.
'Come on Jeff, have a seat and talk to me about it.' Timmy said as he motioned toward the chair.
Jeff got up and sat down. He took a tissue and blew his nose, then took another and wiped the mascara and tears mix off his cheeks.
'Timmy, first I want you to know that I like girls. I like them a lot. Girls are about the grooviest things anywhere. I dunno, maybe I like girls too much, cause I like everything about them. I like the way they look, I like their clothes and I like the way they look. I guess I just like to get dressed up like girls do.' Jeff explained
'Even Carol Rullo?' Timmy asked.
'Especially Carol Rullo. I go to sleep at night dreaming about getting all dressed up in her clothes and doing each other's makeup.' With that Jeff grinned a big smile.
'So what happened last month?' Timmy asked.
'Mom found my clothes. She destroyed all my bras and panties and the two dresses I had. The only bra and panties she didn't get were the one I wore to school that day along with some in a knapsack up at the cave. I had kept everything in that old steamer trunk Mr. Lehman had thrown out'
'You wore girl's underwear to school? Cool! You are super brave' Timmy observed.
'Ah it's easy. It just feels good' Timmy replied. 'Anyway mom slapped me and took scissors to all my girls clothes. She threw away all my girls magazines like Seventeen. When dad got home that night he punched me in the back about five times and called me a homo and pervert. Then he took the scissors to my hair'
'I'm so sorry Jeff. Don't cry. It'll be okay. Like I told you, I'm sticking with you' Timmy pointed out.
'You mean you don't think its creepy of icky or anything like that' Jeff questioned his brother.
'Creepy? Icky? Hey, you're my big brother, you could never be icky or gross or creepy' Timmy responded.
The brothers sat for a few minutes, the Bette Midler album was at an end and a peaceful stillness filled the air.
'Jeff? Can I ask you a question?' Timmy said as if he was testing the waters of a cool, but inviting lake.
'Sure, I suppose.' Jeff answered slowly.
Timmy held out his hand. 'Would you do my fingernails too? I kinda like that pink nailpoilsh.'
Jeff smiled and took Timmy's hand....
(please look for part 2, coming soon)
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