I curled up in the middle of my bed. I gazed at the TV screen, but couldn’t concentrate on Full House just then. I tried looking around my room to distract myself. The harder I focused on the paintings and the dresser, the clearer their voices and their words became.
“Do you think I want to be a fucking loser all my life? It’s your fault I ever ended up like this!” my brother, Keith, spat out.
“Do you even realize how much your father and I have tried to help? Why can’t you just accept our help?” Mum sobbed.
These fights never failed to terrify me, no matter how old I got.
As their voices got louder, I moved from my bed towards the door. I shut the door as quietly as I could, and I held my ear up against its wooden laminate. My curiosity overpowered my fright.
Keith began getting snappier. Mom faded from outraged to powerless. Dad had fallen silent for the last few minutes. He was the most calm and rational member of my family.
The anxiety overwhelmed me. Keith had one of the shortest tempers I knew of. I knew he was going to snap.
“Stop talking, you old hag, you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” Keith snapped. That did it.
“You apologize to your mother right now, you disrespectful jerk. Do you really think that if you treat us like shit we’re going to keep quiet forever? We’re your parents. Show us a little respect,” Dad defended Mum.
“I’m done with y’all. Mark my words when I say you’ll never see my face again.” Keith was now yelling at the top of his lungs, and Mum’s sobs had gotten more frantic, and Dad’s voice got louder with every word he said. There was shuffling. I could feel the tension in their room from three doors down the hall. Out of nowhere, there was a crash. I heard glass shatter. I’d never felt my heart beat so fast before. Silence filled the house. I heard some more shuffling, and my parents’ door opening.
“You’ll never see my face after today,” Keith reiterated as he stormed towards his room and banged the door shut, startling me.
Less than a minute later, he remerged. I heard the thud of Keith’s steel-toe Caterpillars against the ceramic tiles. Keys clinked around in his pocket. The front door slammed shut. The house grew silent once again.
“So you’ve finally come out of hiding.” Dad had snuck up on me while I was grabbing a midnight snack in the kitchen.
“You know how hard it’s been for him these past years, don’t you?” he said. I nodded, attempting to avoid any and all forms of conversation.
“We may be fighting a lot, but just pray it passes sooner than later.” I forced another lukewarm nod.
“What was that final sound before Keith left? Did someone get hurt? Did something break? What happened in the end?” I bombarded Dad, not being able to contain my curiosity.
“Keith punched our window. His arm looked pretty screwed up, but he wouldn’t listen to anything we said, obviously. Nothing too serious,though. Your Mum and I are fine,” Dad reassured me. I cringed at the thought of what Keith’s hand must look like but at least there hadn’t been a fight.
That night, I sat up in bed waiting for Keith accompanied by some kettle corn and Diet Coke. I knew he would be back, Keith never followed through on his threats. At 2:03 a.m., Keith turned the key in its hole and tiptoed back in as if nothing had ever happened at all.
Karuna has always had a knack for English—writing more specifically—and coming to UTM to find a program so specifically moulded to her interests makes university that much more enjoyable.
Karuna’s story has the startling quality of reading as realistically as non-fiction even though she has invented it. The dialogue-heavy narrative drives forward to a climax, only for the tension to undo itself in that quiet, almost revisionist way so reminiscent of many real conversations in which we wish we could have pulled our punches.
This was an entry in the 2013/14 Writing Contest.