Read The Little Brother Online

Authors: Victoria Patterson

The Little Brother

THE LITTLE BROTHER

Copyright © 2015 Victoria Patterson

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Patterson, Victoria.

  
The little brother: a novel / Victoria Patterson.

       
pages; cm

  
I. Title.

  
PS3616.A886L58 2015

  
813'.6--dc23

2014044892

Cover Design by Michael Fusco

Interior Design by Megan Jones

COUNTERPOINT

2560 Ninth Street, Suite 318

Berkeley, CA 94710

www.counterpointpress.com

Distributed by Publishers Group West

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e-book ISBN 978-1-61902-647-6

C.P.

CONTENTS

PART ONE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

PART TWO

Chapter 10: July 3, 2003

Chapter 11: July 4

Chapter 12: July 4

Chapter 13: July 5

Chapter 14: July 6

Chapter 15: July 6

Chapter 16: July 6

Chapter 17: July 7

Chapter 18: July 7

Chapter 19: July 8

Chapter 20

PART THREE

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

EPILOGUE

In the majority of instances human beings, even the evil-doers among them, are far more naïve and straightforward than we suppose. And that includes ourselves.

—F
YODOR
D
OSTOYEVSKY
,
T
HE
B
ROTHERS
K
ARAMAZOV

PART ONE

1.

T
HE NAME ON
my birth certificate is Daniel Robert Hyde but everyone calls me Even. I'm named after my father, Daniel Hyde Sr., even though I'm the second-born son. My brother, Gabriel, was born fifteen months before me, but our mother, Gina, and our father decided to name him after her father.

Grandpop was on his deathbed, riddled with bone cancer, when Gabe was born, and they hoped to give him one final legacy-like gift. Despite a falling-out years before, they also hoped to be included in his will. Grandpop went on to live seven more miserable, miraculous years, and when he died he left us a large sum of money, a silver Buick LeSabre, and a Boston Whaler named
Cool Breeze.

Gabe should have been named after our father, and Gabe always thought it one of many injustices that I got the name. We grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, a city nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, about an hour northeast of Los Angeles. Nothing much has happened in Cucamonga, and no one of note has come from here. It's white-populated with a sprinkling of minorities, and with families whose main recreation is consumption, mostly at the massive shopping center, Victoria Gardens, a metropolis of stores and restaurants. In some ways, Cucamonga
is synonymous with wandering through the consumer wasteland: a blur of palm trees and parking lots, escalators and promenades, mezzanines and restaurants, Muzak and lights.

When you drive along the 210 freeway, you can see the beige tract houses blended together in one giant swath, camouflaged like a sand field, all the way to the base of the mountains.

As a child I was quiet, on the tall side, gawky, and I didn't have many friends. Of the friends I did have, most were girls. I preferred their company, though by middle school this changed.

Once, I overheard my dad telling my first grade teacher that I was more like a girl than a boy. This was in 1994. I sat in the corner with the books, pretending to read, during their parent-teacher conference. Usually my mom attended these, but for some reason this time my dad was there. He was expressing concern, but my teacher told him that this was usually the case with exceptional boys, and that they grew into exceptional men. “It's a matter of sensitivity,” she said. I'm convinced that she raised her voice just enough to ensure that I would hear. I looked at my dad. By his expression, I could tell that he believed her, and I still feel gratitude. I had enough trouble later on proving my masculinity, and I can't imagine what it might have been like had she not fed us this morsel of relief.

Gabe was jealous of me, which leads to how I got my name. According to family legend, when we were toddlers, Gabe pointed at me and said, “Even.” The story has been repeated so many times that I can give a reenactment, as I imagine it:

Having bravely endured my pediatrician appointment, which included a series of immunization shots, I was granted a red lollipop from a bowl in the lobby by a cranky old woman who answered
the phone and took down appointments. Gabe, on the other hand, had thrown a fit during his shots and was still red-faced. “Even,” he said, pointing at me, his index finger and arm trembling.

Our mom, a stalwart of discipline and stoic in life, especially when witnesses are involved, knelt to look at Gabe and said: “No lollies. No lollies for bad, bad boys.”

Gabe stared at her and then at me, and I stared back at him, a frantic acknowledgment of the injustice vibrating between us, my lollipop clutched in my fist at my side. I'd already unwrapped it from its plastic sheath.

“Even,” he said again.

I also wanted to make it right, fair, equal, just, even, and my hand reached for the bowl to take another. I didn't want to give him mine. But the mean old woman pushed the bowl away.

Tears and red faces, now from both Gabe and me. We often spiraled each other into frenzies, appreciating the force in a coupled phobia, emotion, or tantrum.

Judgment from the old, cranky woman, from the other mothers in the waiting room, from the pediatrician, who poked his head into the lobby, and then Mom yanked us by our arms and shuttled us to the parking lot.

According to our mom, as we sat side by side in our car seats, I handed my lolly to Gabe, and his tears turned to a shuddering of breath. A smack and suck of lips, and then he passed the lolly back. On and on, our mom watching in her rearview mirror as we shared.

By the time we arrived home—our mouths sticky and red and the leftover fuzzy-stick on the car floor mat—we were holding hands and sleeping.

Gabe continued to say “Even” in his childhood quest for equality, when he received a larger portion of dessert than I did, or when there were more presents under the Christmas tree for me, or when he had better crayons—even, even, even—until he'd named me, and then my parents called me Even, too.

Even though Gabe is older, he's usually mistaken for the younger brother. He's the one who looks more like our dad, who inherited his nerdy features, including his nasal breathing and bad eyesight, though Gabe rarely wears his glasses or contacts and has a record of minor car accidents to prove it.

Small as a child, Gabe didn't reach his full height and weight until well into his senior year of high school. My maturation was steady—no sudden growth spurts—and so for most of our lives, I've always been a full head taller.

Our physical features are similar—downturned mouths, stooped shoulders, cowlicks at the backs of our heads, greenish-hazel eyes.

Our mom would often tell us, “The whole reason your dad and I decided to have two children is so that you'll always be there for each other. You'll look out for each other.” We took her words to heart.

O
UR PARENTS DIVORCED
in 2001, when I was beginning the eighth grade and Gabe the ninth. Dad's drywall business had boomed, and he bought a house in Newport Beach. After a bitter custody battle, when the judge pulled me into his chambers for a private conference and asked which of my parents I wanted to live with—my mom, in Rancho Cucamonga, or my dad, in Newport Beach—I said one word: “Dad.”

I
COULDN'T UNDERSTAND
what was happening to our parents and to Gabe and me during those formative years, and I would have been surprised had someone pointed out that my personality was similar to our dad's, with my determination to separate, my stubbornness, a will toward self-creation, a sense of self-preservation, and an insensitivity to others if my own well-being was in the crosshairs. A ruthless work ethic pointed not toward the making of money, like Dad, but toward something intangible, something as formless as I felt during those years.

I worshipped him then, even though he wasn't around much: He worked all the time. But I believed that his success proved his superiority, and as his fortunes increased, most everyone seemed to grant him deference, which only reinforced my belief. Besides, he understood me in a way that our mom never had.

Mom believed anything art-related encouraged homosexuality and weakness. Dad encouraged my artistic sensibilities, telling me, “Making money's easy. You're going to do something with your life, something greater than making money, something creative, something that I could never do.”

One time he brought home a bunch of leather-bound books for me—mostly classics,
Remembrance of Things Past
and everything by Thomas Hardy. He said he got them from a dead man's library—and though I was still too young to read them (I must've been about seven or eight), just having them made me feel enriched and different, a shifting of consciousness—they were for me, just me.

Mom never forgave me for choosing to live with him. She accused me of having a heart made of stone, and of being a materialistic and selfish child.

I learned later that Gabe felt that my leaving him was a double abandonment—first his dad, then his brother left. At the time, I didn't care, or rather I didn't let myself care. I couldn't afford to, so I didn't think about him.

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