Just between us, it was always that way. Yelling and cussing and all kinds of bullshit. A man gets to where he can't think with all the spitting and howling. My old man, red-faced and ugly. But it was frustrating. The bastard couldn't even do the simple shit. Couldn't feed himself. Never could keep clean. Always smelled like spoilt milk and caked-on shit. He got a little better as he got older. And then he was old enough to be about six, really. And I didn't want to do it. But I did it. I took him in because Momma would have wanted it. She always said he was getting better. She was wrong. He was always the same. Maybe he could keep himself clean now, but that ain't much.
Even when we were kids, he was a stone around my neck. Had to take him everywhere. He'd be drooling and smiling, giggling to himself. He always hung on to me. Every once in a while someone would fuck with him, and I'd beat the holy hell out of them. He may have been a fucking retard...he may be a fucking retard. That's my call. My brother.
Every night I tuck him into bed, and I curse my Momma for dying. I look into those big soft eyes, and I wish that things could be different. But they aren't. It's the same every night. Get your hand off your dick, Johnny, Jesus. Then he'd be hugging all over me and we'd start smiling. I'd try not to laugh, but damn if it wasn't funny. See, he is in there. He knows when he's being funny and when he's not. The kids in school never understood that. Neither did Pop.
He started getting sick out of nowhere. One day his skin was just all pale and purpled up. He never complained about it, but it didn't look right. I finally took him to the Doc. They didn't know shit, so we went back home. I put him to bed and told him to take his hand off his dick. He tried to hug on me, but you could tell he was weak. Trembling. I'd never seen him look scared before. I reckon I held him most of that night. We woke up side by side.
I sat in my room and told myself it was for the best. Life without Johnny. That's what I'd always wanted. But I hadn't. Deep down, I'd always known. Now it was real. It had edges, sharp ones. I took some time off work, and I made that boy soup and hot tea and milkshakes and he just got smaller and smaller. He was shrinking and I couldn't even talk any more without a clutch in my throat.
It happened during the night. He didn't come out to breakfast one morning, and I knew. So, I went in there and he was laying real peaceful. His face was smooth and calm like a river stone. Cold like it, too. My insides were all churned up. I wanted to feel pain...I sat on that bed for hours with his head in my lap. I looked at his face blur in and out with my tears.
It's been a while now. Things don't sit right with me. I can't eat. Nothing's the same anymore. I can't read the funnies and show off the good ones. There's no one to sit on the porch with. All those years of me wanting to cut and run. I guess I was fooling myself. Johnny knew the score all along.