Twelve-year-old Scott struggles
with a writing assignment. Honestly, when you have four
younger brothers, it can be hard finding time for yourself!
Author's Notes: I wanted to
write a humour story. Unfortunately, I failed. This is what
came out instead. My Thanks go to Pen, who was nice enough to
correct my (silly) mistakes. And to everybody else who reads
my work and writes such wonderful reviews. They are much
appreciated, and they always make me smile (but I still can't
write humour! Darn!).
Tracy tried his best to do his homework. Really.
himself in his room, took a bottle of water with him, turned
off the CD player, spread his books on the desk-he was ready
to roll. The pen was new, the paper empty, and his head ready
to start thinking. Even though it was his it was his least
favourite subject-English Literature.
was easy for him, but when it came to Literature, the twelve
year old found himself floundering, much to his discontent.
stared at the blank sheet of paper in front of him. So far,
he'd managed to write down the headline - 'My family' - and a
first scribbled sentence: 'I have four brothers and one Dad.'
certainly wasn't enough to qualify for the 'B' he was aiming
for. Frowning, he pushed dark strands of hair out of his
face-it was growing long again-and set down to write the next
sentence. 'My brothers all younger than me, which means I
often have to take care of them...'
knock on the door interrupted him. "Yes?" Scott said rather
curtly. The door opened and in peeked a blonde head. "Hey
Scott." John smiled. "I wondered whether I could borrow your
dictionary for a while."
ahead." Scott motioned towards the bookshelf. His blonde
brother murmured a 'thanks' and then slid out again, leaving
Scott to his gloomy thoughts.
the pen for a while, wishing that this could be as simple as
math, and hesitantly wrote down a few more words. 'Their
names are John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. Alan is the youngest,
he's six years old. My Dad used to be an astronaut'
Inspiration gone again, Scott cursed all English teachers.
What was he supposed to write about his family, anyway-heck,
they were his family! None of his classmates cared the
least bit about Virgil's latest achievements in his piano
classes, or Gordon's fixation with water.
obviously the teacher cared...why anyway? Didn't she have any
TV at home?
She was an
odd one, always looking for something 'special', a spark of
inspiration Scott Tracy simply didn't possess.
teeth cracked the hull of the pen. Bitter tasting plastic
filled his mouth.
pulled a grimace. He probably had just poisoned himself, but
who cared. He took a sip of the water bottle and set down to
write another line.
brothers are all very diff-'
door banged open with a loud clang. A small, red-headed
whirlwind stormed into the room. "SCOTT!"
Scott had halfway risen out of his chair. "For heaven's sake,
Gordon, open the door like a normal person! You know what Dad
says about door banging!"
redhead was unperturbed. "But I'm bored!" he whined.
then go and do something."
there's nothing to do!"
closed his eyes. "Look, squirt, I have to do my homework,
alright? I can't play with you right now. Maybe later. Go and
bother someone else."
glowered and stomped out of the room again. Scott sat back on
his chair, cursed smaller brothers, and realized that he had
forgotten what he had intended to write. "Thanks, Gordon." He
erased the sentence he had just written and paused again. 'Brothers
can be very annoying...' he began, his frustration
carrying over to the paper.
Gordon again, his face hopeful and eager. "Scott? Is it later
that you would play with me later."
groaned. "It's later when I say so, get that squirt? No
interruptions! Go and play with Alan."
would never understand the logic of his youngest brothers. One
day, they were the best of buddies and the next they would
fight like cats and dogs. Apparently, today was one of the
latter. "So am I." he reasoned. "I'm very boring. Look at me,
how boring I am. I am writing an assignment! You don't want to
play with a boring person, do you?"
didn't work. Gordon started to giggle. "Scott, you aren't
for once, would have liked to be boring-it would have spared
him a lot of pain; Gordon could be amazingly persistent.
don't you have any homework to do?" Scott tried another
then go and...clean your room!"
don't want to clean my room!"
with a seven year old was almost impossible Scott decided
glumly and glared at his brother. "Look, you either go now
and occupy yourself with something - play with your toys,
draw, make something, I don't care what - or I'm going to
throw you out of this room. Understood?"
nodded hesitantly. Scott had his don't-mess-with-me-face on
and all the Tracys knew that it was better not to aggravate
him in that mood. Still, the prospect of a boring afternoon
didn't appeal to him at all and so he did his best to portray
the utter picture of misery as he padded out of the room.
didn't even notice. As soon as he saw that his message had
gotten across, he turned back to his desk. The next sentence
came with almost no effort. 'You never have a moment for
yourself, even when you do your homework. With so many
siblings, there's always something going on and they always
want to involve me. Especially the two younger ones insist
that I play with them. It gets so boring! All Alan ever does
is throw his race cars across the room, and Gordon...'
actually growled. "Yes?"
drew back, sensing the mood of his brother. "Uh-nothing. Sorry
for disturbing you."
reigned in his impatience-it wasn't Virg's fault, after
all-and laid down the pencil. "No, it's okay. What's the
help me with my homework?" Virgil said quickly.
frowned. "Virg, you know that you're supposed to do it on your
have to go outside to the park and I'm not allowed to go there
on my own."
you need to go to the park?"
showed him the book he was holding. "We have to collect five
different leaves and five flowers for our botanical lessons. I
can't do that at home, Scott!"
elementary school teachers and their stupid homework projects.
The park was over half a mile away, and only Scott and John
were allowed to go their on their own-after they had asked for
permission, of course. Disastrous things had happened; Jeff
Tracy knew his boys and their affinity to get into troubles.
Unfortunately, it would take quite some time collect those
leaves, since taking Virgil along meant taking Gordon and Alan
as well, otherwise they would protest and wreak havoc...well,
he could always ask John to look after them, but the blonde
preferred to hide himself behind his books instead of dealing
with the terrible two...something Scott would have loved to do
mind was turning in circles. "Virg, I'm really busy right
now-," he began, trying to think of a solution that was
practical for each of them. He started wondering when his
father might be home. Maybe he could help?
glance at the clock told him that it would be a while yet.
Besides, it was one of those work-late nights-a conference,
something-or-other that was very important, couldn't be
delayed and took all the energy and concentration of his Dad.
promised to make it up to them at the weekend, but that didn't
help Scott right now. He was pretty sure that at the rate he
was going, he would have grey hairs by the time the weekend
go to the park later?"
face fell. "But I need to get this done."
know, but I gotta do my homework as well." Scott shook his
head. "Look, let me finish this and then we can go to the park
later, okay? We'll take Alan and Gordon and they can help
you-I bet they'll love it."
say so." Virgil didn't look too convinced. "How long?"
looked at the few sparse lines he had written and winced. "Uh.
A while, I think. I'll try my best to work quickly."
younger brother made a non-committal sound and left. Scott
looked after him, considering briefly whether it was worth it
to lock the door. Would that stop his siblings from
not. They would just pound on it instead, making a general
ruckus and annoying him even more. Another sigh escaped his
lips as he looked at the essay. So far, it sounded more like a
report of a whiny child than one of those formidable essays
Mrs. Hunkerford seemed to cherish so much.
ploughed through the thoughts in his mind, trying to look for
the spark of creativity that his teacher insisted had to be
there. He couldn't find it. It was probably hidden under the
spark for sciences, the spark for planes, and the spark for
taking care of the flea-ridden pests that other people called
wasn't right. He liked his brothers...they were just
suffocating him at the moment. And with Tracy Enterprises
booming, their father was rarely at home, leaving Scott to
take care of the family.
is too active for his own good. John, he's easy, because he
reads all the time. He's pretty smart and gets good marks at
school. I'm sure that one day he will be a great professor. He
can sit down and think about things like one of those big
thought about John took him off tangent and the sentences flew
easier from his pen.
I often wonder what will happen to my brothers when we grow
up. John will be some kind of professor, I bet. And maybe
Virgil will become a musician-he's already the best piano
player in his class. Gordon will probably live on some
tropical island and swim for the whole day. As for Alan, I
can't imagine what he would do.'
He was so
focused on his essay that he didn't even notice the next
intruder. Small, chubby hands opened the door, and a blonde
head slid through. Then the body followed, tip-toeing through
the room until he stood right beside Scott.
Alan shouted gleefully.
Scott almost jumped in the air and nearly fell from his chair.
Alan broke out in a fit of giggles.
Fury tinted Scott's voice. "Why did you do that?"
grinned toothily. "What'cha doing?"
Homework." Scott grumbled, rubbing his eyes. Weren't there any
gods who took mercy on him?
have to do it, dummy."
eyes got even rounder. "But why?"
"Because-", Scott started and hesitated. After all, this was a
question he had been asking himself numerous times. But he'd
never admit that. "I simply have to do it. For school. Don't
you ever get homework?"
just started elementary school and was still mesmerized by
it-unlike his disillusioned elder brothers.
Alan's blonde head bobbed up and down. "I already did mine.
eyebrow twitched. "Well, I know the reason for that," he
muttered under his breath and slapped another messy sentence
on the paper. 'They are so annoying. Very often I wish that
my brothers would simply shut up and leave me in peac-'
you writing?" Alan peered over his arm, causing Scott to
misspell the last word. It read now 'peach' instead of
'peace'. Scott suppressed a curse-knowing Alan, he would
remember it and repeat it loudly at the dinner table in front
of their father-and shoved his brother aside.
Writing. An. Essay." He pronounced dangerously slow and
glowered at the blonde. "And you are disturbing me. Go and
bother someone else."
want to bother you!" Trust Alan to be completely and utterly
patience was wearing thin. "I don't WANT to be bothered by
you! Get out!"
lower lip started to quiver. Any second now and he would start
wailing. Which meant that he wouldn't stop until you got him
calmed down, preferably with a couple of sweets, and played
one of his stupid, mind-numbing games.
no intention of doing so. "I didn't mean it like that," he
continued hastily. "It's just well, I'm really, really busy
stopped quivering and Alan tilted his head. "Busy like Dad?"
always busy. He never comes and plays with us."
It was a
constant sore point with the two younger ones that they didn't
see their father as much as they'd like to (which was
twenty-four hours a day).
grimaced, finding himself in a dilemma. "I'm not as busy as
Dad, but I'm still busy."
pondered this. "When will you be not-busy?"
sighed. Why did younger siblings have to be so insistent?
Could they all take John's example? "Too long for you to wait
here," he clarified. "Look, why don't you go and play with
Gordon? He was bored before."
Surprisingly agreeable, Alan nodded and glanced one last time
at the desk. "That looks boring, too." he clarified.
could only agree. "Come on, squirt. Time to go. The sooner you
leave, the sooner I'll be done."
It took a
couple of more minutes to persuade Alan, but finally he
relented and left the room. Scott leant back in his chair,
rubbed his eyes and thought wistfully of some of his
classmates who were single children. It had to be great never
to share, to pay attention, to be responsible.
wandered to the clock and widened in surprise. One hour had
passed already! Damn, and the stuff he had written so far was
very...chaotic. Scott chewed his lip unhappily. He really
needed to get this done, and then there was the other homework
and his promise to Virgil...which meant that he wouldn't be
able to read the book he had been looking forward to.
filled him and his fingers moved on their own.
too much to wish for? Just a day where I can do what I want.
Not that I don't like my brothers; but they tag along
everywhere! Only because I'm the oldest, it is my job to look
out for them? Not fair!
Another yell and the door banged open.
Scott yelled, at the end of his patience.
waltzed into the room, unaware of Scott's mood. In his hands,
he held something very...gross looking. It...dripped? With
yucky, slimy stuff...and had all sorts of things stuck to
it...Scott watched in horror as a big glob of slime formed and
fell down to splatter all over his carpet.
Scott! I made a fish!" Gordon showed him the monstrosity he
was carrying, beaming with pride.
great, Gordon." The weariness in Scott's voice escaped the
big sea fish!" beamed the redhead. Another glob splashed on
the carpet. The nice, beautiful, almost new carpet.
you make that?" Scott asked, fearing that Gordon had used
something lethal. It certainly looked like it; nothing healthy
could be that slimy. Though they kept all the medicine
and cleaning cupboards locked-but this was Gordon, the same
Gordon who had managed to open the attic door and climb onto
some of Virgil's paste!" Gordon was immensely proud. "I made a
fish mobile for you!" He held it up for Scott to admire.
dark-haired boy could see was a big clump of paste, stuck
together with paper, already losing its form and running down
Gordon's hand. Gordon himself didn't look better; he had the
sticky glue everywhere, even in his hair. It was already
drying, making his hair stand up like a punk-rocker.
glob splashed to the ground. Scott looked mournfully at his
carpet, which was only two years old and which could now be
considered as a disaster area.
present for my bestest older brother!" Gordon continued, still
beaming. "You can hang it to the wall!"
sure. The damn thing would stick on its own and wouldn't even
need a nail.
you are a mess." Scott stated. "It's a nice idea...but please
get cleaned up before you ruin anything else in my room." An
idea struck him. "Why don't you take a bath? Take your rubber
fish with you."
Can I?" Gordon was very excited.
don't make the water too deep. And leave the door open." Scott
knew that the bathroom would be a mess later on, but he was
willing to pay that price for some time of peace and quiet.
squeal, a small red-haired cannon shot out of the room,
leaving behind a mess of paste, papers, and a very disgruntled
older brother. Scott stood up, gathered some newspapers and
wrapped the monstrous fish in them. Then he tried to wipe away
the stains, but they had already been sucked up by the soft,
fluffy carpet. Great. His father would have a fit.
couldn't bring it over him to throw the 'present' away, so he
put it on the window sill instead.
invented younger siblings," Scott grumbled to himself,
"Obviously never had any himself."
And he got
back to work again.
next twenty minutes, Scott was actually able to work in peace.
He refined what he had already written, added some more stuff,
and was nearly halfway done when the wailing started.
eyebrow twitched and he was tempted to climb out of the
window. He was certain that he'd find more piece and solitude
out there. Even the mall couldn't be as bad. At least then the
wailing wouldn't be directed at him.
think of it, it sounded very much like Alan. And it was
punched the button of his stereo. Loud rock music filled the
room. He was determined to get this essay finished if it
For a few
precious minutes, blaring guitars drowned out the crying. Then
footsteps pounded-the door was ripped open-and John's head
peeked in, blonde hair dripping with water.
you've got to help me!" The blonde gesticulated wildly.
mall-idea sounded better and better. Scott threw down the pen.
"What happened this time?"
Gordon." John motioned down the corridor as if this was
explanation enough. Well, it probably was. "They're in the
bathroom. Gordon splashed Alan and now he's all wet, and you
know how much he hates water, and I can't calm him down, and
Scott can you please come!"
not-entirely-suitable word left Scott's lips and he glared at
John, daring him to comment. He shoved his chair back and got
up in a huff, taking long strides towards the bathroom. The
door was wide open and inside he could see the mess that the
terrible two had created. There was more water on the floor
than in the tub; Gordon and Alan were both dripping. Gordon
was in his swimming trunks, but Alan was fully clothed. They
seemed to be wrestling, or fighting, or hugging each
other...Scott didn't care.
SHUT UP!" he roared, his eyes flashing as the final thread of
stopped them in their tracks. Eyes huge, they turned around to
stare at their furious older brother. John, who had followed
him, made an involuntary step backwards, knowing that Scott in
a temper was something to be avoided.
ENOUGH OF YOU TWO!" Scott pointed a finger at his brothers,
trembling with rage. "All afternoon I have been trying to do
my work! In PEACE! Is that too much to ask? Can't you just
leave me ALONE? You keep pestering me! I'm not your personal
he gesticulated to the ground. "I allowed Gordon to take a
bath. I didn't allow you to drag Alan into it, Gordon. You
know how much he hates water! And Alan, what were you doing in
shook his head. "I don't want to hear any excuses. For
heaven's sake, this is one of the moments I wish I was an only
exclamation, tears started gathering in Alan's eyes. Scott
felt a pang of guilt, but it wasn't big enough to stop his
raving. With the essay looming in his mind, he took a step
into the bathroom, wincing as the water on the floor soaked
through his socks.
to say this only once," he gritted his teeth. "For the rest of
the day, I don't want anyone to come into my room. No one. Not
Alan, not Gordon, not John, not Virgil. I don't care whether
the house is on fire or pink aliens have landed in our garden.
You...stay...out...of...my... room. And no screaming, running
around or making loud noises either. Did you get that?"
sniffled. "But Scott..."
glare froze him mid-sentence. "I said...Did you get that?"
half naked and dripping all over, looked sullenly to the
turned around. "The same goes for you and Virgil," he said to
John, his eyes narrowed.
crossed his arms, mumbling defiantly under his breath. "I
didn't do anything."
care." Scott's voice was icy. On squishy socks, he walked
through the corridor, head held high. "And I want you to clean
up the mess you made!" he called back over his shoulders, just
before he stomped into his room and smashed the door shut.
times when I really hate being the oldest.
chest heaving, fingers clenched into angry fists. Some
rational part of his mind told him to calm down, that it
wasn't really his brothers' fault, that they meant well, but
he didn't listen. God, if only his Mom was here...but ever
since she died, it had been Scott whom his brothers had looked
up to, Scott who helped Alan get ready in the mornings, Scott
who got Gordon to sit down and do his homework, Scott who made
them sandwiches whenever their Dad would be home late-
And he was
getting sick of it.
familiar feeling of grief welled up again in his chest, but he
pushed it down. Crying wouldn't bring his Mom back, either.
needed to get away from his brothers-they were threatening to
suffocate him. Scott snatched his backpack, stuffed his books
and the pad he'd been writing on in there and grabbed his
sneakers. He would so get into trouble for this later-he
wasn't supposed to leave his brothers unsupervised, not with
Grandma out of town-but frankly, he didn't care. John and
Virgil were old enough; they'd make sure that the house didn't
didn't even bother with a jacket. As softly as he could, he
left his room and sneaked down the stairs. He really didn't
want to get caught by his brothers. But his outburst seemed to
have worked; the house was eerily silent.
sigh of relief, he stepped out of the front door and walked
out into the grey day, leaving his troubles behind.
Tracy returned after seven that evening, running up the path
to escape the pouring rain, he found the house strangely
quiet. This was something new, he reflected, while taking off
his dripping shoes. Normally, he was greeted by an
enthusiastic herd of sons whenever he returned late. If the
house was quiet, it could only mean one thing: something had
sighed and ran a hand through his greying hair. Sometimes he
wondered what had possessed him and his wife to have five
he called. Usually Scott was the first to greet him if
something had happened, face too solemn for a twelve-year-old.
But as he opened the door to his eldest's room, only emptiness
blonde head peeped out of the door further down the corridor.
John." Jeff was relieved. "What's wrong with you boys? Why is
it so quiet?"
looked uncomfortable. "Well, we had an...argument earlier."
"Argument?" Jeff raised his eyebrow. Fights and quarrels were
common occurrences in the Tracy household. "Was it that bad?
Why didn't Scott break it up?"
shifted. "Uh, because he was doing most of the arguing, Dad."
Now Jeff was surprised. "I see. And now the others are
Gordon and Alan are. Virgil is sulking-Scott promised to go to
the park with him, but he hasn't returned yet and now it'll be
left earlier-he was pretty angry."
closed his eyes in frustration. Now he regretted taking the
latest job for Tracy Enterprises – he had barely been at home,
and with his mother away on a much-deserved trip to visit some
friends, the task of taking care of the family had been mainly
on Scott's shoulders. It seemed as if the eldest had finally
snapped under the pressure. He never normally fought with his
brothers-not like they did amongst themselves, anyway.
Gordon! Get out here!" He called, voice leaving no room for
Immediately the door to their room opened-they must have been
listening in, those curious devils-and two solemn looking
youngsters stepped out. Gordon's hair stood up straight and
looked as if someone had poured glue into it. Attempts at
washing it out had been made, but without much success.
been crying, judging from the red-rimmed eyes and the blotched
Virgil involved in this as well?" Jeff wanted to know.
shrugged. "I think we all were, to some part."
Then get him. We'll be down in the living room. I want to know
what exactly happened-and where Scott has gone."
sneezed. Damn, why did it have to rain? The weather had been
fine earlier. But this was just his luck. Dismayed, he stared
at his soaked shoes. Of course he had grabbed only his summer
sneakers, with the effect that his socks were wet already.
shouldered the backpack and trotted towards the bus stop.
After escaping from home, he had snatched the next best bus
towards the city centre. He had gone to the mall, but realized
quickly that it was just as bad as four noisy brothers, so he
soon had escaped to a nearby park. That had worked for half an
hour or so, when suddenly the downpour started, leaving him
running for cover.
this day," Scott muttered gloomily as he finally saw the bus
station-only to realise that his bus was already there.
"Damn!" he cursed, for once not caring what his Grandma would
think if she heard him. He sprinted to the puddles, waving
frantically to get the bus driver's attention-but to no avail.
He was mere yards away when the bus left, not without driving
through a huge puddle and splashing Scott's trousers in the
Scott gritted his teeth, and then, just because it wasn't
enough, shouted, "GREAT!"
angry frown, he turned around to check the timetable. The next
bus would come...in an hour. He blanched. Waiting that long in
the pouring rain? No way.
Scott looked down himself. "Since I'm already soaked, I may as
there was really nothing that would make this day any worse.
twenty minutes later, Scott realized he really hated cars.
wasn't quite true. It wasn't really the car's fault-it was the
driver's. Okay, so Scott hated the drivers, those people who
didn't think and drove past him through the biggest puddles,
splashing him with mud and water and god knew what else.
another one. Scott tried to jump out of the way, but was too
late. "THANK YOU!" he shouted, but the car had already
disappeared. That was the seventh one so far.
of you has any idea where your brother might be?"
headshakes, four blank faces. Jeff Tracy rubbed his face and
sighed. This wasn't what he had been looking forward to when
he had left his office. No, he'd been mentally preparing to
put his feet up and relax, have dinner with his sons and spend
the rest of the evening in domestic surroundings.
wars-zone greeted him and four sons-one of them brooding, one
defiant, one hurt and one thoughtful. The explanation had been
hurried and garbled, John being the only one who made halfway
sense. But what he had heard had been enough to make him
he forgot that his eldest was only twelve years old himself.
stay here," he pointed to the sofa, "And I'm going to take a
look at Scott's room. Maybe he left a note. Don't move." He
stressed the last two words, knowing his sons too well.
room was tidy as usual. Apart from John and Jeff himself,
Scott seemed to be the only one who understood the merits of
clean and organised surroundings. Virgil didn't care if things
were messy, Gordon loved to make a mess and
Alan...well, Alan was happiest when he was covered in grime.
stepped into something soft and squishy. Looking down, he saw
globs of sticky glue on the new carpet. His eyebrow twitched.
Who the hell did that? Certainly not Scott...now he understood
why the eldest had been angry.
to remove his foot, but it was stuck. Cursing angrily, he
tugged at it. It slowly moved away, but only with a lot of
coaxing and forcing on his part. This stuff looked like
Virgil's art paste.
his head, Jeff made his way to the desk, careful to avoid any
other traps that might befall him during the way. Military
training came in handy.
looked as if it had been deserted in a hurry. Scott's
schoolbooks were missing, a sure sign that he had stormed off
somewhere to finish his homework in peace. A significant
amount of crumbled papers formed a pile at the end of the
desk. He removed one and took a closer look at it.
it said in Scott's scrawly hand-writing. English
Literature: An Essay.
piqued Jeff's interest. He dimly remembered that he had to
write those kinds of essays at school, too, though those
mostly asked about his vacation. He had hated those kinds of
homework, because with his Dad's farm, they had never been
able to go abroad and he had never known what to write.
smiled as her read the first couple of sentences. Smart his
first-born might be, but writing wasn't his forte. It sounded
stiff and awkward. Then the smile slipped off his face as he
read onwards. The light-hearted tone of the writing changed,
became more and more angry.
are so annoying. Very often I wish that my brothers would
simply shut up and leave me in peace. Is that too much to wish
for? Just a day where I can do what I want."
down heavily in the desk chair. Thinking back, he realized
that he had indeed relied a lot on Scott after his wife died.
As a result, the younger ones looked up to him. With Jeff
being barely at home, it was Scott who solved their problems;
Scott who helped them with their homework; Scott who read the
stories; Scott who tried to protect them.
always been proud of his son; how he handled everything, how
reliable he had become. But with that he had also forgotten
that Scott was a child himself. And a child wanted to play, to
be free to fool around. Who solved Scott's problems?
Who helped him with his homework?
certainly wasn't Jeff.
much older than his years, Jeff got up and rubbed his eyes.
"Oh Lucy," he sighed, "I thought we were doing okay, but it
seems I'm not as good as this Dad-thing as I thought I'd be."
his expression, he went down to face the rest of his sons, the
letter clutched tightly in his hand.
not only cold, he was shivering. The rain pelted against his
unprotected skin, running down his clothes, sucking every
ounce of warmth out of his body. It seemed as if he had been
walking for hours already.
heaven's sake, he had never noticed how far it was-the bus
barely took twenty minutes! Sniffing miserably (because of the
cold, not because he was crying), he wondered whether his
brothers missed him. Probably not. Gordon and Alan were most
likely still involved in their screaming match; Virgil
practising his scales, and John was always on a mental cloud
about Dad? Was he home already? Wistfully Scott thought of the
nice and cozy living room. No doubt that they were all curled
up there, with his Dad telling stories of his day and asking
them about theirs. If the weather was as bad as this, they'd
sometimes make a hot chocolate, just because it tasted so good
when it rained outside.
would have given everything for a hot chocolate. Instead, he
was walking through this god-damn thunderstorm, his sneakers
already soaked through and his mood even more miserable than
it had been when he had left.
all, his homework was still unfinished. Nor had he helped
Virgil with his leaf collection, or played with Alan...they'd
certainly trample him the moment he reached home, his father
first of all, scolding him for being so irresponsible.
walking. Suddenly, home didn't seem all that cozy anymore.
turned to his second eldest, his gaze stern. "John, I trust
you to look out for your brothers. I'm going to take the car
and look around for Scott. He's been gone too long; he
probably got caught by the rain." One glance out of the window
told him exactly how much water was chucking down from
the sky. He could only hope that Scott had found somewhere dry
merely nodded, a worried expression on his face.
wrong with Scott?" Alan chirped, eyes huge. "Is he angry with
little." Jeff admitted. "You see, he just wanted to have some
time for himself, but you kept bugging him."
always helps us!" Gordon protested.
doesn't want to help us all the time." Virgil replied wisely.
"And you have to admit, he was pretty angry earlier. You
shouldn't have started that water fight!"
start it! Alan, that's all your fault!"
not!" was the indignant reply.
Stop!" Jeff shouted, his patience wearing thin. "This is the
kind of behaviour that drove Scott away. You'd better pay
attention to it! I'm afraid you have been spoilt a little
bit-during all that time, you seem to have forgotten that your
brother is a human being as well. He wants to have time for
himself as much as you need to be in the water, Gordon, or you
need to play the piano, Virgil." He ran a hand through his
greying hair. "And I'm afraid I have been the worst of
all...burdening him with all that..." Jeff shook his head.
"Anyway, I'm going now, and I want none of you to make any
trouble while I'm gone. Is that understood?"
nodded meekly. Jeff, satisfied that he seemed to have gotten
his message across, took his coat from the hanger and left the
room. Briefly, the rain thundered into the house, then the
door shut and left the four boys in silence.
started crying. "Now Scott's gonna hate us!" he wailed.
three were silent.
in silence. He had no idea where he was supposed to start
looking. Scott could have gone anywhere-hell, he could even be
at a friend's house. But something told him that this wasn't
the case. Scott had been angry, and he needed his space when
he was in such a mood. So staying at a friend's house wasn't
Jeff turned the corner and took the road that led to the park.
found another bus stop and was sitting on the bench, feeling
sorry for himself. There wasn't a part of him that wasn't
wet. His jeans were clinging to his legs, his soaked shirt
dripped on the floor and his hair was hanging limply into his
face. Why did it have to cool off so much? It was positively
freezing-or maybe he had just been out to long. Anyway, his
teeth were chattering.
curled up tighter in his shirt, not that it was of much help.
But it did protect him from the biting wind, if only a little.
what else's going to happen today," he muttered darkly,
glaring at the black sky. Rain-clouds crashed into each other,
thunder rumbling like a growling animal. Here and then a
lightning strike flashed, illuminating the scene in an eerie,
cars had stopped driving. During the last twenty minutes,
Scott had seen none. It figured-he had been ready to wave for
help, even though his father had told him that he should never
go with strangers. But Scott wouldn't have cared; his frozen
toes were a far more pressing matter than a dressing down from
cue, a set of headlights appeared at the other end of the
street, barely visible through the rain. But it was going in
the wrong direction, and Scott knew people well enough to know
that they wouldn't stop.
trekked onwards, his mind as dark and clouded as the sky.
screeching of brakes startled him out of his reverie. The car
had pulled to a stop right beside him. Scott blinked through
the water that was running down his face. Hang on-he knew that
an all-too-familiar deep voice asked.
the car, son, quickly!"
obliged only too gladly. He ducked into the passenger seat and
slid the door shut.
interior of the car was warm and comfy, a stark contrast to
the cold and winy weather out there. He closed his eyes for a
brief moment, as the warmth started to seep into his frozen
fingers, then he realized that he was dripping and sat up with
a start. Oh no! He was soaking his father's seats, in the
business car no less! He'd be furious!
quick glance at his Dad told him that he wasn't furious at
all. Instead he looked strangely contemplative and, well, sad.
didn't you come back sooner?"
his gaze away. "The bus didn't come."
didn't you call?"
shrugged. "Didn't think of it."
looked at his son, took in the shivering form, the soaked
clothes, the blue tint on his lips. Without another word, he
cracked the heating on full and drove off through the dark
what happened at the house," he said casually while driving.
frowned. "Yeah. Well." He was torn. One part of him wanted to
insist that he had been right-that the others had been out of
line, that it had been perfectly acceptable to run away-but
then there was another part, the guilty voice which whispered
that he shouldn't have left his brothers alone, that he was
supposed to care for them, that he was responsible and that he
had behaved in a very childish, inappropriate manner.
warm, comforting hand landed on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
blinked, and blinked...and blinked again. "Huh?" Scott finally
managed to produce, as his brain managed to catch up with the
fact that yes, Jeff Tracy had indeed apologized to him.
different circumstances, Jeff would have been amused at the
dumbstruck expression on Scott's face. As it was, he just felt
sad. "Today I realized that I burden you with a lot of
responsibility." He searched for the right words. "And it's
not fair on you. Ever since your mother died, things have
been...tough. You were so good at looking after your brothers
that I kind of forgot that you're only a child as well."
splattered against the car window. "Your brothers really got
to you today, didn't they?"
sniffed a bit (it was just because of the rain and not because
he'd been crying). "I just wanted to do my homework. It's this
stupid essay, and I don't like essays. But then Alan
came...and Gordon...and darn, he made the most ugliest thing
out of Virgil's paste, dripping all over the floor with
it...and they started fighting...and I couldn't even find a
minute of peace..." He turned tired eyes at his Dad. "Why do
they always come to me?"
they trust you." Jeff pulled into the road where they lived.
"They really look up to you, Scott. They were really anxious
because you got mad-Alan even started crying because he was
afraid you wouldn't like him anymore."
Scott's voice wobbled just a little bit. "I'm really sorry,
Dad, I shouldn't have stormed out like that, I should have
kept my temper..."
apologize." Jeff's voice was warm. "I understand. Sometimes,
when things get too much, we have to lash out at somebody.
Your brothers were wrong, bothering you the whole day. I had a
talk with them. They didn't realize what they were doing."
And that made running away even worse.
pulled in the driveway. Scott shivered despite the warmth that
was blasting out of the heater.
let's get you inside. You're freezing." Jeff's voice was
gentle and worried at the same time. Scott nodded numbly and
opened the car door. The coldness that greeted him increased
his shivers. What a stupid thing to do, walking out in all
that rain. Now it was late and he was wet and he would never
finish his homework. But he was too tired to care. He pushed
himself out of the car, grimacing as the wet jeans clung to
his small frame.
wasn't in the rain anymore. His father swept him up in his
arms despite Scott's protests that it wasn't necessary, that
he was too old, that he could walk. Jeff Tracy could hear none
of this. He just held his eldest close to him and made his way
towards the front door. After struggling in vain, Scott
finally succumbed and buried his face in his father's chest.
Somehow it felt good to be comforted. It felt good not to take
responsibility. And besides, his father was warm.
door shut with a resounding click, and then he was basked in
warmth and light. A flurry of voices greeted their arrival;
his brothers were dancing around them, worried and curious at
the same time.
die?" That one was Alan, lower lip trembling while he asked.
Ever since his mother had died, the six-year-old had been
plagued my nightmares that other members of his family might
meet a sudden and unfortunate death.
lifted his head, unable to torture his brother in such a way.
After all, he knew how much it hurt to lose a precious family
member. "I'm not dead," he croaked, his voice sounding raw and
a hand tugging his feet, another one patting his back, and
then his father interjected, voice deep but strangely
comforting. "Now boys, leave your brother in peace for a
while. Can't you see he's soaking wet? I'm going to bring him
up to his room and get rid of these clothes. John, can you
heat some milk and prepare everything for a hot chocolate?"
Virgil, take a mop and clean away the water on the floor."
and Alan, you go help John. But behave!" His father sounded
stern. Feet moved and scurried. Scott had his face buried into
his father's shoulder again, too tired to care. He just wanted
this day to end. The prospect of a nice and warm bed sounded
better and better.
been the last time he had been carried like this? Scott
couldn't remember. When he was still Alan's age, his Mom would
sometimes carry him from the car to the house if he had fallen
asleep during the drive. The warm feeling was similar; the
knowledge that one didn't have to walk and that nobody could
hurt him here. He almost felt sad when they finally reached
finished my homework yet..." he began, but his father shushed
him. "That's not important right now. First we have to get you
out of these wet clothes. You don't want to be sick, do you?"
Jeff sat him down, marveling at how tall his eldest was
blinked weary eyes and started tugging at his shirt. Ugh, so
wet and clingy. It made a slurping noise as he pulled it off
his skin. His jeans were stiff and unmoving, but he got them
off with a bit of wriggling.
threw him a pair of warm pajamas. "Here. Put these on. I'm
going to look after your brothers and then we'll talk some
blinked after him, too tired to understand or care. His
backpack was lying on the floor and dripping on the carpet,
right next to the stains Gordon had left. He looked at them
sadly. Damn, he had been so happy to finally get a new carpet
and now this. Well, he should have known better.
the wet clothes in a corner, he pulled on the pajamas and
plopped down on his bed. It wasn't even nine in the evening,
why did he feel so tired? Come to think of that, why were the
little ones still awake? Weren't they supposed to be in bed by
"Whatever.", Scott murmured and rummaged through his backpack.
There was his homework, dripping wet and ripped. Now he had to
write it all over again. "You're really not worth all that
hassle." He said to the piece of paper and shook his head.
a knock sounded from the door. Scott blinked. Nobody ever
knocked with the exception of his Grandma, and she wasn't
here. Oh, and John did it as well, but he was John.
opened a bit. A blonde head peeked in, followed closely by a
Can we...come in?" Alan asked, round face tight with worry.
you want?" Scott wasn't in the mood to deal with any more
brother problems. Then he realized that Gordon was holding a
brought your hot chocolate," the redhead announced.
"Uh...thanks..." Scott took the offered cup, sliding cold
fingers against the warm porcelain. The two youngsters watched
hate us!" Alan suddenly burst out. "We didn't mean to!"
blinked...again. What was it with this day? "How did you get
like that ever since you left," another voice explained. John
opened the door a bit wider and let himself into the room,
followed by Virgil. "Somehow, he was convinced that you were
going away and that it was all our fault."
nodded. "We were all pretty worried. It's not like you to
storm off like that."
scowled. "I just wanted some peace and quiet."
to them about that," Jeff's deep voice boomed from the doorway
as he herded all of his sons into Scott's room. "And we came
to a conclusion. From today on, there's going to be a new
house rule. Virgil, show him the sign."
nodded and held out a piece of cardboard that he'd been hiding
behind his back. The words 'Scott's room' were written on it
in elaborate script, and under it, in bold letters, 'Stay
out-I'm working'. The border was decorated with lots and lots
of little drawings-apparently each of his brothers had felt
the need to put something artistic on it. Scott recognized
Virgil's skilled pencil strokes as well as the falling star
(courtesy of John). There were some blobs of unidentifiable
somethings (must have been Alan, his artistic talent was close
to zero) and some grinning fish. At least he thought they were
fish. Well, they did have fins...
for you, son." His father startled him out of his reverie.
"Whenever you feel the need to work in peace, you are to hang
that sign on your door. Your brothers have promised to respect
your wishes and will stay silent and not make any trouble
while it is up." He smiled. "I think I can trust you not to
abuse that privilege."
the simple cardboard held a whole new level of meaning. Scott
stared down at it, trying to comprehend. His brothers had all
worked together? And they had promised...? So that meant that
he could actually finish his homework in peace for once,
something he hadn't done for ages!
up. There they were, all lined up, looking at him with eager
faces. And behind them his father, looking apologetic and even
a little proud. The smell of chocolate reached his nose
mingled with the smell of fresh paint and wet clothes.
you." Scott said, a slight smile on his face. "This really
means a lot."
bounced up and down. "Are you still mad?"
"Well...that's hard to say..."
don't be mad!" Alan pleaded. "We don't want you to run away
running away, I was just trying to find some time for myself."
Scot ran a hand through his dark hair. This wasn't an outcome
he had expected at all. "I just..." he looked at the
cardboard, then at his desolated brothers. "I won't do it
received four wide smiles in return. Those guys-as annoying as
they might be, standing there in a row, beaming and smiling at
him, Scott couldn't help but feel that this was his family-and
that he wouldn't change it for anything in this world.
I think it's best if we leave your brother in peace now."
Jeff's gruff voice interrupted his thoughts. "And Scott, drink
your chocolate. You deserve it."
words, the small stampede left his room. The silence that
followed was almost eerie and unheard of in the Tracy
household. Scott sipped the hot drink, holding the cup with
one hand while the other cradled the cardboard. He had a
feeling that he was going to treasure this.
of days later, Mrs. Hunkerford, respected teacher of grade
six, read through a mound of essays she had collected from her
students. Sipping her lukewarm coffee, she wondered what in
the hell had possessed her to give such a stupid assignment;
if she read one more sentence with words like 'we have a dog
and he's so cute' she was going to vomit for sure.
groan, she grabbed the next paper and sank down in her chair.
When she saw the name, her groan deepened. That boy - he had
absolutely no literary talent! Correcting his essays was
There was nothing to be done about it. Being the hard-working
person she was, she started reading anyway.
four brothers and one Dad.
My brothers all younger than me, which means I often have to
take care of them. Their names are John, Virgil, Gordon and
Alan. Alan is the youngest, he's six years old. My Dad used to
be an astronaut.
can be so annoying! You never have a moment for yourself, even
when you do your homework. With so many siblings, there's
always something going on and they always want to
involve me. Especially the two younger ones insist that I play
with them. It gets so boring! All Alan ever does is to throw
his race cars across the room, and Gordon is too active for
his own good. John, he's easy, because he reads all the time.
He's pretty smart and gets good marks at school. I'm sure that
one day he will be a great professor. He can sit down and
think about things like one of those big thinkers.
I often wonder what will happen to my brothers when we grow
up. John will be some kind of professor, I bet. And maybe
Virgil will become a musician-he's already the best piano
player in his class. Gordon will probably live on some
tropical island and swim for the whole day. As for Alan, I
can't imagine what he would do. Maybe blow himself up. He
managed to do that once with John's chemistry set, even though
it says it's safe for children.
I don't care. Sometimes I can't wait for the day we are grown
up. They are so annoying. Very often I wish that my brothers
would simply shut up and leave me in peace. Is that too much
to wish for? Just a day where I can do what I want. Not that I
don't like my brothers; but they tag along everywhere! Only
because I'm the oldest, it is my job to look out for them? Not
times when I really hate being the oldest. What if I want to
play? What if I want to blow myself up? But I never can,
because I have to look out for them, care for them, set a good
example. There are times when I want to leave them behind and
run away. Everybody drives me so mad that I just want to
scream and hit them!
something happens. I don't know how – maybe it's magic-but
whenever I feel like that, something unexpected happens. Last
month I was really angry because of something so they all
dressed up as raccoons and started singing this really bad
tune. It was so funny that I forgot my anger. And then there
are moments when I see that my brothers...they have their good
sides, too, you know?
always plays for me if I ask him to-who else can say he's got
live piano music at home? John always lends a listening ear,
even though he is younger. He knows a lot of stuff. Gordon
always makes me laugh, with his antics and his water obsession
and his cheeky grin. And Alan, he has a habit of hugging you
when you expect it the least and saying incredible things in
such an honest fashion that you can't help being touched.
So I guess
having brothers isn't all that bad.
my family. We are neither exciting nor perfect; we don't get
along very well. There are no special stories I can tell. If
strangers come to visit us, they may have to duck because of
the flying objects. Whenever Alan and Gordon start a war, it
means serious business. Even Dad tries to avoid those.
has a family like that? Who else has a brother who will paint
you beautiful picture, one who will tell you abut the stars,
one who will trust you to teach him how to swim, and one who
will look up to you with star-struck eyes?
if this isn't the typical family essay. I honestly didn't know
what to write. But then, what is family? I don't know. I just
know the one I have. They're weird, they're annoying, they're
loud, and they're many. But they're mine. I might gripe and
complain, I might fight with them and hate the burden I bear,
but I wouldn't exchange them for anything in the world.
Hunkerford laid the paper down, stared out of the window and
frowned. This was not only the longest essay she had seen so
far, but the most unusual as well. She was surprised. As she
remembered the dark-haired boy, she realized how little
teachers knew about their students.
smile on her face, she took out her red pen. "Well done, Scott
Tracy." the teacher whispered to herself and wrote a clear
'A+' under the scrawled lines. Then she stood up to let work
be and join her family, because she, just as Scott, wouldn't
exchange them for anything in the world.
that the way it was supposed to be?