TB1'S LAUNCHPAD TB2'S HANGAR TB3'S SILO TB4'S POD TB5'S COMCENTER BRAINS' LAB MANSION NTBS NEWSROOM CONTACT
 
 
I GET THE BLAME FOR EVERYTHING
by MCJ
RATED FRC

Why is it that every time something goes wrong, all eyes turn to Gordon?

Author's Notes This story is written for a special lady who somehow continues to inspire the world we need to write more Gordon. Thank you to quiller for your good advice and never-ending patience in advising on my commas!


"Gordon!"

The word thunders up the stairwell like an avalanche in reverse.

It's Dad, of course. In case you haven't guessed it yet, he doesn't take too kindly to door slamming.

Well Dad ... you get this... I'm not sorry I slammed my bedroom door and I'm not sorry for what happened at the dinner table either. I'm tired of getting the blame for everything that goes wrong around here and at eleven and half years of age, it's time I was allowed to say so.

"Gordon ... Tracy!"

Uh oh ... there's something about the way he kind of just said that. I think I'd better simmer down a bit and take the time to answer him. There's one thing my Father doesn't tolerate and that's rudeness. In his opinion, rudeness is the ultimate disrespect.

Mindful of his expectations and remembering what happened to Alan the last time he pushed his luck; I decide it's in my best interests to open up the door.

"Yes, sir?"

It's hard not to sound like I'm sulking; standing here like an idiot, peering into semi darkness. I know better anyway. For the record, Dad doesn't take too well to sulking either.

"Close the door to your room properly please."

The instruction leaves little scope for misinterpretation and there is complete silence in the dining room as everyone, including Dad, waits for me to comply.

"Thank you." I hear him rumble as I close the offending door and effectively remove myself from his world.

So now I'm trapped in MY world.

Four walls, a bed and a window ... and a desk which reminds me I haven't yet started on my homework.

No television.

No music.

No supper.

Gordon Tracy, a prisoner of misunderstanding for the fifth consecutive night this week.

Gee, I don't know why he carried on and got so damn mad. It wasn't my fault the salt shaker had sugar in it. All Grandma told me to do was fill it up before suppertime. I tried to tell him she didn't exactly say with what.

Of course Dad didn't want to hear about it. No, sir. Not him. All he could do was snap how hard he found it to believe I'd want to deliberately ruin Scott's welcome home supper with one of my silly pranks. Which, he growled in his cranky deep voice, he didn't find the least bit funny. Then, before I even got a chance to defend myself, he stands up, points in the direction of the stairs and sends me all the way up to my room to think about the consequences of stupidity.

OK Dad; this time I am thinking about it, and all I can say is I'm not the only one who was suffering from a bout of stupidity down there. The way I figure it, Scott should never have tried to drown his food with the salt shaker in the first place. A little sugar to sweeten things up was never going to hurt anybody. How was I to know he'd go completely over the top?

Man all this thinking about food is starting to make me hungry. Even with the door closed, I can still smell Grandma's pot-roast. Grandma's pot-roast is my favourite; plus she's made a pie. I can't believe Dad expects me to stay up here and think about stupidity while everyone's enjoying that.

Hmpph... Silly question.

If Dad has his way, I'll be staying up here in this dungeon forever. He said he expects at least one thousand words on why good food shouldn't be wasted before I'll be allowed to see the "outside" this time. Worse still, he said I have to apologise to Scott for single-handedly ruining his supper, and, if I know what's good for me, I'd better make very sure I made some sort of effort to mean it.

Oh come on Dad! How's about lightening up? Can't you see it was just an innocent little joke on my brother? Don't you have any sense of humour at all?

Silly question number two.

I know where Dad's concerned, none of my latest have been funny and no matter how hard I try to weasel out of things, the punishment is gonna happen.

May as well get started I suppose. I guess that means find paper. Pity I can't remember where I put the stuff after the last one thousand words. That one was so worth it though. Talk about hilarious. Virgil scratched his ass for best part of a week before he figured out what was going on with his shorts. Honest; I've never laughed so hard in my life.

Mmmm...

Wish Dad and Grandma had kind of shared the sentiment.

The logo of the Tracy Corporation looming up from underneath my homework indicates I've managed to score myself the paper. Dad gave me a whole ream of the stuff after Virgil's "unfortunate little accident." He said I'd need the whole damn lot of it if I was going to write down everything he expected to read. He was appalled at the disgraceful way I'd chosen to treat my brother. What the hell was I thinking?

I dunno about you but I didn't think there was anything wrong with putting in a little itching powder to liven up Virgil's shorts. I tried to tell Dad that too when he made me stand in front of him and explain exactly what I'd done.

"It was only itching powder, sir," I said and I was being honest. "I didn't mean any harm."

Dad's reply to that was I didn't have a clue what real harm actually was and if I continued to keep this up, I was sure gonna find out soon. For half an hour Grandma had been trying to convince Virgil he needed to drop his shorts so she could see what the hell was causing all the discomfort. Couldn't I see the harm in that?

I guess I didn't quite get it, because no matter how many times he said it to me, I kept on shaking my head and saying "No, sir."

I ... ummm... did try to look a bit penitent though when Grandma almost dragged Virgil into the bathroom and Dad started reading me the riot act.

"Why I shouldn't interfere in my brother's "personal business."

Boy, by the time I finished writing that one, I really was starting to feel sorry.

I'm serious.

There's something about the Tracy Corporation Logo which drove it all home after an hour and half at my desk. I started out laughing about Virgil; but by the end, all I could think about was Dad and how hard he has to work all year to provide for us. To be honest it made me feel real bad.

Lucky it didn't last too long.

That logo is staring at me in the face again as I reach over to pick up my pencil. It sure is hard to be enthusiastic knowing I'll still be looking at this thing for the best part of the next two hours.

"Why Good Food Shouldn't Be Wasted."

Oh brother!

What a subject.

One thing's for certain though; if I value what's left of my life, I'd better make sure I write something pretty awe-inspiring before Dad rocks up here to see me. Yeah right! How much does a kid like me know about the crime of wasting food? I never waste anything I'm given.

Man! How am I supposed to concentrate when all I can taste is Grandma's roast beef? She's got all this other great stuff in the middle of the table too... crispy roast potatoes with just the right amount of seasoning, those fabulous green beans she grew in the garden herself ... her special home-made gravy...

I can't take it I tell you. My mouth is watering so hard I'm gonna drown in my own saliva and my stomach is groaning so hard, it hurts. A growing kid like me shouldn't be expected to write on an empty stomach. It's unconstitutional! Doesn't a growing kid have rights?

Errr... no.

If the look Dad gave me before I was dismissed from the table is any indication, I think this growing kid lost all the rights to anything the moment the sugar started pouring out of the salt shaker.

"Why Good Food Shouldn't Be Wasted."

The six words flourish across the top of the page accompanied by a smile of great satisfaction. Only nine hundred and ninety four more to go, Gordie, and you'll be back at the dining room table happily wolfing down your supper.

"... by Gordon Cooper Tracy."

And there's another four.

"...aged eleven."

Nice touch. That makes twelve. Good job, Gordie. Now you're down to only nine hundred and eighty eight.

"Written for making a mistake and putting sugar in the salt shaker."

Nine hundred and seventy six.

"... even though I didn't mean to."

Nine hundred and seventy.

Now it's time to congratulate myself. I've written thirty meaningful words. At least when Dad comes up here I can say to him, "Yes, sir, of course I've started." And I know he'll be up here the moment he's done with his coffee. He's so predictable when it comes to handing out the discipline. Grandma says I've seriously lost the plot in life if I think my Father is anything close to being predictable. According to her; with youngsters like me fraying what's left of his every nerve on an almost nightly basis, Dad's likely cut loose at any moment. She could guarantee it.

But you watch what happens later on. You'll soon see I'm right.

When he comes up here, he'll knock twice on my door to make absolutely sure I'm decent. He's pretty careful about giving me notice of entry after the night I answered the door minus my shorts. I don't think I'll go into that one. Let's just say it was another of Dad's classic "I'd rather we forgot about it, thank you, son" moments.

However, once he's finally knocked, he'll open the door, walk over to the window and systematically close the drapes. He'll sit on my bed, watch me for a bit and then quietly shake his head. After that, he'll ask me to look him at him and explain why I need to cause more uproar in the house than what there already is. His eyes won't even blink while he makes it clear, and he'll point out it's the fifth time this week he's had to do so, that there's a need for order and self-discipline in a family of young men. Then, he'll ask to see what I've written as a punishment and count the number of words.

Thirty words. Boy, thirty pathetic words sure won't cut it with my Dad. He's gonna give me the old "JT" frown of disapproval, growl I'm not taking him seriously and threaten to take more drastic action.

"Boy Grandma, this pie sure is the best. Is there enough left for me to have seconds?"

Alan.

I swear I'm gonna kick the little stinker's ass the very next opportunity I get. He knows I can hear every single word he's saying AND he knows I've been hanging out for my piece of Grandma's pie ever since the moment she removed it from the oven. Those layers of golden brown pastry have been my whole reason for living for the past three and a half hours. How dare he even think he's about to get my share!

At least it's some consolation when the tone of Dad's voice changes again and he growls at Alan too. He's had more than his fair share of everything tonight, including Grandma's pie and he can now consider himself excused.

Here it comes ...

Three ...

Two ...

One...

"But, Daaaaaaaaaad..."

Blast off!

It never ceases to amaze me just how dumb Alan really is. He tries it on with Dad every single night of the week and he still hasn't figured out yet what Dad says goes.

Yep ... and it's exactly the same result as last night.

Dad's just handed him the kitchen duty again.

"Aww, Dad..."

"I swear Alan; not another word..."

Boy, I sure wish I was the one who could think of a couple of words. I can hear the rattle of the coffee cups already as Grandma carries in the tray from the kitchen to the dining room. Once the coffee's all done, I'm cactus. He'll be up here within minutes, wanting to see what I've done.

So here goes nothing...

"Food is something a decent kid should never ever take for granted. I guess I did that when I put sugar instead of salt into the salt shaker."

Brilliant! Those are the exact twenty eight words of regret Dad will be expecting to read.

"This is because many people have no food to eat."

Now it's flowing freely.

"Yeah, and if Scott happened to be one of those starving people I'm talkin' about, he'd have eaten Grandma's roast without complaining to anyone about the sugar."

Hmmm ...somehow I think you're right. I don't think Dad will appreciate reading that little gem of a statement either. Too bad every single word of it is true. Let's face it, if Scott was starving like I am at the moment he'd have eaten the whole thing with or without the sugar, and knowing him, he would have considered the plate and cutlery too.

Twenty seven words get carefully erased and whilst I don't particularly choose to admit it, so does the certain threat to my hind-parts.

Oh well, I'm back to nine hundred and forty two again and it's only taken me fifty four minutes. My fingers jab at the desk calculator. 1.07 words per minute. Boy at this rate it will be 17.83 hours before Dad lets me out of my room to eat what's left of my supper.

It's not fair I tell you. There's no way my share of Grandma's pie is going to survive for 17.83 hours; not with Alan hanging around it like a vulture and three other brothers in the house!

"Your theory could be substantiated by years of intense research I suppose."

"That's not true. My theory can be substantiated right now by precise mathematical equation."

Virgil and John.

Thanks to Alan, they've escaped the pain of doing the chores again and are on their way to watch television. As usual, they're arguing; this time over John's latest astronomical theory. He's been saying for months there has to be more than one universe and he's been somehow trying to convince everyone that he's right. I think he's wasting his time trying it on with Virgil. Virgil's never been a guy who puts faith in theories; I think he learnt the hard way after experimenting with a couple too many of Scott's. John, on the other hand is devoted to them, particularly when they relate to his passion for anything to do with the mysteries of the solar system.

Virg and John have become pretty close since Scott left home for College. These days, they spend a lot more time together. I guess it's sort of nice for John because he's always been the one in the middle. Pity it's not too good for me. I liked the security of having John around when Alan and I weren't talking. I could always rub it in Al's face I didn't need him. Ever since Scott went away though, John's made the same thing pretty clear to me. Alan and I should grow up and try to get along, he says. He and Virgil have "more adult things to do" than referee the arguments of "children."

"Gee that pie of Grandma's sure was delicious hey Virg?"

"Delectable Johnny. Simply delectable."

"Every crumb literally melted in the mouth."

"It was one of Grandma's best all right."

"So light ..."

"So sweet ..."

"Oh no! Don't tell me you were a victim of the deadly salt shaker too!"

A joint outburst of laughter follows the playful tapping on my door. Those two love it when I can't reciprocate. Well we'll see how much they're laughing in the morning after they put their feet into their sneakers. Then they'll know all about reciprocation.

Another tap; this time, sharp and business-like.

Almost immediately my eyes open wide in a kind of dire panic.

Surely he can't have finished his coffee so soon. Not that and the two glasses of cognac too. Grandma usually manages to keep him down there for at least a couple of hours; hoping against hope he'll start to simmer down.

Please don't come in and close the drapes on me yet, Dad. I've only written fifty eight words to show you when you ask.

But the door opens and closes anyway and I'm left with no option but to swallow hard and face the music.

He doesn't move towards to the window. Neither does he close the drapes. He simply stands there looking down from his six foot two inch height waiting for me to say something. It's hard not to feel intimidated when all I can think about is how tall he is; how confident; and how completely self-controlled he always seems to be.

"Bet you thought I was Dad, huh?"

Everything inside tells me to smile and admit things to my big brother. Admit; yeah, I sure did think he was Dad, and boy was I ever glad when it turned out that he wasn't.

But I don't choose to smile. I choose to shrug my shoulders instead and return to the lines of my punishment. I don't want to talk to Scott about anything at the moment because this whole damn mess was all his fault in the first place.

He was the one who forced me to do my homework without help when Dad went away on business. He made me play ball alone. He was the one I looked for when I fell and hurt my shoulder last March and had to miss the inter-school swimming competition. He was the only brother I wanted to talk to when that girl tried to kiss me and I didn't know what to do.

And he wasn't there.

He'd left and gone away to College.

I wouldn't have sabotaged things tonight if you hadn't changed so much, Scott. I didn't know what else to do to get your attention. I've never had to fight for it before. Don't you see? Ever since you came home from College all you've wanted to do is talk to Dad about your plans to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force. You didn't make the time to talk about anything to me.

"So, Gordie ... how's it all coming?"

No ...don't insult me by trying to act interested now. Thanks to you; Dad almost went ballistic down there tonight and I ended up getting dumped on, with a thousand words to write.

"It's not coming if you must know." I hear myself snap; determined not to have anything to do with him. "I don't know how Dad can expect me to concentrate when I'm not allowed to eat my supper."

The words are a sullen accusation; my way to make a point; and one he ponders on for a brief moment before leaning down to ruffle my hair.

"Oh come on, squirt; don't go giving me that. You know darn well you deserve it!"

Almost instantaneously, my face falls even further.

That statement really hurts; not because I've made a big effort to try and concentrate better this year, but because the statement says I'm guilty and the statement was made by him. Before he went away, he used to be the only one who understood me or who was prepared to take my side. He could always be relied on to smooth things over with Dad no matter what I did or how bad it was. Scott wasn't just my brother. Scott was my very best friend.

Now look at him ... standing there like Dad does ... sounding like he sounds ...and not even hesitating to take Dad's side. Well I don't have to stomach that, Scott. You're not Dad and I'm not going to sit here for one more minute and keep pretending that you are.

"I didn't deserve anything, Scott." I snarl in uncustomary aggravation. "Like I tried to tell Dad at the table, the whole stupid thing was an accident."

This time he makes no attempt to disguise the puzzled look which clouds across his features. "Gordie?" he queries in a voice of Fatherly concern.

Gordie, darn nothing... I don't have to explain myself to you.

"What?"

Oh please! Spare me the worried look. I only said one word. Guess it wasn't the one what you wanted to hear huh?

"Gordie, how about you settle down a bit and tell me what the hell's gone wrong?"

No I don't want to tell you what the HELL'S gone wrong. Why would you give a damn if I'm upset? Who cares about you wanting to leave home and join the Air Force anyway?

"Who says there's somethin' wrong?"

I don't need you. Homework's not all that hard these days and I'm used to playing ball by myself.

"Well something's sure been eating you since the very first moment you saw me."

Is that so? How nice of you to notice. Maybe you should've noticed a lot of other things too...like the welcome home sign me and Alan took hours to make for you; the one you didn't bother to read because you were too busy talking to Dad about the Air Force.

"Look nothing's eating me OK?"

"Are you absolutely sure about that, squirt?"

"When are you ever gonna stop calling me by that stupid baby name!"

Silence.

Normally after an outburst Scott would continue to push and prod until he figured out why the brother who's always outgoing, always happy and always agreeable seemed to be suddenly out of sorts. All part of the job of being the eldest, he used to say during the friendly interrogation; and the only way he knew to avoid conflicts ending up in the hands of Dad.

But tonight even that's different. Tonight, there's no pushing and prodding or the fear of involving Dad. Tonight, all he does is offer a quiet apology and prepare to walk away.

"I'm sorry Gordon..." he murmurs, "...I was only trying to help. If you ummm... need me to look over that thing for you when you're done, I'll be next door with Virg and Johnny, catching up on some television."

I watch in real regret as he turns and walks towards the door. I can't figure out why I need to be such an ungrateful little pain in the ass. I want to have him all to myself for as long as I possibly can. He's my favourite brother and the only security blanket against the real world me and Alan have ever known.

"Scottie...w-wait ..."

Maybe it's how I stammer which causes him to turn. Maybe it's the kind of saddened way I call his childhood name. Whatever it is, he knows I need to talk to him and he's waiting with quiet expectation.

I stammer again in the silence.

"Uhhh... Ummm ... well ... I do have something kind of bothering me at the moment, sir. Is it all right with you if I say?"

All I get for my humility is a badly disguised "Scott Tracy" smirk. It's not the fact I tend to forget myself and often accidentally call him "sir." In fact, I think he rather likes the compliment of me putting him on a par with Dad; it's the fact his patience has proven, yet again, he knows me better than I thought he did.

"It errr... wouldn't happen to be a certain thousand words someone asked you to write?"

When I nod my head and start to redden, the smirk melts into a laugh. My hair is ruffled again; this time in rough, brotherly familiarity.

"Short-Stuff, you oughtta know by now, Dad has the reputation for handing out some really rotten punishments. You gotta just cop this one on the nose I'm afraid."

I wish I could be like him and laugh about being in trouble with Dad. He wouldn't even know what being in trouble was. Even when we were younger, Dad never sent him upstairs at suppertime or made him sit at a desk and write lines. All Dad ever did was say what a fine upstanding young man he was turning out to be and how proud Mom would be if only she could see him.

"Scott..."

I falter and redden further at the realisation I'm only jealous. Scott can't help being perfect in Dad's eyes. I suppose that's what comes when you're the eldest and you've had to give everything you have to raise your four little brothers.

"What, Gordie?"

"I ... I need to tell you something else, sir."

His eyes instantly narrow and his expression soon grows wary. Past experience has taught him when one of us needs to "tell him something else"; the news generally isn't good.

"You mean there's more to all this than a couple of lousy lines, Gordon?"

I nod my head again; almost too ashamed to continue.

"Yes, sir."

It soon becomes very clear my big brother hasn't changed at all. His face fills with its customary worry and his voice lowers dramatically. What's happened? Am I hurt? Have I gotten myself into trouble? Was it at school? At home? Someplace else?

When I finally find the courage to shrug and say a guilty "sort of" he looks more and more worried than ever.

He fumbles to locate a chair.

Almost instinctively, he leans forward so our eyes are level. He reaches out and squeezes my shoulder with his hand. It's OK to confide in him. It doesn't matter what I've done. If need be, we can tell Dad together.

"Okay, sir." I swallow and brush the trail of ever-building moisture from the corners of my eyes.

He listens to me in silence as everything floods out like a dam bursting - the homework, the ball playing, the shoulder, the girl. I just couldn't stop once it started.

Finally, when it all did, he took forever to consider his words.

For a start, I needed to get a couple of things straight. Firstly, I was wrong if I thought for one moment he didn't miss us. There wasn't a day he didn't wonder what we were doing or if we were all getting along. Secondly, he knew how busy Dad was with the business and worried all the time I might not be getting the right answers in my homework; particularly Math, where I often tended to be careless.

He didn't like the fact I was playing ball alone.

He'd felt really bad when Dad told him about my shoulder, and wished more than anything I'd have taken more care. What the hell was I doing hanging upside down in the oak tree the night before the inter-school anyway? I wouldn't have been doing it if he'd have been around. Dad'd told us a thousand times the oak tree was dangerous. Didn't I retain anything important from one waking day to the next?

But as for my problem with the girl...

"I think you'd better make an appointment to talk to Dad about that one," he warns me with a grin which spreads from ear to ear. "Believe me; you'll soon be learning the hard way, he's one hell of an expert in the art of reproduction."

The two of us smile at each other and in that split second in time, our bond as brothers has never seemed stronger. It felt so good to tell him what had been on my mind for almost seven months...how unhappy I'd been since he left us... how much I'd looked forward to him coming home ... hell I even broke my promise to Virgil and let him in on every detail about what happened at home with the itching powder.

"Are you serious?" he laughs in disbelief. "There's no way Virg would've dropped his shorts for anyone; let alone Grandma on one of her crusades! Gordie; please tell me Dad was able to convince her he didn't have to do it."

The scene in the lounge between Dad and Grandma begins to replay over in my head. To be honest, I don't actually remember what the heck Dad said. All I remember was Grandma having more than her fair share to say about diseases and everyone who was anyone being pretty mad at me.

And that included Virgil.

Once he hears me mention Virgil, Scott's laughter instantly drains away. His face becomes serious. Of course Virg would be mad at me for pulling a crazy, stupid stunt like that. Having to continually scratch "the equipment", especially in front of Dad and Grandma, would have been nothing short of embarrassing. No wonder he was so upset. It was wrong for me to laugh and worse still; wrong to expect others to laugh too.

I didn't understand why he was saying that and I immediately said so too. He'd just been laughing at Virgil's misfortune. Why was it different for me?

"The difference is I wouldn't have laughed about it at the time." he stresses, sounding every bit as firm as Dad. "Virgil's my brother and I care about him a lot."

The pit of my stomach starts to hurt and I have to press my lips together to stop them vibrating. It's always about being considerate of Virgil or understanding the moods of John. If it isn't them, it's about being nice to Alan no matter what the hell he's done. It's never about me or how I feel about anything.

The words come out before I know it, as I lose what's left of my bravado and crumble, turning away so he doesn't see me lose it all completely.

"I'm your brother too, Scott. How come you don't care about me?"

"Huh?"

"Dad says you do care and I need to quit acting so immature ... but I don't believe it... I've never believed it."

"Gordie ..."

"Scott, if you did care, you wouldn't have left."

I turn my tear-stained face to his.

"You wouldn't have left me and gone away to College."

So there it was then.

I'd finally admitted it.

At eleven and a half years of age, Gordon Cooper Tracy can't deal with the fact he's no longer an integral part of his big brother's world. It does sound immature just like Dad says, and I know I still have three other brothers to complain about and argue the point with. It's just not the same without Scott that's all, and I can't help it if I don't like it.

I guess Scott's thinking I'm immature too as he looks at me with sadness and then averts his eyes. After a while, it's him, not me, who swallows. Then he puts his arm around my shoulders and tries his best to explain.

Things don't stay the same forever. He learnt that lesson a very long time ago. Yale was part of a very important step he needed to take in his life. He was learning a lot of new things there; adult things; things which would help him carve out a career for himself when he graduated and applied to join the Air Force. Yes it was true joining the Air Force would take him away from us; but sometimes I had to try and see things from his perspective too. He wasn't just our big brother any more. He had dreams and aspirations. Flying aircraft like Dad had done was something he'd wanted to do ever since he was a little boy. He hoped I could understand how important it was to him and accept it was time for him to go.

He also honestly understood about the pain of trying to cope alone with the homework. I wouldn't remember anything of course; but when Mom died he had to learn to do his homework all by himself too. Dad had been too weighed down with responsibility to worry about things like checking math or playing ball. Dad didn't even have time to sleep back then. It was just the way it had to be.

However, in hindsight, things weren't all so bad. Virgil soon learned to throw a ball to him and he liked spending time with Virgil. Maybe I could do the same with Alan? He knew for a fact Alan was pretty handy with a ball.

But, as for me no longer being an integral part of his world ... I would never have to worry about that.

Not now.

Not ever.

He'd made a solemn promise he'd always be there if his four little brothers needed him and no matter what, he'd never break that promise. I could count on it.

Because it was the last thing he promised Mom.

Our brotherly embrace is brief and if anyone says they saw anything, both of us will deny it. This is a household of men, Dad says, and there's no room around here for tears or overdone displays of emotion. Having said that; he's the one who hugged Scott for nearly five minutes the night before he left home for College AND the one who wore the dark glasses around the house for a whole two full days after.

But, as usual, Scott soon forgets he's Mister nice guy and starts asserting his authority.

"OK; enough's enough. How about you stop complaining about everything and anything for once in your life and start thinking about something a little more urgent?"

"Like what?"

"Like the fact you haven't written a thousand words and I can hear Dad talking to Grandma at the bottom of the stairs right this very minute."

I proudly hand him my paper and announce there's actually only nine hundred and forty two left to go.

His eyes quickly scan the lines and I wait for him to applaud me.

Boy, am I ever mistaken.

"Are you kidding me Gordie?" he exclaims in complete disgust. "This is terrible! There's no way you can hand this kind of crap to Dad and expect he'll let you live."

"What do you mean it's crap?" I flash. "It's not crap. Crap's the kind of stuff Alan always writes."

"Don't you start "crapping" back at me, squirt, or I'll personally see to it Grandma washes your mouth out with fifteen different cakes of soap."

"Why can't I say it? You do."

"You're not me."

With a frustrated growl, he throws all my homework off the desk, reaches for a new piece of Tracy Corporation paper and demands I stop living my life as a death wish and start the whole damn thing again.

"Only if you promise stay here and help me, Scottie."

"Well I'm gonna have to if you don't want Dad in here systematically kicking your ass."

"I'm gonna tell him you said "kicking ass" to me, Scott."

"Oh no you won't. Just you remember, "kicking ass" is also one of my specialties."

I shrug myself into submission and once again make a grab for my pencil. Somehow under his guidance I know the words will come easily. But as I write them, my mind can't help but linger on those three other very truthful words.

"You're not me."

No, I'm not, Scott. I'm nothing like him. I'm eleven and a half, not even five feet tall yet, and I always get the blame for everything that seems to go wrong around here. But one day, I'm not gonna be the one they blame. One day I'm gonna be just as tall and smart and self-confident as Scott is and when I am, Dad's gonna tell everyone how proud he is of me too.

"Mission accomplished!" I announce proudly; and then wait for my creation to receive the "Scott Tracy seal of approval". After a nod of satisfaction it's acceptable, he rises to his feet and leans forward to close the drapes.

"OK then, squirt. All you have left to do now is apologise for what you did to me at suppertime."

When I look at him without comment, he folds his arms across his body and wrinkles his forehead in a frown.

"Come on Gordie. Out with it huh? We both know for a fact that Dad's gonna ask me if you did."

It's then the Gordon Tracy grin tells the "other side of the story."

He is kidding right?

Apologise?

To him?

I don't think so.

Not with what I know.

"Errr...Scottie..." I enquire casually. "Tell me...what exactly did the scotch from Dad's private stash taste like?"

Despite how cool, calm and collected he seems to be about everything else in his "world," he sure doesn't seem to be too calm and collected now.

"Scotch?" he splutters, turning fifteen different shades of red. "What do you know about Dad's scotch?"

Tut-tut, Scott. You should know me better than that. No-one goes into Dad's room alone without a very good reason to be there. You can't go blaming your little brother for being concerned about you and checking if you were going to be OK.

"Oh ...just the little glass or two of "Black Label" I saw you sampling right before Dad came home for dinner." I eventually comment. "You know ... the stuff you told Virg you knew how to hold better than Dad."

"I did not say anything like that."

"Yeah you did. You said you learned in College. You said you could hold it so good Dad wouldn't even know you'd been drinking."

Uhhh-ohhh... He sure is big, right close up and personal...

Now I needed to listen to him right now and I needed to listen to him good. He was nineteen years old and a freshman in College. He could drink whatever he liked AND wherever he liked. Did I get that? What was I doing spying on him in Dad's room anyway? Didn't I know it was off limits? Besides; him sampling Dad's "Black Label" had nothing whatsoever to do with my apology; speaking of which I'd better cough up right now if I knew what was good for me.

I grin.

If I know what's good for me?

Somehow I don't think Dad's about to view things quite the same as you.


Epilogue

Jeff Tracy sat at the dimly lit desk, quietly reading the words on the distinctive Tracy Corporation paper.

"Why good food shouldn't be wasted."

Scott's distinctive flair for sentence structure ...in Gordon's neatest handwriting.

Despite the lateness of the hour and the need to stifle a yawn he couldn't help but feel happy as his eyes scanned the length of the lines. He'd wondered what Scott had been up to all evening. The last thing he'd said was he was going to watch some television. He supposed he should have guessed he'd call in on his errant little brother somewhere along the way. Scott had never been able to sit back when any of his brothers were in trouble.

His attention moved from the carefully written pages to the sleeping figure curled up next to the pillow beneath the covers of the bed.

Trouble.

Trouble was a very big understatement to describe this one at the moment.

He didn't know why; but lately, every day seemed to have become a test of his patience when it came to handling Gordon. Keeping up with his crazy antics was nothing short of exhausting. Lord knows what he planned to put them all through tomorrow.

With that, he smiled fondly.

Despite all the pandemonium the kid caused and the daily trail of havoc he seemed to leave in his path, it was hard to stay mad at Gordon for longer than a few minutes. He brightened the world with his mischief.

Maybe, in hindsight, he'd been a little too harsh with what had happened at the dinner table tonight. After all, it was only a plate of roast beef he targeted. He guessed he could have dealt with things without snapping or losing what was left of his temper. If he didn't think so, his Mother certainly disagreed.

The child was just happy to see his brother again; she explained over their one too many cups of coffee. He just had a very obscure way of showing his love; that was all. A little sugar in a salt shaker wasn't the end of the world now was it? He needed to remember that.

Despite the way he felt about order and the need for discipline in the household, he knew his Mother was right. In fact, by the time she started pouring him a third cup, he was even starting to laugh about the whole darned thing himself. Scott always tended to over-salt his food; had done for years. Maybe the shock had taught him a very valuable lesson.

Jeff Tracy's tired features relaxed.

He worked himself into the ground to give his boys nothing but the best and tried so hard to raise them to respect and appreciate everything they had. Even so, he guessed he could live with a little food wastage now and then. If nothing else, it had brought Scott and Gordon together, something he knew Gordon missed more than anything else in the word.

Gordon had always been devoted to Scott.

It was hard to come to grips with the fact his eldest was gone. It only seemed like yesterday he was teaching him to ride a bike. These days he was old enough to drive a car.

Mmmm.

Old enough, it seemed, for a lot of other things too if what his Grandmother had located in the top left hand pocket of his jacket was any kind of indication; not to mention the two inches of scotch which seemed to have mysteriously evaporated from the bottle in his room in the space of the past twenty-four hours.

With that his hand rested on the light switch. He supposed he'd better call in and give a bit of Fatherly advice there too.

From salt missing from a salt shaker to scotch missing from the bottle.

From experimenting with the universe to experimenting with love.

You had to have an answer for just about anything around here.

Who ever said it was easy being a Father?

 
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