Posted by: canaryinacoalmine | September 17, 2005

Arsenal with a punch

He had brown hair that tripped down his face when he turned his head to fast. It swayed over his coke bottle glasses and fell in chunks across the rim of his nose. The hair, was his rebellion for private school. To long for conventional barriers yet, to short to be labeled an outcast or one of those Columbine kids. It was an average, every day run of the mill early 90’s grunge cut. He was my next door neighbor freshman year in high school and my after school pal’s older brother. He teased us and spread untrue rumors about boys that had crushes on us. . . just because he was the older brother. That’s what brothers do. Right?


It was a Friday evening no different than any other. We were eating pizza in the kitchen solarium, I was chatting on the phone something about “hanging out at the movies” My father cleared his plate and dumped it in the sink. Continuing with his routine he changed his clothes and headed outside to water the flowers on our 2 acre lot.

As I hung up the phone, my father appeared at the door wiping his sneakers.

“There’s two police cars next door”
My mother looked worried and muttered an adherence about not getting involved.
“They probably set off their house alarm again and forgot the new code.”

The conversation ended there when my brother called saying he wouldn’t be home that night. My father began to yell as I ran up the stairs.

Dad: “I don’t care that you’re in college. When you’re living under my roof….”

The following morning I had just returned from taking my schnauzer, Gibson, for a walk and found my mother in tears. She was startled as I walked into the foyer and slammed the door behind me. As I walked into the kitchen she wiped her face with her hands and dried them on her shorts.

“Honey, come here. There is something I have to tell you”

Under her breath she muttered, “it’s not supposed to happen this way.”

This is where old memories become strange, partial dream and partial oh I so want to forget. However, one can’t hide from the past. The past is the only thing you can own in this life.

Mom: “Honey,” she was crying again and trying to be strong at the same time. “Jessie, Brandy needs you right now. Brent …” she trailed off.

I remember sitting there questioning and wondering what. What happened? He broke up with his girlfriend of 3 years?

“He was on his way home on Landisville Road ……”

She trailed off again. All I could think was Landisville Road was where my little sisters nursery school was. I put my hand on her knee.


She snapped back to the present, “Honey, Brent drove his car off the road last night. It flipped.” Her lip began to quiver, “He. . . he died.”

She broke it to me just like that. I don’t remember crying or understanding death. I thought of Brandy and hoped she was okay. Then, my own brothers. Where were they? Are they okay? Did they make it home last night? It wasn’t about them. But I worried for a moment and thought . . . (never mind they read this).

Brent was on his way home from his job at Friendly’s when he drove his mother’s mini van off the side of the road. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The van flipped 3 times and he flew out the window.

Later that day I knocked on Brandy’s front door half expecting the knock to go unanswered. Mr. S. answered with a red face and forced a smile. I walked into their foyer while being surrounded by people just arriving from Boston and a priest or two.

“Brandy is lucky to have you. She’s upstairs.”


I crept up the stairs and rounded the corner to her room. Brandy was sitting on the floor staring at a magazine. She was just staring at it with an obvious lack of focus.

I managed to wriggle a “Hey” in an overly crowded voice.

She looked at me with a painted on smile, as though she had coated her teeth with a film of Vaseline. Her eyes were propped open with invisible pins that peeled back her eyelids. She walked around like this for days. A Prozac filled poster child that spoke over the volumes of tears her mother, father, and younger brother emitted.

Two weeks later we sat on the floor playing Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers. Mario had just used his last life when she said, “He was on his way home. He was supposed to take me to rent a movie . . .” For the first time, she cried.

My mother has always told me, “Vehicles are weapons” I’ve understood that for a long time. I’ve always looked at cars as a means of getting from point A to point B. A transport with some toys. After spending the last two weeks reading EVERYTHING about cars and kidnapping car salesmen for extended test drives I’m done. It’s a big commitment, even for a phobe like me.



  1. You write so well, Jess. You had me riveted here. You remember this with such great detail. 🙂

    I’m sorry about Brent. People more religious than me perhaps understand these things better than me. One thing is for sure, tomorrow is not promised so let’s make the best out of each and every day.

  2. When I was in high school, there was a girl named Hope who would sometimes ride our bus home. When you live in a town where there are only about 8 kids your own age and it’s a 30 mile trip home, you spend a lot of time with each other. I never was very close to her, but it’s hard for anyone to not make an impact on your life when there are so few.

    One day I went to school and found out she had died, along with her boyfriend in a car accident. I learned later that her boyfriend had died last, watching all 3 other people in the car die around him, and being powerless to stop it.

    Bus rides would never be the same.

    I’m glad you finally picked one. Drive safely.

  3. I still look for, and to some degree expect, to see those people who have died.
    You gave a wonderful gift to your friend. . .

  4. powerful.

  5. ditto!

    – a long time commenter, a long time reader …

  6. I think your friends and I need to sit you down and show you a PowerPoint presentation that explains why it is okay for you to buy the Acura, Jessica.

  7. Jessica, that was really good. “Mario had just used his last life” that was perfect. The vaseline reference was good too. I admire your writing. It’s so different from mine and I think I always take bits and peices of it, pointers, if you will, anyway, it’s good. Thanks.

  8. Buy a H2, Tahoe, Expedition, Avalanche, Suburban, or best of all a Ford 4×4 350 ….

  9. That was a really incredible story. That must have been so hard for Brandy. Thanks for letting us in on that part of your life.


%d bloggers like this: