One p.m. The walk down the road was always roughly about five minutes, but today, it felt longer. The small convenience store’s parking lot was packed for the lunch rush, and two cashiers stood behind the counter, ready for the lunch orders and transactions. And the line always weaved toward the back of the store near the frozen foods, and footsteps slowly edged forward. And the wait varied in time, but they were now finally ready for him.
Gavin always bought today’s newspaper and a stick of gum. He never broke from routine unless the weather was really bad or if he was sick, but that was not the case today. And it was a beautiful day outside, and he had things to do. And he checked his watch, showing his impatience, but the cashier ignored him as she rung up his order.
He used to pay in change, but the cashiers began to complain. They even had a sign now in front of the registers, no pennies, and he had no choice but to carry cash. And when they gave him back his change, he would count every single coin, making sure that it was all there. And once satisfied, he would then leave the store.
It felt like forty degrees outside, but he was still hot. He unzipped his jacket as he hurried up the road with the newspaper tucked under one arm. His stick of gum was in his pocket, and he would save that for later. And again, he glanced at his watch, but he relaxed. He was ahead of schedule.
Once back in the house, he dropped the newspaper onto his father’s briefcase. He should be returning soon from his morning jog, but then Gavin noticed that his grocery list was gone. So, he knew that his father would still be out for, at least another half hour, and his mother was probably awake. And she was probably watching her soaps, so he would not disturb her.
The dogs hung back, waiting for their turn. He led them into the family room and threw open the slider door. And they were off, barking and racing around the backyard, and he laughed in response. And he slammed closed the door, checking his watch once more.
The first load of laundry was finished. He quickly pulled out the now clean sheets and neatly folded them. The towels were dumped into the dryer, and a small pile of clothes were placed in the washing machine. And that would be it for laundry for another hour.
As he returned to the family room, he released the dogs back into the house. They jumped up and down around him. Their eyes were lit with anticipation, and he gently pet each one of them around the ears. And they followed him into the kitchen.
One-thirty p.m. Lunch was simple. A ham sandwich with mustard rested on a paper plate before him. A glass of orange juice lingered at the edge of the placemat. A napkin was placed on his lap, and the dogs sat at his feet. And as he finished his meal, he heard the sound of a key in the front door. His father was home.
The groceries were brought into the house, and he quickly helped remove each item from their yellow, plastic bags. A long receipt fell down by the now empty plate, and he snatched it up in his hands. His eyes moved down the list of prices to the sum total, and then the date and time fell into view. And he handed the piece of paper to his father, who stood nearby.
“What are you doing today?”
“I don’t know.” He quickly sorted through the rest of the items. “I still have chores to do.” He now had all the bathroom items in hand.
“Shouldn’t your brother carry some of this responsibility?”
“I asked him to, but he hasn’t done anything. So, I’ll do it.” He moved toward the staircase nearby.
“Well, ask him again.”
His brother, Avery hardly left his room. Loud tapping could be heard in the hallway, and he knew that he was on the computer. His fascination with the cyber world had become a near obsession, and he struggled to connect with those that he found. But his friendships always seemed to fall through.
“What do you want?”
“I was just seeing if you were up.” Gavin lingered in the now open doorway. “The dishes need to be done.”
“I’ll do it later.” Avery focused on the screen before him. “I’m busy.”
“You know, we need to help out.”
“I contribute.” He sat back in his chair. “I’ll come downstairs in a few minutes, and I’ll do the dishes. Okay?”
“The garbage needs to be taken out too.”
“Weren’t you just outside? You could do that.”
“Avery, I did the laundry and walked the dogs.”
“Fine. Fine. I’ll do it.” His tone said otherwise. “Is that it?”
“Yeah.” Gavin retreated back into the hallway. “That’s it.”
It was approaching two p.m. Sunlight filtered into his room. His bed felt warm under his skin, and he stared up at the ceiling above him. And loud footsteps up the stairs informed him that his father was now heading for his bedroom.
His father hated retirement. He tried to occupy his time with simple things like reading or watching television, but that got old after awhile. And going to the mall every single day was getting tiring too, and when he stayed home, he spent his time worrying. And Gavin knew that he worried about him and his brother.
This wasn’t the life that he had wanted for himself. He had graduated high school, making the honor roll several times. He got accepted to college. He had a future, so how did he wind up here? His other brothers got the life that they wanted, but why was he the one left behind?
A school bus drove down the road, triggering his memory. During his senior year of high school, his old guidance counselor was poking around, trying to discover the college that had accepted him, but he refused to tell him. But his younger brother didn’t suspect anything, and when asked, he offered up the information. And the guidance counselor took it upon himself to send his file to that college, detailing his disabilities, and that was it. The college rejected him, and there was no place left for him to go but here. And that was how he wound up with this life, and he could still taste the bitterness in the back of his throat.
And Avery suffered the same fate. The school kept him in special education classes, but his reading and writing skills were still elementary level. And his degree was a joke. He received a diploma that wouldn’t even get him into college, and for him to apply for even community schools, he would have to first get a G.E.D. So, what was the point of even graduating high school? What was the point of that piece of paper that was now buried somewhere deep within the basement? And his brother gave up.
They were left behind. Their futures were robbed, and this was now their life to live. He had his chores, and Avery had his obsession. There was nothing else, and the cold, harsh reality was that someone would have to take care of them later in life. There was a time, where maybe they could have learned to take care of themselves, but after all these years, they both had regressed backward. And he wished that things could be different, but they weren’t.
Three p.m. He must have fallen asleep. His anger always left him tired, which was why he tried to forget the past. He couldn’t change what was done, but he could feel his blood boil sometimes when dealing with Avery. But he couldn’t help him. All he could do was confront each day and focus on the important things. He was grateful for his family, and no matter what lied ahead, he knew that he would not be alone. He knew that somehow, somewhere, his future and Avery’s was secured, and someone would be there to watch and take care of them. So, he would not worry. Instead, he placed a stick of gum in his mouth and savored its sweet flavor, and he checked his watch, making sure that he was still ahead of schedule.