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When you were young, and he picked on you incessantly–sucker-punched you and ran, tripped you on the way to the bathroom, blamed you for the shit that he broke–you wished you could have a better relationship with your brother. You mostly thought that if you could get him to like you, the torment would stop. You soothed yourself by admitting that it wasn't unusual for boys to pick on their siblings, even though you never understood how making another person miserable could be so entertaining. 


You'd tell yourself that he'd grow out of this. You were sure that if he could see how miserable he made you ... Surely he’d see this next year or the next. He would be your best friend then. You ached for him to be your best friend. Your brother should be your best friend.


But even in your teens, you were still waiting for him to cover your back instead of shoving a shiv into it. You kept hoping, even after he asked you to go out with him and his friends, and you were duped into thinking he finally wanted a close relationship with you too. He proved you wrong that night, though, in his friend's basement rumpus room. He and his two friends hauled you off your feet and closed you up into a sofa bed then went back to their beers, laughing and calling you a pussy. You pushed your way out and left with a gale of laughter chasing you, your hand bloodied where it had been pinched in a hinge. Or maybe he didn’t do that, maybe he just laid your ass flat at football practice and joined in with the other guys in wondering why the coach gave you a spot on the team. Maybe that wasn’t it either. Maybe he got the girl you’d been crushing on since fifth grade drunk and had sex with her the summer after your junior year. Or maybe the asshole was just better at everything or worse at everything than you and never let you forget it. Whatever it was, the dick just couldn’t manage to be cool. He just couldn’t show you the smallest degree of respect. Like an idiot, you stayed hopeful anyway. A lot of guys are dicks in high school. He’d grow up and the two of you would move past this.


Then the college years came and he had to repeat failed classes because he partied too much. Or he had a drug problem and needed rehab repeatedly. Whatever it was, he took more of the family resources than were his share so that you had to take more loans or you ended up not finishing school at all. Or he slept with another one of your girlfriends. Or he got drunk every weekend and threw up on something you owned. Or he was big man on campus while you studied every weekend and still couldn’t cut it. Maybe it was a combo pack of these or many other offenses. But the thing that really set you off was that he was always wondering, “What the fuck is your problem, man?” Like he didn’t know.


Picture it. You’re twenty-something years in with this guy and he is still shit on your shoes every time he comes around, but that spring of hope is still pumping. You tell yourself that now that the two of you are finally grown up, it’s gonna be different. Maybe he isn’t the whole problem. You were young too. You had growing pains too. You decide that when you get the first paycheck from your first real job in the real world you’re going to take your brother out for dinner. But the prick disses you for the bastards from the sofa bed incident, telling you they’re like brothers to him. Or he shows and get’s stupid drunk and curses you out. Or he runs the tab up so high that you have to postpone moving from your parents' place for another two months. Or he says, “No I’m paying. You know damn well you can’t afford a pot to piss in and you’ll never be able to at this rate.”


In the years following this, he never calls unless he wants a favor. You stop calling him to go out because you can’t afford to pay every time, and he always sticks you with the bill. Or he gives a ton of unsolicited advice. Or he’s always shit-faced and angry. Or he's condescending as hell. Or he still calls you pussy. Or a hundred other things you don’t put up with from anyone else anymore.


When you get engaged you haven’t seen your brother in six months, because it’s just too hard. You’re working a fifty-hour week, trying to build your career and barely have enough time for your girl, who you’d much rather spend time with. Or you can’t seem to find your niche, while he’s tearing it up. Or you're finishing your doctorate while bartending half the night so you can afford not to sponge off your fiance. You don't need him drinking up half a week's pay. Whatever it is, it only matters that you’re tired of feeling bad. It’s just too exhausting. But your fiancé wants to meet him. She’s taking it personally that she’s never met him. She doesn’t understand that a seemingly normal person could have this kind of shitty relationship with their own flesh and blood. She has a family like a fifties-era TV show.


So you and your fiancé meet up with him and his wife, whore du jour, girlfriend, dominatrix, or any type of partner or no partner at all and he’s utterly fake, making you seem like the petty dick here. Or he’s rude to your fiancé. Or he’s drunk and mean again. Or he spends the whole night boring the both of you, bragging about himself and his many accomplishments that all combined don’t equate to the achievement of a rally good fart. Or he makes you look like the loser you’ve always known yourself to be by making himself incredibly interesting. 


So you marry the girl and your brother makes a scene at the wedding. Or you overhear her parents talking about how their daughter married the wrong brother. Or he comes in late and drunk and knocks over the cake. Or he’s not invited, because a month before the wedding, you and your fiancé went to get a mortgage and found out your brother had stolen your identity and that the two of you would be renting for a few more years.


Many years later when both you and your brother have kids that the other doesn’t really know. When you don’t think about him because you’re both too busy with life. When friends “never knew you had a bother,” some big thing happens to him. He has a heart attack. Or he gets a divorce. Or the guys from the sofa bed incident swindle him out of his nest egg. Anyway, he finally grows up for whatever reason and calls you. His apology is the most sincere sounding thing he has ever said to you. It's accompanied by an explanation of why the realization that he’s been the dick of all dicks has finally dawned on him. 


You know you should say he’s forgiven. You just know you're going to regret it if you don't. He's your brother. That's what your mom always said, He's your brother," but you’re not sure that you can give each other anything more than forgiveness at this point, even if you decide you still want to.


And that just makes you furious.

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25 comments

Shirley Medhurst
10:27 Jun 27, 2020

Very sad concept although I was confused about which was the real brother. I think it has lots of potential. Could I ask you a favour whilst I'm here? I'd be very grateful if you could give me your opinion on either my stories for this prompt.

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A O
17:58 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks so much for the feedback, Shirley. Based on your comment and others, it looks like I need to rework this to make it more understandable that I mean to portray my perceived generalities about strained close family relationships. PS I'll be pleased to read your work. :-)

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Laura Clark
07:14 Jun 27, 2020

Here as requested! I don’t think it’s too crass at all - swearing isn’t that big a deal and you don’t use it gratuitously. I was so very confused by this though. I really like the repeating ‘or’ sentence starters that run through but it made it feel very multiverse. Did he do the thing? Did he do the other thing? Did he do all of the things. Lots of the things were contradictory (blows you off for dinner but also shows up and insists on paying) so I didn’t get which bits happened. I assumed that it was all things at different times but then ...

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A O
17:39 Jun 27, 2020

Thank you so much for your detailed commentary. It's very kind of you. With this, I meant not necessarily to outline a specific relationship as much as to point out how schisms with close family members are complicated not only by youthful grudges kept into adulthood, but also by our ideas of what our close family members owe us for simply being close family members. I'll look for ways to clarify that in this story if I use it elsewhere. Thanks again. :-)

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Olivia Charlson
07:08 Jul 04, 2020

Hello, I also received your story for the Critique Circle. I thought the raw emotion in this story was really cool! As for positive criticism, I'd say to be careful when using a lot of repetition. The scenarios were interesting but reading words like or throughout and having the sentences stop abruptly can become a bit tiresome for a reader. I hope this helps!

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A O
18:28 Jul 04, 2020

Thanks so much for the review. :-)

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Steve Stigler
01:41 Jun 30, 2020

This is excellent. Your voice is consistent throughout, and because of that, the ending is both predictable and tragic. And I often find the 2nd person intrusive, but it's natural here. I'm very impressed.

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A O
16:56 Jun 30, 2020

Thank you so much, Steve. You've really encouraged me.

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18:45 Jun 27, 2020

Wow, i am so glad that my older sister isn't anything like this. I remember hearing about people that have similar issues with their family members. After keep hearing stuff like this makes me be thankful that my family members aren't that bad.

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A O
04:14 Jun 28, 2020

I'm glad you don't have this experience too. Thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

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Chiemeziem Amadi
17:01 Jun 27, 2020

Funny enough I had a friend with such issues

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A O
18:22 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks for the comment.

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Grace Jarvis
16:50 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks for a good read. Very captivating. Oh, side note, could you read my story and provide feedback?

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A O
04:11 Jun 28, 2020

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll definitely check yours out. :-)

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Courtney Stuart
16:16 Jun 27, 2020

I love the concept behind this story so much. Each scenario felt very real and heart-felt, and I think the prompt of using a second person POV really drives in the feelings of bitterness and regret that your character experiences. There are so many ways this could have turned out, but in the end, a toxic relationship is toxic for a reason. You were really effective in showing all of the different ways that your character has gotten hurt, especially in such a short amount of words. Good job!

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A O
18:22 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks so much for the encouragement, Courtney.

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Serine Achache
14:39 Jun 27, 2020

The feelings in this piece are almost palpable. Despite the fact that there were different scenarios, It felt and sounded completly normal to me. It's really beautiful. Very well done!

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A O
18:09 Jun 27, 2020

Thank you so much for your encouragement, Serine.

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Serine Achache
18:31 Jun 27, 2020

You're most welcome!

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Adam Kaia
13:53 Jun 27, 2020

Firstly this is such an interesting concept. I suppose the different versions of each situation are linked to the fact that you've used the 2nd person narrative. So each person can know how it feels to have a bum brother. Really smartly done and we'll conceived.

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A O
18:05 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks so much for your comment, Adam. I did choose the format of the general bad close family relationship because of the 2nd person constraint. I felt it served the POV better since the reader is being addressed as you and hopefully I'd have more than one you. :-)

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Jessie Nice
13:23 Jun 27, 2020

I really felt the bitterness and anger coming through this piece of the character towards his brother. Well done.

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A O
18:02 Jun 27, 2020

Thanks so much for your comment, Jessie.

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Chenchen Du
11:25 Jun 27, 2020

This is a really sad yet interesting story. I like the uncertainty of it all, however, by the end the only definite thing is that this relationship is toxic and destructive.

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A O
18:00 Jun 27, 2020

For sure. Thanks so much for your feedback, Chenchen.

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