Chapter 1– Carry
My jaw locked and my eyes frosted over in remembrance of all I failed to save eight years ago. “You must carry your own weight before you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders” leered at me from a tablespoon away. It beamed off the back of my Honey O’s and echoed in my mind, the remaining shards of it.
For years the cereal brand offered only third-rate anti-jokes on each box. Now it thrusted daggers into my core. What would my father say if he knew what horrors I've wrought?
I uncovered the container of sugar beside me.
“Dude are you lost? That’s gonna be your fricking sixth spoon of sugar” my brother Tucker, a budding twelve, scolded me.
I blinked my eyes thirty times in a second. He was lying on the kitchen floor like he wanted to photosynthesize the white hot intensity of his boredom into energy. He wouldn’t move even if a fugitive blasted through the door with a bazooka. Why choose to be bored when you have a mountain of games you can play?
“Oh. I think I just spaced out thinking of Wilson again.”
Tucker wore a red shirt bearing the mark of his friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and plaid forest green pajama pants. He was gifted the outfit last Christmas when Mom showed him how to attract mates using only a banana and a smidgen of floss.
I wore black socks with palm trees on them, green camo shorts that kissed the middle of my shins, and a mesh tank under my black tee. Father’s dog tag, like always, was well-hung around the milky road of my neck. It was the sole object not burnt to cinders years ago.
Slick as oil, Tucker fired two finger guns at me. His voice ricocheted in my ear like the woodpecking of a certain obnoxious toon.
“Nah, Kuroya. That’s just your bod’s unconscious way of telling you that your life isn’t sweet enough.”
There wasn't a day where Tuck didn't address me by my Xbox Live gamertag. Most of the time he’d say it like it meant a world of meat and cheese to him, but other times he’d say it and snigger like some Broadway villain lurking in the shadows.
I loaded my mouth then pointed my spoon at him. I asked him if he'd ever want to be like me later on in life.
“Who'd want to be some jobless eighteen year old gurf?” he retorted. Gurf, his favorite quip for those that couldn't tell a volleyball from a basketball.
I don't know why I expected a different response. I couldn’t imagine how much snarkier he’d become in a world where mind-controlled prosthetics were on the rise yet the kids around him all skipped their ABC’s.
Soon enough, a roaring duet took my morning by storm. My fingers performed “Moonlight Sonata” on the dining table in harmony with my molars grinding a mouthful of oats into dust.
The almond honey oats were said to have 128g of sugar, yet I needed to dump a landfill of sugar in them just to keep my tongue from stiffening like the tent pitched in my pants.
The snaps, crackles, and pops of my cereal were muted by the white sea that robbed them of their rigidity in favor of an oatmeal-esque disastrophe. As I struggled to swallow the soggy mess, the heel of my foot banged against the wood floor. Tuck’s arms popped up like party streamers.
"Can you stop? I'm not a Richter scale."
I kicked out my leg over his stomach. Every time he tried swatting it away I pulled back then wriggled my toes in his face. He grabbed my foot, tried biting it as I struggled to get away, and snarled like a rabid dog. I rammed my big toe into his nose and showed him what for.
He landed on his tailbone and his face crumpled like crushed foil paper. He crab walked out of sight, humping the air as he did so to call me to him. This kid, I swear.
His body reappeared on the edge of my brown iris. He catapulted himself onto my back and latched his arms around my neck. My eyes bulged out their sockets. My cheeks puffed out as I violently coughed out the sticky chunks that nearly ended me.
I kicked the chair back and slammed him into the ground once more. I shoveled my elbow deep into his core, laughing as he cried out for freedom.
"Keep messing with me Tuck. I'll blow a hole through your stomach the size of a moist cabbage.”
“No" he cried. "Vegetables are the devil." That's what you're worried about?
He talked a big game, saying I couldn't pierce through his "abs of steel". With one flex of my arm, I dug deeper into his belly, sticking out my tongue. He lashed out like a hiker trapped under a boulder, using his upper body strength to free himself. Too bad he didn’t have any.
“Get off! Your elbows are too sharp!”
I raised a hand to my ear, “Sorry, I’m having trouble understanding your accent.”
He begged for me to stop, a soothing sound, but the minute I eased up he clung to my legs. I sighed.
My arm, long like a sniper barrel, took aim at his fat head. My hand, deft and forceful, easily consumed his face and messy black hair with a clutch. His muffled screams caused a rumbling in my hand I could have done without.
He pinched my hand with his chewed up, scraggly nails and swirled his tongue around my palm in retaliation. I shivered before snapping my arm back, squealing like a banshee in labor.
I wiped the saliva off on my camo pants. He gave out a belly laugh like he was the Laughing Buddha. My eyelids fell at the sight.
I slashed the little shit right in his jugular with the edge of my forearm. He gripped the sides of his throat, wheezing like a cat struggling to cough up a traitorous hairball.
He looked up at me with contempt. I stooped down, sitting on the backs of my ankles, and ruffled through his hair as he kept up that demonic look. I smiled. How cute.
“Now is that any way to look at your big bro?”
He asked why he was in so much pain, a stupid question given my arm is the size of his neck. Even my veins, bulging and plentiful, were a feature I grew quite proud of. I shot out my arm for him to see the intricate web of blood that provided unlimited fuel for me.
“Don't forget what this arm can do and you won't get hurt. Simple.”
He sat back and wrapped his arms around his knees.
“You say that as if people don’t forget.”
I scratched the back of my head, “Tucker, of course people forget.”
“So then what’s the point?”
“Want to try being more specific this time?”
He pulled in his bottom lip, “What’s the point of trying so hard if people will just forget everything you’ve done?” Where did that come from?
I held the dog tag against my chest. It's chilling silver stressed the heat welling inside me.
“Do something that will make you a legend and you will never be forgotten.”
His face turned a sakura pink and he dipped his chin into the gap in his knees.
“I can’t even do something to get Mommy to remember to pack my lunch half the time.” Tucker…
He emitted a high-pitched whimper like an abandoned cub. I laid a heavy stare on his face before flicking him in the forehead.
“You’re just being stupid Tuck.”
He went postal on me. At first I thought he was trying to tickle me. Screaming, he shot both his arms back then thrusted the heels of his hands into my stomach. The hit barely phased me save for a slight ripple through the thin coat of fat covering my six-pack.
“Hahaha, what’re you even trying to do Tuck?”
“Stop laughing!” he raged out.
I wiped a tear from my eye, “I’m sorry. It’s just–that was so pitiful.”
He faced away from me and muttered, “You don’t know what it’s like to be forgotten.”
I stood erect and shoved him against a wall, bringing his face to my own.
“The hell are you talking about? I went into high school with no friends and left with even less. I never gave anyone a reason to even remember my name. But my legend hasn’t begun yet and neither has yours.”
He faced me, but looked down at the ground. I loosened my grip.
“What do you want to show the world Tucker?”
“How the heck am I supposed to know?”
My fingers combed the side of my head before I thought of something. I snapped my fingers. “Ball!” I shouted at him. I picked up a ball of air then took two steps back. He was alerted instantly. I threw the “ball” right above me. The minute it reached eye level I served it towards him with everything I had.
He was ready. He connected his forearms together and bumped the ball to me. Yes Tucker. Play, be inspired. I had to be quick so I jumped to spike it down. Bam!
“That’s a point for me” I said.
“No fair. Serve again, punk” he remarked.
“Better watch your mouth if you treasure those teeth of yours.”
A ball that wasn’t even there. We would have hit it back and forth until the earth stopped spinning. Our imaginations went at it until he was breathless. He did everything in his power to make sure I wouldn’t score on him again. And I had to admit, he was a formidable foe for being able to keep up with me for so long. He strafed from side to side, waiting for me to serve the ball then spoke.
“What do you want to do Kuroya?”
“Me? Get into the Volleyball Hall of Fame” I chuckled.
He plunged his hands in his pockets and kicked the floor.
“That’s gonna be hard to do without Wilson."
I extended my fist to him. He looked up at it, then at me.
“It’ll be hard, but I will be harder. You can too little bro. Just pierce through anything in your way like a thrown spear not even a typhoon can steer.”
He sniffled, wiped the crust from his eyes, then pounded knuckles with me. Our smiles polished the bronze in our eyes, his own much shinier than mine. In lieu of the moment we shared, I told him to get me a mirror. I wanted to see if I had the galactic look in my eyes a long lost admirer told me about.”
“Just how many more mirrors must shatter before you're satisfied?”
I raised my fist to him. In that moment I wished my knuckles were tougher than adamantium.
“How many of your bones must be broken for you to learn when to keep quiet? You know what? Forget the mirror.”
“Good, I wasn’t going to get you it anyways. If you want to know how stupid you look, just ask me.”
I ignored him then went to go finish the milk leftover in my bowl. It’s warmth made it tough to taste, but Mom would have my head if I spilled even a drop.
I grabbed my belly and nearly keeled over from all the gas that was taking me down from the inside. A feeling once exclusive to the night Mom curried wasabi. Am I supposed to feel burning in my stomach after eating cereal?
When I finished downing the leftover milk I dropped the graphite bowl into our ceramic sink. I turned on the pipe for a sec to soak the bowl for however many weeks it should take this time. I flicked off some dihydrogen monoxide onto Mom’s snake plant, threw on my army green bag, and dashed to the door to hop in my black Asics.
He stopped me, sprawling his tiny Tucker body on the door, tempting me to shove him into the most antique lamp our house had to offer.
“Are you going to ask her out today?”
I tried moving past him, but he kept getting in my way, sliding from side to side on the door.
“Tucker you’ve been asking me that question at least 365 days a year for the past nine years. The answer has not changed.”
His arms plummeted, “C’mon bro you know she’s waiting for you to do it.”
My hips jutted slightly to the left as I rested my hand under my chin. The palm of my other hand faced the ceiling, begging a rational response from him.
“Even if that were true I don’t know where she is anymore.”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t ask her out Kuroya.”
“How am I supposed to find her?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
I sighed, “You know what? Later Tucker. I’m out.”
I rushed past him, dotted down the spiraling stairs, and leapt onto the black pavement.
He sent off some kissy noises for me as I ran down the street. There was a lot on my mind, but I couldn’t help but smile as I ran.
I’ll show you Tuck. I’ll do something to make all of High Charity remember. They will remember my name, Adrian Antiya.