To say that my little brother loved to play practical jokes is putting it mildly, he was always looking for his next victim. He lived and breathed to come up with new jokes and pranks to pull on us and his friends.
At age 7, if someone were to ask what his life’s dream was, he would respond without hesitation, to pull off the ultimate prank! He would even go so far as to express his desire to be a famous magician. He would do all kinds of work for the neighbors to save his money as well as his allowance to buy magic kits and would practice non-stop. It drove us nuts! Our father was responsible for his obsession with magic. As a teenager, our dad would perform various tricks with his friends and always enjoyed an audience.
Nowadays our dad never really had any free time what with working as a mechanic 12 to 14 hours a day 6 days a week. He worked hard so our mother was able to stay home and raise us, boys. I think now looking back those were the best times for our family. Our house was always full of family and friends, love, and laughter. As they say, though all good things must end. Ours ended when our dad had died due to a tragic accident at work when a car jack slipped and the car he was working on crushed him.
Our lives were irrevocably changed after that. We had to sell our home and rent a smaller house that we were fortunate enough to find just a few streets away. Our mom went back to work as a nurse on the night shift at our local hospital to support us, three boys. Jamie the youngest at age 7, Sean 10 and me, Thomas 14. I pretty much took on the responsibility of my brothers and the household as mom took on as many extra shifts she could. When she was home she mostly slept in as a result. It seemed as though the darkness followed us to the new house.
On the moving day which was difficult enough considering our circumstances, tragedy struck again. Oh, the day began normal enough our goal was to get completely moved in so we would not have to pay for another day for the moving truck. Jamie, being a kid was being his usual obnoxious, pesky self getting in our way and slowing us down. Darting around checking out the new house not really helping at all. As I mentioned before we were pressed for time. The last straw was when Jamie ran in front of Sean who then yelled at him to just go outside and play if he was not going to help us.
We worked non-stop in setting up the waterbeds our dad had gotten us boys the Christmas before, and then helping our mom. The hours flew by and before we knew it, it was 7:00 pm and we had done it!
We were discussing where we could get something to eat after returning the truck when our mom looked around and asked where Jamie was?
Confusion on our faces, we looked at each other realizing we had not seen Jamie since Sean had yelled and told him to go outside over 8 hours ago! We frantically tore the house apart then combed the neighborhood each calling out his name. No one including his friends had seen him since morning.
The next morning after a sleepless night we filed a missing persons report with the local police. We continued to search in vain throughout that hellish day. When the street lamps began to come on as the light faded the 3 of us could not walk another step.
Our hearts ached with unbearable pain and sadness. Poor Sean was racked with guilt as he blamed himself. We tried reassuring him it was not his fault but he could not accept it. We each retreated to our rooms to give our bodies rest, at least for a few hours.
I was just drifting off when I heard Sean swear loudly from his room that his mattress must have gotten a leak when setting it up as his carpet was completely drenched.
Well so much for sleep, awake again I managed to limp to his room, and we went about the chore of draining the mattress and attempt to find the leak. The minutes it took draining was continued torture for us going over again and again what could have happened to Jamie.
Finally, enough water had drained out so we could manipulate the soaked mattress. As we both reached down we froze, not comprehending what it was that we were seeing, what we were looking at. For under the mattress the shape of a small boy took form!
The hideous understanding that washed over us as we had found Jamie was pure revulsion. I heard the most awful screams that were coming out of my mouth and looking at Sean he was vomiting. We managed to pull the hated mattress off of him and instantly wished we hadn’t.
For the face looking up at us will haunt me to my death. His mouth was grotesquely stretched so wide in a scream that none of us heard as we had music blasting and was working in other parts of the house as the bed filled. His eyes impossibly wide staring at nothing but at the same time pleading for help.
His little hands were frozen claw-like and missing several fingernails which explained the leak! Blood was smeared everywhere from his ragged fingertips. Bits and pieces of his bloody fingernails were stuck all over his face with his blood!
We quickly put together what must have happened. Instead of going outside Jamie came into the room and hid under the mattress intending to spring up and scare us, but we did not immediately go back into the room. He must have fallen asleep at that time.
My brother completely lost it when he realized he was laying on his dead brother before the leak was discovered!
Our family was beyond saving after that. Sean committed suicide not long after that, he simply could not live with his guilt. Not long after his suicide, our mother suffered a complete mental breakdown and will spend the remainder of her days as a resident in the state mental institution.
As for myself, I managed to complete high school and college. I did this to make my family proud of me, that one of us did make it. Sadly, I lost my ambition after that and now live in an apartment on the other side of town receiving disability.
I am under the care of several psychiatrists whose answer to everything is to pump me full of pills on a daily basis. I spend my days watching television or sitting on my balcony with my cat gazing at the happy families, faces filled with love and laughter while quietly asking myself, why couldn’t we have had that?
To this day I cannot stand to have anything to do with magic. I do make the trip once a month across town to visit my family. Before I leave them I always make sure to tell Jamie he succeeded, he pulled off the ultimate prank.