This story is told from three points of view and is being posted in three parts, beginning last month with "Matt," continuing this month with "Jamie," and ending in January with "Rob." It was first published in the Winter 2010 edition of Black Oak Presents: A Journal of Mid-American Culture, which is now out of print. I am excited to reshare it, with revisions, these seven years later:
The porch steps felt like ice under my bare feet as I raced out to the car. Luckily, Rob hadn’t left yet, thank God. I realized it was a bad idea to make a dramatic scene like this, but it was too late now. This was urgent and things were probably about to get much worse.
“Rob,” I yelled and pounded on the window.
“Oh Christ, what?” he asked, jumping out of the car. He was bent slightly and his eyes were wide, like he knew what was happening and was preparing himself for anything.
“Matt is in there, telling your parents—”
He didn’t let me finish. He turned on one heel and cursed, threw his hat on the ground, and started back toward the house.
“Wait. What are you gonna’ do?” I asked, following him. “Oh, God,” I said to myself, hugging my arms. It was even colder outside than I thought. I had no shoes and no jacket and was just standing there on a mat of prickly grass, helpless.
“This is unbelievable,” Rob shouted, stomping up the porch steps.
My uncle and brother came out the door and met him halfway. The three of them stared each other down for a few seconds. My uncle looked intensely angry. I did not like confrontation, and wished in my heart that none of this was happening. I tried to look out into the field beyond the house to distract myself, but then everyone started yelling.
“What the hell is all this?” Uncle Mike asked us.
“Nothing is what it is,” Rob answered defiantly. He turned to Matt and stuck his finger out at him. “What the hell is your problem, Matt?”
My brother’s face slowly turned a deep purplish-red and then he lunged at Rob, knocking him from the porch clear onto the ground. They rolled around in the yard, throwing short, blunt punches and yelling muffled cries into each other’s necks, blowing clouds of breath into the air like a couple of fighting bucks. All the while, my aunt and uncle shouted for them to stop.
I wanted to do something but I wouldn’t dare get in their way. Rob pinned Matt down after a while. Matt flailed and spat at Rob, clawing at his arms. Rob held him by the collar and was about to go in for the big punch when Uncle Mike finally intervened, prying him off of Matt. I felt so useless, but the look my uncle shot me as he pulled Rob to his feet told me I was doing just exactly the right thing by being still and quiet.
My uncle let him go and pulled Matt up by his shirt with one hand, blood pouring out of his nose. He took big, gaping breaths.
My uncle surveyed us all, even my aunt, and shook his head. “You all make me sick. Yesterday was a normal goddamned day and now you’re all acting crazy! I don’t want to know if what Matt is saying is true, and if there is something up here that shouldn’t be up, I don’t ever want to find out about it. And I want it to stop!”
That was all he said. He let go of Matt with a quick shove, brushed himself off and adjusted his shirt, and went back inside. I looked over to my aunt. Normally she had a bland expression, but today she stared so coldly into my eyes that it was obvious that she knew. How could we have not known that she knew? I put my hands up to my head.
Rob wiped his bloody nose and lip, and rubbed his forehead. There was a long silence as everyone just kind of breathed and thought for a moment.
“Get in the car, Jamie,” Rob said quietly.
“What?” I asked softly, taken aback.
“Get in the car.”
“I need my shoes,” I said quietly.
“I’ll get your shoes,” he answered calmly and went inside, hanging onto the railing and swaying a little as he went up the steps.
I flopped into the car. Matt looked at me, glared at me through the car window. I locked the door.
Rob came out with my shoes and jacket. He opened the door and the familiar scent of his coat came into the car before he did. Dried blood and mud covered his face, with fresh blood still running over it.
“Do you need a tissue?” I asked. I opened the glove compartment and started fumbling through papers. There were no tissues. It was warm in the car and my thawing hands had trouble grasping anything.
“No, I’m fine,” he answered, touching his nose and looking at his red-stained hand. “Damn it.”
He handed me my stuff. I put on my shoes and jacket. “Thanks, are you okay?”
He looked past me to Matt. “Hell, I’m fine, Jamie, fine,” he said, still breathing heavily, looking very disturbed. He wiped his hand on his coat. I reached out to touch his face and he winced but let me touch him. “I’m okay,” he reassured me. “Come on, let’s get the hell out of here.”
“What about work?”
He barked out one loud laugh. “Jamie. There’s not gonna’ be any work today.”
“Do you think Matt is okay?” I asked him, which at that moment was probably the stupidest question in the world.
“Do I think Matt is okay? No, I don’t think he’s okay. And I don’t think he will ever be okay, and I don’t think he ever was okay,” he answered and cleared his throat.
We sped off quickly, bumping along the driveway. I looked around, not knowing what to say.
The sky was a deep blue. Birds were out flying around collecting things. The snow was melting in some areas. Pools of icy water surrounded with thick brown mud dotted the still-frozen landscape. Snow was expected again later in the week, typical spring weather. It was strange and somehow beautiful.
"Dakota Morning," copyright 2017 Amelia Cotter (first published in Black Oak Presents: A Journal of Mid-American Culture, Winter 2010 Edition, 2010)