(Related posts: Days 15, 36, and 40)
You may recall when last we left my brother I had just intentionally and vengefully prevented him from besting his personal Wizard of Wor highscore, a half year obsession that would have inspired Herman Melville.
I had been sitting Indian style, but as the prophetic 'Game Over' flashed repeatedly, tauntingly on the mammoth 24-inch TV, I slowly rose to my feet, not wanting to startle the quivering behemoth before me. Like a sadistic Marlin Perkins I knew I was in danger but needed to relish the beast's reaction. The Bally Astrocade joystick slipped unnoticed from his sweaty hand, falling noiselessly onto the red shag basement carpet. His jaw slackened, mouth agape, the sun streaming through the window glinting off the menacing metal contained within. A string of saliva dripped from his twitching bottom lip and I swear that it hissed and smoked when it hit the ground. A tremor began to course through his sizable girth and his hands began to clench and unclench rhythmically. His neck creaked like leather as his head slowly swiveled in my direction, constricted by the apparent increase in blood flow that had stained his face dark purple, like an overripe aubergine. Maybe it was a reflection from the still flickering television, but his eyes were glowing red. Glowing! I was in over my head.
Unlike Marlin I didn't have a Jim to tranq the animals when they went on the attack. At a glance I surveyed my surroundings and quickly came to the conclusion that I was fucked. My spiteful gambit had been ill conceived; the spontaneity that lent it its unexpectedness had also not left room for planning. The way we were positioned my brother's hulking frame blocked the stairwell, the only avenue of escape. Fight or flight? No contest. Before my mind caught up my body was in motion, a five foot blur of speed and fear. And the beast was in pursuit.
I had danced this dance many times before and was familiar with the arena. The room was rectangular and cluttered with mismatched furniture, much of it covered in gaudy faux-velvet. I knew the stone in front of the fake fireplace was slick to sock clad feet and could cause a tide-turning slip. I knew the 70's sheik bar area at the opposing end was a death trap of no escape. The orange easy chair could support my weight if jumped upon, but the cream colored armchair would tip. All lessons learned the hard way.
I was lithe and spry, my sparrow light frame easily hurdling ottomans and beanbag chairs, but my brother was possessed of an irreconcilable rage, and like an avalanche gaining momentum had inertia on his side, barreling through all obstacles in his path. Every time I passed the stairwell that lead to the backdoor and escape I gauged whether or not I'd be able to make it to the closed door and open it before my brother was upon me in a flurry of punches to my solar-plexus. Once, twice around, not quite yet. I knew that soon he would begin to tire hauling his considerable mass around and the distance between us would begin to increase and I could make my move.
Fourth pass and I noticed his lumbering gait slow slightly as he clipped the Bally Astrocade Console and he looked back in conflicted concern. Now was my chance. I put on an extra burst of speed, channelling my inner Barry Allen. As I rounded the glass-topped coffee table in the center of the room I risked a glance over my shoulder...and didn't see the power cord to the videogame system had been pulled taut, several inches off the floor, by my brother's oafish clumsiness.
My shins connected with the thin plastic cord. I faltered but remained upright, and although my freedom was but steps away I stopped dead in my tracks. As had my pursuer. There had been a sharp POP, similar to the sound a light-bulb makes when it blows, followed by a strange acrid taste in the air. And all the lights had gone out. The television was dull and dead. My brother and I looked at each other, the dance momentarily forgotten. We followed the power cord from the game to the wall. I had not just pulled the plug free, I had pulled the entire socket out of its housing, a mess of wires, plaster, and metal hemorrhaging from a gaping hole in the wall. An electrical evisceration.
Despite the sunlight coming in through the basement windows the house suddenly seemed very very dark, and deathly silent. I began to slowly creep towards the stairs before my brother pieced together exactly how much trouble we were in. I briefly wondered if the damage was limited to just this one room.
By way of an answer the silence was shattered by my father's protracted baritone bellow "Jeeeeee-zus Christ!"
For the first ten years of life I thought I had been named after the son of God. As my father appeared at the top of the stairs I was sure I was about to meet my namesake.