The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter.
Some things must go wrong your whole life long,
And the sooner you know it the better.
From “As You Go Through Life” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
~ 18 ~
Tim had a very vivid memory when it came to his birthdays. Four of them stood out way above the others.
On his eighth birthday his parents had a party for him. He was kind of shy and awkward as a kid and didn’t make friends easily. Children bullied him because of his size. He was always a little bigger and slower than the rest, never really what you’d consider fat but definitely big enough to be pinned with the nickname Chunky Monkey. He hated that his last name sounded so similar to monkey, but when you’re born Timothy Muntkey, what can be expected?
His mother hoping to help with the socialization of her only son decided that inviting his entire class over to their house was going to be the big solution to the problem. They spent an entire weekend making homemade invitations for the kids, complete with glitter and paper confetti. His theme was going to be the Wild West; his backyard was going to be transformed into a rodeo and there would even be a pony and a clown. After this party the kids would not only be his best friends for life, they would look at him like some kind of hero. What other kid would be cool enough to have such a huge party?
On the day of the big celebration, out of the twenty three kids that were invited only four showed up. Three of which only did because they lived down the block, the other was the kid who Tim used to pick on to make himself feel better. While watching the clown make balloon animals, he got to hear about all the other parties that were so much cooler than his. He wasn’t invited to any of them, even the kid who he always thought was less popular than we was, had been invited to at least a few. While riding the pony, he overheard his father shouting at his mother in the kitchen about what a failure the party was and how it was her fault that her son was a mess. Tim tried to block out her crying while his ‘friend’s’ laughed about it in the background.
When his cake came out, his mother was wearing a fake smile but her eyes were all black because of freshly made mascara tears. They were in the middle of singing “Happy Birthday,” When his father in a drunken rage, came out of the house, took his fist and slammed it right in the middle of his cake, making the innards explode all over him and his Mom. “You don’t deserve this cake! No one even likes you!” He screamed, “Happy Fucking Birthday!” He said as he got in his car and tore off down the street.
That was the last party he ever had.
He tried not to cry but he found himself feeling so betrayed as he drove slowly down the road looking for Howie that he couldn’t help himself. How could both of them treat him like that? He opened up his home to them, invited them to live with him forever, hell he was even going to give up his bedroom for them. He was ready to sleep on the couch just so that they could be comfortable in their own beds and what do they do in return? One leaves and other tries to shoot him. He banged his fists against the steering wheel. This was not going as he had planned. It seemed like such a simple thing, bring the guys back to his place, and force them to love him and be his new family. He should have just gotten a girl, like he had planned so long ago after his Candice died.
Instead he found himself out looking for Howie, no idea where he could possibly be and no clue how long he had been gone in the first place. By now he could have probably gotten to the main highway and flagged down a car for help which meant that at any time someone could be showing up at the cabin. He slowed down when he saw a glow coming off the gravel on the side of the road. It was the unmistakable shine of a flashlight on the ground. He pulled up right behind it and smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as he thought it was going to be. Maybe Howie hadn’t gotten that far after all.
He had picked up the flashlight, stuck it in his pocket and pulled out his own stronger and brighter model, before wiping away his tears and heading into the woods.
The second birthday he remembered so well was his eleventh.
The first one they celebrated in the woods as fugitives. He had no idea what that word even meant but he heard his father use it more than once when talking to his mother on nights when he thought his son was fast asleep. His father had done something really bad, that’s about all he knew. He had also overheard them talking about his birthday and how it should be a special one since they ripped him out of his natural environment so quickly without explanation.
Talk of traveling back into town just for the day came up but was quickly shot down by his father. “The chances we’ll be seen are too great. It’s bad enough I have to go back into town from time to time alone, I can’t imagine taking the kid with me.” When Tim heard that, his heart sank, but at least he knew that whatever they decided on would be so worth it in the end.
On the big day, he woke up not really knowing what to expect. His mother had made him pancakes and bacon, two of his favorites and just for this special occasion, she made them in the shape of hearts. When his father didn’t show up for breakfast, he asked his mother where his dad went.
“He went in to town to get you something special!” She had said, smiling.
All day long, Tim had anticipated a huge surprise to show up at any moment, but lunch came and went as did dinner. His mother trying her best not to show her own disappointment that had quickly turned to anger as the day went on. His mom made him a carrot cake which was his all-time favorite, and she sang to him and tried not to cry when he blew out his candles.
Before tucking him in, she laid down next to him as she so often did and apologized. “I’m sorry your father never showed sweetheart. I’m sure there’s a good reason. When he does come with your present, I’ll be sure to wake you.”
Tim closed his eyes and didn’t wake until the next morning because there was no present to be found and no explanation either.
Finding Howie turned out to be a lot easier than Tim had thought it would be. There he was, standing by the truck, obviously wanting to come back home. At least he realized he made a mistake. He didn’t want to do it, but he tied Howie’s wrists in front of him and sat him in the passenger seat. It felt weird having him there instead of Nick. He found himself missing his new favorite person.
“What did you do to Nicky? Where is he?” Howie asked again, about the fifth time in the span of five minutes.
Tim got in the truck and sighed, “What makes you think I did anything to him?”
“He’s not here.”
“I left him home. I thought it was best after he tried to shoot me!”
“He did what?” Howie’s voice was shaky as he looked Tim’s way.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay.” He made sure to let Howie know that despite everything, he had managed to go unscathed. The last thing he wanted was for Nick and Howie to fight about the possibility of hurting their new found oldest brother. “He was too weak to handle the rifle. He’s not doing so well, our young friend.”
“You better not have hurt him.”
Tim couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Hurt him? Was he serious? He looked at Howie and shook his head, “Why would I hurt him? Jesus, Howie you have trust issues!” He laughed as he continued, “I didn’t hurt him, that crash did. He’s in a bad way I think. I mean I bought him aspirin and he’s been taking it. I guess we’ll have to see what happens.”
Howie looked down at his wrists. “Is that too tight? Sorry about that but we’ll be there soon. Luckily you didn’t get that far away.”
“Yeah, real lucky.” He half muttered.
“You actually weren’t too far away from an old camping ground.”
“I know, I found it.”
Tim looked over at Howie, “You did?”
He nodded, “I managed to hide under a picnic table to escape the rain.”
Tim laughed, “Oh…”
And that brought Tim to his third most memorable birthday. The night his father decided to take him camping.
It was his nineteenth birthday, and as birthday’s go, it wasn’t supposed to be all that exciting, but for whatever reason, on the eve of the big day, Tim’s father took him aside and said “Tomorrow we are going camping, just you and I and I’ll have a nice surprise for you!”
Of course that night, Tim was so excited he could barely sleep. The thought of being all alone with his dad scared him but mainly he was thrilled. He never thought his father wanted to be around him at all, let alone go camping with him! There would probably be hunting and a campfire. Maybe his dad would tell him some more stories about the old days and what it was like for him growing up.
The next morning, he and his father set out for the campsite shortly after having birthday cake for breakfast. He gave his mother a big hug and kiss and off they went into the woods for about a five mile trek.
“All this property is ours, Timothy.” His father had said a little more than halfway there. “This land is beautiful, isn’t it?”
Tim just nodded, trying to stay focused. He wasn’t used to this much walking and wasn’t sure why they didn’t just take the truck to get to wherever it was they were going. He knew better than to complain about it though. Nothing was going to spoil this birthday.
They finally came into a clearing where there were a few picnic tables, a fire pit and a grill. “This is ours too. It used to be a fully functioning campsite before it was closed.” He placed his backpack down on the ground and Tim did the same. Looking around he was amazed that this place even existed. It seemed out of the way for a campsite. There didn’t even seem to be a road or path to take to get there.
“How long has it been closed?”
“It was closed before we even came up here.”
“How come we haven’t come here before? Mom would probably love this place.”
“Your mother doesn’t know this place even exists, Tim and we’re going to keep it that way.”
“Can you keep a secret?” Tim nodded and his father smiled wide. “I brought you here because I felt like it was time to let you know some things son, things that only a father and a son can share.”
It was those secrets that Tim’s father gave to him as a birthday gift which forever changed the chemistry of their relationship and forced them into an even unhealthier bond than before.
They stayed silent for the rest of the ten minute drive back to the cabin. This time when Tim got out of the car, he made sure he grabbed the rifle first. He would no longer leave the thing out of his sight, at least until he was sure he had finally gained the trust of his two new brothers.
Brothers, he loved the sound of that word. Whenever Tim escaped into his fantasyland nowadays he always had a sibling there to keep him company. When he was a kid he always wanted a little brother or sister but then the yearning went away until recently. His life would have been so much different if he had someone else to share the burden and experience of life being a Muntkey with.
He went over to the passenger side door, opened it and led Howie back into the cabin, holding the rope which bound his hands as if it were a leash and the man attached a dog. “I bet you’re really hungry about now, huh?” Tim asked as he opened the door and led them inside.
“Nick, we’re home!” He shouted as he turned towards Howie, grabbed out his pocket knife and held out his hands, “I am going to cut the ropes off. Do not try to run, I think you figured out by now there’s nowhere to go.”
Howie had a dejected look on his face as he nodded and Tim had a quick flashback of Candice. They shared the same look of quiet defeat. This thought both saddened and excited him.
“Where’s Nicky?” Howie asked in a sad whisper.
“He’s in the bedroom sleeping. You can go say hello to him if you want while I make us some dinner.” He watched as Howie messaged his wrists and slowly made his way towards the bedroom. “I have some frozen pizzas and I bought us a carrot cake for dessert. I know it’s after midnight but that’s okay, it’s a special occasion. Today is my birthday!”
He was a little hurt when Howie didn’t say anything at all. It was like he didn’t even hear what Tim had said. He thought he’d at least wish him a happy birthday but he probably just felt bad because he didn’t get him a present or anything. “Don’t worry Howie, I didn’t expect you to get me anything!”
Howie walked into the bedroom and Tim followed. He stood in the doorway and watched as His new brother let out a little gasp and made his way next to the bed Nick was sound asleep on. “Well, I’m going to leave you guys alone for a little bit. I’ll let you out, when it’s time to eat.”
Howie sat on the bed beside Nick and then turned to look at Tim, he had the absolute saddest expression on his face. “Cheer up man, things will get better!” He gave a nice big reassuring smile and then closed and padlocked the bedroom door.
This would be his fourth most memorable birthday ever! Getting two new brothers as his present would make what he had to do after they all ate birthday cake, worth it. He wouldn’t tell Howie or Nick because he knew there would be no way they would ever forgive him, but it had to be done. Those other friends of theirs were too much of a liability now. They had seen his face, new his name. He only brought them stuff to make his new baby brother think he cared, but he didn’t. Tim decided that on his forty seventh birthday he would have to kill again. It was with that thought in his head he started to whistle “Happy Birthday” and put his frozen pizzas in the oven.