The Brat looked like an excited monkey—a monkey on speed. Hopping around the kitchen with his arms flailing and flapping, he opened random cupboards and threw diner plates and bowls and cups all over the kitchen’s ceramic floor. The plates shattered like geometric violets in a hurricane. There were shards rolling as far as the living room; as far as the beds upstairs. Shards stuck inside socks and underwear tucked away in bedroom drawers. Shards jammed up the front door keyhole. Shards like replicating cancer cells itching under my shirt and pushing through my skin.
I was tense. Our current situation had tensed me up. “What the fuck are we doing here, Brat?” I asked, though I knew he couldn’t answer that question anymore. “What a colossal fucking waste of time!” I said.
“Chill out, Jude,” he said, “take a sad song and make it better, man.” He was emptying the cutlery drawers and utensil trays on the floor. I could see he was fairly pissed as well.
“For chrissake, Brat, who told you about this place? What a fucking asshole!”
“I told you already you don’t know him. It’s an acquaintance. Like I said: he used to babysit here and he said they paid him from a jar in the kitchen filled with twenties and hundreds—rainy day fund type shit.”
“Well, fuck him completely then, yes? That was maybe years ago, and who knows, maybe it’s been raining nonstop since then. Do they even still live here?”
“Hey look, they’re gone for the weekend. We agree on that?” he asked.
“And there’s no alarm system?”
“And there’s a park behind the house, like he told me? And the basement window was easy, like he told me?”
“Yes, fuck, yes,” I said.
“Then it’s the right fucking address and the right fucking people, alright.”
“No cookie jar though, Brat. No jar. No money. Isn’t that the one important fucking detail in all this?”
He was standing on the kitchen counter, kicking at the toaster and the coffee maker. “Just chill, Jude, alright. I’m not done here. And you ain’t fucking helping, man.”
I was done. “What you gonna do?” I said, sneering. “Leave with the TV?”
He grabbed an intricately decorated salad bowl and lobbed it at me. I stepped aside and watched it in motion, expanding across the floor like a frameless kaleidoscope. The last thing I did was give The Brat the finger, then I waved the finger around, saying fuck you to all of it, the house we’d just broken into, the money that wasn’t there, the bad vibe inside and the cold rain outside—all of it. The Brat smiled and returned the finger. What a fucking moron, I thought. How had I even agreed to this in the first place?
Here’s a possible answer:
When he was younger, like thirteen or fourteen, and before he met any of us, The Brat’s best friend in the whole world killed himself. As kids, they had stolen candy from the corner dépanneur (store) together, they’d gotten drunk for the first time together, smoked dope, and walked together through all those other important passageways of youth. It gave The Brat a certain hidden emotional depth—to imagine his thoughts right after it happened, to imagine his childish, untainted pain, to picture him on the bus to school the next morning, not sharing his seat with anyone, dazed by a burning loneliness, betrayed by a limited set of emotions, inadequate feelings, vertigo and nausea. Childhood’s end, you know? Somehow, it explained a lot about him, made him endearing to me. Now, though, he was pissing in the fridge.
I walked out into the rain with under my arm a nice big umbrella I’d snatched from the front door closet, thinking: hey, it wasn’t a complete loss. There was enough rain to darken the street, which then turned into a glistening mirror. I looked down and saw reflected the white orbs of the streetlamps above—a bizarre conflation of spaces—as if it didn’t matter anymore what was up and what was down. One moment I was walking upright and forward, the next I was upside down and going back. I hopped from one white star to the next, leaving The Brat farther behind with every new splash of light. I wasn’t wet from the rain, I realized. There wasn’t enough to reach through to me. I stopped and I thought about going back for The Brat, though I couldn’t understand why I thought that way. I stayed still in between two patches of light, mid-stride, and eventually just gave up. I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything that had happened that night.