Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ugly Duckling Becomes Beautiful

The snow, which had been falling thickly and consistently for two days straight since the nuclear winter had erupted from the fallout from the battle with the Russians, had forced all of the schools to close. Warren’s brother, who he had not spoken to in almost four years, had called him earlier that morning (waking him out of a drunken slumber) and asked if he would watch his kids. Warren had never really had any contact with the older one, and didn’t even know the younger one existed until a Facebook post had alerted him to her presence. But, as was common among Warren’s family, he was always left on the outskirts of family business. He was the troubled child. Warren just continued to make his bad decisions and live his awful life while his brother had a fancy house and a hot (recently deceased) wife and kids while his younger sister lived out in Oregon with her doctor hubby.

His father had never cared for Warren. He always favored his older brother more, he was always the handsome one, his brother was the big football star, his brother never did drugs or drank or had wild parties. Warren’s mother had loved him for as long as he could remember, and he suspected it was his father’s doing that forced her to stop. They had stopped sending him checks, had stopped calling him. As far as Warren was concerned, he had no parents.

While driving to his brother’s house, trying to keep his 1999 Mercury Mountaineer from sliding off the road into a ditch or something, Warren considered letting go of the steering wheel and letting the car follow its natural course. He wondered if he would go into a ditch, or hit oncoming traffic. Maybe nothing would happen; maybe he would just roll aimlessly until he gently stopped. Ultimately, though, Warren decided that he shouldn’t do such a thing to his nieces, leave them without a sitter for the day, and drove to his brother’s house without incident.

When he got there, the snow had forced his brother to try and push his fancy Mercedes out of a snow bank, and Warren helped his older brother do so successfully, later waving a curt goodbye as he sped off down the street, late for work. He got his tattered old copy of Moby Dick, which he was reading for the billionth time since his stint in rehab, out of the Mountaineer and walked into the house.

He chatted with his nieces for a time, and found that he had something in common with both of them. The older one had a fondness for old horror movies and the younger one liked to read (even though she was four). Warren found a horror movie marathon on AMC, and they watched The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Wolfman and The Mummy and Dracula. The older one told Warren about the report she had done for English class about Bela Lugosi, the eponymous Count Dracula himself. Warren told her he would like to hear it, and she dug it out of a box (where her mother had stuffed it with various other school papers Warren’s brother and his wife did not care about) and read it to him. He thought it sounded really nice.

When the news report came on about the threat of nuclear war, Warren did not bother to look up from the Dr. Suess book he was reading to the younger one. Yertle the Freakin’ Turtle and his thirst for power were more important than the warning to stay away from windows and go into cellars. Warren listened as the older one told him about her father’s job, about how he would sit in a meeting with Mr. President himself and talk about nuclear war with the Russians.

Warren then saw a spokesperson for the government saying that they were, without another option, prepared to launch a missile at Russia, who also would surely retaliate again, but with deadlier consequence. Warren decided to help his nieces pack clothes and necessities, and would go and get his brother from his office downtown, and leave DC behind them and simply drive. With his nieces behind him and next to him, Warren drove down the street, feeling like Ahab going up against a red, white and blue whale, feeling scared and excited, thinking about how after everything was over, after all that he would do would happen, he would still be considered an ugly duckling amongst his rich, neglectful fellow swans. Warren was deciding that he had become a swan as he saw the missle in the sky, heading towards Russia.

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