Ugh. Not again.
The thought invaded my mind as I laid on my bed. Yet another fight had broken out between my parents and my adopted brother, Jake. And of course, by “my parents” I mean my dad. I doubt my mom is doing anything except observing the byplay with a worried expression on her face, waiting to see if they’d break out into fisticuffs.
I rolled over, forcefully flattening my short locks of dirty-blonde hair against my forehead as I did so, tempted to simply pull my pillow over my head and forget the world. Being Finnick Elhan really sucked at the moment.
A few months ago, fights like the one I heard going on downstairs were non-existent. Occasional shouting matches happened, of course. You can’t live with your family and not have one of those every once in a while. But ever since Jake had an extremely unlucky series of accidents driving the family car last September, my dad has been constantly on his case.
I remember each incident vividly, unable to clear the images out of my head anytime a fight between Dad and Jake rears its ugly head. For two weeks of autumn, there must have been some warped kind of magnet stuck on our car, attracting every idiot on the road. Not a single accident was Jake’s fault – a massive rear-end by a truck totaling the first one on the highway,
the replacement getting broad-sided at just the right angle in an intersection to unseat the engine and completely destroy it while it bounced around inside the engine compartment…
…accidents like that kept happening to replacement vehicles, until before our family realized, four cars had been wrecked while Jake was driving. He was never seriously injured in any of the accidents – until the last one.
Two broken legs, a broken arm, a cracked skull, and a punctured kidney nearly left him dead, but he came through. My parents were as relieved as I was at his survival, but our family’s insurance company had predictably dropped us after the second complete wreck in a row, let alone the fourth, and already-extant money problems got worse as bills piled up from five car payments a month – four for the wrecks, one for the car we currently have, and no insurance to back us up. Adding the back-pay of the hospital bills was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back in a family that didn’t have many extra funds to begin with.
As soon as I realized exactly how dire our situation was, I went out and got a job to help make ends meet while attending High School. Even with me helping, the bills never seemed to end. All four of us were worn down by stress in the weeks and months following Jake’s recovery; Dad got angry much more easily, Mom started getting depressed, Jake himself was nearly constantly in pain and moody as all get out, and I was just utterly exhausted every week day after seven hours of school, five hours of work, and infinite hours of dealing with this crap.
At that point, I thought we’d all hit rock bottom, but then the fights started; explosive shouting matches that sometimes even got physical. It seemed unimaginable to me the first time it did get physical – I froze in horror as my Dad and Jake started hitting each other, vicious blows that made it look, at the time, like they were trying to kill each other. After Mom and I pulled them apart and they had the opportunity to cool down, they both apologized, but they never acted quite the same around each other after that first time.
The current fight, at least, seemed to have ended without coming to blows. Jake’s high tenor voice was no longer raised and my dad’s quiet footsteps retreated up the stairs and past my door in the hallway. Suddenly –
– WHAM –
The sound of a door slamming shut. I winced. All this because of money? I sighed in disgust and turned over again.
There came a soft knock at the door. I wondered if I should ignore it, pretend I was asleep. I knew the person at my door was either Mom or Jake – Jake would need me to cool off his temper, lest he be tempted to go back after Dad to continue their match, and Mom would need comforting from the only non-pissed person in the household besides herself.
Groaning, I got up off my bed, glancing in my wall-hanging mirror as I crossed the short distance to my door. In my highly professional and unquestionable opinion, I looked like hell – green eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, dirty-blonde hair unkempt and heading straight towards just flat-out dirty, rumpled shirt and jeans that were beginning to smell, and a distinct lack of anything resembling energy in my 5’7″ frame. I had a flat stare on my face as I opened the door, which rapidly became less flat when I saw it was Mom standing in the doorway. She looked worse than I did, in some respects – auburn hair and business casual clothes perfectly neat, but with green eyes, eyes that matched my own, downcast and shoulders slumped in defeat.
Seeing her like this always made me angry – angry at Dad for not being there for her, angry at Jake for not trying to be less of a heel to Dad, angry at the world for wrecking four of our cars. I was used to this anger, burning hot in my chest, and shoving it down so I could make my mom feel better and not be just another ball of rage in her life, but something was different today. Maybe I’d finally hit my limit. Maybe I’d had an epiphany. My head was pounding, and it was all I could do to not slam the door in Mom’s face and start screeching and utterly shredding a pillow or five.
Taking a deep breath, I stood for a second as I let my emotions swirl around inside me, trying to find an equilibrium. That equilibrium came as a plan formulated in my head – a half-cocked one, to be sure, but I was done with this entire situation. Pulling my mother into a fierce hug, I muttered, “Stay here. I’ll be right back,” and turned and left my room.
I knew exactly where Jake would go after one of his fights with Dad – neither would be on the same floor of the house, so I immediately rushed down the stairs to the kitchen. There he was, resplendent in tan khakis and a red T-shirt, his face still flushed from the fight, fire in his blue eyes as his slight, 5’5″ figure shook with both rage and pain. His near shoulder-length red hair shook along with him as he clutched his lower abdomen, right near where his kidney had been removed. I walked, slowly and deliberately, and when I was within three feet of him he finally looked up. I spoke, “You, me, and Dad are going to have a talk. Right now.” It came out far colder than I thought I was capable of making my voice, but that minor surprise was filed away for later.
Jake’s face twisted. “The last thing I want to do right now is talk to that assh – ” I’d waited for him to have his complete attention on me before I threw the first punch, aiming very deliberately away from his abdomen, towards his shoulder and face. His eyes widening, he reacted in time to block my single strike using his free forearm, but in so doing instinctively shifted his body weight and stance to block more blows heading for the same place. I sucker punched him right in his surgical scars, and he doubled over, wheezing from the pain. I grabbed him forcefully under his arm and bodily shoved him towards the stairs, keeping a grip so he wouldn’t fall over. “I said, we’re going to talk to Dad. Now climb.” I hissed, the cold voice not my own returning as I started half-dragging, half-kicking Jake up the stairs.
Hearing the slight commotion on the stairwell, my mother had come back out of my room, surprised to see Jake in such a state as I frogmarched him down the hallway while making sure he didn’t fall over. I put on the most genuine smile I could muster. “Hey Mom, I’m still not done yet. Hold on for another second or two.” She looked rather taken aback as I grit my teeth and almost body-checked Jake to keep him both moving and off the floor. We passed her in short order as she gaped at us and then we were at Dad’s door. I called out, not really having to fake the strain in my voice, “Hey, Dad? Can you help me with this for a sec? Mom wanted that old box of tools down in the basement moved up here.” The fact that the box actually existed and she did want those tools moved, had talked about it, even, helped my case. Jake, still wheezing at my side, gave me an incredulous stare as Dad’s footsteps neared the door. When it opened, he barely had time to react as I heaved again, throwing all of Jake’s weight on him and shoving forwards with everything I had. Brown eyes widening beneath dirty blonde bangs, Dad collapsed backwards into the room in a heap of limbs with a hollered curse and Jake. I quickly sidestepped their mess into the room with them and slammed the door shut, locking it from the inside in one fluid motion. I turned to them as they started to untangle themselves, Dad doing most of the work as Jake was still gasping for breath after the abuse I’d heaped on him. Standing, he looked back and forth between me and Jake, shock on his face and a question on his lips, “Fin? What are you doing?”
At that question, my rage exploded again. “WHAT AM I DOING? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU CHILDISH PIECES OF – ”
The next hour passed in a red haze for me. I don’t think I have ever been that angry, before or since. Apparently, snapping at that moment was a good thing overall, as both Dad and Jake seemed rooted, stuck to the same spot of floor throughout my lurid, seething, raving rant as I dressed down their actions for the past several months. Dad looked like he might be about to try to respond once or twice, near the beginning, and all I did was get louder. When I was done, voice hoarse and wrecked, them staring at me in stunned awe, I gave both of them one last contemptuous glare, unlocked the door, and walked out into the hallway, softly closing the door behind me. Predictably, my mother was there, holding a handkerchief to wipe her tears away as they fell down her face, but she was smiling. I gave a weak smile back, and croaked, “I think I’m going to bed now. See you in the morning.” Giving her one last hug, I did exactly that.
It’s always the quiet ones.
When I first started making this, I had no idea what it was going to end up looking like. I originally had a bunch of notes I’d gotten from just typing at the screen in free thought, and then threw most of those out the window by the end of two hours. I made the conscious choice to build a narrative first and then make media to fit the narrative – I’m much more flexible with words, character descriptions and moods than I am with the kind of digital media we’ve been experimenting with for the class, so this made sense to me. The 2 visual pieces I included in the story weren’t really inspired by any ds106 assignments to my knowledge – it simply seemed like a good fit to put images of wrecked cars into the reader’s mind when describing exactly how they got wrecked. If I were more of an artist, I would have likely drawn the main character at the very least to provide a visual of the one person giving the narrative.
Second image came from here. I had the link to the first image, but my computer crashed in the middle of editing and I hadn’t saved the text document that contained it yet.
As for the audio story in the assignment, it details the hospital trip Jake takes, though by necessity it skips very quickly through his recovery phase and has him in a car and headed home by the end of it. I tried to make this entire family of fictional characters come to life instead of just the one dictated by the assignment, and even though the digital media portion of the narrative suffered for it, I’m more than satisfied with the result. The list of audio effects I used are as follows:
Heart Machine (steady to flatline)
Automatic Hospital Bed (moving around recorvery room)
Hospital Waiting Room
Operating Room sounds
Car Door Open/Close:
Beyond that, everything else was original – I thought up the characters, the scenarios, the sequence of events that lead from A to B, and I arrived at B with my head intact, mostly. I originally thought there was going to be no happy ending, and I was right – even though my main character Finnick Elhan forcibly patched things up with his family, they’re still in an economic morass the way that I’ve set up the story. One can hope they make it out with hard-fought solidarity now.