Content Warning: This chapter contains images which may be disturbing for some.
Trigger Warning: Depression/suicidal thoughts. Please be advised.
Tony watched as the water rushed beneath the bridge, churning around rocks and slapping against a tree branch. If he tried really hard, he could imagine himself immersed in its icy depths, closing his eyes, surrendering everything to it as it washed him downstream… washed him clean again.
Coming to his senses, he took a step back, away from the edge. It would have been all too easy to let himself go. All he wanted was a way out.
Sighing deeply, his shoulders slumped forward, he shuffled toward town, kicking a pebble here and there, not really caring where he ended up.
After a time, he found himself in the park near his home. Sitting on the bench of a picnic table, he watched as happy people picnicked and lovers whispered to one another. They seemed to be in a different world than he was. Their lives were sunny and warm.
His was bleak… muted and cold.
No one noticed Tony even though he was watching them. He was that kind of person. Nondescript brown hair, a bland face. He was a nobody.
Finally, he went home and hesitated outside. It seemed that in his memory, his childhood home was once brighter and full of life. His parents had been together then, his mother alive. No one knew where his father was; he’d been gone seven years now.
The bushes were overgrown, wildly sprouting their branches through the railing on the porch. The paint was chipped and flaking away from the house as if it didn’t want to be there anymore either.
The rockers that once held his parents as they chatted and drank coffee were now falling apart like everything else.
Old and worn. That’s how Tony felt even though he was only twenty years old.
He cringed as his older brother Jay came in downstairs. Quickly washing his face and hands, he came downstairs, too. It was almost supper time.
“I’ll be right down!” his sister Andie called from her room. She was on the computer as usual doing who knew what.
“Canned soup again?” Jay demanded, his eyes fiery, his temper hot as usual.
“Hmmm…. I guess you could always take over the cooking,” Andie said, not even pretending she cared.
Tony ducked his head down and continued to eat as Jay muttered obscenities under his breath. He could only hope the too salty soup would go down quickly so he could avoid being near these people.
As soon as he was finished, he cleared all of their dishes and began to wash them. No one had to ask him to do it and no one would thank him for his effort. But doing the dishes himself was better than hearing his siblings fight over who was going to clean up.
“You’re going out again tonight?” Andie yelled.
“What’s it to you? You like to have a place to live and clothes to wear, so, yeah, I’m going out. Don’t be ungrateful,” Jay snarled. “Hurry up, Tony! You’re riding shotgun!”
Tony’s body trembled as he said, “B-but I have stuff to do.”
“You don’t have anything to do that’s more important than this,” Jay hissed.
“Hurry up and get outside to the car. I don’t have all night!”
“I – I can’t – ” Tony started to protest.
“- Will you just go with him so he’ll shut the hell up?” Andie yelled, her voice rising to an alarming pitch.
If only Tony could have thought of an excuse they would buy. If only it hadn’t been so hard for him to think on his feet, perhaps a good reason would have presented itself.
As it was, he had no justification to skip out on his older brother. Meekly, he went outside, shuffling his feet. The door of the old piece of junk car squeaked loudly as he opened it and climbed in. The dull brown interior smelled of old fast food and cigarette smoke.
“When we get there, you keep your mouth shut.”
Tony didn’t need the instructions because it was always obvious to him that if he spoke around his brother, he would either be humiliated or smacked. Instead, he buckled his seat belt and gripped the door tightly with his right hand.
Jay was a careless driver. He purposely swerved toward oncoming cars, laughing maniacally and sneering as Tony’s face turned white. He supposed Tony should have been used to his driving by now, but since he wasn’t, it was fun to scare him.
Jay enjoyed chasing bicyclists, too, coming close to them at high speeds. Sometimes the poor cyclist would swerve into the ditch or into the bushes and that would send Jay into fits of laughter that made Tony certain his brother was insane.
At last, they pulled up to another junky car. Tony looked away as windows were rolled down and items were passed back and forth.
Jay never seemed to worry about the local police. To the contrary, he thought of himself as invincible and above the law. This was his town. He was in charge.
Almost as soon as they stopped for the deal, they were off again. Tony gripped the door harder, his knuckles turning white as at the last second, Jay decided to turn left at an intersection.
The small car lurched and jerked forward with Jay barely slowing the vehicle down. He was laughing so hard, he didn’t see the truck.
But the truck was the last thing Tony saw.
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading! As you may have guessed, if you are a regular reader of Noble Doubt, this is a companion of Chapter 1.23 in which the main characters of that story, Leo and Jilly, are in an accident. I thought it would be interesting to find out who the other unfortunate people in the accident were. I rather feel sorry for Tony as he was a victim in all of this, too. In the end, I hope you liked this short story.