The plot thickens. Randall
Brian was wedged between Dee and Michael in the backseat of his mother's station wagon. His father was driving, his mother sat up front with her husband, and Claire, the spoiled bitch, had been allowed to stay home. To fuck her boyfriend, Brian suspected, although she claimed the country aggravated her allergies. Michael was pissed that Dee had been invited and Jack Kinney was embarrassing Brian with constant references to his 'pretty girlfriend'. When she was not within hearing distance, Jack told his son how 'hot' black 'chicks' are. Brian wanted to flatten him. Midway to the farm, his mother leaned across the seat and said,
"Michael, do you need another Dramamine?"
Brian glanced at Dee. "He gets carsick," he explained with a smirk, imitating a gagging man.
Michael glared at him. "I do not! I just...my equilibrium gets knocked off by the motion. I'm fine, Mrs. Kinney."
"Just don't blow your cookies in my car," Jack warned him. "Or you'll be tied to the top for the rest of the trip."
Michael winced, not sure if he was kidding or not. "I'm fine, Mr. Kinney." He drove an elbow into Brian's side as his friend laughed and shoved him back. Dee put her hand on Brian's arm and shook her head like a good little mother. Brian beamed at her and covered her hand with his, a move that made Michael slump lower in his seat and puff out his lip in a pout.
The suburban landscape gave way to empty lands interspersed with farmhouses and outbuildings and animals grazing in fields. Brian knew this drive so well. Every Christmas they loaded up the station wagon and drove through whatever inclement weather inflicted Pennsylvania to spend the holidays with his grandparents and his father's rollicking extended family. His mother was always tense. She hated being trapped in such close quarters with so many hard drinking and quarrelsome Irishmen. She would be stuck in the kitchen with the other women, constantly cooking for this crew, while the men got progressively more drunk and less civil.
Brian liked these visits, not only because he inevitably saw a fight break out among the five Kinney brothers, or a catfight among their various wives, but because he loved seeing his grandparents who favored him above all the cousins. His grandmother always decorated the house with cheerful Christmas reminders that his mother considered tacky. Brian enjoyed the plastic Santa Claus on the front drive that lit up to welcome visitors, the bubble lights and tinsel on the tree, the manger scene on the coffee table that fell victim to one less sheep or one less angel with each successive Christmas brawl.
She even had Spode Christmas china featuring a Christmas tree on each plate. The bathroom towels had a Christmas motif and the fireplaces were littered with the old stockings the Kinney boys used as children, as well as newer ones for each grandchild. His grandmother knitted them herself from red and green wool with the name embroidered at the top and a felt Christmas tree decorated with spangles in the center. Brian liked being united occasionally with his cousins, the gender split slightly more male than female. They ranged in ages from two years older than Claire, despite the fact Jack was the oldest boy, to the annual baby his brother Brian, the one for whom Brian had been named, inflicted on his poor, long suffering wife. If there was one role model the younger Brian didn't want to emulate, it was his overly productive Uncle B.
A cluster of boys close to Brian in age were his cohorts at these events and they slept dorm room style, boy cousins in one room, girl cousins in another, four to a bed with sleeping bags and pallets accommodating the others. The boys terrorized the girls, but they all looked forward to the last minute arrival of his uncle Aidan. Aidan was the one brother Brian DID want to emulate. The youngest in the lot, he was only thirteen years older than Brian, so he seemed more like a cousin than an uncle. He was also single, had a cool job running a disco in Philadelphia, and drove a Corvette. Everyone said Brian looked just like his uncle Aidan, which he considered a compliment, although Jack found it insulting for his only son to be compared to a brother he dismissed as a ne'er do well.
Aidan was still cool to the cousins, talking to them about sex, drugs and the beauty of the big city. He introduced Brian, along with a few others, to his first joint behind the barn when Brian was twelve, and showed him he didn't have to grow up to be a drudge like every other man in the family.
The year before his first of Brian's grandparents died, there was a scandal in the disco in Philadelphia. Brian never heard the whole story, just bits and pieces concerning drug trafficking and sex involving a minor girl. Aidan was not featured in the scandal, was never arrested, but he lost his job when the club closed. He came "home" to get his head together. That process was prolonged by the sequential deaths of his parents, and then the distressing news that Jack had been left the farm. Aidan declared he wouldn't stay, but he did, running the place for free rent and a pittance of a salary. He lost his Corvette to repossession and was driving his father's rusted out Ford truck instead. Jack was thrilled to have his golden little brother, the handsome one, the charming one, the FREE one, under his thumb, and he never missed a chance to make his life a bit more miserable.
Now he was selling the farm out from under Aidan and when Brian asked what would happen to his uncle, he was informed by his smirking father that Aidan would have to go out and get a real job like everyone else.
Strange how Brian's happiest memories, those of Christmases past, merged into his most painful memories, of times when death and bad luck took away the childhood wonder and left him with his earliest feelings of cynicism.
The white rail fence that surrounded his grandfather's property began to appear beside the road, and Brian felt a tug of discomfort and nostalgic pain. A For Sale sign with SOLD bannered across it added to his blues. Dee gave his hand a comforting squeeze. He smiled at her, glad he asked her along. She intuitively seemed to know when he needed reassurance.
Driving up to the farmhouse, Brian took in the huge elm tree with the tire swing on a rope they all played on as kids. The big barn, slightly weathered, was in need of a fresh coat of paint, something his grandfather would never have let happen. Rolls of grain in wired bundles like huge bales of shredded wheat were stacked in the fields to be stored for winter.
Finally, the house was visible from the road. Half stone, half timber, with forest green shutters and two brick chimneys, it was a large, sprawling building dating back over one hundred years to when it's original foundation was laid It was fronted by a wrap around porch with wicker furnishings. His grandmother's vegetable garden was still well tended in back.
"It's beautiful," Dee enthused, but Brian's father laughed.
"Useless big old barn of a place. Always cold, summer or winter. You do the chores that need doing around here, little lady, and see how fast you'd move your butt back to the city."
"Dad!" Brian complained and Dee smiled as if to say it didn't matter.
After being shown to rooms, Michael and Brian were sharing the attic while Dee had a guest room on the second floor, they met downstairs to explore the farm while Brian's parents unpacked. It was a glorious Indian Summer evening, except for Michael, whose allergies were tormenting him. Dee was drawn to the horses, explaining she was an expert rider. Brian said he was pretty good himself, but Michael was terrified of the animals. They agreed to ride tomorrow, when they could get an earlier start. Michael frowned at them.
"What am I supposed to do?"
"Sorry, Mikey," Brian said with a smile. "The old Shetland pony grandpa kept for the little kids finally died last year."
Dee giggled as Michael glared at him. "Very funny. I am so NOT sitting around with your parents while you two go out riding."
"You can ride behind me, Mikey," Dee suggested and he glared at her.
"No thanks, and it's MICHAEL."
"You kids stand together, let me get a picture of you," Brian's mother suddenly interrupted, camera in hand. Brian stood between his two friends, an arm stretched over each of them. "Don't go too far. We'll eat as soon as your Uncle Aidan gets here."
Brian watched his mother leave, then heard Dee call out to him. "Brian! Look at me!" She was standing on the broad back of a grazing horse. Michael made some crack about showing off, but Brian ran over to her, determined to break her inevitable fall when the horse began walking. She did just that and they rolled over in the grass, laughing, before he kissed her gently.
"Are you nuts?" he whispered and she laughed.
"You could have been hurt."
"I knew you wouldn't let me get hurt."
"Now I really DO need Dramamine," Michael groused as a long shadow was thrown over the couple by an intruder into their scene.
" 'What though the radiance which was once so bright, be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower.'"
They all looked up at the tall, lanky figure of Aidan Kinney. He wore faded jeans, a turtleneck sweater and boots. At thirty, his handsome face was just reaching its peak and his similarity to Brian was shocking. The same eyes, classic nose, full lips and chestnut hair. It was as if they were looking at Brian in thirteen years, as a fully realized man, and the impact was jarring. "Wordsworth," he said simply, his eyes fixed on Dee as he inhaled from a filtered cigarette.
Michael stared at him, transfixed. Lust at first sight. Aidan didn't even notice Michael was there until he spoke. "Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood! Splendor in the Grass. I love that old movie!"
Aidan glanced at Michael as if he had suddenly been dropped into their midst from the sky. "It's poetry, bro'. Try opening a book sometime."
Brian and Dee got up and he introduced his favorite uncle to his friends. "You two look just alike," Dee said and Aidan smiled.
"Brian's my love child. His mother broke me in when I was thirteen."
"Gross!" Brian said with a wince, wishing it were true.
Aidan slung an arm over his nephew's shoulders. "Well, we got the looks in the Kinney family, which isn't saying much. Shit, you're as tall as I am, finally. How tall?"
"Yep, exactly. Your mom sent me out here to fetch you kiddies. Dinner is served."
As they walked back, Aidan kept his arm over Brian's shoulders, lagging the other two. "She's hot. Your girl?"
"Yeah, well, sort of."
"What's the hesitation?"
Brian shrugged, unable to tell his uncle he wasn't sure if girls were what motivated him sexually. In fact, he was almost sure they were not, and that Dee was an anomaly. His uncle smiled at his ambivalence. "Keep your options open. Smart boy. Don't fall for the baby trap like so many Micks do. One day you're free, the next you have Irish twins, two babies less than a year apart."
"How did you escape it, Aidan?"
"Just careful, I guess," he said with a shrug. "Your old man should be horse whipped for selling the old homestead," he added and Brian nodded.
"I tried to tell him not to do it, but you know how he is. Stubborn."
"More than that. He's a mean son of a bitch. Always has been."
"Yeah," Brian wasn't going to defend his father. "What will you do?"
"I don't know, kiddo. I guess I'll find some fine lady to support me. If she pays me by the inch, I'll do ok," he teased, glancing down at Brian's crotch. "You inherit the package too?"
"Aidan!" Brian blushed as his uncle laughed and they entered the house together.
At Woody's, Brian returned from a quick trip to the men's room to offload some beer. He found Dee staring wistfully at the tabletop, her mind far away from this homey little bar in Pittsburgh. He slid in across from her and she looked up with a tense smile.
"Whatever happened to your uncle Aidan, Brian? We met him that time at the farm. When I first saw you tonight, I was stunned by how much you resemble him. In fact, I did a double take, but then I reminded myself that Aidan was not thirty anymore, not frozen in time,"
"Actually, he is," Brian said softly.
"What do you mean?"
"After my Dad sold the farm, Aidan drifted. He took different odd jobs. He was always unhappy, seeking. One night just before Christmas of that same year you met him, he disappeared. Poof, he was gone. Maybe he was killed, I don't know. My dad thinks he was involved in dealing, but I don't agree. He thought he was at the bottom of some river, that a dealer or a jealous husband took him out. I don't agree. I was mad at him for disappearing the way he did. Plenty of times I would like to have talked to him, but I never tried to hunt him down. If he wanted to be gone that badly, then let him be gone," Brian sighed. "So for us, he's frozen at that same age he was when he left. About the age I am now."
She looked stunned by that news, leaning back and staring hard at his face. "I had no idea."
"Why would you know?" He hesitated. "Or care. You just met him the once."
She shook her head, taking a moment to calm herself before she spoke. "He made quite an impression on me."
Brian smiled slightly. "Apparently Aidan made quite an impression on lots of women."
"I don't mean that way," she snapped. "How well did you know him, Brian? He was a gentle, lonely man."
He winced at that. "Aidan? He was a ladies' man, Dee. He had tons of women, calling him, hanging around him. How lonely could he be?"
"Very, if none of them meant anything to him."
Brian thought of his life before Justin and sighed. "I guess, but how did you learn these depths about my uncle in one brief meeting?"
"It wasn't one brief meeting, it was over the course of a few days," she said defensively, and Brian frowned, beginning to feel uneasy.
"Ok, even then. What's the story? Did you have a secret crush on him or something?"
He covered her hand with his, urging her to look up at him. "What is it, Dee? What are you not saying?"
She squeezed his hand tightly. "Brian, Mick is Aidan's son."
He stared at her as if trying to discern if she was making a bad joke and then decided she wasn't. He released her hand, feeling an unreasonable surge of jealousy and betrayal, so long after the fact of their relationship that it made no sense. "Bullshit."
"I wish it were."
"But we...we did it."
"I know. Much later. I was already late when we had sex, Brian. I had a suspicion that I was pregnant. "
"Then why...what the FUCK?"
She sighed, thinking back to that time, trying to find the words to make him understand. She had a hard enough time making herself understand what happened with Aidan at the farm, so explaining it to Brian or anyone else was going to be difficult.
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July 25, 2004