When they arrived home four hours later, Kori was pacing the kitchen, mad as a wasp and she circled them just as succinctly.
“Where the hell’ve you been?” she demanded of Avery. “And what the hell do you think you’re doing driving Mom’s car? With Gil in it, for God sakes.”
Avery didn’t answer. He walked to the side of the van and slid the door open to reveal the prone body of the newest Tirabi. Gil ran to Kori’s side, grabbing her hand and pulling her over to the van for a closer look. Kori’s face contorted when she glimpsed what was in the back seat.
“Oh, no. No way! We’ve got enough to take care of. She shook her head, refusing to look at the animal.
“Kori, please! Max’s hurt and he’s got nowhere to go.” Gil begged.
“Max! You’ve named him already?” Kori demanded. Gil nodded. Avery looked the other away. “Who’s gonna walk him? Feed him? Pick up his poop?” Kori asked.
“I will,” Gil responded.
“You? You can’t even take care of yourself.”
“Hey, shut up! What’s the matter with you?” Avery said. His eyes smoldered in Kori’s direction, but she met his gaze with equal force.
“We don’t need another dog. I’ve got more than I can handle now.”
“But we do,” Gil protested. “For protection and stuff.”
“No. What we need is for you to get this… thing out of here. Now.”
Gil stomped his foot like an angry colt and stared at his sister. “I hate you, Kori!” He ran to the house and turned, hand on the doorknob, eyes alight with a vortex of unexpressed emotions. “You killed ZiZi, and now you’re going to kill Max, you, you…dog-killer!
He stormed into the house slamming the door so hard the glass rattled in its pane. Avery snorted and shot her a look of disgust before striding into the house after Gil.
Kori stood immobile in the driveway, her breath coming in short quick bursts. Overwhelmed with the weight of her decisions and the lives that depended on them, she dropped to the ground, hung her head in her hands and cried, letting the panic of the last few months gush out like water from an open hydrant. Spent, she stood and braced herself, then walked over to Max who was licking his wounded hip. She sniffed the air and retreated. Max hadn’t had a bath in a while. She reached out a tentative hand and touched the matted fur. He ceased his ministrations and raised a cold nose to her hand which she grabbed reflexively.
“I can’t take care of you.” She tugged his nose and gave it a pat. “I’m sorry.”
A low, piercing moan emitted from Max’s larynx followed by one of a deeper and more menacing pitch through the living room window. Kori looked up in fear. She’d heard that sound before and it could only mean one thing.
“Oh, no.” She ran inside to find Gil on the living room floor, kicking and thrashing at his invisible demons. Avery, responding to the same guttural sounds, ran down the stairs, and seeing Gil’s violent explosion, sprung over the bannister and into the living room with one movement. A flailing Gil threw himself into the leg of the coffee table, banging his head with a whack. Kori stood watching, open-mouthed and helpless.
“Don’t just stand there,” Avery shouted. “Help me hold him.” Avery straddled Gil, restraining his shoulders and turning him on his side. He talked in the soothing tones reserved for a skittish animal. “It’s alright, buddy. You’re alright. Just relax.”
Gil was unresponsive and unwittingly tried to break free of Avery’s grasp, rolling his shoulders and kicking his feet. His eyes fluttered open for a brief instant, then closed to half-mast. He rocked and bucked while Avery sat astride him like a rodeo cowboy. Kori dropped to the floor, entranced by the spectacle.
“Noooooooo,” Gil yelled to the room. “Nooooooo.”
“Kori, Goddamn it. Help me get him on his side,” Avery shouted as Gil wrenched from his grip. “What the heck’s the matter with you.” Kori snapped to life and crawled to them. Gil threw his arced arm into the air and it hit Kori square in the head, knocking her to the ground and taking her breath away. She lay there stunned. Avery wrestled with Gil and spoke to Kori without turning.
“Are you alright?” Kori did not respond. Gil was getting the upper hand in the struggle and Avery couldn’t afford to stop and look at her. “Kori! Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m alright,” she said, rising to her knees. She rubbed her head and winced.
Avery had Gil on his side with Gil’s arms locked on either side by the sheer force of Avery’s leg strength. At each attempt to move, Avery clamped tighter. He turned to see Kori kneeling at Gil’s feet.
“Bend his upper leg,” Avery said. She looked up at him with pale, unseeing eyes so he explained. “For circulation.” She nodded, her usually sanguine complexion gone white.
“Get me a pillow,” said Avery. “And a towel.”
Kori threw him a couch pillow and ran to the kitchen for a dish towel. Avery wrapped the pillow in the towel and put it under Gil’s head. Gil had fallen asleep and was snoring. He choked, then coughed, interrupting the sonorous rhythm. Spittle mixed with phlegm ran out of the side of his mouth onto the dishtowel. After a few more cacophonous moments of coughing and throat clearing, he lapsed back into a deep sleep, the snoring marking his passage.
“Go call the doctor,” Avery whispered to Kori.
She didn’t move, but watched Gil sleep, his breathing in rhythm with her own. Avery snapped his fingers in her face. She stood and wobbled to the kitchen holding her head as if she were the one that just had a seizure.
Avery relaxed his leg grip. Gil snored and shifted positions, but did not wake. Avery rubbed Gil’s back in long, slow strokes and spoke softly to him. “It’s alright, buddy. I’m here.”
Kori returned after several minutes, more composed. “The doctor said if he’s sleeping, just let him be and to move anything he could bang his head on in case he has another attack.” Kori moved the coffee table, one end at a time, out of harm’s reach. “He’s sending an ambulance.” She grabbed a blanket off the couch and draped it over Gil. “Maybe he’ll sleep it off.”
She slumped down next to Gil and rubbed his head. “Did he take his meds today?” Avery nodded and Kori ran her hands tenderly through Gil’s hair.
“I’m sorry I was so useless. I never did this before.”
“What?! How is that possible when you live with an epileptic?” Avery asked, staring.
“Mom or Dad was always there,” she said. “They always told me to go away.”
“They never did that to me,” he said. “I think I was eight or nine the first time I saw him do it,” Avery said, no trace of malice. He released his leg hold on Gil whose snoring had reached epic proportions, and sat, cross-legged behind his brother. He grabbed a pillow off the couch and propped it behind Gil’s back, then laid down behind him.
“You can go. I’ll stay with him,” Avery said.
Kori shook her head. The whole episode had rattled her more than she cared to admit, but she sat down anyway. “I’ll stay, too.” She tucked the blanket under Gil’s chin.
“Avery, what were you thinking taking Mom’s car? And that…. ” she nodded in the direction of Max outside.
“I took a look at the checkbook. I know it’s not like you said. We need money, Kori.”
Kori folded her hands to hide the fact that they were trembling.
“Hey. It’s not your fault,” Avery said. “Just bad luck. I mean, how many kids our age have gone through half the stuff we’ve been through in the last two months. This stuff’s not normal.” He said the last bit with an air of authority that made Kori burst into giggles.
“What’s so funny?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. Everything.” She sighed and turned her neck from side to side, working the kinks out. “You’re right. We do need money. But you can’t work for it. You need a scholarship…”
“Stop, already. You’re not telling me something I don’t know. It’s just that if we starve to death, I’m not going to be able to make much use of a scholarship, will I?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not going to starve to death.”
“I know that. But we could lose our house. And maybe get split up. What would that do to Gil?” They looked in unison at their brother.
“The house is paid for. They bought it outright with money from one of Dad’s inventions. We’ll always have a place to live.”
“Yeah, but we’ll soon have taxes to pay. And then there’s everything else.”
“I’ve got some new clients. Robbie said he’d send money. And we should be getting the insurance money soon. As soon as they finish the investigation…”
“I wish they would have planned better,” Avery said.
“They probably thought there was time.” Kori said. “All Dad needed was one big invention….” She ran a finger up and down the carpet pile, a sad, strange look on her face.
“There’s thousands of dollars sitting out back,” Avery said. “It could hold us over.”
Kori walked to the window. The landfill sat off in the distance shrouded by trees. Patches of corn, grown in rotation to keep the soil healthy, dotted the landscape. A dozen dairy cows walked single file along a fence playing a game of follow the leader. “We can’t be sure that it’s not all connected, Avery. The porch. The oil. And if it is, we’ll put ourselves in danger again.” She stared out the window. Choice had immobilized her.
“No we won’t. I’ll limit my sales to one customer.”
“No,” she whispered, kneeling down next to him. Gil snorted, but did not wake.
“We’ll figure something else out.” Kori smiled, hoping she appeared confident. “We’ll wait. Something’ll come along. You’ll see.” She smiled and squeezed his hand.
“Alright,” he said. “But in the meantime, can I drive?
to be continued. . ..
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