Rebecca could do no wrong.
Gerald had heard about it his whole life. Rebecca got straight As. Rebecca was selected for first chair. Rebecca made the swim team.
And what had Gerald done? Nothing, according to his parents.
But Gerald had done a lot.
That morning, everything boiled over.
When Gerald came down for breakfast, there was a postcard in the middle of the kitchen table that hadn’t been there the night before. The postcard bore an illustration of a clear blue lagoon lapping against a white sand beach. It said BELIZE across the top in white letters. Rebecca was in Belize on a Peace Corps mission. She was helping Guatemalan refugees get vaccinated or something.
The postcard, and whatever news it contained, was undoubtedly the reason Gerald’s mother was flitting around the kitchen singing softly to herself. This was a bad sign, as far as Gerald was concerned. His father, too, was in a fine mood. He sat at the kitchen table, holding the folded up A-section in one hand and a slice of raisin bread toast in the other. The toast hovered just a few inches from his mouth, dripping butter and enjoying a brief respite while Father’s jaw worked the previous bite.
“Good morning, Gerald!” his mother sang. She brought him a glass of orange juice and a plate of eggs and bacon.
Gerald eyed her skeptically. “Good morning, Mother,” he said.
“Are you working today?” Father asked, his face hidden behind the newspaper.
“Yeah,” Gerald replied.
He’d long ago given up trying to convey to his parents what he did for a living, or how important it was. They didn’t understand it. They’d never understand it. That’s what happens when you’re the mechanically inclined son of a college professor and the chair of the Churchill Ladies’ Garden Club.
When Gerald told his father that he had dropped out of college after one semester, the old man’s chest caved like a birthday balloon with the air let out. Ever since Gerald was a baby, there had never been any question. It was not, “If you go to college,” but “when.”
Gerald didn’t want to disappoint his father. No child does. But he found that the small, liberal arts college where his father taught Classical History, entitling Gerald and Rebecca to free tuition, had no use for a boy whose primary hobby was taking things apart and putting them back together again. From the start, he felt awkward going to classes about philosophy and Latin. And once he discovered he could make money fixing other kids’ computers, he stopped going altogether.
So it came down to this: Gerald could be the kid who dropped out or the kid who failed out. It didn’t matter to him either way, but he suspected the first option would be less embarrassing for his father, who was highly regarded at the college and was assumed to have exceptional progeny.
So Father had dropped his chin and looked at Gerald over his reading glasses and, in no uncertain terms, told him he would never amount to anything and if he wasn’t going to take advantage of the opportunities that were offered to him, he might as well get a job and move out.
Gerald got a job, but he didn’t move out. His mother put her foot down on that one. She couldn’t bear the thought of their only son, the lost lamb of the family, falling into the life of drugs and debauchery that inevitably followed such a fall from grace.
Instead, Gerald’s mother and father turned their attention back to Rebecca, the star, the one who would never stop gratifying them. Meanwhile, Gerald moved to the basement bedroom and set up shop right under their noses. He named his company Churchill Computer Supply and Repair, but Churchill Black Market Rocket Parts would have been a more accurate name. The newly minted entrepreneur squirreled his considerable gains away in an old Schwab safe he’d found on eBay, with no idea what he would eventually spend it on.
It wasn’t until that very morning, when his mother sang into his orange juice and his father chewed toast behind the newspaper – it wasn’t until the morning everything boiled over that Gerald knew what to do with the money in that safe.
Father asked, “Are you working today?”
Gerald said, “Yeah,” and braced himself for what was coming next.
“You know,” Father continued, “you could still go back to school.”
Mother came around the table and rubbed Gerald’s shoulders. “It would be such a shame for you to waste the opportunity,” she cooed.
Gerald closed his eyes and seethed.
“You don’t want to be a failure, do you son?”
Gerald shot up from his chair, sending his orange juice flying. “Out with it!” he shouted. What did Rebecca do now?”
Father looked at him with one raised eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“I see the postcard lying there. I know it’s from her. She must have made you both terribly proud this time, or else you wouldn’t be coming down so hard on me.”
Mother came back to the table and pulled out her chair. Her good humor was entirely lost. “Your sister has saved countless lives in Belize, yet she’s somehow found time to fall in love with a brilliant American doctor who went to Stanford. Which is much more than you’ll ever do, I’m afraid.” With that, she crossed her arms and dropped into her chair.
Gerald was taken aback. He expected the tirade to come from his father like it always did. His mother had never spoken to him that way.
That was the moment when something broke deep inside Gerald’s heart.
“You don’t know me,” he said darkly. “You don’t know anything about me. I’ll show you what I’m capable of, and then you’ll know. I’ll end you for this.” Gerald nodded toward the postcard. “And you too, sis.”
The one thing about Gerald that everyone knew, even his parents, was that he always kept his promises.
About Prompt-A-Day: The rules are simple. Every day, I generate a prompt using Story Shack’s awesome writing prompt generator. Then I set a timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, I post what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s decent. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I fail at the prompt. Sometimes I do okay. I do not edit, unless I find a typo, because I can’t help fixing those. Feel free to join in and post a link to your writing in the comments.