Chapter II: The Barbecue

It had been a long night, but 9:00 had finally rolled around. The sun came in through the small window, disguising just how cold it was outside. He got out of bed and walked to the closet, took the only long sleeved shirt he owned off the hanger, threw it on before putting on his jeans and shoes and opening the door. As soon as he cracked it a little bit, a cold wind cut through the thin material of his shirt he turned around, and took the dark green hoodie off of the bathroom doorknob and put it on.

He stepped onto the balcony, the crisp, cold breeze blowing through his hair. He looked down into the yard and noticed the kids, so he figured he would go into the cornfield and smoke. Merrill got half way into the cornfield, and lit up his cigarette, it was enjoyable, especially after last night. He closed his beautiful eyes, he could smell the sweet sent of blueberries wafting through the air, a shiver brought him back to reality. Who barbecues on one of the coldest days in November? He wondered to himself, putting out the cigarette on the bottom of is shoe. He slowly started walking to the house with his hands in his pockets.

Morgan saw the smoke rising from the field. He took a puff from his inhaler and ushered his sister into the house, locking the door behind them.

"What's wrong?" she whispered looking up at her brother. He just pointed out the window to the rustling in the massive acres of cornstalks. They were relieved when they saw their uncle emerge from the field with his hands in his pockets.

He tried to open the door only to find it locked. He searched the pockets of his jeans for his keys as Graham opened the door.

"Why did you lock me out? You weren't trying to get rid of me this soon were ya?" he asked jokingly, looking at the kids.

"Sorry Uncle Merrill, I thought you were an alien." Morgan said honestly. Merrill's heart skipped a beat as he stood there shocked and obviously heartbroken. How could he even think that? He wondered to himself as he felt the tears running down his cheeks. Graham quickly told the kids to go outside and play. He then hugged his brother, trying to comfort him.

"Cheer up, it's alright. He didn't mean anything by it…" Graham reassured him.

"Now come on, where is that culinary genius that makes the best potato salad, baked beans, and German chocolate pie I've ever tasted." Merrill just smiled at the efforts of his brother. He walked into the kitchen and started cooking. A couple of hours later Bo came inside and announced that the grill was ready. Graham took the platter of chicken, steaks, and shrimp out to the grill as the doorbell rang. Merrill stuck the pie in the oven then ran to get the door. It was Caroline with a homemade blueberry pie, and a seven-layer salad. He did his gentlemanly duty and put the dishes in the kitchen for her.

"How you guys holding up?" she asked looking him over.

"Fine…" he replied flatly, getting the chips out of the cabinet. Graham came back in, saying everything should be ready in thirty minutes to an hour.

"I'm going to take the stuff outside." Merrill told her. She offered to help him take some of the stuff and he nodded his approval. When everything was ready, Graham stood to make a toast to good friends, a wonderful and loving family, and good food. They ate and conversed with each other, and after they got done eating. Merrill went over to the new swing they had installed before all this shit happened, Caroline went over to sit with him.

"Are you ok? You seem upset about something." She asked looking at him as the swing rocked back and forth gently. He looked at the ground kicking up some dirt.

"Yeah, I'm just tired…" He told her, looking up at her wondering if she believed the lie.

"…Sorry if I seemed rude earlier." He continued, looking down again. She lifted his head, looking him in the eye.

"You know if you have something on your mind you can tell your brother right?" She asked. Merrill just nodded again. She smiled, and he knew that she also accepted his apology.

"Come on, your brother wants to play touch football somehow, and before I forget, that pie that you made was wonderful! You have to give me the recipe." She told him as they got up and walked toward everyone else. He laughed and told her that he'd give it to her before she left.

"Graham! How do you plan on playing football of any kind with only five people?" Merrill called.

"You four against me." He answered back. Merrill just looked at him in disbelief.

"That's not really fair is it? I mean why don't we make it even, me versus you?" He said sizing up his brother. Graham looked at the kids and Caroline, they all nodded they're approval of the idea.

"Come on then, I'll take you on." Graham said looking his brother up and down. Merrill nodded and the game started.

Bo was on the side lines acting like a cheerleader, but twenty minutes later, something unexpected happened.

"What the hell Graham!" Merrill yelled holding onto his ribs. Graham looked in shock at what he just did.

"I thought we were playing touch football not tackle football." He continued, still doubled over in pain. Graham put his hand on Merrill's back, but Merrill could feel the rage building up inside of him about to surface. Caroline told the kids to go inside because she had a bad feeling about what was about to happen. Why did he do that? First my arm when we were kids, now this? Merrill straightened up slowly, and then out of no where, took a swing at his brother, hitting him square in the nose and busting it. Graham defending himself hit Merrill back, first busting his nose, then once again, busting his lip wide open.

They both fell to the ground then, wrestling and punching each other. Caroline finally broke them up, Merrill looked the worst out of the two, he looked at Graham who didn't look nearly as bad, he then spit out the blood that was filling his mouth. Graham could still see the rage burning in his brothers eyes, Merrill just turned to walk to his car. Bastard, he muttered under his breath before getting into his car and driving to his hospital.

"What's wrong with you!" She exclaimed obviously angry at what had gone down. Graham just looked at her.

"Well? What do you have to say for yourself? That's your brother; I wouldn't expect you to do that to your kids, much less Merrill, who looks up to you so much. I've never seen you like this! And the least you could have done was warned him about you sudden mind change." She lectured. Graham cleared his throat and softly apologized.

"Don't apologize to me. I'm going to take you to the hospital and if Merrill is there, I would suggest that you tell him exactly what you told me." She said before walking to the house to tell the kids to come on after getting a dish towel with ice in it. Graham just leaned against Caroline's car thinking to himself. The three of them finally came out of the house and Morgan handed the towel over to his dad, with a disgusted look on his face. He had seen what had gone on between the two of them

Graham held the towel to his nose; it burned like a cold fire piercing through his entire body. He got into the car and they left for the hospital. They arrived fifteen minutes later and parked next to Merrill's car. They almost passed each other when Graham and Merrill stopped beside each other.

"You cracked my ribs and broke my nose you know." Merrill informed his brother taking his keys out of his pocket. As he was about to walk to his car, Graham stopped him with his one free hand.

"Look Merrill, I'm sorry. I don't know what had gotten into me; I didn't mean to hurt you that badly. I hope over time, you will forgive me." Graham said, walking toward the double doors of the hospital. Merrill just whispered, I already have.

Merrill stopped off by the local drug store to fill the prescription the hospital gave him for the pain.

"It should be about an hour Mr. Hess." The pharmacist told him as she took the prescription. He told her thanks and went to look at the magazines; he started flipping through a sports magazine. He got bored so he went to the grocery section and picked up a bag of sour cream and onion ruffles and a pack of Dr. Peppers. Checking his watch, he noticed that it had been nearly an hour, so he went to the pharmacy and picked up the prescription, paid for the chips and sodas and left for the house. When he got home, he went to his room and put the Dr. Peppers and Ruffles on his bed, and went to the main house.

When he got in, he started writing down the pie recipe for Caroline. He then put it in his pocket and figured he'd clean up. Two or Three hours had passed and everyone else came back, and Merrill gave the recipe to Caroline. He told everyone goodbye and made his way toward the garage. Once he set foot outside the door however, Bo and Morgan followed him out.

"Uncle Merrill…" Morgan called, Merrill turned around to look at them.

"We want to spend all day with you tomorrow." He said, Bo nodded and smiled before adding.

"Yeah, we mean night time too." Merrill laughed to himself.

"Its okay with me, go ask your dad, then let me know what he says." He told them, Bo when right away. However, Morgan didn't, he just stared at his Uncle Merrill, looking him up and down.

"What, why are you looking at me like that?" Merrill asked, looking at his nephew. Morgan pointed to his side.

"Does it hurt?" He asked back. Merrill just ran his hands over his bandaged ribs, looking into the sunset.

"A little bit, but I'll be okay." He reassured him. He had a feeling that Morgan saw what had happened.

"Don't let dad get to you." He said with a smile. Merrill ruffled Morgan's hair in a playful way.

"I won't." He said. That moment, Bo came outside. She happily told the two guys that he said yes. Then they both carefully hugged Merrill and watched as he disappeared over the garage.

He got undressed and then unwrapping the bandages from his ribs, stepped into the hot shower he set for himself. He let the hot water run through his hair and down his back. He took a deep breath, which he then regretted because an extremely sharp pain shot through his back and chest. He got out of the shower rebandaging his ribs; he got dressed in a pair of black and blue flannel PJ bottoms and took his medicine. He went to the bed and carefully sat on the bed, taking the book of the nightstand and turning on the lamp; he carefully laid himself down and started reading. He looked at the clock; it said it was 7:15pm. He felt himself starting to doze off, but shot himself awake and read some more. He was startled suddenly; he then looked at the clock. 1:00 am. Why don't I remember anything between 7:15 and now? I must have fallen asleep. He thought to himself.

He went to the mini fridge and grabbed the last can of Mountain Dew he had and started drinking it. He started wondering to himself why he never bought a TV for his room. I'll get one tomorrow, and I'll get a cable hook up out here too. He told himself with a sigh. All he wanted was a good nights sleep, was that too much to ask for. He got up and put on a shirt and jacket, grabbing his keys he walked out the door and made his way towards the house. He started to unlock the door carefully, trying not to wake up anyone in the house up. He got in as quietly as he could, and went to the couch, he started to sit down as he turned the TV on low. Graham came down stairs slowly and breathed a sigh of relief when he found Merrill sitting there.

"What are you doing? I heard the door open." Graham said, Merrill just looked up at him.

"Sorry, I wasn't trying to wake you up. I just couldn't sleep. I'll go back to the garage if you want." He offered. Graham just shook his head, and told him he could stay, but not to wake the kids. Merrill said that he wouldn't and Graham went back to bed. Merrill just relaxed on the couch and watched whatever was on TV until the sun came up.