An Act of Kindness

An Act of Kindness

A Story by Rocki-san
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When a simple road trip turns out wrong, Corin is left alone, lost and confused. Having lost the meaning of happiness and compassion he continues on his trip to find if kindness really does exists.

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The house was like a black spot to the small, cozy, white-fenced suburban neighborhood. Run down, dark and uninviting, a classic haunted house that would receive many visits on October 31st from thrill-seeking trick-or-treaters. It was the only thing that told the truth on this street, it represented everything that went on inside, not a neatly cut lawn or perfectly white paint finish masking what went on behind closed doors. The only lie that came from the daunting house was the simple well kept sign hanging off the door, “de Triana Family.”

            It meant that the family inside was quite content, that even though they lived in a dark, malevolent looking house, they were proud and happy. Proud? Maybe. Happy? No. There wasn’t even an actual family inside the house to be happy or proud. How did I know?

            I knew because it used to be my house.

            I sat on the hood of my black ’63 Impala which I had spent almost two years restoring to pristine condition. I had also spent a lot of money which was probably why I was always broke. But I was proud of the car and more proud of how I had actually accomplished something. Many classic car buffs I’d met in my years of travelling told me I should enter it in classic automobile competitions and I would probably win. Doing this, though, was the least of my worries just now.

            I stared at the home of my childhood, if it could even have been called a home. I didn’t remember one good memory coming from the house, out of all the places we’d lived in, this one was my least favorite and that was saying something. If those walls could talk, they’d tell the most horrific story that would even have Steven King hiding under the covers. The distorted hedges, nightmarish shingles and dying lawn always seemed to find its way into my dreams and, yet, here I was. Why had I come back?

            It’d been a few years since I’d even set foot near this town, or even thought about it for that matter. No one really liked to think about the things they despised and this house, this town, was that one thing I couldn’t stand. I especially hated this stretch of road where the houses were a little too perfect to be real, not a single blemish anywhere on the property. I wondered how many times the neighbors had begged the old hag to redecorate or even offered to do it for her only to run off ducking for cover. My mother, she was a piece of work.

 

            “Hey, Corin,” I looked over to see Zayn’s nose stuck in a book, where it was usually found. “Do you know what ‘Farah’ really means?”

            “No,” I said. “Wicked and immoral? Demonic? Crazy old bat?”

            “No,” he looked over the top of the pages at me with a smirk. “It means joy.”

            “Yeah, right,” I scoffed.

            “Really, look!” I took the book.

“Huh, she doesn’t exactly live up to her namesake, now, does she?” It was a cold autumn day and I pulled my jacket closer against the cold. The smell of soggy, molding leaves overwhelming and surprisingly pleasant. We’d always picked the longest route home, enjoying that time alone, as far away from the world we could possibly get.

 “I’m skipping tomorrow, wanna join?” I gave the book back to him.

 “I like school,” he said. “I think learning is fun.”

“I know you do,” I replied. “And that’s why I have serious doubts about whether we’re really brothers or not. So, do you want to come or not?”

“No thanks,” he said. We turned the corner to see the house; it was old when we’d moved in and I’ll admit that it always had been, and always will be, an alarming sight. The outside was enough to send chills down anyone’s spine and give them that paranormal sense of danger. The floors creaked as you walked on them and it seemed to be perfectly equipped for the creepy-crawlies that found solace in the walls. Just looking at it now made me want to run as fast as I could to get away, and I lived there.

 “Do you think we’re going to have to move again?” Zayn asked after we both stared at the misshapen building for a moment.

“Probably, we always do,” I said. “But as soon as we’re old enough, we’ll leave.”

“She’s not going to let us leave!” Zayn said.

“Do you really think Farah’s going to care?” I asked as I opened the door.

“No, probably not,” he replied after thinking about it and following me inside.

 

I was right, she hadn’t cared, and she probably still didn’t. In fact, she was probably inside right now counting up a wad of cash with a cigarette in her mouth and a bottle of any alcoholic substance within reach and praising the lord that she didn’t have to share.

When I’d told her that Zayn and I were leaving I was almost certain she would jump and dance with delight. It would mean fewer mouths to feed and talk back to her; it would mean she wouldn’t have to share anything she had. It didn’t matter if I’d told her we were going or not, it’s not like she would have called the cops to report her missing children, that would be against her unspoken code and even if she had called them, Zayn and I would be long gone before there was anything the authorities could do about it. Not only had Farah taught us well but it was in our genes. Our genetic makeup allowed us to perfect the art of living under the radar and hiding from the law.

Those were some good times, too, no school, no worries, and no Farah spitting out hateful words about how useless we were and how we’d ruined her life. It was just Zayn and I on the open road doing what we wanted, when we wanted. For once, everything seemed bright.

Nothing within the house stirred and I was beginning to wonder whether or not anyone was really in there. Maybe she had left, moved on to swindle another city or maybe she’d died while we were away. Either way, I didn’t exactly want to go up to the door to find out.

“Hey, kid,” I said, startling the two boys that were walking by on their way home from school. The same exact path Zayn and I took every day. I watched as the older boy suspiciously walked over. “Does someone still live in that scary looking old house there?”

“Yeah, she calls herself Madame de Triana,” he said and I could all but see him shudder. “She doesn’t leave the house much, though; I’ve only ever seen her once or twice.”

“Thank you,” I said and watched as he walked away with his younger brother. They looked back at me one last time before going into their home. Trust, it was a word with little meaning nowadays.

 

We’d made it to Georgia, a few hundred miles away from that abomination of a house. It was a bright summer’s day in the south and the heat was like a slap in the face once we left the safety of the air conditioned car. The ground was dry and dusty from the recent heat wave and lack of precipitation but, despite all that, I enjoyed the southern ambiance.

Throughout our many moves we’d become accustomed to the intense heat, Farah enjoyed the warmth so we always lingered in the southern states. I would say it was because it was some kind of reptilian effect, her cold blooded nature made her crave the warmth. Zayn told me that was improbable and I was being unnecessarily sadistic to the woman who’d given me birth. He always used words and phrases that had little to no meaning to me but who was I to tell him it was useless babble?

 We’d stopped at a motel and checked in before going to check out the city. We’d only been to Georgia once before, but we mostly only saw the inside of various trailers our mother decided to squat in and we were both up for a little sightseeing, which was the whole point of our trip, to live a little.

The first thing Zayn did was drag me into a book store, I retaliated by nearly getting us both kicked out but not fast enough to prevent him from getting another book. As we walked away with the shopkeeper waving his fists at us, I took the book out of Zayn’s hands and leafed through the crisp, new pages and I wrinkled my nose in disgust at that new book smell.

“We don’t have enough room for all your books,” I said. “Especially the educational ones.”

“For lack of space or your lack of caring?” Zayn took the book back.

“Both,” I said.

“It’s a philosophy book,” he said as if that changed anything and started to read it.

“Amazing,” I replied with no enthusiasm. “I’ll read it the next time I’m plagued with insomnia.”

“You’re a true scholar, Corin,” he said with the same sarcasm. He closed the book and looked at me; it was almost as if I were looking into a mirror. “Ever think about going back?”

“To school? Never!”

“No,” Zayn sighed. “I already knew the answer to that!”

“Home?” I asked as we turned into the park and he nodded. “I’m never going back there.”

“Maybe she misses us or needs us,” Zayn replied. “I mean, she is our mother.”

“Biologically,” I said. “But that’s where I draw the line.”

“You’re so cynical,” he rolled his deep brown eyes.

“I take pride in that,” I said.

“That’s what’s sad,” he replied.

“Not my fault,” I defended. “It’s how I was raised, if you’re into that whole Nature vs. Nurture thing.”

“I think I want to visit her,” he said. “Next time we’re up that way.”

“She’s not going to want to see you,” I said. “She didn’t care, remember? She was happy we left, probably wondering why we hadn’t done it sooner.”

“People change,” he looked down at the grass.

“Not Farah,” I said. “Fine, if you want to go see her then you can do it alone because I want no part in it.”

“Alright,” he said.

We sat at a bench in the center of the large park where we could see everything in the park, the smell of cut grass was fresh even though a lawnmower couldn’t be heard. I leaned back to let the sunlight warm my face as Zayn read his newly purchased book. I was half asleep, the sun providing a comfort that I hadn’t felt in a while.

“Hey,” I opened a lazy eyelid and watched as Zayn stood up. “I’ll be right back.”

“Whatever,” I muttered irritably. He dropped the heavy book onto my chest before walking away. “You jerk!”

He laughed as he walked away and once again I started to doze. It was quiet, peaceful and pleasant. We were far enough away that the sounds of cars weren’t bothersome and because it was a weekday not many people were passing by. Life was good.

A disturbing hush took over the park, much quieter than before. The silence became eerie and sinister and I wondered what Zayn was doing. I felt the book heavy on my chest which meant that he hadn’t come back yet. I listened for another minute or two but didn’t hear anything save the sound of distant, almost inaudible voices.

I sighed and opened an eye to peek at my watch, it had been twenty minutes. I sat up and looked around the park, not even a critter was in sight, not a single sign of life. So where was my brother?

Annoyed, I stood and called out to Zayn. Silence was my only reply.

I felt as though something was terribly wrong, call it intuition or paranoia, I didn’t really care. I started a light jog down the street, continuing to call Zayn. Nothing. My jog soon turned into a frantic run that was much faster and lasted much longer than I physically should have been able to do. I was forced to stop and take long deep breaths, my lungs and legs aching from the exertion.

Then I heard the loud blast of a firing gun.

 

That was when everything went wrong, talk about life going down the drain. Mine was wadded up into a hideous, disfigured ball, thrown into the mud and driven all over before finally being sent away.

I still don’t know what exactly had happened to Zayn, I ran as fast as I could towards where the shot was fired but the offender was long gone by then and so was Zayn. What was once the greatest thing to happen to us, our independence and freedom, became a nightmare that would forever haunt me.

His eyes were empty, listless, clouded over. I remembered all the wisdom I’d once seen in those brown eyes fade away in front of my very own which then welled up with tears. His olive skin was now ashen and his jaw slack. I remembered hysterically shaking him and calling his name, anything to wake him up but the pool of red told me that he wasn’t coming back. As if that was his life getting soaked up by the summer grass. No matter how many times I cleaned them, I still saw that red, even to this day, forever dyed crimson in my psyche.

Everything after was a blur to me, fear and panic drowned out my brain’s ability to process anything that was happening. I didn’t even know how the paramedics knew someone had been shot. I only saw lights and colors, nebulous figures, faces that were too blurry for me to really acknowledge. At first I didn’t want to let go, almost as if he would wither away and cease to exist if I did. Even on the way to the hospital I knew it was pointless, he was already gone and I couldn’t do a thing about it.

I didn’t like the hospital, not that I’d ever been in one before, I’m pretty sure my mother had never even stepped foot in one before. I didn’t like the smell of disinfectant desperately trying to masquerade the overwhelmingly sad scent of death but did so in vain. I also wasn’t too keen on the idea of strangers in white jackets pretending to be all high and mighty and better than everyone else just because they could afford to get a PhD being Zayn’s only chance.

They had me sitting in the waiting room for hours, long enough that I could almost count all the little dots in the ceiling tiles. Long enough to bring me to the brink of madness that I was actually beginning to wonder how the receptionist could still possibly be snapping that same piece of bubblegum and heavily considering going up to ask her. 

 I left the hospital alone that night, the surgeon had come out and delivered the news that there was nothing he could do but I didn’t believe him. He saw my brother as a paycheck, nothing more. What he didn’t take into account was he’d probably never see a dime, not from me anyway. He didn’t care about my brother so I didn’t care if he couldn’t pay the mortgage on his beach-front house.

My cynicism and doubt towards humanity swelled so much that I couldn’t even look at the people around me without feeling disgust and hatred towards them. I walked down the street, my Chevy still in the motel parking space we’d left it in that morning, glaring at those that walked by. Any one of them could be the monster that shot my innocent brother who no doubt was just trying to help a soul in need. He was predictable in that way.  

Too tired to walk the whole way to the motel I wouldn’t be sleeping in I waited for the bus with Zayn’s book in hand, a blotch of red stained the leather cover which meant that it would have to go. I’d almost forgotten that I had been holding it, I didn’t even remember picking it up again after dropping it to help him. I smiled thinking about what Zayn may have tried to teach me as he read the contents of the pages.

 “There has to be something worthy enough to get through that thick skull of yours! Something that interests you? Anything?” That was what he’d said to me the last time he’d tried to teach me some bit of information. Now I wished I’d listened to every single lecture.

While waiting for the bus, I decided to flip through a few pages. At first it was just to have something to do, something to keep my mind off what had just happened. When I started reading the words, dimly illuminated by the streetlights, I became intrigued.

When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless.” The quote was from someone named Willa Cather and I had to read it a few times more. It made me think about things I never would have thought of before. Could there actually still be kindness out there? Or was it truly extinct from humanity?

I spent two years trying to figure it out and the once open road soon became claustrophobic and depressing but I was on a mission. I would drive throughout most of the day and usually well into the night; sometimes I would even sleep parked on the side of the road with my window cracked open a hair. If I did stay at a motel or inn, I couldn’t find any comfort in sleeping. I’d wake up in a cold sweat and the darkness would cause fear.

I wanted revenge, as would anyone in my situation but I knew that Zayn wouldn’t have wanted that and I couldn’t stoop to their level. I didn’t want to be like those that took pleasure in other’s pain; I didn’t want the hatred to take over as it had so many times before.

After all that driving, searching, wondering, only to come back here to the one place I said I would never return to. It didn’t seem to make any sense to me and now I was alone to do it. I couldn’t help but smile at the irony.

 

I pulled into the gas station of a small town. I didn’t have a map because I didn’t really have a destination but now I was curious. I had been driving several days without having any idea where I was going. The attendant came out to ask if I needed any help and I declined.

“Sir,” I said before he walked away. “What state is this?”

“Colorado,” the man said.

“Seems like a pretty small town,” I said.

“It is,” he replied and spat. “But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“Are there any places to stay the night?” I asked as I pulled out some money to pay him.

“Not really,” he said as he took the money. “Not enough people travel through here that would require an inn but you can stay with me an’ the wife.”

“No, I couldn’t-“ I started to say.

“Nah, I insist!” The old gentleman said. “We gots plenty o’ room an’ we have travelers jus’ like you staying there all the time. It’s cheaper than any hotel in the next few towns.”

“Okay,” I said, a little taken aback. How could he trust a complete stranger to stay at his house? A no-good, rotten hooligan wearing a withered leather jacket, ripped jeans and driving a black muscle car older than he is cross-country without paying attention or caring where it took him, let’s let him sleep in our guest room and pray he doesn’t slit our throats! Remarkable. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said and gave me directions to his home.

A woman just as benevolent and ancient as her husband answered the door and I was whisked away and cared for. If I hadn’t been so tired and confused I probably would’ve thought I was poor Hansel about to be devoured by an evil witch.

I was getting ready to leave early that next morning; I never really stayed long in any place, much like my mother. The old man helped me check the engine to make sure it was still fit to drive while his generous wife made me lunch to go.

“You fix this car up all by yourself?” Mr. Laine asked as I closed the hood.

“Over the years,” I said. “My brother helped me a lot. Actually, he stood in my way reading from a book about cars rather than worked on the car but you get my drift.”

I looked up to the sound of hammering and watched as a frame of a house was in the process of being made. There was a large crowd of people working and helping out and I thought it was a pretty big crew for such a small neighborhood.

“Thanks for letting me stay here,” I said and offered payment.

“Nah, keep the money,” the old man said. “It’s on the house.”

“Thank you,” I said. “You’re a kind man, Mr. Laine, I wish more people were like you.”

“So don’t I,” he said. I was quiet for a moment, thinking about Zayn, for a minute I forgot where I was and it wasn’t until the old man touched my shoulder that I was brought back to reality. “You alright, Corin?”

“Yeah,” I tried a smile. “Just some memories coming back to haunt me.”

“Uh huh,” he said and watched me go back inside. I felt the need to wash my hands, a common occurrence whenever I thought back to that day. No matter how many times I washed them it didn’t change. A few minutes later, I went back outside where Mr. and Mrs. Laine stood by my car to say their goodbyes.

“Mr. Laine,” I said, hiding my hands in my pocket, sore from the scrubbing and scathing water. “Why does it seem the whole neighborhood is working on that house?”

“That’s ‘cause they are,” he said.

“That poor family lost their house to a fire a few months back. Some city folks thought it would be funny to commit a felony.” Mrs. Laine said. “They even lost their little girl.”

“So the whole town’s pitching in to help rebuild the house, bigger n’ better,” Mr. Laine continued. “We’re about to go over an’ help too.” 

“Need an extra pair of hands?” I asked and rolled up my sleeves.

“The more the merrier,” he smiled.

We worked on until it was dark and my impenetrable pride was returned. I had blisters on my hands but that didn’t seem to matter, at least they weren’t stained scarlet with blood that only my conscience was aware of.

I remembered when I first saw the family, victims to the treacherous deed. Mrs. Laine said they’d lost a little girl, a picture of her posted to keep the workers motivated, but they had another. She looked the same as her sister, twins no doubt. She sat on the swing set, watching as the house was built. It didn’t matter how they rebuilt it, ‘home’ would have a whole different meaning to her.

“Y’know,” I looked up to Mr. Laine, taking a break with me. “Usually I don’t pry into my guest’s business but they never stop to help us out neither.”

“Well,” I looked over to the little girl. “I know what it’s like to lose your best friend.”

“I see, your brother then?” I didn’t reply but he took the hint. I watched as he tried to wipe plaster off his hands. “Needed to get away?”

“If I could,” I smiled. “I would, but I can’t seem to get far enough away.”

“No parents?” He asked.

“Define ‘parents’” I said and he laughed. “Never knew my father, wish I never knew my mother.”

“Boy, your mama needs much consoling after losing a child whether she was a good ‘un or not.” He said.

“She didn’t care about us,” I said. “She was happy to see us go, there were times that I thought she’d moved on without us anyway.”

“If you were gone, then how do you know?” he asked. “All I’m saying is, you don’t know what you got until you ain’t got it no more. I’m sure she misses you, especially after your loss.”

“She doesn’t know,” I said, looking down at my stained hands.

“Corin,” he said. “Sometimes with enough kindness and compassion, you can drown out any bad and wickedness. Even in people.”

I watched him go back to work, a little dumbfounded. Maybe Mr. Laine was right, that may have been the answer I had been looking for all this time. I smiled to myself and also got back to building the house.

I stayed that whole week until the house was finished and though it would make any designer cringe with horror, we thought it was a beautiful sight. It was just the right size for the family and looked as though it had always been a part of the neighborhood.

The windowpanes were painted a simple black while the rest of the house was painted a simple white, nothing fancy just simple and easy for the small budget and while it could never replace the house and life they’d had before it would do just fine. I even saw the little girl smile.

 

Ever since then, a white house was never the same; they all just appeared to be lies to me. They couldn’t even be compared to the house built out of compassion, hopes and dreams while the houses in this neighborhood was built for the sole purpose of industry and to rob others of a stress-free life.

I still wrote to the Laine’s frequently and I was sure there would be a stack of letters waiting for me in that old house from my new friends. I was finally beginning to understand that kindness and happiness were all still out there. You just had to know how to find it. So then, I went to find it for myself.

That’s why I was here in my old neighborhood, staring at the black-spot with its rotting wood, falling shingles, and broken windows. The cobwebs that looked to be decorations from the untrained eye but I knew they were all too real. It looked as though it could fall apart if the big bad wolf even looked at it let alone huff and puff.

My fingers anxiously tapped the hood of my car as I tried to find another way to stall the inevitable. I had to go knock on the door; Zayn would have wanted that and she didn’t even know that he was gone. I let out a frustrated groan and walked over to the gate, as if time wasn’t any obstacle. The rusted, iron gate squeaked obnoxiously when I pushed it open and I flinched. When I looked up at the house nothing had changed. 

I stood in front of the door, blackened with age and decay. I turned to see if anyone was watching but the streets were empty, soulless just as the park had been. It was the moment of truth, knock or no? I lifted my hand, starting to appear that delusional red again.

The knock was purposefully quiet and for a second there was no indication that it had been heard. I realized that my heart was pounding hard in my chest and that I was holding my breath. When the door still failed to be answered I exhaled and started to walk back to my car. Salvation. Maybe I should come back another time.

“Corin?” I stopped in my tracks when I heard the silken voice that for a moment I didn’t recognize. The words were crisp rather than slurred, soft rather than coarse, motherly rather than demonic. I turned to see a woman in a black robe just as silky as her voice, her hair, as raven black as her sons’, disheveled and her eyes showed many sleepless nights but despite all that, she looked better than any of my memories could depict and for a minute I didn’t even recognize her as my mother.

“Far…mom,” I corrected myself and walked back to her. Either she’d shrunk or I’d grown another inch or two because now I towered over her. “How’s it going?”

I barely finished the sentence when she hugged me tightly and for a moment I was speechless and confused. I couldn’t remember any form of affection from her, only hatred, even when I was young. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do.

“Corin,” she smiled and looked up at me and then over to my empty car. “I’ve been trying to find you two! Where’s your brother?”

I was quiet. She’d actually been trying to find us and I was hiding from her, keeping Zayn’s death a secret.

“Sorry, mom,” I said and she hugged me again, crying. After another minute or two she pulled away but didn’t let go of my hands. This was not the same woman Zayn and I had left behind all those years ago. Zayn had been right, she’d changed.

“Do you… want to come in?”

I looked back at my car, there was no turning back now but wasn’t that the point? I smiled to her and followed her into the old, black-spot of a house. I’d been wrong, the outside of the house was a lie, a complete opposite to the inside but I was okay with that, I liked the lie. I even offered to fix that for her and she gladly accepted. The stack of letters I thought would be the first thing I went to was actually the last since it was the first time I actually enjoyed my mother’s company. I could almost hear the sneers of “I told you so” from Zayn.

It was true, you didn’t know what you had until it was gone and I didn’t know what to think when the person who thought for me was no longer there. I had to learn for myself what Zayn had known all along. I’d learned that sometimes you had to look past the evil and treacherous and take that step forward and see the good because a simple act of kindness could go a long, long way.


© 2010 Rocki-san



Author's Note

Rocki-san
Alright, a story that I had to do for my English class.. I had a hard time finding something to write about but I'm happy with it.
I may or may not come back and change of few things but for now I think it's okay. Enjoy!

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I usually hate it when people make me cry. But I´ll give you 100 points for this one. :)

Posted 2 Years Ago


I couldn't write anything this good...

Posted 7 Years Ago


Well, I cried my way through that and I think it was the best short story I've ever read. I am baking you a cake.

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on January 15, 2010
Last Updated on January 16, 2010
Tags: Brothers, kindness, fiction, short story

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Rocki-san
Rocki-san

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Hey, I'm Rocki! I live on a 14-mile long island where there isn't really anything to do so I write. I'm an Anthropology major and willing to read your stories or books if requested as long as you give.. more..

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