This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or events, is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
A Brief Family Portrait
A photograph taken several Christmases ago still hangs on the wall at the top of the stairs. The snapshot reveals a man with an utterly blank expression staring down at the floor. In the foreground, an attractive woman with a frown looks away while crossing her arms, one over the other. Meanwhile, two small boys are hovered above a sea of presents and colorful holiday wrapping paper as their dog sits nearby watching the action. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one could have written volumes. After all, looks can be deceiving.
Simply put, they were a family who could not stay out of trouble. Mr. Brewster, Sam, 41, appeared old for his age. He had been arrested on a number of domestic battery and contempt charges prior to his divorce from Jessie, 37, who was questioned by the authorities last summer for slapping a neighbor’s child. Jessie and Sam had two sons, Dwayne, 13 and Jack, 15. Like both their parents, Dwayne also was well acquainted with the cops, thanks to surveillance cameras that captured him committing minor acts of theft and vandalism around town. Jack was the only Brewster in the house who managed to avoid confrontations with the law. Unlike the rest of his family, even at an early age, he was instinctively focused on finding himself.
The Brewsters had acquired a reputation within the community for being tough while smart. Perhaps that had something to do with Sam Brewster’s background. The only son of an immigrant chauffeur, he almost flunked out of high school before knuckling down and securing straight A’s. Though the nuns were impressed with his tenacity in the classroom, he never seriously entertained the idea of going on to college. Even so, he clearly had an innate ability to learn anything from trigonometry and accounting to religion and politics. If Sam only had some confidence to go with that IQ, he could have been a contender in life. But instead, he thought of himself as a speck among society.
Sam’s former wife, Jessie, had her own rocky story to tell. Having kept her married name after the divorce, Jessie Catalano-Brewster was not your typical mom. Her baggage included being the original bad girl, but without the usual sex, drugs and drink. When Jessie was 14, she stole an ambulance from the local volunteer fire department. Having been adopted, her family and friends, as well as the fire chief, merely chalked it up to adolescent behavior. They said she was just acting out. That would have been feasible if she hadn’t gotten into a car accident while “borrowing” a neighbor’s shiny new Cadillac. Jessie never told the owner that she took the car. The incident happened only weeks after she absconded with the ambulance. Yet, Jessie escaped being charged with any crime. Later on, that same anti-social rambunctiousness seemed to rub off on her son Dwayne. Or perhaps it was in his genes.
Though he was a constant source of concern at home and school, Dwayne Brewster possessed an innocent but mischievous character that made people chuckle. Like the time in fourth grade, when his teacher slipped out of the room to go across the hall for a moment. Dwayne quickly ran to her desk, grabbed a ruler and promptly dismissed the entire class. When the teacher soon found her students waiting outside for the buses to go home, at ten-thirty in the morning, the principal called Mrs. Brewster and complained. In the end, nobody was harmed and everyone had a good laugh.
On the other hand, Jack Brewster was wound much tighter than his little brother. Often anxious and talkative, he had a fine sense of humor but hardly let it show. Unlike the other Brewsters, one of his top priorities was staying away from the police. Besides, he was a good student who had aspirations of going to college and then graduate school. Yet, he was by no means an angel. But the choices Jack made were different than those of his brother, mother and father. Jack intended to keep his nose clean, no matter which side of the tracks he called home.
Tacked onto the refrigerator was a tattered childlike portrait of the Brewster family sketched in crayon. Jack made the drawing for a school project years ago, when he was seven. The edges were desiccated and completely worn away in some spots. But it was still hung proudly in a special place of honor. Each likeness wore a smile. But those poses did not tell the real story behind the picture. When Jack brought the drawing home from school, although his parents were still together, Mr. Brewster’s image was obviously missing. The teacher had instructed each student to create a family portrait. Unbeknownst to Jack, the omission of his father caused the principal to call Mrs. Brewster before he even arrived home that day. The school wanted to know if there was a Mr. Brewster in the house. Naturally, the incident raised all kinds of eyebrows. Consequently, Jack was persuaded to add his father’s image into the sketch. Being at such an impressionable age, he did not want to hurt his father’s feelings. But the cat had already been let out of the bag. The Brewsters were now on the school’s radar, thanks to Jack’s incomplete portrait. Something was just not right in the Brewster house and others were slowly catching on.
Photos: Family photo – Mark McCullough and family, author Tvernier/Creative Commons (CC); Borders – two brothers/Takashi Kashiwaya/CC; Drawings – own work; Video – own work/YouTube; usage of photos does not constitute endorsement by the authors and sources.