The International Writers Magazine: Life with Martin Green
My Nice Brother
“Hurry up,” called my wife Nora from downstairs. We don’t want to be late.”
I grumbled something back. Here I was, hurrying up so as not to be late to my little brother’s dinner party. Dinner party, at his new house, or mansion, or whatever. What the hell was going on? How had this happened?
I found a clean white shirt and a necktie. I hated dressing up. As I dressed, I thought of my little brother Bobby, three years younger. When we were in school, I’d been his protector. He was small for his age and wore glasses so he was a natural target for schoolyard bullies. Above all he was nice, too nice. He never fought back. When one of the bullies demanded his lunch money he gladly handed it over and, feeling sorry for someone who couldn’t buy his own lunch, brought a sandwich for him the next day.
I was always going to be the one in our family who’d be the big success. I got a business degree in college. When I graduated a real estate boom was going on in Sacramento, where we lived, and I joined one of the big development firms. I did very well. I wanted Bobby to join the firm when he finished college but he elected to take a safe job with the State, in the Department of Social Services. I might have known; he became a social worker.
In time I married and started a family, two girls, but Bobby remained single. We had him over to dinner fairly often. Nora liked him. He was “so nice,” she’d say. And Uncle Bobby was a great favorite with the girls. He’d read to them, play “house,” and participate in their little tea parties. Norma tried to set him up with one or the other of her single friends but nothing worked out. Sometimes I wondered if he was gay.
Bobby lived in a little apartment downtown, nothing compared to the large house Norma and I had bought. Although he made enough to get by he lived from paycheck to paycheck. From time to time I lent him a little money, once for a car and another time when he needed it to keep us with his credit payments. I suspected that he loaned, or gave, money to his needy clients. I knew that on weekends he worked in a soup kitchen. He was slow in getting promoted at his office. He was too nice to engage in office politics.
Then the State had a budget crisis and most workers were furloughed once a week. This hurt Bobby and he moved to an even smaller apartment and gave up his car. Once again, I helped him out but then, in conjunction with the State’s financial problems, the housing bubble burst and this hurt our firm. My salary was drastically cut. We’d succumbed to the housing fever and, although I should have known better, had moved to a larger house. Now, like many others, we were underwater.
Then came an even bigger shock. When I returned home from work after another bad day, Nora told me to sit down, she had some news. “Prepare for a shock,” she said. “Bobby got married.”
“What? When? Who to?”
Nora told me he’d called. They wanted to avoid a big wedding, he told her, so they’d been married at the county clerk’s office. Now they were off on their honeymoon. They were going to Paris.
“To Paris. He can’t afford that and I don’t have the money to lend him.”
“He doesn’t need a loan. He married Rosemary Spenser.”
“Wait a minute. That name’s familiar. Isn’t Joe Spenser the Senate leader. He’s one of the most powerful men in Sacramento, and one of the richest.”
“That’s right. Rosemary is his daughter, an only child. He met her at the soup kitchen.”
“I should have known. But what did her father say about her marrying Bobby?”
“He said they were worried at first but Mr. Spenser welcomed him into the family.”
“But Bobby. I don’t understand it.”
I finished dressing and went downstairs. “Come on,” said Nora. “We don’t want to be late.”
We got into the car and I started it. “I still don’t understand it. Bobby, married to probably the richest woman in town.”
“Why not?” said Nora. “He’s always been so nice.”
© Martin Green - October 2015
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