I feel like I should start this particular anecdote with a bit of an explanation/disclaimer. So, here it is: my Squid Incorporated DISCLAIMER 3000 (Copyright Squid Inc). While my childhood self was a definite force working against the greater good, this was not always deliberate. Indeed, some of the most seemingly awful things I did were not at all deliberate. Such is the case for this particular story.
It wasn’t deliberate. It wasn’t as though I woke up that morning and said “I think I want blood and circuses for my birthday.”
I was turning ten years old, which puts my brother at age six. During this period in our lives, our main hobbies consisted of harassing each other. I don’t mean the usual subtle, tit-for-tat stuff. I mean we lived to make each other unhappy. We would each go to great lengths and use any means necessary to lessen the quality of life the other experienced.
This particular year, my birthday fell on a Sunday. This meant that I had to get up at 6:30 to start getting ready for church. Throughout this process, Craig and I continued our game of misery. First, he drank the last of the milk; I got back at him by leaving the bathtub on the “shower” setting so when he turned it on he got a faceful of frigid water.
We continued on in this fashion on the way to church, and we added a new element to it upon our arrival. Now, not only were we doing our best to introduce each other to abject despair, we had to do so while being quiet and subtle enough to avoid disrupting the service and irritating our dad.
To this day, I’ve never been to a religious gathering with that high a concentration of shin-kicking and muttered threats, although I hear some evangelical sects come pretty close. Dad noticed, of course (we actually kind of sucked at being sneaky), and took me aside after the service. I was informed that, should I continue to behave in such a fashion, I would not be receiving my presents. Me being kind of dumb, I was still partially convinced that I could be getting my own fighter jet or something, so I shut right up.
Of course, this did nothing to stop my brother from needling me, and so the entire ride home was filled with his poking and teasing and just general unpleasantness. I have never had an easy time dealing with sass (I much prefer to be the one doing the sassing), and so it was only via the utmost fear-motivated determination that I managed to refrain from fighting back.
Finally, we got home, and after a few moments, my mother opened the door, welcoming us back. I, having finally started developing a rudimentary ability to interact with people normally, politely asked where my presents were. I was told that they were past the stairs, down the hall in the kitchen.
Before I go any further, an extra bit of disclaimer is needed. I’ve always been big for my age, both in terms of height and weight. This led to me being less than graceful as a child, to put it mildly. To put it more honestly, I moved with all the grace of an epileptic hippopotamus being harassed by a swarm of bees. To make matters worse, I often forgot how big I was, leading to a lot of moments where I’d accidentally break something because I didn’t know my own strength. Furthermore, I may have been and continue to be a terrible person, but I basically never knowingly set out to injure people. When I end up doing so, regardless of how I actually feel about the person, I immediately feel like the world’s worst person.
The stairs in our house are accompanied by a long, iron railing. Upon being told where what I assumed was a massive pile of presents for me could be found, I took off like a shot, sprinting down the hall as quickly as a kid that fat could manage.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, but mainly himself, Craig took this chance to attempt another attack. He ran along beside me, attempting to block my path. Maybe he was trying to trip me up; maybe he wanted to beat me to the kitchen and steal my presents. As is so often the case, I will never know his motivations, for reasons that are about to become abundantly clear.
Noticing the potential obstacle posed by my six-year-old younger brother, I opted for the simple solution and tried to push him out of the way. Again, I didn’t know my own strength.
It was at this point that the aforementioned iron railing entered play. Due to a combination of my strength-not-knowing-influenced shove and a new whatever-is-the-opposite-of-super power, the worst timing in the entire universe, I pushed my brother directly into the railing, which stood just about level with his head.
This is also the day I learned one of the facts of life: gaping head wounds bleed like crazy. Being somewhat squeamish about blood, the combination of my colossal guilt and the blood, which I feel I the need to re-state was all over the place, I bolted, leaving my presents and locking myself in the bathroom, where I stewed in feeling like a bad person for a while before my parents hauled me out and tossed me into the car.
Several hours, a lot of screaming, and a visit to the hospital later, my brother got several super-fun stitches, and had to wear a big white patch of gauze on his forehead for over a month afterward. To this day, he brings this up whenever he wants to convince me to do something. I still feel so guilty about it that he succeeds around 85% of the time. Interestingly, when I try to do the same about the time he broke my toe on another one of my birthdays, I have less luck. But that is a story for another time.