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The Big Angry


There was one time when I had seen my brother Nick's temper. He's generally a very easy-going guy, especially as a child. I had seen lots of emotions before: excited, taunting, teasing, razzing, trying to get me to laugh in church, antagonizing, goading, scaring, sharing, giggling, scoffing, tickling, causing me to laugh like a girl, teaching, commanding, lording, bribing, whispering, belching, doctoring, cajoling, interfering, smearing my glasses, and many others.

But I had rarely seen anger from my brother, at least directed at me. We had bickered many times and had run-of-the-mill disagreements, but usually the anger in the house was reserved for one person at any one time. This person was generally Speaker of the House, as it were, at least in all things said or done in anger. Most of the time, this was my father, but if he wasn't around, my mother got to be upset with us. Very few times were we able to get really angry by ourselves.

I think it was near my brother's very first time in high school as a freshman that I first experienced my brother's anger because this was probably the first time he babysat for us. I use that term with everything implied, because my sister Gina and I were in 5th and 8th grade, respectively. Gina and I were just plain goofing around. As my brother was in high school, what he was doing was more important than what we were doing, which was homework and studying. We had already finished ours, my parents were out and it was hours before bedtime.

We had discovered a new game, which was Talking in a Silly Voice. For some reason, Gina and I had adopted this way of speaking that involved talking in a high-pitched voice, speaking as if a very slow, but sweet child who would ask the dumbest questions imaginable. The idea was to say something so inanely stupid in this somewhat ditsy voice and make the other person laugh. We were so simple to entertain.

The problem was that between the laughter and the high-pitched voices, things could get really loud. My brother was upstairs trying to finish his homework and we were downstairs in the kitchen apparently yelling at each other and laughing. It must have been maddening!

In between yelling each other's names and snorting out more laughter, I could hear my brother yelling for us at the top of the stairs. He yelled for us to "Pipe Down!" I think, which would have been a reasonable request for anyone to understand when you're studying for Algebra or Spanish or some other class. We should have just turned on the TV or played a game.

Instead, we proceeded to repeat what he had said to us, in that voice. "Pipe Down!" we repeated and collapsed in giggles. To our defense, we did try to keep it down after that. But the hilarity of it was too great and our voices rose in volume after a few moments. We kept laughing louder and more frequently, eventually not hearing what came next until it was too late.

Unheard by us, but raising in volume also, was the sound of my brother's hurried footsteps down the stairs. My brother had a tendency to run down the stairs at such a high speed and in such a hurry that it sounded like he had left the ground entirely and was simply pounding on each step quickly and ferociously on the way down. Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-BUB! BUB!! it would sound after each descent and he'd be turning the corner into the dining room and directly into the kitchen. He dismounted those stairs after each landing, turning it into a test or a sporting event. Most of the time he would get yelled at for doing it.

Yet this time, those footsteps were at first masked by our own laughter, but to my brother's ears, it must have sounded like the drums of some rushing approaching army, weapons drawn and about to shrike! Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-BUB! BUB!! we heard and at the last few steps we heard it sounding above our laughter and we turned our heads still open-mouthed in mirth, still laughing as loud as possible as my brother ran into the kitchen.

He was beet red and screamed at both of us. "Will You Two Please Keep It Down?!!" he roared. "I'm Trying To Finish My Homework!"

We were still in high spirits after so much laughter and frankly we were also surprised. We had never seen him so angry, or frankly so upset with us. Besides being furious with us, he was out of breath, his hair was messed up (probably from pulling it out of frustration) and his shirt was half tucked in. This much anger in my Dad would have kept us quiet and turned our blood to ice in our veins; from my brother the same anger was unexpected and had come out of nowhere. The same look my Dad had when angry was in my brother's eyes and it was a sight I briefly marveled in as I finally saw it. It was hysterical.

Our laughter erupted anew as we pointed and laughed. Nick's really steamed! This never happens. Usually he gets on our nerves and we end up crying!

This of course made him that much angrier! "What the heck is the matter with you two? What are you yelling at each other about?"

We admitted to ourselves that we probably weren't improving our minds any. We could be watching cartoons or game shows on the TV right now instead of antagonizing our brother.

"Nothing, Nick! We're just talking in goofy voices. Sorry we were bothering you!"

Bothering me, he must have thought. Try pointless activity! Why do I have to be the oldest brother of these two idiots who persist in disturbing my study where I have to hear them! "Well Stop!" he bellowed.

Wait a moment! we frowned. Who gave Nick the authority to rule the house (right now we were not clear on the newness that he was actually in charge). "Hey, this is our house, too!" Gina protested. "We're not doing it upstairs!"

"Yeah but I can hear it upstairs! So go do something quiet! I'm doing homework and I need my concentration!"

"We did ours," I mumbled barely under my breath.

"Listen, you're going to go to high school next year and you'll see how much homework you get!"

He was right and I knew it but I was in 8th grade now and having a great year at school. I kind of liked being in the graduating class. So I didn't really see the point of listening to my brother. Then he said the magic words: "Just keep it down or you are going to be in big trouble when Mom and Dad get home!"

I guess it finally dawned on us at that phrase "when Mom and Dad get home" that Nick was in charge and we carefully stopped laughing, apologized between snorts and ran into the other room so that we could continue to laugh and not get Nick any more upset.

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