Nobody asked him if he wanted to be a big brother.
It’s late and he’s kicking the orange plastic chair beside him with his dirty sneaker clad foot for lack of anything else to do. He waits an’ waits and the ticking of the clock overhead is annoying.
There’s nothing to do and his father threatened to beat his ass from here to the house and back if he gets into any shit and the nurse sittin’ on her big ass on the other side of the room keeps giving him nasty looks.
It feels like he’s been waiting for days before he hears the familiar clomp of his dad’s boots comin’ down the hallway and he sits up straighter, trying to look at least somewhat interested in all this bullshit.
He’s too old to be excited about it all and he thinks to himself, late at night when he’s pretending he can’t hear his Ma cryin’ through the paper-thin walls of the trailer, that the last thing they need is another mouth to feed.
His dad’s bulky shoulders fill the doorway and he jerks his thumb at him. “C’mon.”
He slips off the chair and follows behind him, walkin’ like he’s on his death march. He doesn’t want to meet the baby, couldn’t care less really, and he kind of hates his old man for knocking her up again when the bastard can’t hardly provide for them as it is.
He fingers the bruise that’s shadowed over his right cheekbone and thinks maybe he oughta keep his opinions to himself more often. Lately, more than ever, he hates everyone an’ everything and some baby is gonna make this cracked, fucking broken family fit back together again?
They stop at the doorway to the recovery room and he stares at his mother. She’s layin’ on the bed, looking pale as can be, like someone knocked the life out of her and it scares him. Goosebumps rise on his skin and he takes a step back, only to bump into his father, who shoves him forward with one rough hand on his shoulder.
“Git in there, boy,” he mutters crossly under his breath.
He jerks his shoulder away from the man and sullenly crosses the tiled floor to his mother’s side. She’s clutching a blanket wrapped bundle to her chest and there’s a tear in each of her eyes and a tired smile on her lips.
He dutifully kisses his Ma on the cheek and her lips twitch at his obvious discomfort in this environment. He’s never been fond of hospitals. She smoothes his messy hair back from his forehead and lifts the bundle up for him to see better.
“Meet yer baby brother, Merle,” she says and he can hear her tryin’ to be happy right then.
She places the baby in his arms and for a split second, he’s terrified he’ll drop it. The weight of the baby is so slight, so…fragile and Jesus, why would she want him to hold a newborn when he can’t seem to stop stumblin’ and fumblin’ everything since his latest growth spurt.
The baby squirms in the blankets and lets out an indignant howl. His little face is scrunched up and red fills his pale face as he hollers louder. He looks down at the crumpled face and feels a tiny tug in his chest.
It ain’t the baby’s fault he was born, just like it wasn’t his neither to be in this fucked up family.
He holds back a sigh and the baby stops cryin’ and looks at him with some intent. It’s kinda funny, watching a baby stare at him like he’s taking a test. He holds him a little bit closer, listenin’ as his Ma tells him she named the baby, Daryl, an’ look, he likes you already, Merle…
Merle bites the inside of his cheek to hold back everythin’ he’s feeling right then.
He never wanted to be a big brother. And now he is.