Grief's Melancholy Shade - Chapter 4
By: Susan McNeill and Rhonda Hallstrom
Kermit looked over at his writhing brother. It was a good thing David
was restrained. His feet and arms seemed to go in all directions in
order to free himself and kill the relative who had saved him from the
streets. Once or twice, David came very close to knocking Kermit's head
through the window. Only Kermit's expert, trained reflexes avoided serious
injury as he pulled the Caddy up to his sister's apartment complex.
Waiting for the coast to clear, Kermit scanned the area around the
apartment complex. He couldn't drag his brother into Marilyn's place in
full view of witnesses. The garish Cadillac drew enough attention all on
its own without the spectacle of hauling a filthy, belligerent runaway
across the lawn under his arm. In the dim light of sunset, Kermit
appraised the ball of anger sitting beside him.
David's fury radiated in super-nova intensity from the passenger side.
After twenty minutes of futile struggling against the handcuffs and
seat belt, the young man had faded back into the leather prison, body
inert, but spirit screaming out rancid hatred from bloodshot eyes.
The side of his face was flooding with blue where Kermit's fist had
connected, an accessory that only accentuated the sallow checks.
"David, I'm sorry I hurt you but I had to get you out of there in a
hurry. If you hadn't fought me, I-"
"You couldn't stay there, Squirt. You need some help."
"Help yourself, asshole! I wish you were dead!"
Pulling back into himself a bit, Kermit whispered, "Join the club."
It was obvious that he wouldn't reach him that easily. Seeing a clear
opening, the mercenary slid out of his side of the rental and moved
quickly to his brother's side. Pulling open the heavy car door, Kermit
reached over the tattered body to unsnap the seat belt. Wrapping his arms
around the flesh-draped bones that should have been arms, he tried to
pull the young man out of the car.
Peering out from beneath the heavy hood of bluish eyelids, David
gradually let a grin spread over his thin mouth. It was a smile laden with
poison. With no warning, he began to scream in megaphone intensity. "HELP!!!
Somebody help me!!! This pervert's got me in handcuffs!!! HEL-"
The call for help was stifled by the clamp of his hand over David's
mouth. "Shut up or I'll slug you again." Imprisoning the boy with his
other hand, he began to drag the struggling skeleton toward the complex.
Icy pain lanced through his body as David tore through the hand with his
teeth. <Don't feel it! > Kermit aligned his control against the searing
slice to the inside of his hand. The boy clamped down harder. <No pain.>
The mercenary kept moving. He had felt worse. He kept them
Half-dragging and half-carrying, Kermit Griffin battled his brother up
the stairs and into his sister's apartment. Flinging his burden to the
floor, he jammed his wounded hand into his pocket. The boy landed in a
shabby bundle on the floor. Swimming in his clothes, David's body had
little resemblance to the photograph Kermit had used to find
him. Hands still pinned by the cuffs, David struggled to push himself
upright against the wall. Kermit read broken glass raking across David's
imagination as he stared down into the red-rimmed eyes.
"DAVID!!!" Marilyn shot from the bedroom and descended on the heap that
remotely resembled her younger brother. "Oh my God! Kermit?! Why is he
in handcuffs? What happened?" Fawning over the boy and capturing his
battered face in her hands, Marilyn gasped in horror at his condition.
Bones where there was once muscle. Pulling him close and ignoring the
dirt and stench, Marilyn rocked him close to her. "It's okay, Davey. It's
"He did it, Mare." David, now a prolific actor, wailed into his sister's
shoulder. "Kermit hit me and put these things on me. He hates me...I'm
scared, Mare...." David shed his phony tears and snuggled into the sympathy
of his older sister.
"Take these things off of him, Kermit! What were you thinking? He's just
a boy!" Marilyn shot daggers up from the floor as Kermit silently bent
to release the cuffs.
"He wouldn't come willingly, Marilyn. I didn't have much of a choice."
Kermit leaned back, catching the evil smile David shot up at him behind
the back of his new protector.
"My God, Kermit," Marilyn ran a hand down the swollen face, "you had to
Kermit remained silent, nursing his wound in the privacy of his pocket.
"He was pissed, Marilyn," the boy implored with puppy-like expression.
"You know how he gets. He was crazy! Just like before....I wouldn't do
"You'll be fine now, Davey. Don't worry." Marilyn remembered the rages
that her older brother had become victim to since his nightmare in
Vietnam. One of those rages had ripped him apart from them after his
return, making it impossible for him to be with them or raise them.
Kermit's homecoming from the war had not been the healing reunion Marilyn
had wanted. David and Marilyn had just been shuffled off to their aunt but
they were hoping that Kermit would change things upon his return. He had
changed things, all right.
He had been accompanied by his commanding officer, Paul Blaisdell. Neither
sibling had understood why -- until IT happened....
She had been waiting for hours, watching from the window, only
to burst through the door as if shot from a cannon and hurtle herself
to the car as it coasted to a stop in the driveway. Kermit, upon seeing
her, climbed out, wearing the biggest grin she had ever seen as he
held out his arms for her.
A gangly, just-turned-16-year-old Marilyn Griffin bounced in
excitement. Her big brother was home! "KERMIT!!!" she shrieked
as she propelled herself into his arms.
Marilyn ignored Paul Blaisdell, who had also exited the vehicle,
and dove past him to her brother. Later, she would think back on the
alarmed expression on the older man's face and the outstretched
hand she had avoided.
Kermit's body tensed and his arms shuddered ever so slightly as they
made contact. He relaxed with an effort and slowly encircled his arms around
Finally registering that Kermit was less than responsive, Marilyn drew
back. "Kermit-?" she asked, putting a hand toward his face. He drew
back, intercepting her hand with his. She noted the glasses, something
he swore that he would never wear in his life, but tactfully said nothing.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I forgot you were wounded - did I hurt
"No," he said, just as softly. "No, you didn't. I'm...okay." Marilyn
could hear the lie but she said nothing. "How are you?"
Marilyn studied him, wondering how much to tell him. Things were
bad -- as bad as they'd ever been -- but now, they would be better. Kermit
was home! "Let's go inside," she suggested.
Then, the explosion happened out of the blue; no warning whatsoever.
Everything was in slow motion and yet, happened within seconds.
It was David. Seeing his beloved big brother. He leapt at him, fists
flailing in front of him swiftly in friendly, boyish fashion, trying to
greet Kermit. Paul lunged for Kermit at the same time. Grabbing his
upraised fist, Paul spun Kermit around, propelling him away from David
and putting his own body in between them.
Marilyn stepped back in shock. David stood there, confused and
bewildered. Kermit , held firmly by his commanding officer, was
two seconds away from being a limp dishrag.
Time snapped back to normal. David ran away, back behind the house.
Kermit, one arm extended, called out, "David...," in a strangled voice,
demonstrating an inner battle for some sort of control. Marilyn just
stood there, looking at Paul, desperate for answers.
Paul let go of Kermit, who began to follow his distraught brother. Paul
laid a restraining hand on his shoulder and he glanced back. "It's all
said. "Let me go to him." Paul let go. Kermit, on his way to find David,
glanced back to Marilyn. "I'm sorry," he told her, "Paul will explain."
As Kermit raced to the back of the house, Marilyn turned to Paul. She
was a little intimidated by him,. Her father had introduced them only
once when she was ten and Paul Blaisdell hadn't lost an ounce of his
command presence. But she wanted to know what was going
on. Pulling herself together, she asked, "He's not okay, is he?" Her
arms encircled her body, holding herself, bracing for what was
Paul took a deep breath. "He's getting there."
"What happened to him? Why is he wearing glasses? Why did he try to hit
Paul didn't censor the truth. "There's a lot that I have to tell you about
Kermit," Paul began. "And the first thing is that you can't touch him too
quickly and you can't surprise him. Marilyn...his nerves are raw.
Completely. I'll let him tell you the details if and when he's ready,
but Marilyn," Paul put a warm hand on her shoulder, "he was...hurt
while he was a POW. Badly. He's been in the war for so long, he's
forgotten how to live in peace. He's going to respond like that for a
while until he gets used to the peace. Just follow a few instructions
and he'll be fine."
"Okay, don't surprise him and don't touch him. What else?" She
wanted to scream in anger at what they had done to her brother.
But....that wouldn't help now. She needed to know what to
do -- or not to do -- to help him.
"You can touch him if he sees you first. Anything he says, no
matter how it sounds, accept it. He won't take off the glasses, so don't
ask about that. If you hear something in the night, ignore it. He knows
what to do. Don't EVER wake him up. If he starts to play music, let him
play it and for as long as he wants. Watch his body. If he starts to
tense, just grab David and stay out of his way. Can you remember all
that?" Paul's matter-of-fact delivery made the frightening situation
Marilyn bit her lip and nodded. "Will he be okay?"
Paul looked down. "I'm going to stick around to make sure for a little
bit. I'll be right here if you need anything. Okay? Now, I'd better
check on Kermit and David. Are you all right?"
"Tell me what I can do to help." Marilyn stood in front of him like a
soldier, waiting for orders.
"You can go inside, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the
house," Paul told her. "If you hear any ticking, like a loud clock, go
and stop it. Pull the plug on it or take the weights out. Anything to
get rid of it. He can't take that sound. We'll be in in a minute."
Marilyn nodded and walked into the house, afraid to ask for more
information, as Paul walked around to the backyard. After performing
her tasks, she returned to the yard just in time to hear Kermit talking
softly to David, saying pretty much the same things that Paul had
told Marilyn about living in the war versus living in the peace. Only
Kermit was adding how much he loved him and Marilyn and how
the only thing that kept him going was thinking of them. Kermit then
delved into some favorite childhood stories, obviously those that
meant something special to the two of them. Marilyn watched; David
and Kermit, although ten years apart, were mirror images of each other.
They had a connection, a bond between them.
Kermit finally succeeded in communicating his love and, soon, was
teasing David, tussling his hair that turned into a mock-wrestling match.
"Okay, okay, you two," Paul said, stepping out into the open as the
'fight' was about to spill over onto the freshly-cut lawn. "You guys can
do this later. We're expected. Come on."
Marilyn didn't resist as Paul wrapped her in a supportive hug and
walked inside the house with the other two following.
<She's buyin' it.> Kermit could see the master manipulator that
heroin had given birth to inside the remains of his baby brother. He
said nothing to refute the lie. The truth would reveal itself in time.
Rubbing the bruised wrists, Marilyn tried to take charge of her fragile
younger brother. "Davey, why don't you go take a shower while I make
you something to eat, okay?"
"Wait. Let me check it out first." Kermit's voice was flat with command.
He strolled back to the tiny bathroom and ran a quick recon. Grabbing a
towel, Kermit dumped every prescription, every aspirin, and every razor
inside and headed back to the living room. Before passing through the
door, he snatched the belt from Rob's bathrobe and added it to the
collection. Dumping his bundle onto the coffee table, the heavy in this
drama gave his approval.
"Go ahead. There's no window so he should be all right. Just leave the
door open." Kermit sank down onto the sofa.
"You see, Mare," the boy wailed loudly as he was helped to his feet. "He
talks like I'm not even here! He hates me because he had to come here
and get me!" The broken glass began to eat away at his gut once again.
<Say anything. Do anything. > He had to get her on his side. <Divide and
conquer. > He remembered that phrase from somewhere. School or a book or
somewhere. It would work. It had to work. "I'm sorry. I won't make a
mess in there. I just need a little while, Mare. There's just no safe
place to clean up out there. Can I have some privacy, please?" Kermit
rolled his eyes at the histrionics.
"Of course you can!" Marilyn walked him slowly to the bathroom as Rob
burst in through the front door.
"Man! Did you see that car?! Wonder who the pimp-mobile belongs to?
Sweet Jesus...." Rob's voice trailed off as he caught sight of what
remained of his wife's younger brother. Only a fraction of resemblance
remained. Marilyn had her arms wrapped tightly around the slumped
shoulders of the boy as if he could melt away before her.
One tearful glance from Marilyn silenced any questions and Rob let them
disappear into the back of the apartment. Only then did he notice the
dark silhouette on his sofa.
Examining his bloody hand, Kermit steeled himself against the storm. The
fantasy of a victim grateful for rescue had evaporated. David hated him;
hated him with an inferno born of abandonment and distrust that had
steered him into a lifetime of drugs and despair.
"Damn, Kermit!" Rob yelped at the sight of the blood-soaked hand as the
mercenary took it out to apply pressure to the wound. Without
needing to be asked, the younger man went straight to the kitchen for
the first aid kit. "What happened, man?"
Uncharacteristically, Kermit let someone help him. He
didn't flinch at the close proximity as his brother-in-law sat down
beside him, fishing around in the open kit for the necessary medical
tools. "David bit me."
Before pouring on the antiseptic, Rob cast a silent inquiry at the man
he knew to be occasionally dangerous when provoked.
Smiling slightly at the hint of fear reflecting back at him, Kermit
said, "Do it."
Bubbling sterile pain shot through the skin that fluttered open at the
edges of the teeth marks. Kermit grit his teeth to make a barrier against
the gasp forming in his throat.
"I don't think it needs stitches," Rob commented helpfully, dressing the
hand in clean, white gauze.
"Thought you were Pre-law." Kermit cautiously bent his fingers to be
certain they were flexible inside the bandage, knowing he would need two
good hands to handle David. He hauled himself off the couch.
"Pre-law, Pre-med," Rob replied, grinning, as he snapped the lid on his
kit closed, "it's all the same."
"Now I know why lawyers are always out for blood," Kermit quipped,
nodding a thank you. "I'm going to make a phone call. You watch that
door, okay? You don't let him leave that room unless I'm here to help.
Rob blinked. Kermit's words were mild, even easy-going, but the tone was
that of an order -- a serious order, meaning life or death. Rob swallowed,
and nodded quickly. "Phone's in the bedroom," he added helpfully, even
though Kermit was already heading that way of his own volition, unasked,
Kermit acknowledged Rob's invitation with the briefest of nods, going
into the bedroom and shutting the door behind him. Rubbing his hands
together, he crossed the room to the phone, heart in his throat. He
owed Paul so much already...he wasn't looking forward to
dumping his pride in the trash once more. But that image in his mind -
the image that had been in his mind for the last three hours - made him
reach for the phone without hesitation. He dialed the number he knew by
<He's there. Thank God.> Kermit unglued his tongue from his
dry mouth. The shock, terror, and desperation were beginning to catch up
to him. His carefully constructed defenses were beginning to break down.
At the sound of this man's voice, the man he nearly thought of
as....Kermit shook his head. <Get it in gear, Griffin.>
Kermit could hear the tone switch from casual politeness to mercenary
tone. The man knew very well that this was a 'business' call, not
someone selling carpet cleaning fluid. "I need help." He kept his voice
matter-of-fact but he knew the other man wouldn't be fooled by that. He
wasn't fooled by anything Kermit had ever tried.
("What do you need?")
"Not that kind of help," Kermit quickly assured him. "I need a
doctor, someone who deals with heroin withdrawal. It's...David." He knew
the drug from the marks he'd seen piercing David's arms.
The line fell silent and Kermit could sense the sympathy that carried over
the phone lines. After all, Paul Blaisdell was a family man himself. ("Are
"Yes." Kermit understood that the man needed to know where Kermit was to
recommend someone in the area. "But that's not all. I need space.
Somewhere to battle this out with him...alone."
("Use my cabin. You know where the key is.")
Kermit was speechless with gratitude. "I...."
("Use it. Don't worry about what might happen. Worst things have hit it.
There's a ranger's station about three miles north of it. That's where
your doctor will meet you.")
"Thanks," Kermit whispered. He felt stunned with the overwhelming
gratitude for this man. <He saves my life and now David's.>
He heard the click as the line disconnected. Kermit knew not to take it
personally. He knew his friend was calling the doctor and paving the way
for him to use the cabin. This was the first thing that had gone right
all evening, aside from him actually finding David. Now all that was
left was to pick up the pieces.
Marilyn burst in, without knocking. True, it was her home but she had
been warned long ago never to surprise Kermit. He quickly pulled his
defenses and mask back into place as a very angry Marilyn confronted
"WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, KERMIT??!!!"
Kermit absorbed Marilyn's rage; rage obviously fueled by months
of worry and the picture just painted by their younger brother. "He's
hysterical back there! Shaking like a leaf! You're supposed to HELP
him! Not kick him while he's down!"
Calmly accepting her admonitions, Kermit focused dark eyes onto his
sister's burning fury. "He's not shaking out of fear, Marilyn. He needs
another hit. He's trying to trick you into keeping him away from me."
"Maybe I should, Kermit." Marilyn dug into the chest of drawers where
Rob kept his sweats, trying to find something for David to wear. "He ran
and used the drugs because he was UNHAPPY! Punching him and chaining him
like some animal is supposed to make him feel loved? Maybe you've just
forgotten what giving love feels like, Kermit!"
"Marilyn, give him a break. Look what David did to his hand." Rob,
implored from the doorway.
"You shut up!" she attacked, refusing to be out-numbered. "Wouldn't you
fight back if someone tried to assault you?! David's not a criminal!
"Not so fast, Marilyn." Kermit had no heart to rage back at his sister. The
fall would come soon enough. Calmly, with compassion, he took her hands
in his own. "I just dragged him out from a raid. A raid by cops,
Marilyn. Two older men ran into the flop he and this other kid were
using. They were being chased by the cops and bullets were flying
"David and this boy," she asked, shakily, "were they with them?"
"I don't know...I don't think so but I can't be sure." He had to make
her understand. "There's more. I saw them and their stash. They're into
robbery. They had stuff that they couldn't have gotten any other way.
Besides, his friend tried it on me. They weren't armed, though. More than
likely, they're just into the snatch-and-run kind of theft. But this
raid...they would've gotten picked up just for being there. They were in
the wrong place at the wrong time." His protective nature wouldn't let
him tell her about the prostitution. He couldn't be sure if David had
been part of that or not. Didn't want to be sure. Even he couldn't face
the thought that his bright baby brother had been willingly abused for a
fistful of cash to shove into his arm.
Shaking, Marilyn looked away from the truth in Kermit's eyes. "Well,
that's over now. When he comes out, we'll just get him to a hospital and
get him some help."
"No, Marilyn." He pulled her face back to meet his own. "That's the last
thing we can do. If he has gotten into something heavy, there could be a
warrant out for him. If he shows up in a hospital or a rehab, Aunt Helen
will have him trashed in some juvie hell to rot! No help for him. No
chance. Is that what you want?"
This was too much information to handle at once. David was here. She had
to focus on that. "Maybe he's not as deep into it as you think, Kermit.
Let's just keep him here for a few nights and once he's gotten away from
the drugs, he'll be all right." Tears began to drain down her cheeks at
her own failure. "I'll do a better job with him this time. We'll move
off campus. I'll quit school and take care of him and go back to school
later. I won't let him down again!" Rob moved in behind his young wife
and held her in silent support.
"You're not doing anything of the kind." He didn't want to hurt her.
She'd been hurt enough. All she wanted was a normal life for people who
would never have it. "I wish it was going to be that easy, little girl."
Kermit reverted to the gentle brother he had always tried to be with
her. "This is my kind of fight. I'm taking him away. Somewhere the two
of us can ride this out. I have some back-up who's
going to give me the medical information I need. When he's dressed,
Marilyn was shaking her head. Kermit could read her defeated
Kermit took her shoulders in his hands. "And you are NOT a failure!"
"What do you call it, then? Certainly not succeeding!"
Kermit closed his eyes. He knew the argument. He felt it himself.
Trouble was, he didn't know any defense against it or he would have used
it to comfort himself. But he couldn't walk out of here with Marilyn
thinking she was a failure. At a loss for words, he finally just hugged
her. Smoothing her hair, he whispered, "He'll be okay. I promise. My
friend will help and it'll be fine. You saved his life, Marilyn! You
called me so that I could find him. Now, it'll be okay. It'll just
take some time. You have to trust me. Okay?"
Marilyn hugged back before withdrawing, looking through the dark, green
glasses. "I just have to know one thing." Kermit waited silently. "Were
you in a rage when you caught David?"
"No. I swear," Kermit said.
Marilyn heard the pleading in his voice. He was asking her
understanding, her forgiveness, and her trust. Ultimately, he was asking
for her love. She sniffed back a tear and finally gave him a gentle kiss
on the cheek. "Call me when you can," she asked, giving him her unspoken
belief in his sincerity.
"I will." Emotional shields snapping back in place, Kermit turned his
attention toward the bathroom. David had been in there forever. The sound of
running water was still hissing from under the door as Kermit knocked
firmly. "David! Come out and get something to eat so we can get ready to
Alarms sounded as the mercenary twisted the knob and found it locked.
"David! Open this door!" Even as he shouted the command, his shoulder
plowed into the flimsy hollow door. Cursing himself and his ignorance,
Kermit splintered the wood and tore the door from its hinges in his
panic. Flinging the remnants in his wake, the man was stopped stone cold
still at the picture of heartbreak that met him. Speechless in his pain,
he could only stare at the desolation that had stolen his brother's
David, still soaked from the shower and wrapped in a towel, lay folded
in the tiny space between the toilet and the sink, a body of angles
nowhere rounded by healthy muscle; ghostly white flesh stretched over
his ribs and cheekbones. The blue bruise from his earlier battle matched
the deep circles that obscured his dark brown eyes.
Amid the needle tracts that printed a story of lost innocence up the
boy's arms dangled a needle, plunged empty of one last hit stored for a
rainy day. Too weak to tug it off, David had left the worn rubber tubing
loosely wrapped around his arm. Long damp strings of hair veiled his
eyes as the young addict stared blankly into space, smiling absently at
a power only he could sense as the gold rolled through his veins.
"David...," the older brother moaned. Sinking to his knees, physically
and emotionally, Kermit plucked the needle from his brother's arm.
Tears flowed without notice from under his mask of green shades as he
realized his error of omission. It never crossed his mind to search the
boy. Now, it was done. Plain for all to see. The drug was his god and it
had to be banished.
Rising through his heartbreak, Kermit Griffin turned away from the faint
smell of smoke and moisture to face another broken soul.
Marilyn stood in shock, seeing the truth splayed out on her bathroom
floor, feeling the impotence. "Kermit?"
Pulling her close and turning his back on David's pitiful state, he
whispered, "Get him dressed. He should be pretty easy to
handle...now...." Choking down his own bile, he excused himself. "I'm
going to pick up a few things and I'll take him away when I get back."
Needle still grasped in his hand, he walked woodenly out the door and to
the bright red Cadillac, stopping only to stomp the syringe into fragments
along the way.
To Be Continued...