Tomorrow we will drive 400 miles through snow and ice to spend Christmas with my family.  We're bringing probably only 3 of our 4 dogs, which is ALMOST more traumatic for me than the prospect of hearing more stories about my mother's sexuality. (I shit you not.  The Trix somehow feels the need to unload, so to speak. It's positively gruesome.)  I was sure this morning and this afternoon and part of this evening that I would without a doubt be leaving Scout with Dianne, for the good of All.  Now, I'm not so certain.  I'm stressing.
What if I get trapped up there? SNOWED IN??? My dogs calm me.  They get me out of my mother's house to run. Alone.  Scout barks at my brother. Or will if I click and treat her into it.

My brother, Cienna and I are training for a 30K run that happens in Oregon in March.  My brother, Chris, has been training, anyway.  Every time he calls me, he asks, "So, you're running, right?" and usually I have to finish chewing something before I can take a swig of beer and clear my mouth enough to answer unconvincingly,

"Uh-huh….Yup….  Hey, so what else is new? Have you ever tried cheese on poptarts? It's gross at first, but after a few chews the cheese and the frosting sort of compliment each other…"

I got Chris into running two years ago, as an alternative to divorce and living in his car. LIke most everything my brother has ever done, he is good at it. He's fast and he's piling up the miles.  The last time I ran with him, a few months ago, I had to lie to get him to stop occasionally so that I could breathe. 

"My shoes untied."

"What sort of PLANT is this?"

"My uterus fell out."

He's lost 20 pounds. I have food stains on all my running stuff.  I used to be the healthy one. 

A few years ago Chris decided to quit drinking, which was a good thing.  The last time we'd seen him he'd taken me and our older brother, Matt, to a skanky north Idaho shithole called something clever like "The Shack" because that's what it was, and nearly got us all beat up when we had to physically peel him off an aged lot lizard. (It's not a judgment, that's what her stained t-shirt said.) 

Chris was hitting on this woman, who was old enough to be our mother, not probably QUITE chronologically, but certainly mileage-wise.  (Her crusty old odometer was stuck on 9999999)  She had a tattoo of a snake with dice for eyes.  She spoke thru a perpetually clenched cigarette, her lips moving like a muppet's.  Chris was entranced; wouldn't leave her alone.  She was sitting at the bar on an end stool, and he just kept orbiting her and whispering in her ear, buying her drinks….She laughed periodically, low and guttural, ending in a long coughing fit. 

At home, Mary, Chris' wife, was decorating for flag day. Ironing table clothes and setting the children's clothes out for school. She is perfect.  She would never have imagined this scene.

I'd sort of seen it before, Chris wasn't happy, a new phase of unhappiness; over-40-and-I'm-not-what-I-thought-I'd-be-unhappy.  I have always thought of him as successful. He's the funniest person I know. The quickest.  There isn't anything he can't do; he'd almost got a democrat elected to office in North Idaho.  I think we looked at that 'almost' differently.

I'd gone to bars with him on a number of occasions.  That last year, instead of just joking and/or bitching about our lives, having a *few* drinks, Chris would reach an intoxication level where he'd just become someone else. Someone mean, or crazy.  It was clear that he had a problem.  He was not the rotary club catholic family man who did everything right that some of the rest of the family was used to. 

Our oldest brother, Matt, sitting on a broken stool near the unisex "shitter" at The Shack just wasn't processing the New Chris. 

"What is he doing?" he kept asking me. "This can't be happening…Not Chris…I don't get this…"

Matt just kept sipping his one Bud Lite and sadly watching his younger brother, the Family Hopeful, nibble the wattle of his boozy beloved.

If one would have taken bets on which one of us kids would grow up to frequent beer shantys on "the old highway" and get sloppy drunk and make out with the mother figure from someone else's bad childhood…I think I can say all the smart money would have been on me.  

The night wore on and Matt finally insisted we were going.  Chris didn't want to leave. We're leaving, Matt said. I did a lot of nodding. No matter who was talking. I'm like that. Neutral in a pinch.

"Fine. Go. I'm staying here with Charlotte." Chris said, his sudden hand on her shoulder releasing a new coughing fit. We waited for her to finish.

"My name is Helen," the woman snapped.

"Whatever," Chris said. "Doesn't matter."

It went down hill from there. Helen, turned out, was a mean drunk.  That snake meant something. The other patrons sided with her.   In North Idaho, when push comes to shove, literally, you can't win wearing a rayon shirt and tasseled loafers, in any bar that features Hamm's art and has a dog turd under the pool table.   It was a low point for Chris having to face that turd up close.  Helen's orthopedic shoes marking up his tan dockers.  She didn't even spill her drink.

So bottom line is that now Chris doesn't drink and runs every day. He's back to being perfect and respectable. 

"Bring your shoes!" he called tonight to remind me. 

Yipe yipe yipe. All this to say I just don't think I can leave Scout.

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