Vo l . 7 N o . 1 “No, Titanic did.” “Yeah—it did.” “I’m pretty positive it did not.” Josh glanced at me from the passenger seat. I had never challenged him on anything. In fact, I hardly ever spoke. But how much money a movie grossed was a topic I was sort of expert on. Since I was eight, box office grosses fascinated me. My brain drank facts like Spaceballs was the movie to dethrone Titanic from its 15th straight week at #1 at the box office, or that Tomb Raider made 48 million dollars its opening weekend; My Big Fat Greek Wedding topped at #3, but eventually made a quarter billion dollars domestically, making it one of the highest grossing movies of 2002. For years, I had been checking box office totals the same way other boys checked baseball stats. “I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about,” Josh said to the windshield. “Titanic made over 600,000 million dollars in the US, and Fellowship of the Ring made a little over 300,000 million.” “Yeah but together, Lord of the Rings and the Two Towers made more than Titanic.” “That doesn’t count though, those are two different movies.” He huffed, like an older brother offended by his dweeby little relative. “OKAY, it must be opening weekend I’m thinking of.” “True, Fellowship made more its opening weekend, but it was only #1 at the box office for three weeks. Titanic was number one for 15 weeks.” The veins in Josh’s neck enflamed. As I’d come to find out, anytime he got mad, he would clench up his fists and move his face forward, as if to kill his enemy with LASER vision. I saw his head move forward, but I can only guess that his fists were clenching. That’s probably why Mom said, “Drop it Matt.” Minor quarrels like this happened at least once a week. Serious fights were rare. The largest one happened later that winter, after I had officially moved to Alaska. I forget the exact cause, probably another version of movie trivia dispute. To Josh, it wasn’t so much the facts I disputed that angered him, but that I was arguing at all. He was making Easy-Mac in the kitchen, and I was disputing one of his stories while reclining on the couch. My arrogant repose must have pissed him off. I forget what I said, some teenage quip, no doubt underhanded; he stormed onto the edge of the kitchen, glaring at me.
“I should beat the shit out of you.” Mom was putting makeup in the bathroom, and called out from the closed door, “Everything okay in there?” I eyed him coldly. “Fuck, you, Josh.” He raised his fists and stormed at me. When he reached for me on the coach, I recoiled my legs far into my body, and like a slingshot kicked his chest as hard as I could. He crashed against the wall. Mom ripped the bathroom door opened. I jumped onto the couch and yelled “Go ahead, hit me you fucking loser! See if I care!” I pointed at him. “Your ass will land up in jail so fast, and I will be so happy to never see you again!” His eyes were surprised, almost hurt, but above all shocked that this little feminine piece of shit was making his life so difficult. He raised his fist and marched toward me. Mom lunged at him— “Okay! calm down— Matthew stop that!” She pulled Josh into their room, calling out to me from behind, “Matthew, please take a walk around here and come back when you’ve cooled off.” The thin brown door shut. I bobbed a bit on the spry couch. Gradually, consciousness returned to my body. I realized that my breathing was heavy, my temples throbbing. Through the walls, I heard Josh say “I can’t take that kid!” I jumped off the couch and ran out of the apartment. I went to the same place I always did when this family got to be too much for me: a giant boulder behind some trees that everyone ignored because it was so close to the dumpster. I leaned against the boulder and brooded. From here I heard the building’s front door explode open. Josh stomped toward his Ford truck. The pavement burned as he high-tailed out of the parking lot. • Josh wasn’t a total failure. He never hit me or Mom, unlike his dad, who pretty much hit all of his loved ones. Josh loved Mom. Even in their worst of fights, he refused to raise his voice to her. For those who did not hear him speak or see his posture during his nine hour marathons of World of Warcraft, he was an attractive fellow. He also attended church regularly. I underestimated what Mom would go through for a solid church companion. I stopped joining her for Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday service when I was 14. Josh continued going well through the end of their marriage. Even when she started going to Nazareth Chapel.