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Broken Home

by

Darren James Stott


Chapter 1


 

It was at his own insistence that in September 1987, Brandon left 756 West Avenue and his father and stepmother's care. Brandon would spend the next few years bouncing around the metaphorical wilderness of Stanton Harbor. Though he'd make two stops that were a year in length, over the next four years he would live in ten different houses, with ten different families. Not one of them would feel like home.

His first stop was the familiar turf of his paternal grandparents' trailer outside Oakland. From there he could take the bus into 'Oakey' each morning, which allowed him to stay in the same school and class, but even his classmates knew the transition was hard. At his grandparents, he had the sympathetic ear of his beloved grandmother Gwen, and there were moments where he and grandfather Arthur shared closeness, but he spent much of his time by himself. It was yet another step toward a larger, profound loneliness.

One day he helped his grandfather construct a dollhouse for Gwenís birthday. Brandon assisted by methodically stapling miniature cedar shingles on the roof of the structure. With wood that was left over, Brandon built a crude chess set. He began by drawing the shapes of the pieces on the wood, and then laboriously whittling them with a knife. Halfway through this process, his grandfather showed Brandon how to operate the jigsaw, then left the fifteen year old to his own devices, while watching from the door. The boy would look up at his grandfather for approval, and Arthur would tell him, "Brandon, youíre doing good."

But Arthur was not always so kind with his words, and Brandon found himself in the same father/son dynamic he'd experienced three years previous with father, Robert. Arthur was quick to pepper his discussions with Brandon with criticism. In Arthur's defense, Brandon could truly be a pain. As his teenage years began, he constantly tested his limits, and with so many parental figures - and none with ultimate authority over him - he eventually wore out his elders.

His family painted a picture of a stubborn and obstinate boy who wasn't interested in listening to any adults or working. Petulance seemed to be an essential part of his nature, as did laziness, in contrast to everyone else in his family (even his younger sister Mary-Kate had helped pay the bills with her paper route.) "Brandon was lazy," as his father so often said and, although he didnít like it, he knew it was probably the truth.

By summer 1988, Brandon had left Oakland to live with Uncle Bill in San Diego. His uncle was surprised to be given the responsibility. " I was shocked they would let him live with me," he had said in the weeks following Brandonís arrival - Although to Brandon, undoubtedly, it was an much bigger surprise to be taken to live with his pot-smoking, beer-guzzling uncle.

Bill was two years younger than his brother Robert but far hipper, with a large record collection (which Brandon later found solace in during those, often frightening, occasions where his uncle had gotten too drunk and too high and had decided to smash the place up) Brandonís biggest joy during his months with Bill was rebuilding and old amplifier heíd discovered in an old, unused closet in the hall.

Those brief months spent with Uncle Bill in San Diego were far from happy times for Brandon but, in the light of things to come, they were by no means the worst. That summer was representative of a period of discovery for Brandon, a time in his life when the fifteen year old truly felt something stirring within him, something new and exciting. A time which was spend rebuilding old amplifiers & spending entire evenings by the lake just yards from the back porch lost in thought, not really paying much attention to the cold, and often for Brandon, lonely world around him. Turning himself inwards became his escape from everything bad in his world; his drunken uncle, his ageing grandparents who could no longer take care of him, his many insecurities. But most of all, more than anything else in his life, the one thing that Brandon sought sanctuary from was himself...

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