1992 was a volatile year for my family. I was ten years old, my brother was seven, and our mother gave birth to our younger sister in May. Not long after our mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a treatable form of cancer but cancer nonetheless. My father was a full-time student also working full-time to support our family. With my mother too weak from chemotherapy to perform her usual tasks, my brother and I found ourselves taking on more adult responsibilities.
At school our teachers soon caught wind of my family's plight and treated both myself and my brother as though we were made of porcelain, about to break at any moment. I got into a fight with a boy named Raymond Lovejoy because he called me fat. I was sent to the school counselor because obviously I had fought due to my stressful situation at home, not because Raymond was a jerk. My brother, Brett, already an artistic individual, was allowed to draw during class because he too must have been suffering and this was his form of release.
Brett, who was in the third grade, was often commissioned by his classmates for drawings. A girl in his class asked Brett to draw a skull for her and he, thinking nothing of it, drew it for her, adding in flames to great effect. Later that day he was called in to see the school counselor and my mother was called. Brett's drawing had been discovered in the locker of another girl in his class bearing the inscription "I know where you live and am going to kill you and your family." Brett appeared to be cracking under the intense pressure of having a sick mom, newborn sister, and exhausted father.
My mother came to school to meet with Brett and the counselor and upon examining the picture began to laugh. Though the artwork was most definitely Brett's the handwriting was not. It appears the girl who had asked for the picture did not like the other girl in whose locker the picture was found. My mother went home and Brett, and myself, were made to meet regularly with the school counselor. Neither of us had a clue as to why we had to meet with the counselor but she had games and comics in her office so we made the best of a bleak situation.