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MY GAZE WAS FIXED on the barrel of the gun.
    The hollowness of it.
    The rim of its mouth.
    Chrome silver, smudged with dirty fingerprints.
    Although I’d gotten used to the name-calling and the smacking around, being held at gunpoint by my own flesh and blood was a bit of a shocker. Good ol’ Frank. My dad. The fat fuckbag. His violent ogreish demeanor was the norm. Five days out of seven, I would arrive home ten minutes too late (or early) and step into his bubble of drunkenness, ticking him off to beet-red-faced, bottle-smashing extremes for no apparent reason. Everything promised to propel the fat turd into explosions of Vesuvian magnitudes. By year fourteen I’d come to expect a lot from being on the receiving end of such combustions: bruises, black eyes, swollen lips. But I’d never expected that. Not once had he waved that thing at me. Not once a gun. 
    “Put him down.” The words slurred out of his crooked mouth. 
    Him is my baby brother, Phil. One year old, his entire life ahead of him, currently unconscious in my thin arms. His gaping blue eyes rolled white, half-open, as faint seizures sporadically took over his tiny body. Phil is not prone to seizures. Phil doesn’t have seizures. He’s as healthy as a one-year-old can be. This was not normal. This was Frank’s fault. But I was practically being held hostage. No dialing 911, no running into the ER. Oh, no. The fat fuck had me locked at gunpoint. Sweat glistened down his unshaven fatty chin. 
    Phil convulsed one more time before his tensed muscles relaxed; drool dripped down his thin lower lip. 
    That’s it, I thought. I’m saving my brother.
    I took one step toward the front door, and then I heard the weapon click—Frank pulling back the slide on the automatic; the chamber loading. 
    By the time my right foot had made it in front of the left one, the blast had already echoed inside the cramped room, and the bullet had grazed my calf like a serrated shard on fire. 
    I immediately thought of the stars.
    Heavenly bodies formed by huge clouds of dust and gas bumping into one another, getting bigger, their gravity getting stronger. Once hot enough, nuclear fusion occurs. 
    And then a star is formed. 
    People are shaped in a similar way—just like stars—excessive amounts of dust and hot gas. And like stars, everyone’s life has a turning point prior to their big bang. The shit show before the creation. Y’know, one of those moments that can fuck you up. 
    Cleopatra’s was when her father named her joint regent at fourteen. Fucked-up. 
    Bruce Wayne’s when he witnessed his parents get murdered. Fucked-up.
    Charles Manson’s when his mother sold him for a pitcher of beer. Fucked. Up.
    Not to mention “Helter Skelter.”
    What is life but a fucked-up factory fabricating fuckups?
    That, right there—bullet kissing my skin, me painfully attempting to maintain my balance while holding on to Phil—is my life. An intricate cornucopia of fucked-up. A full-on fuckathon. Every second. Every minute. Every hour. 
    But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was a time before the bullet, a time before Phil in my arms, a time before Frank’s attempt at infanticide. A time before the drug. A time before Lumen.
    Twenty-four hours.
    One thousand four hundred ‘n‘ forty minutes.
    Eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds.
    Ladies and gentlemen, sit back, relax. 
    Welcome to my fuckshow. 

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