Come in. He’s not here. If Frank knew I was talking to you he would kick my ass. Or try. Not like he could. So I’d have to kick his ass, and that wouldn’t be good for anybody. I told him to chop some wood, do some hunting or fishing, something to earn his keep around here. That should keep him busy long enough. You have a hard time finding the place?
Ayuh, this is Dad’s old hunting cabin. We built it, Dad, Frank and me, hammer and nail. Back then there was no road, we had to haul everything up the stream. When Mom died we sold the house and I used my share to put the road in so I could live here year round and drive out of here. The Army taught me how to drive trucks, so that’s what I do, haul timber out of the woods. But you didn’t come all the way from Boston to hear about me. You want to know why he did what he did and put it on TV. I want you to know where he came from.
It’s a little tight in here. Not much privacy, but Frank and me always shared a bedroom when we were kids. Only problem is my girlfriend moved out. She has a daughter, April, eight years old. Great kid, love her like she was my own. I tell Michelle, my girlfriend, she’s got nothing to worry about. Frank’s no pedophile. He just likes to look at college girls. What red-blooded American man doesn’t? I’m telling you, he’s my brother and he’s got no place else to go. I can’t put him out on the streets.
I think he just wants to put this behind him, lay low until his name falls out of the news and all people can find is what a smart guy he is, all those papers he wrote. But he should be smart enough to know it don’t work like that anymore, not with the internet, not when your name is Frank Kerouac. Anyone with a computer is going to know what he did with those girls, I tell him. I tell him, I’m glad Mom and Dad named me Jack. I could put someone in a wood-chipper and all people would find on my name is some writer from Massachusetts.
No, he don’t think it’s funny. I think maybe he don’t want to remind people because he don’t want his wife, his ex, to see anything new and open the wounds again. But I tell him, it’s important to tell his whole story, his side of things.
No, that’s not what I mean. There’s no excuse for what he did. And I don’t doubt that he did it. He never tried to deny it to me. But there’s more to him than just some guy who snapped pics in a bathroom. So smart, when I was a kid, I always looked up to him, was always proud of him, still am, or was. I was never so good in school. But it’s not about me. With his brains and all he knows about the economy, he could have been one of those guys on Wall Street making money on all the ups and downs. But he became a professor because he wanted to teach kids and figure out things about working people. He never forgot where he came from. And he was getting job offers from all over the country, Wisconsin, California, big schools, but he went to Hathaway College so he could stay in New England, close enough to drive to Mom. I think he would have rather stayed in Maine, too, but that wasn’t in the cards. That’s what makes it so hard to figure: He was a good guy, seemed like it.
Mom passed the year before. Lung cancer. I was so angry, she was too young, but I guess it’s for the best. Frank was always her favorite. I’m telling you, it was like the sun shone out of his ass for her. I was still in Iraq when she started getting sick. Lori, our sister, had to do a lot to take care of her. Frank came up when he could, which always made Mom smile. This would have killed her, broken her heart.
We lived down in Auburn. Dad worked his whole life at the big paper mill down there. Killed him even faster than the cigarettes killed Mom. I was still in high school when it happened, but Frank was already in college, scholarship. Mom told him not to quit school, that someone in our family needed the chance to make something of himself. I started working, kid stuff, washing dishes at the diner, sorting bottles at the redemption center. First time he went to Brazil was the year after.
I don’t know why he did his research in Brazil. Sometimes I thought it was kind of strange, if he wanted to help working people here, but he said it was something to do with his career, finding a way to do something other people hadn’t thought of. I don’t know. He could explain it better, but he won’t talk to you.
I’m telling you, my brother’s not a criminal. The girls were all legal age. He never laid a finger on them, just took pictures, and none of them would have even known if there weren’t the accident. The Brazilians couldn’t find any of their laws that he could have broken. Maybe if he had done something with local girls, rich ones of course, not poor ones, maybe, the Brazilians might have found something to arrest him for. But it was just American college girls, his students, they didn’t care. Wherever you go, people take care of their own. And he never brought any of those pictures to this country. That grand jury was going for months down in Massachusetts and they couldn’t figure out what to pin on him.
I already told you, I’m not making excuses. What he did was disgusting. But he’s not a criminal. He’s too smart to be a criminal.
Maybe I’m not saying it right because I don’t have a college education. I tried going to the community college on GI Bill to learn something about computers, but that went even worse than high school. Maybe I have a different way of looking at it because of Iraq and Afghanistan. See, crime isn’t just what you do. What I figured over there is, something can be a crime most of the time, but if the right person does it in the right place, the right way, it can be something different. Not me. I just drove trucks. But you see things. Maybe that’s not right. Look at it another way, with the economy. That guy, what was his name, the one who went to jail?
Ayuh, Madoff. He was a criminal. A stupid criminal. He thought he was smart, and maybe he was smarter than a lot of people around him. But all he did was steal people’s money. Too easy to get caught. So that just means he was a stupid person who thought he was smart. But then you had all those other guys who stole other people’s money but were smart enough to figure out a way to do it so it was OK, or at least so it wasn’t illegal. They were too smart to be criminals. I’m telling you, that’s the way it is with Frank. That’s why he would never do anything to Michelle or April, not here, because not even he’s smart enough to figure out a way to get away with it. If he ever did something, I would know. I would know, and he wouldn’t get away with it.
You got a point, maybe that is why he went to Brazil. I just don’t see why everyone, you guys in the media, his old bosses at Hathaway, has to keep kicking a man when he’s down. Calling him the “pervy prof.” He should have lost his job. I wouldn’t want him teaching my kid, not even April and she’s not really mine. But did you know the president of Hathaway sent a letter to everyone who worked for the college? It said, he quit before we could fire him, he was definitely going to get fired, this is why, and if anyone calls you for a reference for Frank Kerouac, you have to quote this word for word or you’re on the hook and not the college. Can you believe that? It’s not like he’s applying for jobs at schools, he just wants to do some research for a union or a charity or something. We don’t have the high-speed internet up here, so every Tuesday morning he goes down to the Auburn Library, an hour drive, to send out resumes. But there’s no chance of him ever getting a job and getting off my couch if everyone he ever worked with has to heap shit back on him every time.
Sorry, can you just bleep that?
OK, let me try to figure out a way to say it that you can use. What’s that he’s always saying? Character…
That’s it. It’s character assassination. He lost his job, doing what he loved, lost his wife, and now he’s losing his chance at a life. A man has to be able to go on with life. I understand those girls and their families feel betrayed. His wife, too. But now maybe would be a time to show some mercy. Not for his sake, or mine. But there’s so much he could be doing might make up for the bad he’s done.
That’s all I’ve got for now. It’s getting dark. What time you got on your watch?
Shit, he should have been back by now. Could you wait here a bit? I’m gonna step out to the shed and check something.
The axe, the chainsaw and the fishing tackle are all there, so he must have gone hunting. Let me check the gun cabinet.
Why the fuck did he take the moose rifle? Let me try calling. I hope he’s close to a tower.
He left his cell phone here? I’m gonna call 911.
Yes, I have an emergency. My brother’s gone missing.
Less than twelve hours.
I know, but listen. He took my moose rifle.
No, I’m not calling to report a theft. Don’t you get it? It’s not moose season.
I don’t know. I’m just worried about him.
I don’t think I want to go looking for him myself. Could you please just send a deputy?
Thank you. Thank you, ma’am. It’s a private road, Kerouac Camp Drive, off 156 in the township, near the stream. It’s the only cabin on the road.
Yes, ma’am, it’s paved, the deputy can drive right on up. Thank you, ma’am.
It’s going to be a bit of a wait until the deputy comes. One of the guys in my unit, got a TBI from an IED, never was the same after that, son of a bitch did that when me and a couple other guys were coming over to visit. You never want to see that shit. Not once. Definitely not again. Definitely not your…
Did what? Did what I think my brother might have done, that’s what. I don’t want to talk about it.
Nah, you might as well stay, at least until the deputy comes. Just let me make one more call. I might want to tell you a few more things about Frank after that.
Hi, April. It’s Jack. Can I speak to your mommy, please?
Hey, babe. I think it’s done.
No, not right now. The TV people are still here, and the sheriff’s department is on their way. Whatever they find it wouldn’t be right for you or April to be around.
I’ll call you when it’s clear.