I met Chris in 1996. He was in my class at school. He lived with his two brothers, his mother, and his stepfather in a brick house with a backyard that connected to ours via a wire fence. I’d often climb through the fence to play cops and robbers with Chris and his brothers. His brothers were a few years older than us, and they liked to fight and argue a lot. The arguments usually started over something stupid, like who won the last round of Mortal Kombat or who got to ride which bike for the day. Sometimes it was scary to watch them fight, but it was also kind of exciting. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so I was fascinated by how quickly they could switch from caring about each other to hating each other’s guts. I remember one day Chris pissed on his eldest brother, Matt’s, bedroom floor after he stole Chris’s slingshot. Matt punched and kicked the shit out of Chris until he was so winded he could barely breathe. Occasionally the brothers would beat me up, too. Jared, the middle brother, split my lip open with his fist when I accidentally tripped him over during a game of tag once. After that, I tried my best to keep out of his way.

Their stepfather was an abusive prick. He flew planes for a living—the big 747 jet types—and when he’d get home from work at night he’d almost always take out his anger on us kids. He never hit me, but he came close; he held me up by my shirt collar and threw me to the ground one day when I accidentally scratched his car with my bike. Their mother was a strange lady. She always seemed very cold compared to my mom. Mom told me she had schizophrenia; I didn’t know much about it, other than that she’d suddenly snap at times and become really angry and start shouting into the air for no reason. She was also really religious, which was funny to me because one minute she’d be talking about all the good things God was doing and the next she’d be getting really drunk on vodka and saying “FUCK” a lot.

We played outside most of the time to avoid their parents. Chris’s brothers were bad. Sometimes we’d be out riding our bikes and they’d break into somebody’s house. Sometimes Chris would even join in. I never went in with them. I was too afraid of getting caught and going to jail or something. They’d come out of the house with Nintendo games, jewelry, porno magazines—whatever they could find and possibly sell at school the next day. Jared sold me my first porno for a dollar on the school bus. It was actually just one picture, torn out of an old issue of Penthouse magazine. “Lusty Linda”, it had written beneath a brown-haired girl who looked my mom’s age. She was on her elbows and knees with her pussy facing the camera. She was smiling, as though she really enjoyed people staring into her pussy. I was equally confused and exhilarated by the picture. I hid it under the paper lining in my sock drawer so my parents wouldn’t find out.

Chris’s older brothers also introduced me to internet porn. They were over at my house one day while my parents were out, and Matt asked if we could use my dad’s computer. “I want to show you something funny,” he said. We went into dad’s study and Matt got the internet going. I always liked the sounds the internet made when it started up; it reminded me of a robot out of Star Wars. He typed into the search bar—“www.funnyfarm.com.” Images slowly began to occupy the screen. They were of girls fucking farm animals. “Great, isn’t it!” said Matt. I just laughed—I was even more confused by these pictures than my Lusty Linda cutout. Horses have really big dicks, I thought. Much bigger than mine. After a while, I told him he needed to close it down. The next day my dad’s computer had a virus and windows kept on popping up of girls fucking farm animals. When I told dad about the website he grounded me for a week.

One day I arrived at school and Chris wasn’t in class. I asked around, and it turned out Jared and Matt weren’t there either. Days went by with no sign of any of them. I climbed through the back fence and knocked on the front door of their house, but no one was home. I never saw Chris or his family again after that. Supposedly their mom got in a fight with their stepdad and took a bunch of pills with some vodka. The boys had to go live with their real dad on the other side of the country. A few years later my mom heard Chris was in juvenile hall—he got caught selling speed to the kids at his new school. Jared and Matt were on trial for armed robbery and murder—apparently, they held up a gas station and shot the clerk after he pressed a panic button behind the counter; the police found them half a mile away, hiding out in an abandoned house. Their stepdad shot himself in the head on a plane full of passengers—the plane was on the runway about to take-off when it happened; no one knows how he got the gun onboard.

Eventually, a new family moved into their old brick house. Mom and I went over and said hello once or twice. They were real shy, quiet people. A year or so later, the husband and wife were having an argument in the kitchen and the husband went into the bedroom and came out with a gun. He smiled and shot himself in the head, right in front of his wife and their teenage daughter.

Tom Yoannidis’s short story “Suicide House” won second prize in the Fifth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Tom was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1990. Raised by a wild/artistic mother (model/private pilot/photographer) and an adventurous father (commercial pilot), he moved to New York on a whim in 2012 to study acting, and graduated from the Maggie Flanigan Studio in late 2014. He then moved to Toronto to work as an art director/art director’s assistant on TV commercials before returning to study Film at SVA. Tom is a hopeful director/writer in the making and an impulsive watcher of 70s cinema.