Tragedy Can Inspire

Dear Joe,

If you're reading this then my feelings were right and something has happened to me and that something is that I'm dead ... Joe, I have a job for you, and only you. There is someone I need you to take care of for me."

That was the letter that changed Joe's life. The letter that asked him to take care of someone else instead of being taken care of. And without realizing it, what started as a favour to a lost treasured friend became the biggest gift he would ever receive. And sometimes, tragedy can inspire.

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5. Respect

Joe piled into the black Tahoe with the rest of the family, the battered shoebox held tightly in his hands as he sat by Kevin.  Craig’s other meagre belongings were stacked in the back neatly by Joe, care taken that none of it would be overturned by the drive.  Conversation floated around him like wisps of cloud, bits and pieces flitting down to him at times but he didn’t pay enough attention to grab any of them.

His thoughts were back at the hotel room, with the belongings he had found and what they would have meant to Craig.  He fingered the watch in his pocket, feeling the slight engraving on the back through his fingertips.  Was that something Craig would have done as he had driven down miles of road on the Jonas tour bus?  And who was Melissa?  What was in the letters written to her that Joe wanted to tear open?  He found himself flipping through the snapshots he had seen in his mind.  The happy brunette with the startling green eyes and soft smile.

“Earth to Joe.”  Nick’s voice punctured his thoughts.  It was dripping with exasperation. He was turned in the front seat so he was facing Joe and Kevin in the back.  “Did you listen to anything I just explained to you?”

Joe moved his thoughts from Mystery Melissa back to his very annoyed brother in front of him.  “Sorry, just kind of drifted away for awhile.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  Nick rolled his eyes and continued.  “Well, what I was trying to explain was that since today is Tuesday, the funeral will be on Friday.  Mom and Kev can work on that.  Dad and I will work on arranging auditions and postponing the tour for a week.  We’ll have to talk to Spencer about rebooking the venues but I am sure that he can spin some magic.”  Spencer was the tour manager.  He worked with their father and the boys to book and promote the different shows.  “Kevin will also have to get the press release out ASAP.  The fans will want to know what has happened.  I think that covers everything.”  Nick gave both of his brothers a questioning look, turning back to face the front when no comments were made.

Joe sat in stunned silence.  When had all of this been arranged?  And why had no one thought to involve him in the discussion?  Did no person in this car remember that he was the closest to Craig of anybody?  They hadn’t even involved him by giving him a job, something to stop his brain from spinning in twenty different directions before it split in his head.  He always was the least focused of his brothers but they hadn’t given him anything to do.

“Hey, Nick?”  Joe’s voice sounded quiet and timid. His fingertips still played with the box lid but trying not to tear it.  His brother turned to face him, a sigh hissing through his lips.

“Yes?”

Joe bit back his frustration and continued.

“Is there anything you need me to do?”  Nick rolled his eyes at his brother again.  He was probably thinking of all the time Joe had screwed up on important tasks that he had been asked to do and was trying to find the least important to assign him so that if he screwed up, it wouldn't matter.  Apparently it was a struggle because he didn’t answer right away and the corners of his eyes crinkled up, which happened when he pondered. After several moments, the crinkles were gone and he snapped his fingers.

“Elvis and Herc.  You can take care of Elvis and Herc.”  Nick smiled at his brother indulgently.  Wasn’t he supposed to be the younger one?

“Elvis and Herc?”  Joe felt the frustration whip quickly inside him.  Elvis and Herc were dogs.  Elvis was his brother’s golden retriever, a gift from his parent’s for his sixteenth birthday.  Herc, short for Hercules, was Craig’s chocolate lab.  He had stayed at the Jonas house because Craig had no place to take him when he had left L.A. to come to Dallas for rehearsals.

“You want me to look after dogs?”

Nick smiled at Joe again, this time the corners of his mouth tight with annoyance.  “Yes Joe, the dogs. We’ll have to find a home for Herc before we leave for tour anyway.”

Joe continued to fight his frustration as it rolled through him in wave after wave.  Is that all his brother thought he was good for? Looking after two fully grown dogs?  And why did Herc need a new home anyway?  Joe could easily take care of the chocolate lab just as Nick did Elvis even though they travelled.

But Joe asked none of these questions.  He forced the frustration down into the pit of his stomach.  The look on his brother’s face told him it was a battle he had lost before it was fought.

“You can help mom and me with the funeral.”  Kevin’s quiet eyes were looking at him, the unasked question of are you okay coming through loud and clear.

“Thanks Kev. Anything you need.”  Joe didn’t answer the other.  Kevin nodded at him and turned back to the window, his thoughts his own again.  Nick turned back in his seat and pulled out his cell phone, dialling Spencer’s number probably.

Joe returned to his thoughts, a memory of Craig floating to the top.

Flashback

“Ugh, I cannot believe that little mophead sometimes!”  Joe marched angrily into the empty dressing room, Craig following closely behind.  “Who died and made him fucking president anyway!”  Joe threw the tambourine he had just been playing at sound check on the couch, the jangle echoing harshly in the room.

Although Joe hadn’t expected an answer, Craig provided one.  And it was stark and simple.

“You did.”

Joe turned to face him.  Craig was sitting in one of the chairs sipping a soda.  As he brought it down, the knowing smirk came across.  It was almost as annoying as Nick’s smug one.

“I did?  What in the hell do you mean by thought?”

“Simple.  You don’t fight him on anything.  Even if you were wrong, I’d love to see you fight him one day.”  He leaned forward, putting down the can and shrugging his shoulders.  “Nick is an amazingly talented musician and smart kid.  And he’s also annoyingly nice.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a voice about what goes on up there.  Kev makes sure that he gets his point across.  Your name is tied to this show too.”

“What’s the point of fighting him?  You said it yourself, he’s the musical genius, smart guy and the perfect gentlemen.  I’m just the tambourine guy who sings the chorus, who’s along for the ride."

Craig leaned back in his chair.

“Apparently.”  He took another sip of soda but the smirk was still there.

The black Tahoe glided to the gate of the community they lived in, a transponder sending a signal to open it and let them in.  A smattering of fans were outside it to greet them, their signs showing they had already heard the news.  Usually, the boys would have gladly stopped for a moment with each of them but today was not the day.

When they pulled into their driveway, they stopped in front of the heavy oak doors.  They slowly made their way out of the car, Joe still clutching the shoebox beside him.  Nick was still on the phone with Spencer.

“Yeah, Spence.  We’ll have to start the tour with the New Jersey date in about two weeks.  There isn’t any other way to get everything organized before then.  That means rebooking about seven shows.  Dad and I looked at the timetable and we think it will be doable with some additional travel.”

Joe shook his head at his brother.  How could he talk about business now?  Couldn’t he just stop being the undergrown businessman and just be his brother, the one who had seemed so lost in the hospital and looked to Joe for support?

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kevin pulling the guitar case and suitcase out of the back of the truck.  He was struggling with the guitar case since one of the snaps was finicky and was attempting to open itself.

“Hey Kev, be careful.”  He stepped towards him and grabbed the guitar out of his hand.  “That snap can be tricky.”

Kevin shrugged his shoulders casually, pulling out the handle of the suitcase so he could roll it inside.  “You’d think the guy could afford a new case with the money we paid him.  Where do you want to put this stuff for now?”

Joe snapped at this, the offhand comment hitting too close to where his emotions were hiding.  He gently set the guitar case down and stalked towards Kevin.

“He didn’t need shiny new guitars like someone I know.  All he needed was this one.  And this is not stuff.  This is a man’s life, what is left of it so show him and it the respect it deserves.”  Joe felt the frustration boil over.  With it came fear.  The fear of not having your best friend to talk to, laugh with, trust.  The fear of not living up to Craig’s expectations, even though they were unspoken to him.  His fist clenched tightly and he raised it in the direction of Kevin’s face.  “If you don’t want to deal with this stuff give it to me.”  He grabbed the suitcase out of Kevin’s hand, ripped it really.

Suddenly, a hand rested lightly on his shoulder.  It wasn’t holding him in any way but it stopped him long enough to make him realize just what he was about to do before he did.

“Son,” his dad’s voice came from behind him.  It was soft and comforting, the voice Joe was used to.  “He didn’t mean that.  Craig’s belongings will be treated with the respect they deserve.”

Joe shook as he lowered his hand, still white from tension.  As he slowly let it go, he saw indents from where he had squeezed his fingers into the flesh of his hands.

“I’ll take the stuff to my room.  I’ll figure out what to do from there.”  He turned towards the door and saw that Nick stood rooted to the ground, the open cell phone hanging in his hand.  “And don’t worry, Nick. I’ll look after the dogs.” He left them then, to go to his room of silence and privacy.

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