I’m willing to bet that politicians who promote family values would tone down their rhetoric if they had known my two brothers and I when we were in college. We were a swell bunch of guys, of course, but we had our quirks, one of which was a complete lack of desire to clean up after ourselves. A friend of mine who came to visit the small house we shared took one look at our growing collection of rot and dubbed us “The Scum Brothers.” The name stuck.
To give you an idea of how we lived, for several weeks an offensive smell filled the place, but for some reason we couldn’t be bothered to track it down. That job was left to my girlfriend Carolyn, who discovered that the source was a neglected bag of potatoes which had grown into a huge aromatic forest in one of our cupboards. I had no idea potatoes could smell that way.
Carolyn and I had met a few months prior to that, at a New Year’s Eve party held in a nearby hotel. I remember looking all over the place for my brother Simon so I could introduce him to her, and I was just about to give up looking when above me I heard a loud “BUCCKKK-AWW-WWKKK!!!” I looked up to see my brother hanging over one of the balconies, clucking like a crazed chicken (some people sing when they drink, but Simon, well, he acted like a giant chicken). I knew that Carolyn was the gal for me when she didn’t run screaming into the night after discovering that I was related to the chicken man. (A few years later, in fact, she became my wife. We’ve since been blessed with two kids, but, luckily, no potato forest.)
My other brother, Andrew, was getting his master’s degree in archaeology at the time, and he had a wild mane of unkempt hair sprouting from his head which went all the way to his backside. The hair suited him well, since in addition to being an archaeologist, he was also the lead singer and bassist in a local thrash metal band. We used to joke that he’d dig up dead people during the week and then sing about them on the weekend.
One of my favorite memories of Andrew is when Carolyn’s niece Michelle came to visit for the first time. As Carolyn pulled into our driveway, Michelle spied a very hairy man in our rarely-mowed backyard hunched over a smoking metal cauldron which he was stirring with a large stick. When Carolyn said, “Oh, there’s Nick’s brother,” Michelle laughed because she figured she was joking. Her smile turned into a look of shock when she realized Carolyn was serious.
Now, at this point you might be wondering what exactly Andrew was doing. But there’s a simple explanation. As a budding archaeologist, Andrew practiced the art of “flint knapping,” which is the process of making stone tools like those used by our ancestors. In order to make the stone more pliable, he’d cook it for a while – hence the smoking cauldron. Chances are, though, that Michelle wasn’t thinking about flint knapping when she saw my brother cooking his rocks. Instead, she probably feared that she was about to become a human sacrifice in some bizarre suburban ritual.
The three of us are all grown up now, and for the most part we’re a lot more respectable than we were back then. But every time we get together, we magically turn back into The Scum Brothers again, and celebrate our misspent youth by cracking jokes even crasser than the ones we knew all those years ago. So God bless family values, I say, and God bless The Scum Brothers in particular, because Lord knows we need it.