Today, Paige Prose, interviewer of novel characters, talks with Roger Tarling about Brain Cunningham, his co-worker and friend. Brain tried to talk with Paige himself, he truly did, but he is so anxious he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He did leave his house in an attempt to meet Paige, but he had barely pedaled his bike down his driveway before being gripped by panic. After a severe panic attack, he dashed back into his house and wouldn’t come out. Instead, Paige decided to meet with Roger to learn a few things about Brain.
Hi Roger. Thanks for meeting with me. How do you know Brian?Brian, he’s my counterpart here at Hayden Elementary. We’ve worked together for almost two decades. Well, not completely “together,” I s’ppose, because I’m the day custodian and Brian’s here at night. Yet we’re a team, and I consider that workin’ together. He’s been with me since he was 19, so I think of him as one a my kids.
What’s it like to work with him?It’s definitely not loud and obnoxious, that’s for sure! I guess that wasn’t very nice of me t’ say, but I wasn’t tryin’ t’ be mean. Brian’s great. Yeah, he’s not that talkative, but he’s a listener and a doer. If there’s somethin’ that needs t’ be done, no matter what it is, Brian’ll do it. He’s a freakin’ genius if you ask me. He works hard and he does his job so good because his whole heart’s in this. He wants t’ make Hayden a really nice place fer the kids and the teachers, and it shows in what he does.
Would it surprise you to learn that after all these years he thinks he’s bothering you?I wish that’d surprise me, but it don’t. He feels like he’s imposing on the world just by bein’ in it, and he’s deathly afraid of doin’ somethin’ wrong or being judged or that I’m gonna be disappointed in him. I know he likes me, and I also know that he thinks the best way t’ show it is not t’ bother me. Ya know, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like I said, he’s like a son, and I think the world of him. I admire him, and I know that’s something surprising ta him.
Do you have a favorite Brian story?Brian is so shy and reserved and quiet that I don’t have a lot of specific stories. I do have some, though. One of my favorites is about when he got his beagle Oscar. Brian bought Oscar for himself as a twenty-first birthday present. It was a Saturday, and he actually came over t’ my house. That’s huge, because Brain never drops in on people, ever. He typically doesn’t go somewhere even if he’s invited. I’ve gotten him to come over a few times across the years, but it wasn’t easy. But I digress. Anyway, Brian came over t’ show Oscar t’ me and my wife Millie. Ya gotta realize that Brain doesn’t smile much, but that day he was grinnin’ from ear t’ ear. And the way he played with that little puppy, it was like he was a little kid again. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen him relaxed and happy like that. Thank god for Abigail Harris, that new little girl at our school that Brian’s helpin’. I think she might help Brain smile again. Maybe.
If you could have a wish for him, what would it be?My wish fer Brian is that he will start t’ like himself. He deserves to be treated kindly, not just by the world but by himself, too. I wish he could stop worryin’ so much and bein’ so afraid of everyone and everythin.’ I wish he’d find love and laughter instead of loneliness.