Brothers

By Kristy Webster 

She said that the nectarine she bit into tasted like jazz, like Friday nights.  This was the last straw for Solomon.  But he couldn’t tell her that he stopped loving her on account of her turning everything into poetry.  He couldn’t tell her that he’d grown to despise her beginning with the time she likened his melting ice cream cone to the flooding of a silky moon. It was after all, Rocky Road–for Christ’s sake–and he’d been sitting in the sun with her for a good hour listening to her go on and on about the sparrows, and the light and the shadows, and didn’t everything have its own song, its own harmony, its own inescapable destiny?  All he wanted was to eat his ice cream. But he couldn’t tell her that he’d lost all passion for her because of her lyricism.          

“Too bad your lips look like that.  I might have loved you.” With that he got up, bit into a crisp, green apple and walked away, leaving the girl to her metaphors, her seamless poetry. He strolled along and as he witnessed the day, the ugly men and women, the tedious children, the skinny, barking dogs, he smiled. He attached no meaning to their existence. There they were, there it was, and that was all.                

When he came home to the house he shared with his brother, Jacob, he asked for potatoes.  His younger brother did all the cooking, as he never left the house.  At age sixteen Jacob came home in a state of madness saying only that he’d “seen too much of the world” and was never going out again. He said if he were to go out again, he would surely drop dead—on account of the pressure of the sky on his shoulders, the cracks in the sidewalk, the endless doors and their terrible houses. So Solomon supported the two of them with his little paper route and the errands he ran for Mrs. Puckett. Mrs. Puckett who at age seventy-five, never gave up trying to seduce Solomon. Mrs. Puckett who wore her heels to bed and drank whiskey (in Earl Grey tea) in the back of Solomon’s car on the way to her hair appointments.  Still, what Mrs. Puckett gave paid for potatoes and cigarettes.  

“I put an end to the words-girl,” Solomon announced, “I don’t want a book. I want a woman.”  

Jacob wanted to understand his brother. He offered him more leeks. Jacob had heard of this girl for months now.  Having never seen her, he had no choice but create his own portrait of her. He imagined a girl with brown curls, like his mother had before she married his angry father.  He imagined her conversing in poems on a park bench, never looking in one particular direction, but always somewhere upwards, her eyes never focusing on anything tangible, anything obvious.  He imagined her pages suspended in sky. 

“If she comes here looking for me,” Solomon told his brother, “Send her away.”

Several weeks passed and the girl did not come.  In that time Mrs. Puckett had twice tried to get Solomon to undress her, saying her arthritis was acting up, and she couldn’t possibly tug at the zipper like that, her wrists would surely snap from the pressure.  In that same time, Jacob had swept the floor fifty-three times, he’d cooked well over one hundred potatoes, he’d waited all day, every day, for his brother’s return, a way to taste and smell the world, without letting the world taste and smell him. Jacob could never tell anyone what happened to him that one day when he was sixteen. That day, he went out, looked around, and everything he saw was skinless. That is to say, all the filters on the living had vanished. He’d become accustomed to seeing people as walking puzzles, but on that day, there was a moment when the pieces came together. No one was a mystery. That day, people were made of glass. A crumpled old man, bent down to pick up his donut—it had fallen as he juggled it with a newspaper and coffee.  A goat-faced boy snatched it before the old man could reach it. He stuffed it into his mouth all at once and ran—his blue shorts a flag showcasing his ornery success. The old man sobbed openly on the sidewalk. Jacob stood close enough to hear the glass shatter.  

In his celibacy and in the absence of a wordy woman, Solomon grew fond of Mrs. Puckett in unexpected ways.  Maybe it was because they drank tea in silence—no commentary about what it felt like to drink the tea, mind you, just the drinking of it alone. Maybe it was because her little blue eyes disappeared when she smiled each time Solomon opened her car door, letting her out onto that same sidewalk his brother Jacob feared so fervently.  

Solomon thought he’d tell Mrs. Puckett that she had finally won.  But upon arriving at her door, he found that he wanted to tell her much more and what he had not counted on was the urge to give Mrs. Puckett a description of her victory, a comparison of her with something else, and he found himself lonely for that irritating girl’s way with words.  

 ==== 

Jacob was not accustomed to opening the door of his own home. But someone was knocking as if her very life depended on it.  Upon opening the door, a sorry looking girl with flat brown curls, a girl who’d sewn her lips together—resembling a seam binding two quilt squares—stood before him, holding out an envelope, addressed: For Solomon.  In the young girl’s eyes, Jacob saw painstaking words threaded together in a sea of books and he too, felt himself drowning. The girl left Jacob to that familiar misery, and floated away, the sidewalk devouring each one of her steps. 

==== 

At a loss for words, Solomon left Mrs. Puckett with daisies and an open door. He returned home to find his own door stuttering, the door not knowing which way it should swing. He noticed the envelope with his name on it.   Inside, a note asked, “And now?” 

“Where is she?  Where is she, Jacob?”  Solomon searched the house desperate for either one of them. But the house was like a vacuum and he felt the hostile air surround him with its cold fingers. In his hand, the note, the words rubbing off inside his sweaty palm. 

“Jacob!” 

But Jacob had walked out barefoot, ventured into that sickening street, trembling. He’d braved the open mouth of the city, hoping the girl’s pages would lead the way, hoping they would carry him off his feet.               

____

Kristy Webster is a writer of flash fiction, magical realism, prose poetry and creative non-fiction.  Her short fiction is featured in the on-line magazines BROAD and PopulistArt.Com (under pen name Kristy Gonzalez). Her short story “She-Wolf” has been accepted for publication by GirlChildPress and will be featured in their second upcoming anthology of female writers, Just Like a Girl. Kristy is also the editor of Quillbillies Magazine, a magazine devoted to publishing the voice of the working class writer. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University and has recently completed an internship with Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Washington.

Advertisements
Published on March 28, 2008 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://abacotjournal.wordpress.com/archived-issues/current-issue/brothers/trackback/

%d bloggers like this: