In the Shadows
I can still see the chess pieces ranged up between us: the pawns with their caps, like tiny jockeys; the knights' rearing horses with molded saddles and bridles; the bearded kings with their wise and grave expressions.
"Think," my brother Doug, six years my senior, would say, scowling at me from across the board when I made what he considered a particularly bone-headed move. This happened more frequently than he or I would like.
Our matches became an occasion both anticipated and dreaded. It was the same when he helped me refine my form in javelin and discuss. "No, no, do it this way," he would say, demonstrating and experimenting at the same time. "No, maybe like this – "
And yet, I would hear second- or third-hand about times that he praised me, out of my hearing.
Years later, in the throes of brain cancer and glued to the television, he seemed oblivious during our final visit until I turned to go, and he turned and fixed me with such an intent and knowing expression – though he had passed beyond the ability to speak by then – that I realized, through all those years, he'd loved me despite all the criticism.
That autumn, I watched the fall raptor migration, the circling hawks evoking thoughts of life's great cycles, and the void left by his absence cut like a razor-edged wind.
the mourning doves conjure