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December 2008, vol 4 no 4

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Jef Peeples

 

Brother

The brother is five and in kindergarten, and by the next morning Matt is gone with no chance for the brother to say, "Thanks for hanging out with me, little brother," or "Catch you later." Just gone like the summer or the circus or lost change. And his father tells him Matt is gone to be with Jesus and he loves him as he carries him from his grandparents back to his house where his mother tells neighbors none of it seems real. He hears cats underneath the house that day, crying in that moaning, chilling way wild cats do, and he thinks it is a baby crying, and he thinks they have hidden Matt somewhere in the back of the house. His friend's parents bring him a giant box of crayons, and he goes outside.

swing set abandoned
wind driven motion
creaking without child

The brother is forty, and he finds Matt in a dream. They stand on a grassy field underneath an oak tree, and they are face to face. Matt is in his late thirties with his hand on the tree, and he is leaning in so much like their father with his round face and full pouting lips, smiling at the corner.

oak tree summer breeze
wind driven motion
creaking without child

The brother apologizes then—in words as cheap and hollow sounding as pennies falling in the washing machine—apologizes for living, confessing his guilt of survival to Matt as they stand, two adult men, one living, one dead. He will never forget what Matt says to him. "Why are you sorry for me? For over thirty years I have been in the presence of God. What have you done in the last thirty years?"

oak tree summer breeze
wind driven motion
creaking lullaby

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