Friday, March 18, 2011

My Brother's Heart

People? What follows is something really different. This is fiction. Written for this week's "Red Writing Hood" prompt. A first here at The Squashed Bologna. So, with trepidation, herein lies a story...


I have my brother's heart.

I wish I meant this in a metaphoric way, like... my brother really loves me or I hold his emotional well being in my hands, gently. But, unfortunately, this is just not true.

Or rather it is true, was, my brother does love me, did... crap! And I am often his somewhat unwilling keeper. Was. Why do I keep doing that? But that's not the point here. The point... shit... how did I get so far off track?

OK, starting again: I have my brother's heart. Literally.

There was an accident, a terrible accident. A moment of dreadful fucking fate, unavoidable.

We were on a train going... well, does it matter where we were going, really? Since we never got there.

My brother had bounded into the window seat. And, for once, I simply let him have it. I always fight. For everything. And I always win. That's who I am. That's the way with us. Has always been, as far back as I can remember. I know it's childish, but did I ever claim to be mature? No.

He is larger but I am more powerful, wily. I care about the winning more than he ever will. Did.

This is getting tiring, this remembering to use the past tense: he was, not is. And isn't that the whole point here, really?

The point, yes, the point... there was an accident, a major derailing. I'm sure you read about it in the papers, saw it on TV. It was ugly. Newsworthy.

A fucking idiot left his car on the tracks at a crossing, a big suburban SUV that had never been off-road in its shiny life. If this idiocy was by accident or design is not known, may never be knowable. The idiot isn't talking. But does that matter, really?

There was an accident. A terrifyingly metallic screech of brakes. We braced. I don't remember much of anything after the initial jolt.

I was told: our car rolled off the tracks, onto its side, as some of the outside came inside. A stout tree made its way through the shattered window and into my brother's brain.

Hulk tree smashed through his eye socket, destroyed all the higher functioning parts of his brain but left the stem untouched. Autonomic systems intact, it erased who he was, just pushed the fucking reset button.

And me? Pierced my heart (or near enough to). Ironic, if you knew us.

He had the window seat. For once. I thought I was being kind. For once. Mature. Or was I being prescient, my finely honed survival instinct kicked in yet again? My brother has, had none, the ultimate sap.

In any case, it came down to this, a pair of twin brothers straight out of the Wizard of Oz: Tin Man with no heart and Scarecrow with no brain.

Fraternal though we are, were, we shared enough: blood type, some obscure enzymatic factors, the requisite snippets of DNA to make us a good match.

And my, our, poor mother had a terrible choice to make that was not a real choice. You can transplant a heart. Not so a brain.

I have my brother's heart.

She wishes it had been the other way around. She will not say this, but I know he was ever the favorite, the son of her heart. I don't resent it, it's the simple truth, just is.

I was a rotten teenager. I looked out for number one, ever. He was always softer, sweeter, almost the girl she had always wanted. Also, not as smart. Like, Special Ed not-as-smart. Like I was going to be keeping an eye on him for the rest of our lives not-as-smart.

They call it autism now, but back when we were kids, they didn't have a good name for it. The neighborhood kids used to call him, well I'm not going to say it, but it's the "R" word. Or they did until I heard them say it. Then I beat them up. I may have fought with my brother, but if you looked at him funny? He's my fucking twin and you will respect him, understand?

I was academic, athletic. The ambitious one, the winner in all things, the golden boy. I have degrees, a big job and the big money that comes with it. It should have been enough to win the mother-love prize. But I understand why she loved him more.

Don't take me wrong, she was never a cold mother, no refrigerator there (was that ever a stupid theory, anyway). She loved me. Demonstrably. And would never admit to a favorite, claimed to love her two sons both the most, equally.

I'm a lawyer. There is no such thing as equal. Her head may have refused to calculate, but her heart surely did. He needed her. Always would. I'm rather self sufficient.

And my mother loves me still, now more than ever. All she has left. Especially with that piece of him walking around inside me. His big, shaggy heart. And, save our mother, he loved none other more than me, his brother, his twin, his one true friend.

I had the smarts, but he had the bigger heart. Now mine, too. I win. Again. Fuck it.

We set out together for Boston, but neither of us made it, were detoured, side by side, onto diverging paths.

Mine led to this hospital bed in this rehab unit. Will eventually lead home, back to my life that is now other than my life, singular and singularly altered.

His led to a grave, that, in a year's time will bear stone fruit, a headstone solidifying his last place on earth, in it.

His heart however, is still free, walking about this world, in me.

I suppose I will now have to strive to become a better man. More tolerant, find my own inner sap. I owe him that much, that small portion of the everything that I owe and cannot pay back, ever.

I would have given him my brain. What good have I ever done with it, really? One less corporate lawyer in the world? So what.

But it doesn't work that way.

I have my brother's heart.


This post was written for The Red Writing Hood prompt: "Write about a time when you took a detour. Where had you intended to go and where did you end up?" 

OK folks, that was really scary. This is the first piece of fiction I have attempted to write in 15 years, the first I have "finished" in maybe 30.

I actually had two different real-life stories that this prompt drew out from me.  But as I attempted to whittle them down and shape them, pick one?  This STORY just came roaring out instead. And so I was all WTF!?!?  But felt like I should just go with it, since I have been told this is the space to don my daring Red Dress and not my familiar fuzzy pink pajamas.

I am open to, and seeking concrit on this, but as it's my first time, please be gentle ;-)

Let me say off the bat: I know it is too long, I am way over the word limit. If I had another week to finish it, I could probably get it down. The cutting, the honing is ever my weakness. But I wanted to get it up & out there in a timely fashion. So here it is, in all its overwritten glory. Have at it.

And for those of you who read me regularly, know that I do actually have fraternal twins of very different natures, one with autism?  Please rest assured, the characters in my story are not at all my sons. They are not even in any way an imagined or projected future version of my sons. They, and their dynamic are wholly invented, it's just the specific constellation of the family's make-up (fraternal twin boys, special needs) that is vaguely drawn from my own life.

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