The first time he was aware that his brother was somehow
installed inside him, like a piece of covert software
or a pacemaker, the two of them were in a crib. It was
nighttime, and the moon was shining through the window
of the room they lived in. He was anxious for some reason,
staring at the ceiling because the way the moonlight
reflected on it was strange. It seemed to move. He began
to fidget and squirm, afraid that the walls and the crib
might dissolve and he’d be left with nothing to hold him
up anymore. It was an infant’s fear. Unreasonable, he knew
now, but real enough at the time. It gripped him, and he
was about to scream about it and summon the woman, but a
voice or a signal or some kind of message came to him from
inside himself, saying, not so much in words as in feelings
or code of some kind, Be calm. It was a command, not a
soothing pacifier. It was as if his own body was assuring
him he wasn’t in danger. He looked to one side and found
Trent’s eyes on his. Open. Calm. Full of peace and complete
awareness, and he knew it was Trent talking to him inside.
I am aware of my own faults.
I’m impatient beyond reason. I don’t suffer fools. I see the truth
too clearly and can’t translate it for the, let’s say, uninitiated.
They just have to trust me, and some of them refuse to, so there’s
a break there, a disconnect, and we can’t do business.
V. was saying not long ago that it’s their loss, why dwell on it, but
here’s the thing and it’s important. I said, God damn it, V., the only
reason to open your mouth is to persuade someone else that you’re right
and they’re wrong.
Argue with that.
I am overly sentimental. I am weak. I am stubborn, resistant, and often
angry. I am eighty-one years old this year, and I’m dying. Some of these
are faults that can’t be fixed, not at this point in time.
I am more or less alone.
The wisteria had grown at its own slow clip,
up one side of the old house’s wide porch, across the portico, and
down the other side, nearly unnoticed by the Yost family as it went.
The seasons passed, work got done, the children grew up, and the deaths
of the elders came a little at a time, until that wisteria was like
a pastel beard around the mouth of the house, and to enter when
it was blooming you’d have to pass through a gauntlet of bees
before you were safely inside. Finn Yost knelt where it came
up from the earth with a mind to cut it down soon.
I am Mieko, and a citizen of the world.
When I was fourteen, Mister Fastide took me from my home because he was more excellent at cards than my father. And less altered by the whiskey he gave my father as they played. I was asleep in the room behind, or not completely asleep because they talked very loudly and slapped the table with their flat, hard hands whenever they won or lost and the money went back and forth. I told myself I was sleeping, and dreaming most of it, and for a long time I lived as if dreaming what became of me after that game of cards, in the home where I grew up.
Mr. Fastide spoke with an accent not from America or England but, I think, Australia. He had his voice in his nose sometimes, high, and his face always grew red when he was either mad or happy too, so I never knew except by his eyes which one it was. But he was getting happier that night, I could hear from my mat in the room behind. He was drinking-happy and winning-happy, and sometimes I heard my father cursing in Japanese and then saying, in English, Okay, one more. You’ll own my house before morning, you son of a bitch.
This was a phrase the Americans taught him. Son of a bitch.
If one more rich bitch in gold silk pants had told
her that her stuff was reminiscent of van Gogh,
she was either going to storm out of the place or
throw a cup full of that bland Chablis on the woman’s blouse.
Bad enough — and these things were always bad
because nobody ever bought any paintings — but bad
enough that her four pieces were lost in the crowd
there. It was like trying to find a particular side
of beef in a freezer full of hanging carcasses,
that’s how bad most of them were, in spite of the
fact that her pieces were all in blues and violets
and screaming yellows while everyone else’s, it
seemed to her, were some sick shade of pink. And
what a theme: Northern California Female Visionaries,
like we’re psychics or gypsies or something besides plain
old painters. She’d been willing to play along just to
have a shot at being shown all week, though —
“must face facts,” as her father always used to tell
her — a group show in Sacramento isn’t a rocket to the moon.
When I was a kid, they put me in the hospital for a while
and ran tubes up into my arteries. See, my arteries were sick,
they were inflamed, and though I was too young to understand
the technical whys of it all, the docs were cutting open my leg
and sticking tubes up there because it was going to save my
life. This I could get. Seven years old, you’re old enough to know
to steer clear of death, to whatever extent you’re able. Look
both ways before you cross the street, don’t take candy from
strangers. Oh, Mom held my hand and cried as I lay there in the
hospital bed, wan and frail, and Dad, he told me what a soldier
I was and how I was going to come out of this thing better than
new. I wasn’t so sure. Everything hurt. My blood pressure was
sky high, my sick arteries were causing my kidneys to foul up, and
the life I had been living till then — bikemaster, player of
ball, tormenter of my younger brother — was apparently
over and done with.
Kevin Brennan is Editor of The Disappointed Housewife. These are the openings of six novels he understands now that he’ll never get around to writing, each for a completely different reason.
Show Kevin some love via PayPal at kevinbrennan520(at)gmail(dot)com.