by G F Larlham
as told to R C Larlham
Just outside of Syracuse, we sat in the rapidly darkening early December evening, in a new little red Chevy Sonic I’d bought just before I made the trip, my kid brother and me, at the edge of the Rez by the cash-only tribal cigarette store. I watched the steady stream of nicotine addicts swing into and leave the parking lot and enter and leave the store, just as we had moments before, while he struggled to get the seatbelt tightened with his long-ago butchered hand. Two old men in a car built for lives just beginning, not for lives near their ends, but it was new and it was mine, and I figured it would last me a while. Turned out I was wrong about that, but that’s a newer, shorter story… and a much less interesting one.
I’d driven across Canada the day before in the dead of winter just to see the brother who’d gone out of my life (again) six years before. We weren’t two years apart in age, and we protected each other from everyone but each other, until anger seemed to turn to hate, and then we stayed mostly apart for years. But I hadn’t seen him since ’06 at th’ Old Man’s funeral, and it was time, so I drove. That night the grizzled old man sporting a red and white beard, half-handlebar mustache (the other half wouldn’t hold the curl), no teeth and a bad case of exhaustion was just barely enough the man who’d been my brother for me to see it in him.