Saturday 6 June 2020

'Born Again Brother' by Kristin Tenor

The evening is still. Damp. I sit on the porch shelling peas into a wooden bowl. Crickets chirp in tandem with the train whistle blowing in the distance—and there we are once again—two kids down by the tracks after school, our pockets heavy with wheat pennies filched from the rusty Folgers can Papa Joe stashes in his workshop alongside baby food jars filled with mismatched screws and washers, a half-empty bottle of rye, all kept safe because one never knows when they may become useful.

We crouch in the tall grass, our hands pressed tight against our ears, hearts pounding, as we wait for the copper coins lining the rails to be flattened into smooth, oblong disks. Freight cars speed past us one by one like a ticker parade. Men in tattered overalls lean out open windows to wave on their way to someplace more exotic than our small, rural town. And you—you run, run, run after them until the last car is swallowed by the horizon, leaving you breathless, your cheeks crimson as the setting sun.

On my sixteenth birthday we lie in that same tall grass sharing a toke you bummed off a friend. Seagulls float in lazy circles high above us in the blue, blue sky while you explain how some people are meant for staying and some for leaving, and as far as you’re concerned, you’ll be one of the ones leaving, just like our father did when he went to war. Except neither of you came back the same.

The last time we sat on this porch together you claimed to be a better man, fixed. Yet, we both knew it was only a matter of time before the ghosts hunting you down came to claim you as their own. Now the only place you live is in these daydreams of mine, your hand waving from the caboose as I run, run, run after you until all that is left is white, white light.

'Born Again Brother' was previously published in the February 2020 issue of Anti-Heroin Chic.

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