One week after the funeral, the dead brother will appear outside your kitchen window. You will shriek at the sight of him leaning against the sycamore tree (or street lamp, or fence post) and whatever is in your hand (most likely a wineglass) will drop to the floor and shatter.

The dead brother will be wearing his leather jacket—yes, that leather jacket—the one your mother had saved a month’s worth of waitressing tips to buy for his seventeenth birthday. You will then remember how he’d taken scissors (or maybe a rasp, or bleach) to roughen it up, make it cool. You will also remember your stepfather removing his belt to teach that ungrateful bastard a lesson on respect and how your mother had intervened, saying it was a gift and he could do with it whatever he wanted.

The dead brother will strike a match to light a cigarette/cigar/joint behind cupped hands. He will offer a sad smile then wiggle his fingers beneath his chin—the secret sign he always gave after one of stepfather’s lessons to reassure you he was okay. At this you will burst into tears and run outside, leaving dinner to burn or bathwater to overflow. Some form of precipitation will be falling, the wind will pick up and when the gust dies down, you’ll brush your hair from your face and look for him, but the dead brother, by then, will be gone. In confusion you will circle the tree/streetlight/lamppost, and for a moment you will think you’ve imagined it all, but then you will see the smoking match on the ground between your feet. It will still be hot to the touch, but you will pick it up, hold it tightly in your fist, and let it burn.

Audra Kerr Brown

Audra Kerr Brown

Audra Kerr Brown lives betwixt the corn and soybean fields of southeast Iowa. Her work can be found at Fiction Southeast, Cheap Pop, Fjords Review Online, and People Holding, among others.
Audra Kerr Brown

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