My brother butt dials me weekly. I used to say, “Hello? Hello?” and then hang up, but
now I put the phone on speaker and let him carry me around.

He likes this Scottish pop band called the Hrtbrkrs. Organs and soft percussion in the
background. I’ve started to get into them. I listen to them on the way to work and it
reminds me of my brother.

He talks to his girlfriend. Sometimes he talks to his cat. I can tell he’s making tea by
the hiss and click of the electric kettle.

This is how I found out his dealer’s name is Brett. This is how I found out he’s using
again. At first I blamed it on the girlfriend, but then one time I heard her say she never
wanted to see his dumb friend Brett again and he said, “Blood is thicker than water,” and
that’s when I realized that his dealer Brett is our cousin Brett.

Sometimes I call my brother. It might be right after I end one of our sessions, maybe
I’m in my office with the door still closed. I know he’s shooting up in the basement with
Brett, and that Brett just knocked over a full can of soda and when he asked for paper
towels my brother said it’s fine because the carpet is all cat piss anyway. I say, “What are you doing?” He says, “Playing video games.” I say, “With your friends?” He says, “Alone.”

There was one week the phone didn’t ring at all, and by Sunday evening I had this
sense of dread. I went grocery shopping and propped my phone up in the cart where the
kid is supposed to go, watched for the screen to light up. I got gas. I went to Best Buy to look at the TVs. I thought how my brother would like a big screen TV, once he’s past this stage in his life, once he’s done hanging out with Brett. If he makes it, I’ll buy him a TV.

I gave in and called. He picked up, but his words were stretched thin like silly putty.
No music in the background. No cymbals, no trumpets. “I missed you,” I said. He was
silent so long I thought he nodded off, but then he said, “I’m here.”

Now we’re back to our sacred routine. He butt dials me weekly. I put the phone on
speaker and let him carry me around.

Shayne Terry

Shayne Terry

Shayne Terry is a Midwestern transplant living and writing in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in American Chordata, and she was a contributor at the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
Shayne Terry

Latest posts by Shayne Terry (see all)