Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Anne Kaier
His thin legs took the stairs two at a time, scarcely brushing the Christmas greens on the banister. Slowly, I followed him up the narrow space, cluttered with my prints and photos. In my study, he threw down his back pack, swiveled in the desk chair, and clicked a disc into the computer.
"Aunt Annie, I've got this piece I just did for my senior project. It's about Georgie, about his death. I wanna show it to you."
Frightened, I leaned closer to Henry, smelling the wet wool of his shirt. Georgie was Henry's older brother who died in his sleep as a four-year-old while Henry lay in a crib next to the sturdy bunk bed.
"Okay, if you want to." My leg kicked the tangle of wires under my desk.
"Then I'm gonna show it to Mom and Dad."
"Are you sure you want to do that?"
"I think they can handle it."
"I dunno, Henry."
Black titles appeared on the screen, then freeze-frame close-ups of Georgie as a toddler, playing in the snow.
"Did you get those shots from the old movies?" I asked. My brother filmed every step his kids took in their first years.
"Yeh, I imported them. At college, we have a really cool editing program for it."
"Do your Dad and Mom know you took the tapes?"
"Well, the tapes were always just there on the shelf. In our family room."
It hardly mattered. We never really talked about Georgie's death, anyway. Oh, a picture of him stood red-haired and grinning in the hall table in my brother's house, but for all the years Henry was growing up, no one - including me - really tried to address how Georgie's death must have frightened Henry, how a phantom older brother, always four, made Henry forever the second son. The unspoken grief lived in their house like a mute.
Frame after frame, the video moved along. Henry had taken the raw material from the tapes and rendered close-ups of his brother as if they were huge Polaroids.
"It's fantastic, Harry. God, I love those black and white effects. How'd you do that?"
"The program does it. Yeh, it's really cool - you can run it as Technicolor, too, but I liked it grainy like this."
I bent forward into the face of the tempestuous four-year-old I had loved and my hand reached out to stroke his sly smile on the screen, but the fact of his death gripped the black edges of every frame. I sank back in my chair and then rubbed the warm curve of Henry's shoulder.
"God, it's beautiful." This was dangerous art, but art it was. "Well done, man. Well done."
He leaned away to pop the disc out. "I think they can see it, Annie. We gotta talk about Georgie. I'm gonna show it to them on Christmas afternoon."
Anne Kaier's poetry has appeared in Philadelphia Poets, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Sinister Wisdom, and other venues. Her chapbook, InFire, was published recently. She reviews poetry for The Wild River Review. She teaches at Rosemont College and Penn State. This is her first published work of prose.
More at: AnneKaier.com
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