Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Mella Mincberg
My brother Allan waited beyond the trellis in a leafy tree. Soon, Mother would come outside with her Sunday guests. They'd occupy benches on the near side of the trellis, inhaling the sweet fragrance of jasmine as they spoke. He'd overhear and calculate from their conversation what he was doing right, what he was doing wrong.
He was lying on his stomach, one arm cushioning his head, along the tree's thickest branch. The tree's apples had already been picked, rejects lying half-buried in the grass. Mother often joked about how Grandmother had thought she'd planted a cherry tree, whereas someone, somehow, had mismarked or gotten it wrong.
Allan would never make such a silly mistake. He worked to never make an error. At age twelve, he'd already proven himself the brightest in class. Father was pleased, and came to expect the same on every report card. Allan had to know what next to achieve. Overhearing mother might give him clues.
He shifted his body as if uncomfortable and grabbed at one knee. He had to remain completely still, tolerating discomfort in the tree, until Mother arrived at the benches and talked her innocent talk. But his face turned red and shiny. Mother was still in the house, I was watching from a second-story window, and Allan was crying.
Abruptly he rose up, pushed off the branch, and landed on the grass in his bare feet. He wiped his eyes, first left, then right, with the fist of one hand. In black shorts and his skull-and-crossbones t-shirt, he limped around the trellis and across flagstone towards the house. A red line of blood ran down from his knee.
Mother emerged from the back door. Carrying a tray of tea sandwiches, wearing a flare skirt and sleeveless blouse, she was trailed by two women wearing floppy straw hats. Allan brushed past them, ignoring their words, dashing inside. He stomped up the stairs.
I heard the bathroom door slam, followed by the hollow squeak of the shower faucet. He would let water run over his wounds until the stinging changed to a tingle. Or else, the other way around. Allan tended to confuse pain and pleasure. With any luck, he'd figure out the difference someday.
Mella Mincberg writes in a house surrounded by apple trees and the deer that come out at dusk to feast.
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