Perhaps I was a bad brother. We haven’t spoken much since adolescence. Ever since Bill wrecked his knee in high school football, he hasn’t really spoken to me. My words must have hurt him terribly– more than that aching knee–
“Well, so much for becoming the second Lynn Swan!” I teased. “You just knew you were going to be a star. Now look at you. The doctor said you’ll never play football again. You should have stayed in the band like me– I’m the drum major!”
“Shut up you little fag! Everyone knows you are a big queer. It’s embarrassing to even be your brother,” Bill snapped. His face was as red as the dried blood under the cast that encased his leg. It wasn’t worth arguing with him any longer. He bored me anyway.
So many years I wasted of my childhood entertaining Bill when he needed a kid brother to play with. His favorite hobby was fishing. I hated fishing. Never caught more than a minnow. Bill always seemed to know where to cast and how to flip a feathery fly upon a line. His youthful strength was to be envied. His blonde hair blowing in the breeze. His blue eyes sparkled like water in a still pond. His eyebrows were two colors– one blonde one really blonde, almost white, enough to make anyone look twice at him.
He mimicked the most minute details of nature with his style– fooling smart trout with his knack for being like a man. Such a little girl, I was. I tried though. Bill often fished alone, rarely did I go with him to waste time waiting for a fish to bite. I couldn’t stand the smell of nightcrawlers on my fingers.
When Bill begged that I help him catch minnows in a net in a little stream that flowed through the forest near our home, I went along. Fishing was boring but wadding was interesting.
Bill held the net and I kicked the stream– turning over rocks, splashing the river harshly– making as much commotion as possible to scare hundreds of belly-up, sparkling minnows into the space between two sticks between Bill’s muscular arms.
The minnow net broke.
“No, please don’t go yet, Charlie. Stay here and help. Please. Come on, just a few more times. The trout ain’t bitting on worms after all that heavy rain on Monday.”
My legs were freezing. I wanted to go home and listen to Duran Duran. But I helped because he was my brother. I never should have been so mean though. Why was I so jealous of him?
The net was still good, but the pieces of wood that held the contraption together snapped under the weight of a smooth bolder that I kicked towards Bill and the net . He quickly reconstructed the trap by cutting two tree branches, replacing the broken beams by securing the net back to the original form with pieces of fishing line.
Before untangling the net, we watched as a rainbow trout flipped and struggled to break free from the cleverness of two competitive brothers.
“Let’s keep it!” I shouted.
“Nah…I don’t feel like cleaning it. We’re after just the minnows.”
“What a dork!”