A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my best friend Elsa and I got into a big argument over 3 pieces of gum. There were 2 yellow pieces. Fair enough, for there were 2 of us. But the argument got infinitely trickier when it came to the fascinating, elusive, delicious BLUE PIECE.
Who would get the blue piece? The unspoken question resonated dangerously between us. (Little kids are captivated by the most unnatural colors.) We vibed each other in the way that only children can, pretending not to care, shuffling our feet, and avoiding eye contact, while JEALOUSY AND RAGE SECRETLY CONSUMED US.
Before we could come up with a civil solution/feasible way to murder each other, a horrible message arrived. My baby brother Sammy had split my brother John’s head open with a rock. (This was the first of 3 similar incidents, but that’s not the point right now.) Elsa and I looked at each other with horror and rushed over to John’s side. We found him crumpled among the golden dried grasses of late summer. He looked up at us, pale and drawn, gasping out each word with incredible effort: “I…forgive…him…”
Wait, what?! Rewind.
Elsa and I looked at each other with horror and rushed over to John’s side. Elsa took one look at the geyser of blood spouting from his severed cranial nerve and fainted dead away. Choking on my own vomit, I tore a length of muslin from my dress and made a quick tourniquet.
“Johnny,” I said, binding his wound, “Johnny, look at me. Don’t leave me, Johnny. Ever since Ma and Pa died in the great blizzard of ’72, you’re all I’ve got.”
Wait, no. I swear I’m going to fire my fact-checker.
Elsa and I looked at each other with horror and rushed over to John’s side. He was bleeding pretty badly from his head, but he had the presence of mind to tell us how he put his hand up to his head, felt the moisture, and thought he was “sweating really badly!” (Ew.) Elsa and I looked at each other again with the solidarity that comes from great tragedy. We knew what we had to do.
As my father loaded John into the car to take him to the hospital (spoiler alert: he lived), we pressed something small and metallic into John’s hand. “We thought you should have this,” we whispered. The car drove away in a cloud of dust, taking our bleeding brother–and the stick of blue gum–with it, a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.