Three Brothers by Joseph Lucido

Three brothers sit at a window and watch a summer morning storm. Three brothers sneak into the garage. Three brothers pile shovels into a wheelbarrow. Three brothers run into the woods.

The oldest brother rubs mud on his face where a beard will grow. He slaps the middle brother across the face with his muddy hand. The middle brother shoves the oldest brother. The youngest brother rubs mud on his face like the oldest brother. The youngest brother loses his left shoe in the mud.

Three mud-flecked brothers dig a hole.

The oldest brother’s red shirt clings to his bones. He digs his side of the hole deepest. The oldest brother pats his wiry arms, calls the middle brother a girl.

The middle brother still carries his baby fat. He tracks his height on his bedroom door, awaiting the stretching and thinning of his limbs. His curly hair lays soaked over his eyes. The middle brother wears his mother’s high heels and lipstick when his father isn’t home. He cries too much over nothing, says his father. He cries too much over nothing, says the oldest brother. The middle brother shovels dirt into the oldest brother’s side of the hole when the oldest brother looks away.

The youngest brother trips over his mud-heavy sock. He picks at the earth with a trowel. He curls a worm around his fingers. He pulls the worm in two, wipes the yellow guts on the middle brother’s arm. The middle brother tells himself not to cry, digs around the worms. The youngest brother digs with his nails. He pats his arms and puffs out his chest.

The muddy handprint runs down the middle brother’s cheek.

The oldest brother hangs his red shirt on a low branch. The low branch bends and sways. The middle brother’s blue shirt collar buckles low on his chest. The youngest brother gets his head stuck in his white shirt trying to take it off. The middle brother helps the youngest brother peel his shirt from his skin. The white shirt sits heaped in muddy water at the bottom of a hole.

Three brothers don’t come when their mother calls. Three brothers don’t come when their father calls. Three brothers miss Sunday morning church service. Three brothers are reported missing.

The youngest brother slaps the middle brother across the other cheek with his muddy hand. The middle brother shoves the youngest brother in a muddy hole. The oldest brother punches the middle brother where his blue shirt buckles. The middle brother cries. The youngest brother climbs out of the hole and calls the middle brother weak. The oldest brother laughs and hits the middle brother in the face with a clump of mud. The youngest brother laughs and misses the middle brother with a clump of mud.

The middle brother stops crying. Mud peels from his face. He says if the oldest brother is so strong, why doesn’t he unbury himself from the hole. The oldest brother glares, spits. The oldest brother pries off his shoes and socks. The oldest brother stands defiant at the bottom of a muddy hole.

Thunder rumbles in the hollows of their chests.

Two brothers bury their older brother up to his neck in mud. The middle brother tamps the mud around the oldest brother’s head with a spade. The youngest brother jumps up and down to help pack the mud. The oldest brother strains to move. He wiggles his head and grunts. He tries to shrug his shoulders and flail his arms. The oldest brother stands stuck in a muddy hole. He says he can’t move. He says dig him out.

The middle brother leans on the spade. He tells the oldest brother to dig himself out. The youngest brother cheers the oldest brother to dig himself out. The oldest brother can’t move his wiry limbs. The middle brother throws a clump of mud in the oldest brother’s face. The youngest brother throws a clump of mud in the oldest brother’s face. The oldest brother spits out mud and calls the middle brother queer. He says if they don’t dig him out, he’ll tell Dad about Mom’s high heels. He says if they don’t dig him out, he’ll tell Dad about the lipstick.

The middle brother hits the oldest brother in the head with a spade. The oldest brother’s head splits. He screams. Blood runs down the oldest brother’s face. The youngest brother cries. Blood in his eyes, the oldest brother calls the middle brother by name. The oldest brother tells the youngest brother to run and get Mom. The oldest brother calls the middle brother by name. The middle brother peels the blue shirt off his back. The youngest brother stands frozen, cries. The middle brother pats his chubby arms. The oldest brother calls the middle brother by name. Rain washes blood down the oldest brother’s face.

Three brothers fall silent.

The middle brother wipes the oldest brother’s head with his blue shirt. The youngest brother runs home. The middle brother digs with a spade. Brother, he says. He digs with a spade. Brother, he says. His arms grow tired. He digs with his nails. Worm guts coat his hands. Brother, he says. He tells himself not to cry. Blood runs down the oldest brother’s chest. The middle brother digs with his nails. He wipes the blood off the oldest brother’s chest. A handprint of blood and mud runs down the oldest brother’s chest. The oldest brother calls the middle brother by name. Brother, he says.

 

 

 

 

Joseph Lucido is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama where he teaches in the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Program, a program dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to prisoners in Alabama. He has work appearing or forthcoming in Johnny America, Cloud Rodeo, Buffalo Almanack, and Strangelet. He grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis.



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