Tag Archives: dreams

The Birthday Brothers

4 Jun

In his kitchen, the ice snaps as he pours a substantial swallow of vodka into a glass and squeezes in an orange. Sipping, he gathers more ice from the freezer, drops it onto a washcloth on the counter, folds it and presses it against his neck, which is stiff. And he smiles.

He sits alone at his kitchen table in the evening cool, taking a moment, organizing his impressions of the day. But after barely a minute, A looks up to see his brothers standing in the doorway. His face falls and he finishes his drink.

“I didn’t think it was so late. The day went too quickly,” he says.

“Yes,” says C, “we felt the same.”

“Please,” says A, “sit. Can I fix you a drink?”

“I wouldn’t mind. Whatever you’re having,” says C.

“I’m not sure I’m old enough,” says B.

A opens a cabinet and grabs two more glasses. “If we are, you are,” he says. He pours drinks for his brothers, refills his own: vodka, ice, orange squeeze. The brothers clink cheers and drink.

“It’s good,” says C.

“I don’t like mine,” says B.

A nods. “Like Daddy,” he says. “I don’t think he liked vodka either.”

“Tell us about your day, Brother,” says C. “What’s with the ice on the neck?”

A reclines and massages his own shoulder. “Oh, my daughter. Today I taught her to drive. She’s 19, but she’s avoided it until now. ‘I’ll never use this, Dad. It’s all autonomous now. It’s not like when you were a kid.’ Anyhow, she’s jumpy on the brake and my neck is paying the price.”

“A daughter!” says C. “What’s her name?”

“Gertrude. ‘Gertie.’ I have a son too. Five years old. He cried when I brushed his teeth too hard.”

C grasps A’s hand and smiles. “Yes, continue! What else?”

“What else. Well, the day was chilly, but in the afternoon, the sun shined and it was hot on my head and on my arms. When I first saw my daughter, she hugged me and my nose and eyes filled with the smell of her shampoo. It was very pleasant. There was a leaf on my car’s windshield before I drove to my job. The color of the leaf was a very deep, dark green. I suppose it made me a little sad. Maybe it seemed as if it belonged back in the tree with its brothers.”

“Yes, maybe,” says C. “What’s something that made you happy?”

“My shoes made a sound as I walked on a stretch of gravel in a parking lot. That made me happy, the crunch-crunch. I think you would love it if you heard it. Also, this morning I drank coffee, which I enjoyed very much. It was sort of bitter. But a good bitter. My coffee had milk in it and that helped. I hope I can have it again next year.”

“Coffee,” says B. “That’s a beverage, I think. A drink.”

A removes the washcloth from his neck and drops the ice into the sink. He fixes his eyes on a slate sky on the other side of the window, light sinking lower. Across the street, a house blinks out of existence along with a lemon tree in the front yard. “Yes, it’s popular with other grown-ups like me. At least I think so. My thoughts on it are already fading, so I’m not sure.”

“And your age?” asks C. “Which birthday is it?”

A thinks. “Oh. Forty-eight? I want to say forty-eight.”

C turns to B and says, “What about you, brother? Which birthday was it for you?”

B beams. “Thirteen. I watched television programs on my tablet. Most of them were funny. I ate breakfast with Mommy and Daddy. Mommy made my favorite: strawberries and French toast.”

A winces. “I miss Mommy.”

“I miss Mommy too,” says C.

“Yes. There was a picnic,” B continues. “The school year is over and there was a picnic to celebrate the start of summer and uh. My, you know, friend. Aron. He told me he had gotten me a birthday present, but he wanted me to open it down on the beach. So we left the group and walked toward the water. Our feet were in the ocean a little bit and Aron started talking about how he liked how brave I am and how I’m not afraid to take chances and then he held my arms with his hands and he kissed me.”

“Was the water cold?” asks A.

“A little. I guess it was cold.”

“Did you like being kissed by Aron? Did it make you happy?” asks C.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking about it. It’s a partly happy and partly nervous thing for me to think about.”

“What are strawberries like?” asks A. “I didn’t have any today.”

“They’re sweet but also a little tart. They’re very red. With sort of seeds on the outside. Mommy slices them.”

At that moment, three vodka oranges with ice disappear from the kitchen table.

“And what about you, Brother?” A says to C. “Which birthday? What happened?”

“Fifty-nine,” says C. “I took a shower this morning, which is when the water comes out of the little holes and there’s soap and it makes you clean.”

“I know showers,” says B, raising a hand.

“I know showers too,” agrees A.

“I rode on a train for awhile,” says C. “It was very fast and didn’t seem to touch the ground. There were screens and lights and a VR harness to keep me occupied in my seat, but mostly I looked out the window. I saw deserts and trees and two different rivers. My wife slept on my shoulder. A thing was on my lap. An urn.”

A and B nod.

“I spent part of the day with both of you and our wives and husband. We walked to the end of a long pier to p-pour ashes into the sea. Thuh-that’s, that’s what grown-ups do sometimes when, hnn, when p-people die and…” C’s throat knots, his face grows hot and tears swell in his eyes. He buries his head in his hands.

A and B exchange looks. The refrigerator disappears.

A says, “Brother?”

“It’s Mommy!” cries C. “Mommy died months ago!”

And the triplet brothers begin to wail. Wracking, spine-shaking sobs as the kitchen sink faucet pops away to nothing, causing tap water to shoot from the plumbing and onto the counter and floor.

“NO!” bawls B. “NOT MOMMY!”

A crumples to the ground, holding his knees to his chest. “MOMMY WAS THE BEST! SHE LOVED US! SHE FOUGHT FOR US!”

The chair beneath C evaporates, sending him sprawling. “THAT’S RIGHT, SHE DID! MOMMY FOUGHT FOR US!”

“OH MOMMY!” wail the brothers.

The cabinets dissolve, smashing the dishes they contained onto the counter. Floor tiles and cutlery, glasses and Tupperware, oven racks and skillets blip away as if they were never there to begin with.

Through tears and snot and saliva bubbles, C rakes his fingers through his hair: “Shuh-shuh-she, shuh-she was so sad. We talked about how sad Mommy was at the end, how she w-wanted to go to Heaven be with D-D-Daddy and she, and she…”

“I DON’T WANT THIS!” cries B. “I WANT ANOTHER DAY WITH MOMMY!”

“Those aren’t the r-rules, though,” says A. “You know the rules.”

“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!”

“Maybe say the rules, Brother. It’s best,” croaks A, face wet.

“NO!”

Once a year…’” says C.

“NO!”

The kitchen table and remaining chairs disappear. C and A right themselves and sit cross-legged, joining hands with B and with each other, swallowing sobs. B shakes his head as, more and more, memories of the day blink from his brain. B bows his head and whispers.

“Once a year,
the children too soon gone
are granted a day
to experience a taste
of a life they never lived.”

And bit by bit, item by item, the remainder of the kitchen is uncreated. Dish fragments and glass, sink water and silverware. The oven. The ceiling. The walls and windows. The floor. All vanishes to still and infinite white.

The triplet brothers who shared a womb, fingers interlocked, hang in the center of The Fluidity, The Peace, The AllNow, The Grand Everything.

“Day good,” says B, as best he can. “Pretty and beauty and want more.”

“Miss warm and Mommy. Day good, but miss Mommy,” says A.

“Happy share brothers,” says C. “Happy always with brothers.”

The three drift, soon bodiless. Baby A, Baby B and Baby C, held safe by an umbilical as big as the universe. They travel to where the other children are waiting. And not just children, but grown-ups too. Friends and loved ones and neighbors and strangers and animals and even Mommy. And everything that ever was and ever could be.

There they ruminate and speculate and confer.

And they begin the wait for their next birthday.


 

Dedicated to the fighting Mommies of children too-soon-gone. 

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Pre-Babies Bucket List

2 May

“Get it in now.”

That’s what Carey and I are hearing all the time, several times a week at least from loved ones who truly mean well.  They’re usually talking about sleep, but they also mention the other frills no-kids-couples take for granted: eating out, catching a movie, blowing disposable income on a spur-of-the-moment-whatever-it-is.  Because the time is coming, and that right soon, that even a trip to Subway is going to be A MAJOR FRICKIN’ ORDEAL.

A little about me, because you’re dying to know: I’m an illustrator and an advertising art director.  I do an awful lot of storyboard art and a fair amount of cartooning.  I’ve worked on video game covers, children’s books, character design, the odd comic book here and there.  I keep a blog of original comic strips I give away as gifts and, when I’m not doing any of the above, I do a lot of drawing for fun.  A few years ago, I did a kind of wild-guess calculation and estimated that I probably produce somewhere in the neighborhood of nearly 1,000 drawings a year.  I looked it up and that officially qualifies me as an “artist” but, then, so’s the guy who runs naked through Times Square with clothespins on his nipples.

No surprise, nearly all of my big ambitions are creative in nature, most of them publishing-related.  A handful of my dreams have come true and some have yet to.  It’s usually a little anticlimactic, but it still feels pretty good to check off something major.

So Carey and I have been looking at each other and asking each other if there’s anything big we want to get out of the way while it’s still just the two of us and we’ve more or less come to the conclusion that, sure, of course there is, but we don’t really have the time or energy, particularly if we need to rearrange everything in our lives over the course of the next 12-16 weeks.

But for some reason, I was looking through a few old blog entries recently and I came across a post from 2006.  Besides being amazed by how insanely long my blog posts used to be, I was struck by my list of “69 Weird Things About Me” (I know, I know).  Particularly item #45:

One day I will meet the artist Kevin Maguire and I will tell him that his work decided my career path. I don’t know how it will happen (mainly because I have no idea where he lives) and as the years go by, I get more and more nervous about it, but it will happen.


Kevin Maguire was and is a comic book artist and his artwork made me want to do what I do for a living.  I could go on (but I also discovered  I already did).  I suppose it’s more than a little geeky and possibly even creepy, but I’ve always wanted to meet the man himself and let him know that his work helped me decide who I wanted to be.

And as it turns out, Maguire was a special guest at a comics convention in Anaheim over the weekend.  He was autographing prints of his latest comics creation.  So I went:

A photo of Kevin Maguire, taken by me.

A photo of me, taken by Kevin Maguire. (Sorry, kids, his recent work's a little on the saucy side.)

We chatted for a minute or two about his work and what he’s enjoying about it and etc. etc.  I fought through embarrassment and gave him a hyper-abbreviated version of the speech I’ve been rehearsing for about 20 years and he accepted it graciously.  I told him he was the reason I went into art as a career and he said, “oh, so you’re blaming me?”  Of all the things I was expecting, the thing I’d least prepared for was what happened: my art-hero turned out to be a good-tempered, funny guy.

So, item #whoknowswhat on my personal Pre-Babies Bucket List: check.

Listen, I know this really has almost nothing to do with our triplets, but I thought I’d mention it here anyhow.  I suppose it’s sort of a post about following your dreams and doing what you need to do to realize them, and that’s what I want for my kids.

Or maybe it’s a post about rounding up the dangling plot threads from this chapter, clearing the stage for the next one.

Or I suppose it could be one of those stories I’ll bore the hell out of my boys with one day.

Whatever the case, I’d like to be somebody’s else’s Kevin Maguire.  You never know, could happen.  Inspiring people:  it’s what an artist should do.

Or a dad.