She Is My Brother’s Keeper

           These are the things my brother cannot remember: how to start the vacuum, how to unlock his car or turn on the a/c, how to find a pen or use a cell phone, the name of the town where we spent our childhood summers, his position on our high school football team. How to cook.

            These are the things he can do: change the litter box, punctuate every sentence with manic laughter, watch TV, check the weather on his laptop, stash 800 liters of orange pop in the cellar, spend $100,000 on porn, keep lists of his cats’ birth years and cities of origin. The tabby is from a shelter in Fenton; the calico was left in a box behind the state fair grounds.

            His life’s blown up by disease. His memory, collateral damage.

            Or maybe his wife has caught the shrapnel. Outside, on her knees for hours, not praying. Stabbing the earth with a hand spade and planting peonies in a clearing in their woods. Making how-to videos about trapping deer flies. Parading back and forth along the edge of the copse, twirling a black-and-white-striped umbrella and luring thousands of pests to their death. She’s a cheerful executioner. She collects Converse All-Stars in every hue, lines them up in pairs like a color wheel and then gives them away.

            Who could begrudge her a trip to California, or for wishing my brother might die in his sleep? She is gone two weeks, touring wineries, having chaste sleepovers with old guy-friends. Traveling, she hunts rejuvenation, that elusive quarry. When she flies home my brother is not dead. He’s forgotten to feed the cats–they are too dehydrated to even meow. He survived on Doritos and Snickers. His mind’s gone, but his body’s too hearty to be tricked into dying like an insect.

            She is my brother’s keeper. She fills the water bowl, checks the fly strip hanging in the kitchen for corpses.



Gail Louise Siegel’s work has appeared in dozens of journals including FRiGG, Ascent, Post Road, StoryQuarterly, New World Writing, Agni, Night Train and Elm Leaves.