HER BROTHER came to visit straight
from rehab, said he needed to see her, but once at the apartment, he kept his
chin tucked and hardly spoke, just nodded.
Worn down by the silence, she asked, “Do you care if I have a drink?”
He reminded her it was drugs that had done the ruin, not alcohol.
She was embarrassed to have him in her apartment. She’d done well modeling and could afford this neighborhood in the city. Her brother had nothing. A scarecrow, she thought.
She watched him take in the angles and vaulted ceiling, foot tap-tap-tapping. When he was finished, he studied her every time she took a swallow.
She asked did he want a drink, too, and he said, “Sure.”
She was drunk in an hour, wanted a big lumbering buzz if he was going to stay longer. She thought she could make him leave by asking if he wanted to spend the night, but he trumped her, saying, “Sure, that’d be grand.”
He’d never used the word grand before and that made her nervous.
Her TV was on the fritz. There was nothing to distract, so she pulled out the old photo album. He was fat in most of the pictures. “Checkers” was his nickname, from the singer Chubby Checkers. Hers was “Scarlet” because she liked to act out the film “Gone With The Wind.” If not Scarlet, her dad called her Princess.
She said, “We should call them,” meaning their parents, but her words were mushy and, anyway, her brother’s eyes flashed dark.
“How about cards?” she asked, and they played Gin Rummy for some time.
After a while, he just came out with it. “I don’t know how it happened,” he said.
She spoke slowly, trying not to slur. She said, “People make mistakes.” She said, “You can start over.” She said all kinds of idiotic things.
In the morning he was gone. Money was missing from her purse, a valuable painting removed from the wall. She stared at the two nail heads with their dangling hooks. They resembled a pair of gouged-out eye sockets. Together, they looked part of a set, and yet not.
Len Kuntz's work appears widely in print and online at such places as Storyglossia, Elimae, Blue Lake Review and others. His story collection debuts in 2014 from Aqueous Books. You can find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.