Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Two Brothers and a Funeral"Ike."
Startled, Ike turned at the deep sound of a stranger's voice calling his name, in a place where he thought to be completely alone. The man who stood behind him was tall and solidly built; the muscles on his forearms were as big as Ike's scrawny thigh muscles. His expression was fierce and cold, and as Ike looked on that fearesome glare, he thought: What am I doing out here all alone? This man is wild as a donkey, and he could snap me in half as easily as a sparrow's wing.
"Yes," he said aloud, "I'm Ike. Who are you?"
The man's mouth twitched into a bitter smile, then the smile disappeared so quickly Ike wasn't sure he'd seen it at all. "You don't know me, little brother?"
"Brother?" Ike said, wondering.
"Yes. Brother. Your older brother." Then, as Ike just continued staring at him, he said, "Don't tell me, the old man never mentioned you had an older brother?"
Finally Ike recovered from his dazed surprise enough to say, "No, I mean, yes. Yes, dad did tell me about you. You were a teenager when I was born. But you were gone before I was old enough to know you."
His brother scowled. "'Gone.' What a polite way of saying it. But at least they told you about me."
"Well," Ike admitted, "Neither mother nor father ever said very much about you, just that you existed. I learned more about you from the servant girls than I did from them."
"I shouldn't wonder. An unhappy moment in the old man's otherwise blissful marriage, hey?"
Ike didn't answer; the story embarrassed him, as it had always embarrassed his parents. He said, "What are you doing here?"
"You aren't the only one who gets stories from servant girls, Ike. I heard the old man died, and I thought I'd come and pay my final respects."
"Thought you'd come and see if there was any inheritance waiting for you, you mean?" Ike said, and instantly regretted it. These were not the words to begin a brotherly bond that should have developed years ago.
"No, Ike, you can relax. I didn't come here to get money from you. When the old man kicked me out at age fourteen, he made it very clear that I shouldn't expect to get anything from him. Ever."
Abashed, Ike said, "I'm sorry."
"Kicked me out, I say, though I ought to mention, it was through no fault of mine. Solely because of you."
"I said I'm sorry."
"Yes, well, not so sorry that you ever went out of your way to look me up and ask how I was doing, hey little brother?"
"Well," Ike said, "I'm asking now."
His brother scowled. "Too little, and much too late." Then he lightly kicked the linen-wrapped form at Ike's feet. "This him?" he asked.
"Yes. Please don't kick him."
He shrugged, and said irreverently, "It's not as though he can feel it; he had no feelings in life, he certainly doesn't in death."
Ike, hurt by the insult to his father's memory, wanted to protest that cruel assessment, but doubted any protest would penetrate his brother's anger, so instead he said, "If you came to help, then help. He wanted to be buried in the caves of Machpelah. Help me lay his body to rest."
His brother turned a full circle, looking all around him. His eyebrows raised in mock surprise, as though he was realizing something for the first time. "Not too many people showed up for the old geezer's funeral, hey?"
Ike glared. "Mother is dead."
"Your mother is dead. I don't recall my mother getting an invitation to this festive occasion. And what about those younger brothers of ours? I heard there were a few of those. Where are they? Or did they get the short shrift like me?"
In truth, that is exactly what had happened; Ike's dad was afraid those younger brothers would become competition for Ike's grand destiny, so he gave them all gifts - nothing but tokens and baubles, really, in light of his great wealth - and sent them east to live far from his beloved second-born son.
Since Ike didn't answer immediately, his brother nodded, and the bitter smile resurfaced again. "That's about what I expected of the selfish old brute. Nothing's too good for precious little Ike, but everyone else had better get out of the way."
Ike felt the unfairness of the accusation; it was as though his brother was blaming him for his father's actions. Again he offered an apology. "I'm sorry."
His brother shrugged. "It's all past history now. Let's just get the old man walled up in that cave, and then I can get on with my life."
The two strangers, who were also brothers, worked silently to lay their father to rest in the cave, laying rocks over the body, and walling up the entrance so wild animals would not discover the remains. Ike could feel the tension between them, but could think of nothing to say that would alleviate his brother's anger.
When the job was finished, Ike's brother maintained his silence, turning to walk away without even a word of farewell. Ike let him walk a few paces down the hillside, then called after him, "Wait!"
He paused, but didn't turn to look at his younger brother.
"Where will you go now?"
"Egypt. Assyria. Somewhere away from here."
"How will I find you?"
Now his brother turned to look at him. "Find me?" he said, sneering, "you never even looked for me in seventy years, little brother. I doubt you'll need to know how to find me now."
"But we're brothers," Ike protested. "And our sons, and our son's sons; they will be family; how will they know each other?"
Now his brother laughed outright. "Never fear, little brother, little supplanter of fatherly affections and thief of inheritances, I'm sure they will."
As he turned to walk away, Ike wept for lost opportunity; he knew with certainty that he would not see his brother Ishmael again, and the rift between them would never be mended.
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