Monday, June 30, 2014

Why My Brother Should Be Dead

Most of you know that for the past 10 days, I've been in the "residency" portion of my MFA degree. While in workshop one day, one of the exercises we had to do was to free-write a story that began with the line: "This is a true story." So I wanted to share this one with you guys (and it is, in fact, a true story!)

This is a true story. We were living in this old brick house with creaking wooden floors in Hialeah. My mom was showing the house to a couple that was interested in buying it. When she came to my brothers’ room, she noticed that the window was open and two little hands, white-knuckled, were gripping the bottom of the window frame. She, of course, screamed and rushed to the window to find my blonde-haired brother beaming up at her, his body dangling on the outside of the red brick house. 

This should not have surprised her. Just before our house went up for sale, we had a permanent fixture at the bottom of our staircase: a queen-sized mattress. The sole purpose of this mattress was to catch my brother whenever he went flying off of the banister of our expansive wooden staircase. The antique chandelier that overlooked the first floor had several crystals and light bulbs missing from the times that Daniel jumped off of the staircase with an umbrella, perhaps in an attempt to fly like Mary Poppins or maybe he simply wanted to see if he could swing off of the chandelier. 

Prior to the mattress, my parents had tried putting up one of those child safety gates at the bottom of the staircase to prevent access. When that didn’t work, they put a net on the outside of the staircase to try to keep him from going through the slots in the banister. A week after the safety gate and the net were in place, my mother found Daniel laying unconscious on the first floor of our house, his blue gray eyes staring up at her. She, of course, screamed and rushed to his side, but after approximately 30 seconds, he jumped up with a grin on his face and ran back to the staircase. After this incident, she scrapped the safety gate and the net and put a mattress down as a last effort to try to keep him alive. This sort of thing became the norm in our house. 

When we moved to our new house in Broward, my parents bought us a large trampoline with a bright orange safety net around it. My dad would pull the trampoline over to the large oak tree in our yard and Daniel would climb to the highest limb, balancing precariously as the branch swayed beneath him. He would then jump from the tree onto the waiting trampoline, which bounced him almost as high as the safety net that surrounded the trampoline. Safety nets were not particularly effective in our household. 

Daniel on the slopes of Steamboat Springs, CO
One time, on vacation in my grandfather’s condo in the Keys, a concerned neighbor pounded on our door to tell us that Daniel was skateboarding off of the top of the two-story parking garage. My mom, of course, ran out of the condo — not to stop my brother, but to record him.

The first question that my professor asked when I finished reading the piece was, "Is your brother still alive??" I'm very happy to say that Daniel is, in fact, still alive. And I hope he stays that way for a very long time.