|A BROTHER'S LOVE
by Brian Evenson
Though I am quite glad to discover that you are
still alive, that I will not be charged with your murder along with the others, I am
dismayed by the severity of your injuries. Thank God for catheters and electric
wheelchairs. Nevertheless, your tongue, transcribed on paper though it be, has lost none
of its sharpness, and you seem to have retained your longstanding and unjustified distaste
for me. Your accusations are, quite frankly, even making allowances for your condition and
my unintentional role in creating it, slanderous.
I feel greatly alone and forsaken in this place,
among the guilty--though I myself am not guilty. There are a great many clever people
here, but no intelligent ones, and I find myself with no one to converse with. Admittedly,
I have experienced this before and I suppose I should resign myself, yet I find it less
bearable this second time, now that I know exactly what to expect.
I will tell you again I did nothing to my
sisters. I loved my sisters. Had you any love left for the one remaining member of your
sister's family, you would work to rectify this miscarriage of justice.
I have read your reply twice over to assure
myself of its contents. I regret that I find the letter even more insulting on a second
I have promised myself not to dignify your
letter with a full reply, but I cannot resist permitting myself a clarification on one
score: namely, a matter of wording which, once corrected, throws your so-called evidence
into a new light.
My sisters were startled to see me (not, as you
say, terrified). Considering the propaganda my parents and yourself always uttered against
me in their presence, this was to be expected. It proves nothing against me.
I often tried make my parents realize how
unnatural and perverse their treatment of me was, how it damaged my sisters as well as
myself. Indeed, I was a ceaseless advocate for the interests of my sisters: just hours
before my parents' death I pleaded with my parents to allow us to become reacquainted. It
would, I insisted, do my sisters a tremendous good to see me, considering how close we had
once been. I had changed, I told them, which was the truth. My parents could monitor our
meeting if they liked, I offered. Nobody had anything to fear.
These were the soundest of arguments, and would
have operated quickly on more rational minds. Even my parents expressed a willingness to
reconsider, but they were unfortunately murdered before their reconsideration was
complete. Convinced as I was that they eventually would have accepted my arguments,
allowing me to be reunited with my sisters, I felt the restraining order was not as
binding as it had once been.
How I came to be there, I can explain. I was
driving around, nowhere in particular, trying to calm myself after having met with my
parents, when suddenly I found myself on their street. I had unconsciously driven there. I
would have kept driving but my parents' car was not in the drive, which made me concerned
that my sisters had again been left without proper adult supervision.
I stopped the car to note this in the filebook
which, before the police confiscated it, I kept in the glove compartment. I suggest you
ask the police to allow you to examine this filebook. You will find it enlightening: clear
proof, in over three thousand documented instances, of my parents' alternating abuse and
neglect of my sisters. Perhaps seeing it would change your opinion of them, and of me.
I am a fair man. Therefore, before making a
notation against my parents, I felt I had to assure myself that my sisters were actually
in the house. For this reason alone, I removed the binoculars from beneath the seat and
pressed them against the tinted glass.
In a few seconds, I caught sight of my sisters,
dim and shiftless behind the windows, clear victims of parental neglect. One of my sisters
opened the door and looked out onto the porch. She was as beautiful as ever, and I was
sure the same was true for the other. What can it hurt? I thought. Just to climb from my
car and wave to them? Just to speak with them through the door?
Yet, please note, Aunt, I did not contact them.
I could not bring myself to violate the restraining order. I am first and foremost a law
You accuse me of knowing of my parents'
murder before that information was released to the general public. In fact, this the only
accusation which has some substance to support it. Had you not been too thoroughly damaged
to attend my trial, you would have heard me freely admit this and offer an explanation.
After driving away from my parents' house,
leaving my sisters unmolested, I drove toward home. On a whim, I chose to follow the
frontage road rather than the highway, thinking that the former would be quicker at that
hour of the day. The road was at first clear, but rapidly became congested. Soon I saw the
road ahead blocked by a policeman standing before a barricade, waving cars to pass onto
"What happened?" I asked, driving
"Accident," he said. "Move
The policeman said exactly this to me, and then,
later, in court, had the nerve to claim never to have seen me. Had he come forward and
admitted to recognizing me, no jury would have dared to convict me.
I pulled onto the shoulder and edged slowly
forward. In the road ahead was a car of the same make as that of my parents. My tires
crunched through pebbled glass. Examining the license plate, I realized it was in fact my
parent's car. Shocked, I passed two stretchers, each covered with a sheet, a hand hanging
over the side of one which, as I passed, an orderly tucked out of sight.
This, my dear Aunt, was the first indication I
had that my parents were dead. I was distraught, perhaps not thinking as clearly as I
should have, and thus believed that if I stopped and assumed management of my parents'
bodies it would only complicate matters. So I drove on.
P.S. In hindsight, it is clear to me that not
stopping was an error in judgment.
There is no contradiction: I was only obeying
a higher law. I was concerned for the welfare of my sisters, stripped as they were of
parents. I asked myself what Christ Jesus would do. I answered myself that the only thing
a brother could do, parole or no, was to provide his sisters with his love.
Thus, I drove to my parents' house a second
time. When I arrived I found you and my sisters carrying suitcases hurriedly out. I
attempted to reason with you, to convince you that it was natural for me to comfort my
sisters at such a time, restraining order or no. At first, you seemed to have difficulty
following what I was saying, and then you refused to listen to me at all. You will recall
that in the middle of our conversation, much to my surprise, you suddenly rushed screaming
toward the car.
Your behavior, I hope you now see, was
completely inappropriate. It was that which upset my sisters further, not anything I did.
With their mental well being in mind, I took your arm to try to calm you, not, as you
claim, to restrain you. Unfortunately there was a struggle, and you fell and were hurt.
Injured, you were clearly in no position to care
for my sisters, and thus I felt obliged to take my sisters from your car and place them in
They were crying, perhaps finally beginning to
feel the impact of my parents' death. I asked them not to cry, and, reaching my arm around
both of them, squeezed them close to me. Still, they kept crying. You had upset them that
much, you see. I squeezed them closer and let them know in a reassuring voice, that there
was no reason to cry. When they still would not stop, I pulled them very close indeed
until finally, touched by the strength of my concern, they did stop.
I am embarrassed to admit that I had been so
caught up in comforting my sisters that I forgot entirely about you. In pulling the car
out I was conscious of clunking over something, but several hours passed before I realize
that it must have been you. Had I realized any sooner, I swear I would not have left you
in that condition, but I simply didn't realize.
If they still insist on punishing me, let them
punish me for running over you. For what I did rather than for what I didn't.
But remember, it was an accident, Aunt. Anyone
could have done it.
I have spent the day sitting in my room
trying to understand why your letters have stopped. Perhaps you are sending them but they
are not reaching me? We were making such progress. It seems inconceivable that you would
terminate our correspondence.
Please, tell me how I have offended you. If you
will, I promise to make everything up to you.
I want to be open. I want to hear your point
of view as well. I want to understand discuss my case until we have reached an
understanding. But how can we discuss it when you will not return my letters?
The days move slowly here. I do not think I am
liked by the others--they sense I am different. Perhaps they can feel that I am innocent.
Men who should be here, clever men who are guilty, receive letters quite often. Yet I have
no letters at all.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
I think, considering
All other things being equal, I see no reason
why I should not explain the
For all I care you can just
My guess is you would like to hear about my
motivations as well as the truth about the night of the murders. Indeed, you cannot
discard me without knowing that. You cannot judge me without it.
Write to me and I'll tell you everything.
Your silence is hard to interpret.
Nonetheless, I think I know what you want. I'll tell you a little bit and then, if you
want to hear more, I want a letter from you first.
That night, after leaving you in the driveway, I
knew the best thing for my sisters would be to distract them, to allow the gain of a
brother to offset the loss of the parents. With that in mind, I drove them toward a little
motel outside the city, the sort of place that would allow them the repose and privacy
they would need to recover.
I drove past the motel several times,
considering what the best course of action would be. Driving a little way along, down the
back roads until we were among trees, I stopped the car. Helping my sisters out, I led
them around to the trunk, inviting them to climb inside. Perhaps this strikes you as odd,
Aunt, but that is only because you do not yet understand my motivation: I didn't have the
money to pay for a room for three.
At the hotel, the manager sat in his undershirt,
the television blaring, fat spilling out onto his belt.
"Excuse me," I said. "I'm
interested in a room, please."
"Twenty bucks," he said, without
looking up from the T.V.
I put a twenty dollar bill on the counter. He
took it up slowly and put it under the counter somewhere, his other hand groping the wall
for a key. He found the key and, pushing it across the desk, looked at me for the first
"Behind the building, third door," he
said. "You look familiar."
"Me?" I asked. "Impossible."
"Sure," he said. "You been here
"I've never been here," I said.
"You are mistaken."
His eyes slowly flicking back to the television
screen, he nodded.
I went outside. Around the back of the motel, I
pulled my sisters out of the trunk. They stood pale and holding hands, blinking in the
sunlight until I shepherded them into our room.
The room itself was mildly unpleasant, the air
stale, the furnishings done in a third or fourth-rate style. It was not what I had hoped
for. Perhaps my sisters could feel the unpleasantness of the surroundings as well for they
struck me as anxious, unsettled.
I attempted to reassure them, but instead of
accepting my comfort they burst into tears. I went into the bathroom and brought out
handfuls of Kleenex, held them close to me and whispered to them. In a little time, I had
distracted them sufficiently that they had forgotten about the death of our parents.
It was not until near morning, however, that
they fell asleep. By then, I had had a difficult night and despite my exhaustion was
unable to sleep myself. I needed something to calm my nerves.
Climbing off the bed and pulling on my clothes,
I left the room. The sky was still dark, the air fraught with a predawn silence. I climbed
into the car and drove until I reached a all-night convenience store. At the drive-thru
window, I ordered a coffee. I had planned to drink it in the store's parking lot but the
coffee was scalding, so instead drove back to the motel. Worried that opening and closing
the room's door might awaken my sisters from their precarious sleep, I did not go in but
rather stayed in the car, reclined a little, and drank the coffee.
I had nearly finished the cup when the hotel
manager's door opened and he stumbled out, a length of pipe in his hand. He went to my
room's window and looked in, his hands cupped around the side of his face. He was like
that for most of the time it took for me to finish my coffee, then he walked back to his
Getting out of the car, I walked down to his
office. He had left the door ajar, so I went in. He was behind the desk, one hand holding
the telephone receiver to his ear, the other hand dialing. When he saw me, he slowly
recradled the receiver.
"Who are you calling?" I asked.
"Nobody," he said.
"Come on," I said, smiling. "You
must have been calling somebody."
"Time and temperature," he said.
"I couldn't sleep."
"Are you sure it was time and
"Please," he said. "I don't want
I came around behind the desk. "Why were
you looking through my window?" I asked. "What did you hope to see?"
It was about that time that he got down on the
slabs of fat that were his knees and started blubbering. He told me that he wouldn't say
anything to the police, that I could count on him. Shortly thereafter we reached an
understanding of sorts.
Perhaps if you write to me and ask nicely, I'll
tell you all about it, about what really happened.
You seem to have lost your ability to write.
Still, though abandoned, I won't abandon you. I'll leave the crucial details out, Aunt,
but I'll tell you the rest. The crucial details, parts, too, the parts that nobody but me
knows, will be yours for the asking. All I ask for are a few of your words to warm myself
So, where were we?
After the agreement was reached, the lateness of
the hour was catching up with me. When I went back into the room, it was too dark to see.
I groped my way to the bed and felt along my portion of it to assure myself that I was not
going to lie down on top of one of my sisters. Removing my clothes, I reclined on the bed
and closed my eyes.
It was only a few seconds before I realized
something was wrong. Things were too quiet. I rolled onto my side and reached out to touch
my sisters. They were not in the bed. I called out to them. Getting out of bed, I turned
on the lights.
The bedroom was empty, the furniture in mild
disarray. They were not there. I searched under the beds and in the closet, but my sisters
were nowhere in the room.
I admit at first I thought they had woken up and
escaped, but it turned out to be much worse. Opening the door to the bathroom, I found the
shower curtain had been pulled shut. I parted the curtain and found them.
I swear that this was the first moment I knew
about their deaths. I am innocent of their murder.
As to the motel manager, I gather from the press
reports that he is dead as well, killed in the same fashion as my sisters, though for some
reason I was never charged with his murder. Suspicious no? Doesn't it sound like someone
is covering up something? If they were murdered in the same way, why wouldn't I be charged
with both crimes?
I've thought a great deal about who the real
killer is. Write to me. I'm willing to share.
I do not know what else I can offer to prod
you into resuming your correspondence with me. Aren't you interested in the truth?
Wouldn't you like to hear what I've kept from everyone else?
I will say this. If you want to find the real
killer, I am the only one with enough information to lead you in the right direction. I
can say no more until I hear from you.
As for the blood found upon my clothing, that
can easily be explained. Write, and I will explain it. Not the blood only, but the
substance, apparently from their eyes, that had gathered under my thumbnails. I can
explain everything. Aren't you even the least bit curious?
Happy day! They have been questioning me
again, and from the questions they ask it is clear they have read my letters to you.
Either they have intercepted them or you have chosen to show the letters to them yourself.
I prefer to think the latter: it proves you are still interested in me.
I will tell you, as I told them earlier today, I
am innocent not only of murder but of all lesser crimes as well. I never touched my
sisters other than in the spirit of brotherly affection. Both this time and all the others
our intercourse was entirely wholesome.
Besides, whatever we did do my parents must take
the blame, for I learned everything I know from my parents. My sisters were starved for
affection. If things got out of hand, my parents were responsible. I and my sisters are
Besides, what's the matter with a little
I've always held my sisters' bodies in the
highest esteem. Any assault on their bodies was done not by me, but by the real killer.
Don't you want to know who the real killer is?
I can tell you, Aunt, I can tell you. But what I
need first is to feel an aunt's love. I need an aunt who cares enough to send me a few
letters. I need an aunt who has enough courage to coax the truth out of me. If you prove
to be that sort of aunt, I'll tell you.
You had brothers of your own. You must once have
understood how pure a brother's love is. Try to remember that. Once you remember, I'll be
able to count on you.
Counting on you already,