I’ve been reading pieces here and there in the 20th issue of Midwestern Gothic magazine, which I purchased an e-copy of a little while ago. If you’re interested in maybe reading this magazine, some purchasing options may be found here. In my perusing, my “bicentennial year bias” led me to look for stories from Indiana authors first, and this one fit the bill.
I really liked this story, written by Drew Coles of Hanover, Indiana. I was impressed to learn that it was his first published story. I certainly hope he writes more.
Abe and Travis are brothers who live on a farm. They are close in age and have often been confused for twins – until Travis’s “recent growth spurt” that is. The locals knew enough about their family to know they were not twins. I really liked how the author described this knowledge:
“Their faces had been seen in the area for generations. The tight community ran on an elliptical orbit. Just as something stretched into decrepity it was born again, entire families reliving themselves in the same place.”
The boys have become fond of a game of “chicken” played at their Grandmother’s farm, “and on that farm their grandmother had a…” peacock. The boys would provoke the peacock into attacking them, either by poking at it with a stick (which Abe held in front of him “like the spear of a Greek hoplite” – yep, the Classics Minor in me loved that simile!) or by trying to steal one of the bird’s colorful tail-feathers. (The game was much easier before the bird had “realized it could fight back with its beak and claws.”)
If this game of “chicken” were all this story was about, it might not have sufficiently captured my interest to write a post about it. There’s something else that’s going on with these brothers, though. Something that’s probably gone on with every pair of close-in-age brothers ‘since the model first came out’:
“Though he couldn’t put it into words, the younger boy sensed that his brother was on the cusp of change, on some sort of threshold, which once he crossed over he couldn’t return. Abe also knew, but again couldn’t say, that when it happened they would be isolated from each other until it was his own time to cross and join Travis on the other side. He thought about this now as he walked alongside his brother.”
One gets the sense while reading that this iteration of their game might be the last one they’ll be able to enjoy before Travis “crosses over.” Armed with this knowledge, the reader feels an urgency in this tale that imbues it with a power that a routine short story wouldn’t have. Bravo!