Fiction from Kevin Brennan
You had a way of changing on a dime. We’d wrestle you on the living room floor, cramping with laughter, till you roared a gnashing syllable and ended it, crawling up on knees red-in-the-face. You took us out on long drives and made us wait in the car for an hour while you talked to a man. We watched. The two of you smoked and laughed about who you had been before us. It was confusing. You arm wrestled us and never lost. Undefeated, you said. You had us on KP duty each night while you sat in the recliner and watched news on the black-and-white Magnavox. We were in bed by nine o’clock so you’d have plenty of quiet time. Mornings you were already gone when we got up for school. You left early to beat the traffic you said, but we pieced together that sometimes you went out late and never came home. You dared us to ask too many questions, see what happens. We had questions, but we asked each other instead of you, and the answers were obscure. We sat on your lap and smelled your special breath and the stale pipe bowl on the stand, and you were sometimes calm for that, until you ordered us down. You took us to a baseball game once and told us to be quiet. The radio was telling us what just happened. You blew raspberries on our stomachs and made us cry with laughter, and then you left. You were away for days, on business trips, and came home with dime-store trinkets to make it okay. You didn’t say much about where you went or what you did. And then you left for good. You started a new life without us. You became a mythical being that we lied about at school—a spy, an undercover cop, a pilot. But the truth is that you became, when we think about you now, a set of scant memories that have waned into ever-darkening gray.
Kevin Brennan is the author of six novels, including Parts Unknown (William Morrow/HarperCollins), Yesterday Road, and, most recently, Eternity Began Tomorrow. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Berkeley Fiction Review, Mid-American Review, Bright Flash Literary Review, Twin Pies Literary, The Daily Drunk, Sledgehammer, Fictive Dream, The Bookends Review, and others. He’s also editor of The Disappointed Housewife, a literary magazine for writers of offbeat and idiosyncratic fiction, poetry, and essays, which will be represented in the 2021 Best Small Fictions anthology. Kevin lives with his wife in California’s Sierra foothills.