Bud Smith

My brother almost drowned in an industrial washing machine. The kind that lock from the front when you put your quarters in.

He had his own quarters, and gave them to a little girl in a powder blue jumpsuit. He was little himself. Nine, I think. Eight?

In the machine, he waved through the glass bubble, as she slammed the door.

The reason he didn’t drown, was because she ran away with his money and bought herself some candy at the store up the block.

 

Another time my brother came home soaked in diesel fuel. He’d held his nose and jumped off the hood of a dump truck, landing into an open 55 gallon drum of it behind the municipal garage. Lit match in hand.

This was that phase when he insisted I call him Human Torch, not Franklin, not Frankie, not Frank.

He didn’t want to get in trouble. And I didn’t want him to get in trouble either. So when he came to my window, reeking, I went out and helped him burn his clothes behind the trailer park, right there at the edge of the aqueduct where the coyotes howl.

 

When my brother shot himself, he was aiming for his heart. This was just last Christmas. Christmas Day and it was even snowing. Go figure.

He missed, thankfully, because thankfully he’s stupid and doesn’t know what side of his body his heart is on.

But I know.

And I’m still glad our parents were absent as much as they were, or else we would have been closely monitored. Taught things like right hand over left side of your body and face the flag.

In the room at the far end of the hallway, I can hear him wheeze my name through his busted lung.

And he is wild. And he has never had a chance.

And he does not know the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Bud Smith is the author of F250, Tollbooth and I'm From Electric Peak among others. He works heavy construction in NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

Illustration by Rachel Lillie