My older brother and I were trudging through a mall a few days before Christmas. There was no sound at first. We were spending time together, which is something I’d always avoided if possible. Without warning, he panicked and raced off through the crowds.
My body gave chase, having to sprint just to keep him in sight. My mind felt like a spectator stuck in the bleeds. I watched as my brother plowed into a father and mother who were steering a futuristic wheelchair. He knocked them to the tiled floor, missing the wheelchair entirely.
n the wheelchair sat a barely recognizable child: of indeterminate sex, its skin was opalescent with threads of ill blues and greens; Velcro straps were drawn tight across its chest and abdomen; a thick, transparent breathing tube snaked down its throat; IV lines disappeared into its arms and legs; and a triangular piece of plastic, which was connected to the base of the wheelchair by an opaque length of tubing, was affixed to the genital area.
Without worry for the people he’d tackled, my brother leapt to his feet and sprinted down the mezzanine.
My body slowed, eyes staring. The father jerked upright, scowling; my body continued.
Now, another man was chasing my brother. So I followed the pair into a department store, hurdling piles of sweaters and overturned mannequins. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stop my brother from being beaten or to let him see me let it happen.
Rounding the corner at Ladies Shoes and Purses, near the cosmetics counter, my brother and his pursuer were punching each other in the face at the same time. There is a gap. A succession of quick cuts. Somehow I’d stopped the fight and rushed my brother out of the department store, hoping to use the seasonal crowd for cover.
Once there, however, he fell to his knees, weeping, in the middle of the crowd that couldn’t help but stare at him, us. In the middle of this circling mass of heavy coats and stuffed bags, I felt a concern or an obligation I’d never felt before, so I didn’t notice the father, mother and child approaching.
But he did. He quit weeping, started wailing and attempted an apology to the couple. Their faces, marble. I expected an immediate confrontation. Instead, the father busied himself behind the wheelchair, fiddling with nozzles and tubes. As I glanced at my brother’s face, new tears tracing fresh rivulets atop dry streams, sound returned with a metallic click. The father had set us in the sights of what can only be described as an amalgamation of today’s overcompensating water guns and a leaf blower.
My brother said, “I am so sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry,” and bear-hugged me.
The father looked at the mother, who flipped a switch.
We were doused with a stream of piss and shit pumped from the toilet built into the wheelchair. A tapped fire hydrant. I spun my brother’s embrace, his back a shield, and hid my face below his shoulder.
Several minutes passed. Then, as we dripped sheets of yellow and brown, the couple disassembled the contraption and disappeared into the crowd without a word.
Only now did my brother stop crying. With a smile, he said, “I reallyam sorry. I am.”
As his lips flattened, from over my shoulder, someone said my name and I woke.
© Michael A. Kiggins
This was originally published in the June 2012 themed issue (dreams) of Skive Magazine.