My Brother, My Burden
By Victor DiGenti
Shadows from the raised tombs reached out for me as I ran past statues of angels guarding the long dead. Taking a shortcut through Lafayette Cemetery on Halloween night might not have been the best idea. But I had to find Harv before he did something stupid.
Harv’s my younger brother. He’s quiet and kind of strange. At school, kids picked on him and he’d come home blubbering. Mom would baby him, telling him it didn’t matter. “You’re a very special boy,” she’d say. “One day you’ll be famous and make us all proud.”
Halloween was his favorite holiday. Maybe because he could pretend he was like the other kids. Harv had found a ratty hunting coat and cap in a garbage can and was going to be a big game hunter. For a rifle, he taped a piece of pipe to a hunk of wood. He had his pillow case ready to fill up with candy and other sweets that he called his Frim Fram.
But he never got the chance. He was acting creepy as usual, waving his gun at me. So I yanked it away from him, and threw it in the yard. Harv started screaming how he hated everyone and was going to kill himself. He picked up his rifle and ran off toward the river. Mom came out of the house about that time, slapped me across the head, and made me go find him.
I knew the spot where Harv liked to sit on the edge of the old wharf and watch the barges slip by. That’s why I had cut through the cemetery on a night so sticky that heat lightning crackled across the sky. On Toledano Street I saw the Wolfman, a vampire, and other ghosts and goblins calling out “trick-or-treat” in excited voices.
Finally, I was at the wharf yelling for him. “Harv, where are you?” The slap of muddy water against the rotten boards was all I heard. The moon slipped past the clouds and reflected off something floating down below. I stared into that inky trough, a feeling of dread rising in my throat. “Harvey!” My scream sounded foreign to my ears, blood-curdling and filled with horror.
As I watched, the form rolled over and I saw a thin arm rise from the river. It was holding a toy rifle. Without thinking, I leaped into the water, splashing toward the shape that was now sliding below the surface. Frantically, I grabbed the back of Harv’s jacket and dragged him on to the river bank.
In the hospital later that night, the doctor examined Harv then came out to talk with my mother. “He’ll be fine, Mrs. Oswald. Don’t you worry.”
We watched him sleep. So small. So still. Tears glinted on mom’s face when she embraced me and called me her little hero. “Everything happens for a reason, Robert,” she whispered. “I know the good Lord has a plan. One day, we’ll all be reading about your famous brother, Lee Harvey.”