I ate my brother
I ate my brother. I was always fond of him, looked up to him. He was older than
me. I measured myself against him. We stood back to back. At first I only came
up to his shoulder, and then I realised in that instant we’d fused.
It wasn’t easy, he had to throw a coat over me so he could play with his friends.
We’d bike off to the dark places children play. I’d be quiet so as not to cramp his
Then I began to grow and one morning, instead of him throwing a coat over me,
I threw a coat over him and walked out the door.
I’d hear his voice in my ear sometimes. At first he wasn’t impressed but he soon
realised it was just easier this way, with me taking the lead. I was good at it.
As the years passed he became the size of a monkey on my back, an endearing,
small lump, a strange surprise revealed to lovers. By the time I’d married and
had children he was the size of a pygmy marmoset.
The children liked to play with him but eventually he became nothing but a
calcified lump. A recent X-ray revealed three teeth and a shadow of fur.
Mum would tuck us into our beds – divans with two drawers underneath. The
layers were: mattress, blanket, sheet, child, sheet, blanket, candlewick
bedspread. When we were tucked in it was hard to move, like caterpillars in a
cocoon – sometimes comforting, sometimes claustrophobic. The candlewick
was pale lemon, something to stroke if you could get an arm out from under the
covers. If I was careful, I could slide out of bed the next morning and it still
At the foot of my bed was a threadbare dog, pale pink with a zip up its back.
Inside, the lining was a cool-to-touch satin – also pale pink – for putting your
pyjamas in apparently. Its head was solid because inside was mechanical music.
You wound up the key on the back of its head to hear ‘Twinkle, twinkle’. It was
pretty ugly really, but the novelty aspect made it strangely attractive.
Leaving was the thing. We were loitering, waiting to get away. While I waited I
practised my sneer, reading The Face magazine, listening to The Cure, Jesus and
Mary Chain and The Violent Femmes. My brother was listening to Iggy Pop and
the Stooges, Motörhead and Peter and the Test Tube Babies.
My brother would leave without leaving; he’d go bush any weekend he could,
first tramping then hunting. He made himself a bed up in the attic where he kept
his home-cured goat skin that smelt so rank no one came up the ladder to check
the state of his room. Cunning. He started leaving in his mind, growing pot up in
the hills and smoking big bags of cabbage like it was Pocket Edition.
My parents gave him the old Mini and he left home to live with a bunch of
greasy guys with motorbikes in Stokes Valley. He said the Pigs thought they
were starting a chapter of White Power, and laughed. They were too cheap to
buy toilet paper, they kept newspaper in the dunny so you could read then wipe
– dual purpose. Cunning. One night they smashed up the old Mini with an empty
beer keg because it was crapping out. Not long after, I left home for Wellington.
The distance between us grew; we reacted to our mother’s illness and eventual
death in different ways. We’d catch up sometimes and he’d tell me all about who
was currently out to get him: bankers, politicians, old friends, his father-in-law.
People were a constant disappointment to him, people were never what they
seemed, never measured up to his hopes and expectations. Each year more
people were out to get him. We worried he was too isolated living on the farm
down south, that culling was too lonely a job, the guns.
Sometimes he told me stories about hunting, like when he tracked a goat for too
long and by the time he’d shot it the dark was falling. He’d left most of his gear
back at the hut; in his pocket was a candle stub, smokes and a lighter. He
skinned the goat and wrapped himself in the stinking billy pelt. During the night
he occasionally lit the candle, more for state of mind than heat. As dawn came,
he made his way back to the hut.
We write our own mythologies, our own truths. Our memories become re-
remembered, re-imagined. There were times when we were kids that I felt like
my brother’s other half. I adored him.
He has stopped returning my calls, the answerphone is a nameless, synthesised
voice. I’m starting to think that maybe I never had a brother. Perhaps he has
always been a figment of my imagination, an imaginary friend? Somehow this is
all my doing. Oh brother, where are you now?
On the scree slope you are alone. The thar walks along the top of the ridge, its
kid trailing behind. There is just the smell of your wet Swanndri and the sound
of your own breath punctuated by the squeak of boot on scree. You pick your
way closer to them, the wind is in your favour. You lift the rifle, butt to shoulder,
eye to sight. Breathe out slowly. Squeeze.
Bloody hell. You’ve taken the bottom jaw off the nanny, her tongue lolls out
grotesquely and she skitters down the scree. Quickly now, a second shot and
she’s down. The kid stands over her body calling for years. Maaaaa, maaaaa,