My Brother Draws
Stick-figures and standard houses with pointy roofs. He hasn’t improved much in the past seventeen years, but his drawings tell stories. Stories of things that are to come.
He doesn’t draw often. It’s not a hobby. It’s just that sometimes, he is overcome with the urge to draw, and he picks up a piece of paper and a pen and gets to work.
When he was in the sixth grade, we got an angry call from his teacher. She said that he’d been drawing in class, even though they were supposed to work on their math assignments.
“He just wouldn’t put down the pencil,” she told my parents. “He completely ignored me.”
He took the drawing home with him.
“Look at this, mom,” he said, but she ripped it out of his hands and tossed it aside, so that she could give him a stern talking to.
But I saw it. It was a house, licked by flames. Three stickfigures stood outside, their hands raised to their heads, and their mouths were O’s. Another figure laid flat on the black line that represented the floor of the house. Its arms were tossed up into the air and it had X’s for eyes.
The next day, a fire burned down our home. Our dad didn’t make it out of the house.
I started taking his art seriously. One time, I was ready to walk out the door to go to a concert. He stopped me.
“Wait,” he said. “I’ve got something for you. Don’t leave.”
He grabbed a pen and paper from the kitchen drawer and started to draw. It was a long-haired stick figure in a dress, walking next to a tall building. The “Fort Wood Bingo Center”, according to the sloppy lead letters on the roof. A typical bald, smiling stickfigure stood behind her, with a gun in his hand. I decided not to go to that concert.
The next day I read an article in the paper about an old lady getting mugged before being shot to death across the street from the Bingo Center.
When Grandpa died, we hopped onto a plane to New York City, where he lived, to attend his funeral.
We fastened our seatbelts. My mom looked out the window while I listened to music. My brother was asleep on take-off, but he suddenly woke up with a loud gasp.
“Paper,” he said, a statement rather than a question.
I rummaged through my purse until I found an old receipt, and a pen and handed them over to him.
He started drawing. Black pencil waves, and a sun in the top right corner. He paused for a moment, to look at me. I looked back, and nodded to the paper, as waves of panic drowned my stomach. Keep going.
Then he drew a plane, underneath the waves. A round stickfigure-face in one of the windows, with X’s for eyes.