Friday, April 29, 2022

A Brother’s Promise

 Dylan Brown drove down the interstate in his 1997 Chevrolet C10 with a box strapped in the passenger's seat. Before leaving his home, he made sure to prevent it from flying around the car when he drove up the mountainside. The hills scattered around the car with bare, jagged rock and long, wavy grass on top. Sturdy dark pine trees loomed overhead and casted their shadows on the hillside. Dylan worried that he would change his mind, turn around and go home. He had been dreading this visit after everything that happened, but for his brother's sake, he finally convinced himself do it. Dylan noticed a few stray deer strewed upon the hills, casually sharing a meal of pine needles and twigs on a low-hanging branch. Dylan smiled, he remembered four years ago hoping into his older brother's ancient 1960 Ford F100 after school every day. 

"Marcus, can we go hunting today?" Dillion asked his brother one day. 

Marcus scoffed and tucked his shaggy, dark brown hair behind his ear. He turned to Dylan and glared at him with his emerald green eyes. "I told you already. Last time we went hunting, I said we wouldn't do it again. I don't have a license and neither do you. We could have gotten in serious trouble last time. Besides, Betsy broke down last week and I don't want her to break down in the middle of the forest.”

He paused, then added "Plus, you need to work on schoolwork."

Marcus named his truck Betsy the moment he first laid eyes on it and often treated it like a real woman. 

"I don't have any homework." Dylan lied. "And what do you expect from a truck you got from a junk lot for a really cheap price?"

"Hey!" Marcus exclaimed. "Betsy has feelings and she is NOT cheap. I just got a really good deal on her, okay?"

Dillion sighed. “Marcus, I will pay for Betsy's repair if she breaks down in the forest but only if you go hunting with me."

Marcus glanced at Dylan, who was mouthing the word "please" over and over. He began to consider Dylan’s offer and the two of them sat in silence.

Finally, Marcus rolled his eyes and groaned. 

"Fine. “He spat. "But I mean it, if she breaks down, I'm shoving the whole bill down your throat and you're going to pay the whole thing."

"Every penny," Dylan promised. 

Marcus turned the truck around and headed for the forest. Slowly, he brought the truck into the woods and watched for sharp rocks in its path. Betsy showed her lack of enthusiasm for the trip though her creaking and erratic engine clamor. Eventually, Marcus found a good place to park and put the brakes on. They both hopped out and walked to the back of the truck. Dylan watched as Marcus pulled his rifle out of a compartment on the left side of the bed. 

"I can't wait for when I'm old enough to own my own rifle." Dylan said.

Sure enough, he bought one three years later when he was nineteen years old. 

Marcus ignored him and checked to make sure his rifle was loaded. 

"Come on." Marcus said. "Stay behind me at all times and try not to make any noise when stepping. When we catch the deer, we're going to quickly drag it back to Betsy, throw it into the bed, pull the tarp over it, and get the hell out of here so we don't get caught. Got it?"

Dylan nodded in response. Together they went off into the woods, carefully placing each foot down on the ground. They came across a lone buck whose nose was pressed against the dirt. Marcus waved to Dylan, signaling for him to get down. They both crouched low and Marcus readied the rife. The buck, unaware of the danger, continued to mosey around until he stopped to munch on a twig laying in the grass. Slowly, Marcus crept forward with his gun at the ready, the butt of the rifle pressed firmly against his shoulder. Dylan, lost in the moment, placed his hand down and unintentionally snapped a twig in half under the pressure of his palm. His eyes widened in response and he froze. The buck's head shot up and he glanced around on edge but saw nothing and returned to his scavenging. At last, Marcus' finger pressed on the trigger. A crack thundered out in the air and instantly, the buck collapsed. Dylan watched the spectacle intently with earnest fascination. Marcus stood suddenly and raced to retrieve his prize. 

"Come on!" Marcus yelled to Dylan. Together, they dragged the deer back to the truck, hoisted it up and tossed it into the bed. Marcus fumbled for one part of the tarp as Dylan dragged the other side partially over the deer and then Marcus yanked his side over the rest. They scrambled to their seats in the truck and drove off. When they came home, their father, David Brown, was more than happy to welcome the deer in their home as he was a hunter himself. Their mother, however, did not share the same enthusiasm and scolded her sons for illegally hunting, again. 

Dylan snapped out of his daydream and his smile faded. The thought of his parents filled him with anxiety. Despite this, Dylan took comfort in remembering the things he and his brother did together, even when it upset their mother and father. He cleared his mind and pulled up to an old house on a short hill. Before leaving the truck, Dylan took a deep breath and felt his lungs pump in the nostalgia and spread it throughout his body. He looked up to see the porch. The wood was now warped and nearly rotted with partially peeled paint sticking out from one end to the other. As he scanned it from left to right, his mind remembered when it was first painted. 

" It is fine the way it is," David argued. 

"No, it's not. I'm tired of the bare wood and the splinters!" His wife, Grace argued back.

“It’s wood, Grace. The splinters will always come back under the paint anyways.”

Dylan was playing with his toys in the living room when suddenly, a fight broke out between his parents. He got up, abandoned his playtime and sought out the whereabouts of the bickering. He found his parents in the kitchen, his mother was throwing her hands in the air and his father was scowling. Dylan listened to the two go back and forth until his father gave in and ran to the store for paint. Marcus, three years older, was busy working on a school project in the dining room and spotted Dylan at the entrance of the kitchen. 

"Hey!" Marcus called. "Come here!"

"What?" Dylan replied.

"Just get over here."

"Okay" Dylan replied. He made his way over to Marcus, who motioned for Dylan to sit beside him. 

Dylan sat down and asked, "What is it?" 

He scanned the table and discovered different types of plant leaves scattered across it.

"Mom's gonna kill you for bringing leaves in and putting them on the table." Dylan commented.

Marcus shrugged. "It's for school. I'm sure she won't be too mad. Besides, she's too busy being angry with dad, which is what I wanted to talk to you about."

"What about it?" Dylan questioned.

"Well." Marcus started. "What was all of the fuss about?"

"Can’t you hear it? They’re pretty loud."

"Not really. I was focusing on my work and it was all just kind of muffled."

"Well, mom wanted the porch painted and Dad didn't want to spend the money on paint or do the work to paint it. Mom won and dad's getting the paint now."

Marcus sighed. "You know that means he's going to have us paint it with him, right?

"What! That's not fair!" Dylan exclaimed. 

"I know," Marcus replied. "But don't worry, I have a plan, so I don't have to do it."

"What about me?" Dylan whined.

"You're in the plan too, don't worry about that.” He paused to look at Dylan and put a hand on his shoulder. “You're my little brother, I'll always have your back."

Dylan beamed. "Thanks, Marcus!"

When their father came home, he found his sons at the dining room table with their mother, all of whom were intently working on the school project. 

"I need you boys to help me paint the deck." David said.

Before either of them could respond, their mother stood up.

"They most certainly will not be helping you paint." She said. "They are working on an important school project right now."

"They can work on that after they're done painting." David growled. 

"Absolutely not!" Grace snapped. "They won't be able to focus or even think properly because they will be too tired."

Reluctantly, their father marched away in defeat and Grace turned to her sons. 

"Now" She said. "If he bothers you again, let me know. Did you need any more help from me?"

"No thank you." Marcus said. "We understand the instructions now."

"Alright. I'll be in the kitchen if either of you need me. I am so proud of you, Marcus, for working so hard." She turned to face Dylan.” And I'm so proud of you for being a good brother and helping out."

After that, she walked off and the two boys laughed. They high fived and worked together on the project, nice and slow. By the time they had finished, the father had worked off his anger by painting the entire porch a bright white. 

Dylan shook the memory away and got out of his truck. He thought about all the things that his brother had done for him. Even when he was bullied, Marcus always made sure that he was never bullied again. Dylan began to walk to the front porch but stopped. Beside the house was none other than Betsy, who had seen better days. Most of her paint had peeled away, if there was any left at all. The rust that was once there in spots had now spread all over her body like chicken pox. He placed his hand on the coarse tailgate and peered inside the bed. Marcus’s rifle box was still intact and on the other side was a dirty firefighter uniform. Dylan remembered the first time Marcus wore that uniform.

“What do you think?” Marcus asked. 

Dylan was visiting his brother, who just got a job at the New York City Fire Department. Dylan sat in a chair across from Marcus, who was showing off his new uniform. 

“What do you mean, what do I think?” Dillion asked. “I think you look like a firefighter.”

“Well, that’s the goal,” Marcus replied. “But I mean, how do I look?”

“You look sort of like a traffic cone.” Dylan laughed and Marcus shot him a playful but annoyed look. 

“Okay, okay” Dylan said with his hands in the air. “You look like a nice traffic cone, happy?”

The two of them burst into laughter. 

“Can I ask you a serious question, Marcus?”

“Uh oh.” Marcus replied. “Nothing good ever comes from a question like that.”

“No no, it's not bad. I just want to know why New York City? There’re plenty of fire stations upstate. You know, where your family is?” 

Marcus sat down on the floor a few feet from Dylan and crossed his legs.

“Well” Marcus started. “Those are all small-town fire departments. I’d love to work there but my life goal is to change the world one good deed at a time. I want to save a lot of people. To do that, I have to think bigger and a small town just isn’t going to cut it. Besides, dad has been drinking a lot recently and I prefer not to be around him when he does, but my main reason is to save lives. I just want to make the world a better place.”

“You will.” Dylan promised. “You will.”

Dylan took his hand off the truck and looked to the house. He walked up to the porch, and went up the steps, each creaking under his weight. When he reached the door, he paused. His father was the reason he moved away, just like Marcus. He wasn’t ready to face his father if he was only drinking more. Slowly, he balled his hand into a fist and gently knocked on the door. A few moments later, he heard footsteps within the house and then the door was unlatched. His mother opened the door and the two of them stared awkwardly at each other, both at a loss of words. 

“Is he here?” Dylan said. His mother nodded, understanding what he was asking. She motioned for him to come in. 

“Would you like anything to drink?”

Dylan felt too sick to consume anything, so he shook his head no. 

“Go ahead and take a seat.” She pointed to the couch. Dylan picked out a spot to sit and nearly collapsed into the sofa. He had been driving for hours, the soft, fluffy couch felt good. His mother sat on the couch across from him. 

“So,” she said. “What have you been up to these past few years?” 

“Well, I work in the prison system. Currently I’m just a correctional officer but I plan to move my way up the chain of command.”

“That must be hard.”

“It is but keeping inmates in their place is worth it.”

She nodded. 

“Where’s dad?”

“Oh, he’s” Her voice trailed off. “He was arrested a few weeks ago.”

Dylan sighed. “Why this time?”

“He got so upset he drank more than usual, and he hit me. I called the cops and they arrested him.”

She pointed to the colorful bruise on her upper cheek.

Dylan nodded and responded with, “You did the right thing.” 

His mother nodded but her face was unsure. There was a long pause and then Dylan stood.

“Since he’s here, I’m going to visit Marcus.”

His mother nodded again. She stood and hugged him. At first, Dylan was startled, but then he found himself wrapping his arms around her. It felt good to hold her. After a few moments, she pulled away with tear droplets escaping her old, grey eyes. 

“Go see him.” She said. “I’ll be here waiting for you when you return.”

Dylan smiled weekly and left. He took his truck out to the town road, slowly turned into the cemetery, took a left and stopped. He reached into the passenger seat and unhooked the belt around the box. He took the box and exited the truck. He carefully set the box on the ground and brushed his hand over the indentation on the stone. “Marcus Brown,” it said. Dylan slowly opened the box, carefully pulled out a crushed, blackened firefighter helmet and placed it on top of the stone. Dylan sat there for a moment in silence, but then spoke.

“Three weeks ago, you were called to action because a plane smashed into one of the twin towers. On your way to save those people, a second plane hit the neighboring tower and it collapsed. When it did, you went down with it. When the other men found your body, the helmet stayed with you until I asked to keep it. I felt it was the least I could do after everything you’ve ever done for me. You always loved that helmet and would always tell me that it signified your greater purpose. I’ll be honest, I got annoyed with that because you always said it, and I always felt like you were showing off. Now I understand it, and I’m so sorry it took this to happen for me to get it. You were the best big brother I could ever ask for. No one compares to you because you only ever wanted to help people. I was never good at saving lives and being a hero, but I can damn well make sure that the bastards of this world stay where they were meant to be. That's why I took this job, I did it for you. It's not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. I hope I can do at least half as good as you in making the world a better place. But because of people like you, because of your sacrifice, the world IS a better place. I promise to you, I will never forget who you were and what you stood for. You were the first person to donate food to a homeless man and the last to leave a burning building to make sure no one was left behind, even if it put your life at risk. I don’t think I could ever summon the courage to be firefighter, but I will be the first to make a difference. I will do whatever it takes to help our community face hunger and poverty, just like you wanted. And if I ever become a father, I promise to never be like our father, who turned into an abusive alcoholic we never knew. Most importantly, my first son will be named Marcus, and he will know the hero he was named after. I love you, big brother.” All the pain Dylan bottled up since he received a call about his brother’s demise came pouring out. Tears slipped down Dylan's face and fell to the earth. For only a moment, he let himself lose control of his emotions. After that, Dylan brushed the tears away. He stood up, took the box, and got back into his truck. He backed out and headed to his mother's house. There, he would begin to fix what was broken. He never forgot Marcus or his sacrifice, but always remembered the promise he made to his brother to make the world a better place.


  1. Love it but the character is a

    1. why didn't you finish your sentence dude?

    2. Maybe it was intentional, you dont know



I Think Often on Your Words

I think often on your words. The ones that linger in the air and coexists amongst the breathable air, but still leaves a bitter taste. A tas...