Brian Tompkins and his brother, Walter, raced up the hill towards the tree. The sweat fell in huge drops from the forehead of both brothers. Walter’s tie swung over his shoulder as he dug his heels in for the final fifty meters.
“Don’t push…yourself so hard, Walter. I’m still going to win.” At that moment, Brian seemed to catch the wind at his back and sprinted to the tree.
Walter plopped down beside his brother under the tree a minute or so later. His hair stuck to his forehead like glue. Brian pulled a water bottle from his jacket pocket and handed it to his brother.
“You always come prepared don’t you?” Walter gulped half the bottle in one swallow.
“That’s what little brothers are for.” Brian produced another bottle of water and drank deep.
Walter studied his younger brother for a moment. Brian looked so much like their mother, it was uncanny.
“Mom would kill us if she knew we left their fiftieth anniversary party to race up this hill to the old tree. It was your idea, but I’ll take the heat.”
“We aren’t kids anymore. We can both share the blame now,” Brian mused.
Walter turned his face to the sky to feel the tickle of the afternoon breeze. “I used to hate you, you know.”
“I know. It used to eat me up because I didn’t know what I’d done to you. Mom told me it was just a big brother thing and I left it alone after that. That wasn’t it was it?”
“Even though I was the older brother, you got all the applause. Mom and Dad never treated us different so it only stung when we were out with other people, which was all the time. It’s hard to hold your head up when your younger brother is better than you.” Walter continued to look away.
“It wasn’t a contest, Walter.”
“I know, Bri. But, when I started to mess up, I figured everyone was right to dote on you. The worse I got, the more I hated you for being better. It’s stupid, huh?”
Brian crossed his arms. “Well, you feel what you feel. For what it’s worth, I never looked down on you when you got in trouble.”
“Just talking this way I feel like I’m still a screw up.”
“Stop whining, Walter.”
Walter opened his eyes and sat up. “What?”
“You heard me. God has given you a great gift. He kept you from killing yourself or hurting anyone else when you were drinking and doing all that other stuff. Now, He gave you the chance to turn your life around. The church is lucky to have an associate pastor who was deep in the world and left it all for God.”
“When you put it like that, I still think you’re cheesy.” They both laughed.
Brian cleared his throat. “I never got the chance to thank you for getting tested.”
“You’re my brother. I never considered not getting tested as a kidney donor. What I can’t figure out is how you still beat me up that hill.”
“You’ve never been the best runner or climber, Walter. The operation is only a week away. I can’t have you wearing out the kidney before I get it.”
“Don’t worry, little brother, I won’t let you down again.” Walter grabbed his brother playfully around the neck and mussed his hair.
“I never felt like you let me down.” A tear escaped Brian’s eye, but he wiped it quickly.
“Enough of this sweet talk. I’ll race you back down the hill.”
Walter was up on his feet in a flash. Uphill was murder, but coasting downhill was a walk in the park.
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