The floorboards of the old house creaked in cadence with Simon’s pacing. He hardly noticed the grunts and groans of his family homestead tonight. His attention was consumed by the bright, glossy card held before him.
Streaks of gold and orange leapt from a sunny, autumn wood on the front of the card, but Simon’s focus was on the plain, white back. The reckless writing, strewn across the rectangle, would be illegible to another eye. Indeed, Simon had trouble reading the familiar script at times. Still, penmanship aside, it was the most gripping piece of mail he’d received in quite some time.
Simon almost tripped on the curled edge of the living room carpet as he began another lap around the first floor of his home. He’d received dozens of postcards from his brother over the years, all scribbled with the same carefree style as this. The style, it seemed, mirrored Lance’s personality rather accurately. Among Simon’s collection of gift shop edifices were the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum, and the Kremlin, each signed with a breathless, “Wish you were here.” He was always left with the impression that his worldly sibling barely had time to finish a note before being swept up by the next adventure.
This card was different. The blazing fall foliage was captured at a state park in New England; a bit domestic for Lance’s taste. “Stopping home for a visit,” it read, “Should be there by Sunday night the 23rd…See You Soon!”
Simons shoulder caught the protruding edge of his mother’s antique china cabinet as those words propelled him through the modest rooms. See you soon? Lance never came home. He hadn’t been home since their father’s funeral, fifteen years ago. An uncomfortable sense of inferiority poked at Simon when he remembered their last conversation.
“It’s time to grow up,” his older brother had said. “Dump this shack and move on Ziggy.” Lance always used the childhood nickname when trying to shame him into something. “You can’t tell me you actually want to stay here…right?”
Simon wasn’t sure what bothered him more, Lance’s condescension or his greed. The man took every opportunity to criticize the simple life Simon had chosen to live, running the family business and devoting himself to a God his brother had abandoned as myth. Worse yet, he suspected Lance was just trying to cash in on the money he would get if the property were sold. It remained a sticking point between them.
As he passed a calendar tacked to the puckered, kitchen wallpaper, Simon’s eyes were drawn to the date; Sunday the 23rd. Tonight. See you soon.
A flash of brightness caught the discolored curtains in the front windows. The headlights of a tasteful but not luxurious European sedan, he guessed. Simon summoned his courage. He may not be as bold as his big brother, but he was determined not to be bullied any longer.
The hinges of the front door squeaked predictably as Simon stepped onto the porch. He donned what felt like an assertive smile and moved quickly toward the car. Simon’s greeting charge was halted when his eyes adjusted and a taxi cab became visible in the twilight. A man that looked like a much older version of his brother was hefting a worn duffle bag from the backseat.
The man stood with slumped shoulders and downcast eyes. “Hey bro.”
The voice was a weak echo of what he remembered but it left no doubt. Simon was facing his brother for the first time in fifteen years.
“Can I give you hand?”
“Well,” Lance tired to laugh but only sighed. “I did tell the cabbie you’d pick up the fare.”
Simon paid the waiting driver and turned to face his brother as the cab pulled away. He looked tired and there was something missing from his eyes.
Lance cleared his throat. “I had no place else to go.”
Simon was handcuffed. Of all the things he’d expected to face tonight, shame wasn’t on the list; at least, not his brother’s. He just nodded as Lance turned and walked toward the old house.
After the screen door slammed, Simon reached into his pocket and produced a stack of glossy postcards. He breathed in the crisp, evening air and prayed. “Father, please forgive me for envying all of this for so long.” He tossed the manufactured memories into a nearby barrel, then looked into the clear, country sky and added, “See you soon!”
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