Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)
TITLE: Critical Mass
By JoAnne Potter
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I think cutting your umbilical cords triggered some kind of chain reaction. You started out as a baby-faced hallucination, an astigmatism, then almost immediately took off at warp speed in opposite directions like a pair of polarized sub-atomic particles. From then on, whoever couldnââ‚¬â„¢t tell you apart didnââ‚¬â„¢t know where to look.
Frank led with his head. He started a newspaper delivery service at ten, learned electronics at twenty, exchanged one wife for progressively younger ones at thirty and forty, and rode to an international vice presidency by fifty. You didnââ‚¬â„¢t lead at all. You lolled and listed like a Mississippi houseboat, convinced by tide and current, always looking for a fishing hole, always willing to tie up in the sun. You laughed while Frank observed, hugged when he evaluated.
When geography tried to confirm your separation, neither of you let go. I began to get phone calls from both coasts, like a radio transmitter designed to boost a temporarily disconnected signal.
--Have you heard from Frank?
--How is John?
The two of you fumbled for a connection, but no power transferred. Frank rarely called you, nor did you call him. When the time came, however, your doctor did. After that, Frank sounded different, smooth as usual, but tight, stretched thin.
--John had a heart attack.
We planned to meet at the hospital, but I got here first. You look slack, like entropy finally got hold of you and is drawing off your heat and light. When I sat down by the side of the bed, you laughed, for maybe the ten thousandth time, then coughed and paled. You have used up your heart, and your hand feels paper dry. It does not shake.
I donââ‚¬â„¢t think Frank is coming, a final statement that the bond between the two of you has long dissolved. You no longer have anything in common other than chemistry. Like hydrogen and oxygen, you exist now as separate elements in a gaseous state, floating alone. Once, you bumped into each other often enough to make something else. Your combined energy could have had the power of a new thing, a living rush of water, but that time has passed. Now, all hope for refreshment is finally vanishing, evaporating for the last time as tears.
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