I have two sons, and they take the meaning of sibling rivalry to a whole different level. Theodore is older than Desmond by two years, and they basically hate each other. Whatever Theodore does, Desmond makes sure he does it better, and makes Theodore know it. Now I’ve watched Theodore and Desmond grow up despising each other, and being petty to themselves, and I’ve been powerless to do anything about it. My wife, who is dead and gone now, was very spiritual and blamed it on bad spirits. But I know the real cause. My father told me about it, passing down exactly what he was told by his father. “It’s a curse,” he’d said to me on his death-bed, right after he’d made me swore to never cut ties with my own brother, Peter. And now, I shall pass this advice, and task, to Theodore, the eldest. Not any of this curse nonsense. A reasoning person would know that there were no such things. So I’ll have to find a way to tell him to do this, without once referring to a curse.
He’s looking at me right now. Or his head is turned towards my direction. For that’s all my bad eyesight will allow me to see.
“Theodore, you already know why I have called you here,” I croak, beckoning him to come closer. He’s old now, a man.
“Tell me what it is Papa,” he replies, ever the dutiful son. I smile. I’ve taught this one well.
“It’s about your brother, Theo,” I start, allowing myself to repeat the lie I’ve thought of.
“Do you remember your Uncle Peter? My brother, he died a few years back.”
Hesitantly, Theodore replies, “Yes, I remember him. Mama never liked him.”
“Exactly. And do you know why your mother never liked him?” I query. I must let him come to the conclusion himself; I’m only here to guide him.
“She never said what, just that he had done very bad things to you.”
“Yes, that he had. But do you know, even after those bad things (and my son, they were terrible things) I never gave up on my brother?”
“What things did he do, Papa?”
“Never mind that my son, ask me why I never gave up on him.”
“Your mother, God rest her soul, didn’t know this. And you’re going to be the only person who knows, aside myself and your dead uncle. But it was because of your uncle that your mother fell in love with me.”
“I don’t understand, Papa.”
“All my life, I’ve been a writer, and never much of a speaker. Peter was the outgoing one, the charismatic life-of-the-party kind of boy. All the girls loved Peter, but he never seemed satisfied with that. He always wanted what I had, which was never even as much as he did. And when he found out I was in love with your mother but could not approach her, he tried to woo her. And failed. And this, for some reason made him bitter. So he tried to take this pain out on me. Now, I had a book that I wrote poetry in, for your mother inspired a lot of poetry out of me, and Peter knew of it. So he stole it from me and sent it to your mother, in an attempt to make her see a spineless person in me. But for some reason only God knows, she fell for the poetry, and fell for the man who wrote it. That’s why I never gave up on Uncle Peter. He gave me the best thirty-five years of my life.” This was the first lie. Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie, just a half-truth. For Peter had had designs on my lovely wife a long time ago.
“I…I didn’t know this, Papa,” Theo says, unsure of how to react to the revelation.
“Well, that’s one thing you didn’t know. And there is another. But before I tell you what the other is, I want you to promise me you’ll make the right decision,” I say, the introduction to another lie.
“I promise, Papa.”
“Good, my son, good. Now the second thing. Have you still got that scar on your shoulder?”
Surprised, yet curious to see where this would lead, Theo answers, “Yes. It’s still visible.”
“And you know how you got it?”
“Yes. I fell off my bicycle when I was little.”
“Do you remember this incident?”
“So do you want me to tell you what really happened?”
“It wasn’t that?”
“Of course it wasn’t that. You people have never even owned bicycles. Your mother always complained that it was too risky. Now let me tell you what happened. You and Des had a woman that came round to look after you whenever your mom and I had to travel. Auntie Christie, remember her? Well, one time, we had to go to a funeral in the Northern Region, and we were supposed to spend a weekend there. But your mom was so jittery about leaving you alone with Auntie Christie for that long that we only spent a day. It must have been an angel that spoke to your mom because when we came home, that woman was drunk. She and your mom then got into a heated argument, and your mom directed her to leave. I don’t clearly remember that night, but what I do recall was that Auntie Christie didn’t leave immediately. She tried to kill you. Stab you with a knife to be exact. And she would have, had it not been for Desmond..You were six, and Des was four. and this your arguments had already started, but that day, he saved your life. He jumped on her and bit her leg so hard she stumbled. She cut you, but it wasn’t a deep cut, and the sound of her fall had me rushing into the room. And there was Desmond, teeth still in her leg, and you, crying on the floor. My heart nearly quit on me at that moment.
“I don’t know what it is you’ve concluded, but when I die, I want to die knowing that my boys will look out for themselves. Is that too much for an old man to ask?”
“I promise, Papa. I promise I will look after Desmond,” Theo says, in a very quiet voice. I smile inwardly. Then a quiet consumed the room, as I begin to think of the lies I’d have to feed Desmond to end this rubbish for good.