My brother Donny was brave. He could climb the tallest trees in the valley where we grew up. I was three and afraid of the dark. Dad sent me back to my room in the middle of the night. He wanted Mum all to himself. I climbed in next to Donny and felt the flip of his penis like a lizard, as he moved in his sleep to make room for me. Donny wasn’t afraid of snakes or frogs or anything.
We rode Midge bareback and did circus tricks upon his rump. Donny got blamed for everything. The scapegoat. In biblical times he was sent out into the desert for the sins of his brethren.
He even got blamed for putting water in the rain gauge. I did it to punish Uncle Eric for scaring me. He scared me with his gruffness. He ran Grandma’s farm like the Godfather. His red face, loud mouth and jerky hands on the reins.
When my brother went off to school, I was sad and angry. He didn’t notice me when he came home from school on that first day. The longest day of my life. Only now do I realise it was a case of unrequited love on my part. No one knew. Not even Donny.
Mum and Grandma laughed when I said the words, Say you love me, Donny. At the end of the longest day.
I like ya, he replied. Part of the male tribe now.
I might have shouted out bad words after that: I hate you, I hate you. Down by the gum trees on the farm next to the swamps. That’s where I went to escape, bareback on Midge.
One day Midge reared up and crushed Donny’s skull. I felt guilty, as if it was my fault. Donny wasn’t good at school. Not like Billy, the cuckoo in the nest. Mum said he was a genius. When he listened to the ‘Chickabidees of the Air’. He was only two or three.
‘There’s a thin line between genius and madness!’ Grandma said to her.
Donny found birds’ eggs and blew the muck out of them through a tiny hole. He put a speck of red wax on the hole and placed them in a glass-lidded box.
Once he caught a sparrow on the farm next door, and showed it to Old Ned. He took it from him, raised the axe slowly and deliberately, and smashed its head upon a block.
Don’s head has been asleep for a long time now. It’s time for me to go to him in the nursing home. It’s time to whisper in his ear. The same words of love I cried out that day long ago. He’s in a dark place and afraid to let go. Time now to fly and soar like an eagle high up in the sky.
Fly, Brother Eagle, fly!