A journal of narrative writing.
by Bill Beverly

When the crash had left Will’s body and he could walk again, he tiptoed down. Dennis was in their room, taking off his shirt. “I'm sure that twerp jumping in the attic wasn't you,” he said.

“Wasn't me,” said Will. “Where did you go?”

Under Dennis's arms grew brown hair like dust. The heat bit into their skins. In the beginning, in March, their mother had said how warm their room would be. But even if it was cold outside, they had never even burned one fire in the fireplace that was stacked full of logs and Daddy longlegs. It smelled like the woods, dirty and soft.

And now it was June. There was no school all day.

Dennis slipped off his jeans and underpants. He folded them neatly, put them in the dresser, and pushed in the drawer. He began to whistle something pleasant and thoughtful. Sometimes Will couldn't imagine anyone worse to be locked up with than his brother. Look up to him, and he will be able to trust you, their mother said. Every mother they had ever had said something like that. Each night Will had to listen to the ticking of the watch Dennis got to wear. His brother washed dishes because it made their mothers happy, but he did not teach Will how to play Chopsticks or read, nor anything nice, except sometimes at school he beat kids up if they called Will stupid. Other than that, nothing. The clothes Dennis put on were usually for church or meetings with new people. He pulled on two blue socks and ran a comb through his hair. Then he put on a white shirt with buttons.

“If you're going out, I am too,” Will announced.

Dennis sighed. It was meant to say, that is all I will listen to. In the kitchen the refrigerator began rattling.

“If you go away,” said Will, “I'll rip the wire off the window and jump outside.”

Dennis took a pair of trousers out of the dresser and dusted them with his hands. Between his shirt and his socks his legs were white-pink. “Go ahead,” he said. “It won't be me spanking you and saying you're a bad kid. That will be done by someone else.”

“I don't care,” Will said. “I'll tell her how many times you went out.”

“So what?” said Dennis. “I’m allowed.” He put on the pants. The Sunday clothes clung to him, unscuffed.

“I'll write down the times,” Will threatened. “You'll be in more trouble than me.”

Will watched Dennis comb his hair again and put the comb away, knowing that when he finally stopped, when he thought himself ready, he would be going back out the front door and a moment of possibility would come. When he had tied his shoes and said “See you” in a flat and uninterested voice and began to walk away, Will followed, creeping quietly behind Dennis's back. “You're staying,” Dennis said in the same flat voice. But when Will saw Dennis struggle with working the dry lock, taking both of his hands to tug the key out, Will slithered underneath and got the smooth knob and turned. The door popped free and set Dennis off balance and Will snaked an arm and a leg outside before the hand snagged the back of his shirt, yah, yanking it hard up around his throat. He gulped and drove on. Then Dennis was tackling him against the doorjamb, crushing him there, but Will clung to its face, his right arm outside, clutching a ridge of the doorframe, its hot dusty chipped paint. A slap rocked the back of his head, and another. But then Dennis stepped back.

Will knew: Dennis’s Sunday shirt wasn't supposed to get dirty. When someone didn't want to get dirty, you would win over them.

Hands came down again. For a moment he was shoved up into the wooden jamb, flattened, pressed there. Once a boy he knew whose teeth were all jaggedy had told him: when you really really want something, tell them you're going to set fires. But Will waited. Against his nose he could feel chip lines, rough gullies, under the thin white paint. It was the first time he'd been outside since the plaster domino, a week ago: Dennis had taken him into the woods, making him carry the plaster in his mouth. Then he slugged him until the domino broke into pink nuggets against his gums. “If that ceiling falls,” said Dennis, “Mother will be out here hitting you too.” There had been tears in Dennis's eyes, like he'd been stung by bees again. “She isn't my mother,” Will replied.

Will was hearing a buzz. It was a doorbell. His fingers were clutching the button. The sound was far away. He held on.

A truck rumbled past and the driver looked at Dennis. That was when the hands let go.

“I'll kill you,” Dennis swore.

“You can’t stop me,” said Will. “I’m going to tell her what you wore outside.”

“All right,” sighed Dennis. “I'll take you. But you can't tell about it.”

Will let go of the button and he could hear Dennis's breathing, louder than his own. “We're going to Kristen's house,” Dennis said. “They have a pool. You know how to swim, right?”

“I don't know,” said Will. He didn't know who Kristen was, either.

“Well, go get shorts on,” said Dennis. “Ones you can hide from Mom until they're dry again.”

Will’s mind raced. Not often did he get to swim. But if he went, Dennis would lock him in.

“I'll swim in my pants,” he decided.

“Then swim in your pants,” said Dennis. “Drown if you please.”

In the woods Dennis didn't hit Will or point out things. He walked quickly, as if he were late, and in the middle of the trail, so the wet weeds wouldn't get his pants muddy. The girl met them at the far edge. She was a tall girl, skinny, with white hair. Everything she wore was blue jeans. Dennis greeted her. “Meet my brother Wilbur,” he said.

“I came here to swim,” Will announced. He pointed at his pants, which were mostly clean. The girl looked at him with concern. She took his hand, a grown-up's kind of thing to do.

The home they were walking toward was familiar. They had thrown rocks at it, and dirt bombs, in the evenings before the school year had ended. Some of the brown dents on the siding were still there. But all the broken windows had been fixed. Will picked up a rock but Dennis did not. It was where the girl must live, he realized.

Behind a row of bushes was a pool he never would have guessed was there. But it was empty. At the bottom was a beach ball and a ring of dust.

“I guess no swimming today,” the girl said musically.

“I guess no swimming today,” Dennis said in his whispery voice, the dishonest one.