Billy Chuck

Lily White

“Pretend to stab me,” my brother says. I lunge at him with an invisible knife and he takes my straight arm and bends it backwards. “Ow!” I say. My brother does tai chi, but not just the slow motion stuff. He says he knows this trick where he can touch your arm and shoot you across the room. The chi force is a powerful thing, young grasshopper. Sometimes Chuck does his tai chi in the backyard, and my mom is embarrassed because of the neighbors. “He looks deranged,” she says. Through the kitchen window we watch his big hulking shape moving with all of the grace of a ten-toed sloth.

When I’m 6, my brother’s friends are over at our house. They are laying black beauties on the driveway. Start at the bottom, rev the engine, pop the clutch and there it is: a long smear of black shiny rubber. The neighbors love us. I take off my clothes and run outside circling the house. The grass tickles my toes. Look at me. They call me the streak.

“Hand me the fuse,” Chuck says. He is holding the toilet paper tube level. We are in his room. I am 7 and he is teaching me to make gunpowder from scratch. We mix sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter, which makes me think of salting a shriveled weenie. The shiny green fuse sticks out the side of the tube like the stem on a cherry. When the thing goes off, it’s a kick in the chest.

By the time I am 10 and Chuck is 23, we have watched every episode of Star Trek. My parents don’t get him like I do, but that’s only because they have no sense of humor. Chuck lives in the city with his two best friends, Dave and Mitch. He has a college degree in psychology and some sort of job investigating welfare claims. I don’t know what that has to do with psychology. Now he’s home and using the Vulcan mind meld on me, but so far it hasn’t worked. He’s got me squeezed between his legs like a vise in the TV room. I told him that I licked the salt off every one of his Pringles, and now if I move, I will die a horrible death. My mom tells us we are getting crumbs on the Oriental rug.

Emily Gilbert