I had two older twin brothers named Alan and Midas who were taciturn Swedes and difficult at best to talk to. Alan married a woman named Zelda who was passionate and outspoken. One night Alan was sitting in their living room reading a newspaper when Zelda told him she was having an affair. Alan said nothing as he shrugged his shoulders and resumed reading his newspaper. I know it is hard for most people to believe this, but from growing up with Alan and Midas, I can tell you that emotional reactions were uncharacteristic of either of them.
Zelda screamed, “What kind of man are you? Don’t you care that another man has fucked me?”
Alan made a clicking sound in his throat as he read the classified section.
Zelda later said in court during her insanity plea “that clicking sound was what drove me over the edge. I went to the dresser, pulled out his .38, walked up to him and screamed I was going to kill him if he didn’t say something.” Zelda wiped tears from her eyes as she testified “and what did he do when I pointed the gun at him? He pulled out a Montgomery Ward advertisement and studied a description of a freezer that was on sale.”
My brother Midas was never the same after the murder and became even more withdrawn than before. After the trial the family divided up Alan’s belongings and Midas ended up with Alan’s Dodge Super Bee. Midas drove the car to his garage and there it remained. After he parked the car he opened the hood and began to disassemble the motor. He rebuilt the motor and reinstalled it. Then, as promptly as he installed it he disassembled the motor again. Each piece of the motor fascinated him. He worked slowly and methodically examining each part with odd reverence and patience. In the year that followed Alan’s death Midas reassembled that motor numerous times.
Midas called me at my parent’s house over the Labor Day weekend when I was 17. He said “Ernie, is that you?”
“Yes” I said.
“Why don’t you come over to my house for some hotdogs?”
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “You bought a barbeque grill?”
“What? Oh, no. I have a microwave. We will celebrate the holiday. Be here in an hour.” With that I heard the line click and knew Midas was done speaking.
I was puzzled by his offer, and I should have been suspicious of what Midas’s intentions were. Such a spontaneous celebration with Midas was unusual for him or any member of my family. I biked the two miles to his house and rang the bell. He peered at me suspiciously through the glass in his door and then opened it.
Midas had stooped posture and spoke slowly and cautiously as if each word he parted with caused him a great deal of physical pain. He looked exhausted and defeated by life. He was 29 years old.
“Come to the garage” Midas said.
I followed him through his house to the garage. Midas had few belongings in his house. There was a yellow rotary phone, a microwave, a card table with chairs, a bed, some clothes and a dictionary for reading and entertainment. His garage, however, contained thousands of tools, the functions of most I never fathomed.
I paused when I walked into the garage. Sitting in a cage on a workbench was a parrot with a brilliant display of colored feathers. “What!” I exclaimed, “you bought a parrot? When?”
Midas looked at me and frowned. “So? What of it?”
I laughed. “Well why did you buy a parrot?”
Midas flushed. “Um, for company.”
“But you hardly ever say anything. If you never speak around the parrot how is it going to learn to talk? Why did you buy a parrot?”
“Well I went to a pet store and asked for a bird.”
I was baffled. “You drove to a store, walked inside and asked for a bird?” Midas nodded, and I asked “Well, what did you name him?”
Midas said, “Parrot.”
“You named your parrot Parrot?”
In response Midas made a ticking sound in his throat and with great interest examined the spot where his garage door met the floor.
I looked at the yellow Super Bee and pointed to it as I asked “do you have it running again?”
Midas nodded his head.
“Why don’t you ever drive it?” I asked.
Midas shook his head and made the ticking sound in his throat. He walked over to a window and examined it.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
Midas said “I am checking for drafts. It will be winter soon and I don’t want any drafts in this garage.” He began to apply a plastic coated sheet over the window and asked me to hold the sheet as he applied some adhesive. Afterward he shut the lights off in the garage and we stood inside looking for light coming in through any cracks in the walls. Midas ensured that no drafts existed.
We ate the microwaved hot dogs in silence. He offered me a desert consisting of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. As we spooned it up I asked him “where do you think Alan is now?’
Midas’s face became red and he sighed. “I don’t know.”
“I would like to think he was in heaven right now.” I said.
“I have to tell you something before you go,” Midas said and broke into the longest speech he ever gave in his life, “I dreamed something terrible when Alan died. Before Dad called me and told me Alan was dead I had this dream where everything around me began to spin and I collapsed onto the floor. As I lay on the floor Alan appeared before me holding his head screaming that Zelda got him. He was in pain. And then…” Midas paused and looked at me for a moment, “and then I dreamed his body was in mine and then he was gone.”
“You say it was a dream?” I said.
Midas nodded and said “Do you need your bicycle chain lubricated before you go?” This was how Midas always ended my visits to his house. He oiled the chain and I peddled home with thoughts tossing and turning about Midas’s dream like dice tumbling around in a cup.
That evening I dreamt I was frozen and fog was everywhere around me. Midas appeared before me and was gasping for breath. He looked at me and smiled and said he was ready to sleep for eternity. What felt like an ice cold bucket of water passed through me, and I realized it wasn’t fog around us but smoke. I awoke panic stricken wondering about the dream.
That night Midas’s next door neighbor heard a loud muffler vibrating in Midas’s garage but the door was shut. Suspicious, the neighbor called police who forced entry through the front door and inside the garage they found Midas and Parrot the parrot dead inside the idling Super Bee.
A detective theorized that Midas bought the parrot as a guinea pig to see if it would succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning, and then, satisfied, Midas joined Parrot in the eternal sleep. Later, after I was 21, my parents gave me the Super Bee and it sits in my garage where it has sat untouched for 15 years. I have a 12 year old son now, and the other day he pointed at the Super Bee and asked “why don’t you ever drive it?”
I said nothing. How can you explain things like this to kids? Or, for that matter, how do you explain them to adults? I can’t explain it to myself and am trying to understand why things happen like they do.
Adam Graupe’s first work, a regrettable essay predicting the future of “the information superhighway,” originally appeared in Futurics in 1997. After a ten year hiatus he has been published in Midnighttimes, Pen Pusher Magazine, Nuvein Online and Scars Publications and is due to be published this spring in Burst. Email Adam: email@example.com
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