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Soul of a Brother
The boy sat by the seashore with the dog. He was sad because he had no brother. This also made the dog sad. The boy bent forward a little as he sat there by the seashore. He thought he could see one of the boats appearing far out on the bay. The dog also bent forward a bit and watched the boat in the distance rising and falling on the waves. There was nothing else to be seen. Only the ocean, the sky, the sun, some clouds, the rocky beach, the seaweed on the beach; a headland towering out over the bay as it always had; - seagulls gliding in the air in their endless search for something to eat.
The boy did not have a brother.
There were children in the village, boys, who had a brother. The boy knew his mother was with god and therefore he had no brother. The boy often wondered why his mother preferred to stay with god. But he did not ask. He never asked about anything.
It was true that this dog belonged to him, or rather it didn’t belong to him at all. For some reason that dog had become separated from a group of horsemen passing by. Nobody came back for it. The dog followed the boy’s every step from morning to night. It didn’t even have a name because nobody really owned it. The boy liked to bury his fingers in the dog’s thick soft fur. It was a young dog, not fully grown, and it didn’t understand the boy’s longing for a brother. And yet, it was as if it understood. The dog did not particularly want a brother - maybe it is different for a boy.
The boat dissapeared as if the undercurrent had swallowed it, then it rose on top of the wave right up to the sky, flowering a silvery spray every time it went down.
There would be plenty of fish today. Hardy as they were, without doubt the lads had gone far out to sea in this weather.
The boy and the dog sauntered towards the landing. Watching the boats come in always gave him a good feeling. Dad might be on this one.
The lads talked loudly, although they didn’t really say much.
The boy’s father kissed him on the forehead when he was on shore with his share of the catch.
- Look at this funny one, he said. - A leopard fish. Brother to the catfish, he added. - This one can’t be caught anywhere near land. Beautiful, isn’t it?
The boy’s father held up a large fish with a fin from head to tail, covered all over with spots.
- Brother? The boy thought, reaching out to take the fish in his arms.
- You’ll get all wet and smelly, boy, his father laughed.
The fish was soft, slippery, heavy and very beautiful; its body covered all over with spots. Its expression was perhaps not so very beautiful - no, its head was rather ugly - but the boy had never seen a more beautiful fish.
- Brother, the boy thought. - His name is Leopard.
The boy didn’t say a thing when the leopard fish was cut into fillets. This boy hardly ever uttered a word. He knew this was tonight’s dinner, for the haddock, whiting and codlings were being salted and some had been hung up for drying. The leopard fish’s spine with the head, fin and tail was thrown away along with the skin.
When nobody was watching, the boy collected these treasures. He took them with him to a small cave behind the hillock.
There, he hid these beautiful remains of the brother - the spine with head, tail and fins, and the skin - between some boulders. There the raven would not find them. Nobody but the boy and the dog knew about it.
The boy couldn’t eat. He sat at the dinner table staring at the white flesh on the plate - the brother to the catfish. His grandmother thought he was sick. He would not even taste his potato.
- Aren’t you going to eat anything, my dear? she asked.
The remains of the leopard fish became dry and hard between the boulders in the cave behind the hillock. Every day the boy and the dog went there to take a look at these treasures. The boy dug his fingers in the dog’s soft fur staring at the head of the leopard fish. He almost forgot to go home in the evenings. - A brother.
The boy went outside, but the dog wasn’t there as it usually was in the mornings. The dog always slept in the barn and every morning it would wait at the doorstep of the farmhouse for the boy to come out.
The boy had never called the dog since this dog didn’t have a name. He hesitated. He had grown used to having the dog always by his side. He walked to the barn and peeped inside. There was no dog in there. The boy walked away from the farmhouse and headed towards the hillock. Behind the hillock the dog was finishing eating the head, fins, tail and skin of the leopard fish which had been hidden in a cave between boulders where the raven would not find them.
The dog lay there with the remains of the spine beside it. It wagged its tail when the boy appeared.
The boy stood still.
It hurts to lose someone.
Some people don’t know how to cry. Some don’t know how to get angry.
The boy stood still. The dog wagged its tail.
The boy dug a hole, a deep hole, behind the hillock.
He had this vague notion that everybody had to go into a deep hole on the way up to god. He put the remains of the spine into this hole. He wondered if what the dog had eaten wouldn’t have to be buried too. Grandma had told him that the soul goes to god. How strange to have to go into the earth first.
In order to be sure he also put into the hole all the turds the dog left behind the next few days.
Then he shoveled dirt over it.
Maybe mom will meet the soul of the brother - brother to the catfish - up there with god and maybe then she will come back.
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