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Mar 12, 2018
4 Mins Read
812 Words
No Plagiarism!6lPoASLi5PIA8zlFvIt6posted on PENANA

My brother died at 7:04 pm on a rainy Saturday in May, but the sound of his voice over the speakers made it feel like it was just yesterday.  There was the whistle of his nasal cannula in every syllable, and the soft, steady beep of the heart monitor in the background. I closed my eyes, and I was there, back in the land of industrial pine cleanser and butter-yellow walls that didn't do anything for the ill except make them all look mildly jaundiced.  I leaned my forehead on my hands, a tear making its way down my face. He coughed.copyright protection17PENANA3jkfHN3CCf

"Janie," he said, "if you're hearing this, I'm dead.  I know, we're all expecting it, but I hope I gave it all a hell of a fight.  Won't say it isn't a relief, though," he said, in that thin, reedy whistle of a voice that the lung cancer had left him.  "I know it's pretty soon after, but I need you to do something for me. And it's going to be hard, I'm guessing, but I still need it done.  You listening?"copyright protection17PENANA6JBW7bPTtU

"Yeah," I replied, then shook my head.  Talking back to a computer. Only in the twenty first century, folks.  Still it felt good. Our last conversation hadn't. But that's the thing about last times:  you never know when they're happening. Well, he knew, and I've replayed what I remember a thousand times if I've done it once, but there wasn't a hint of what he intended in there.  Wouldn't I have known that he was going to kill himself later that night? And if I had known, what could I have done? Terminal cancer is terminal cancer. There's no cure. Endurance will not win the race.copyright protection17PENANAJcvRMQxiy1

His death still ached, though.copyright protection17PENANAoCkIR2wUE8

"I've sent you a box," he said.  "Should come a day or so after this disk.  It's a shoebox, and it's got some stuff in it.  I need you to give it to the people it's labeled for.  There's some letters in it, too. Post them when the dates are.  You'll figure it all out, Janie. And that's what I need. Well, and a chance to tell you that you've been a hell of a good sister, although you'd say "well, I'm your only sister, so what would you know," but I still think so anyway.  And also, I love you. Couldn't be happier for you or that husband of yours. You're going to be a great mom."copyright protection17PENANAaLRMHZYwSr

I recoiled.  I was only eight weeks pregnant:  nobody knew. Nobody but Gerald and I.  I hadn't told Jaime. Like I said, I thought I had more time.  Joke was on me. I thought he'd died never knowing he was going to be an uncle.  And it had been a month since he died: how had he figured it out so soon? Almost as soon as me.  I'd waited a few days after my late period and gotten the positive sign in the hospital bathroom. Maybe he'd read it on my face.  copyright protection17PENANArBEXtqN0Il

Maybe it was part of when he'd chosen to go.  Another fat tear down my nose. "Janie," Jaime said, "quit bawling."copyright protection17PENANA26YmPPolK3

"Quit being creepy," I told my dead brother.  "You're freaking me out." But he just knew me that well.  He always had. copyright protection17PENANAtVOlIwkG3c

"One day you're going to be happy again," my brother said, "and let me tell you, I won't resent a moment of that.  Get there soon, Janie. Don't cry forever."copyright protection17PENANA8uNMrhdfiV

The recording went quiet, back to the beeps and the whisper of the nasal tube.  I sighed, and reached for the stop button. I didn't want to hear hospital noise any more.  I wanted to think. I wanted to breathe. I stood up, walked to the door, turned back for a sweater.  It wasn't really cold out, but since Jaime had died, I always seemed to be chilly. On the computer I'd forgotten to turn off, Jaime coughed.  I winced. It sounded just as horrible as I remembered.copyright protection17PENANABk2zHRp6da

"I know you're wondering why," Jaime said, quietly.  I paused, one sleeve of my sweater on and the other hanging down.  "On the other hand, you already know. No cure, no prize for hanging on, no chance of a normal life again.  I want everyone to heal. I don't want to hang on forever, drive everyone mad a thousand times. I want it all done while I can do it, Janie, and that's what I'm going to do.  You'll forgive me in time, right?"copyright protection17PENANA9H6Y2Ounux

"Probably," I croaked, sweater forgotten.  But really, I meant maybe not, maybe not ever.copyright protection17PENANAAD2npuFCJX

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