It was almost a year before Lou mentioned his brother. “You already know all the details about me, Margaret,” he repeated flatly. “The most unusual thing about me is that in Italian my last name means lawn bowling.”
Margaret composed a mental grocery list as she listened. In Italian… Italian food. Ground meat, ricotta cheese, maybe lasagna?
“Now, my twin, he was extraordinary.”
With that comment her attention snapped back. “What did you say? I didn’t know you had a brother! I thought you just had two sisters who were a lot older. And I sure didn’t know about a twin. How come you never told me you have a twin?” Margaret stared at him, astonished.
“Had,” Lou corrected her, and shrugged. “Had. What is there to say? His name was Joe. Joey. He lived, he died. He’s gone, I’m here. Although I wonder sometimes what it would have been like the other way around.”
Margaret felt she was viewing something she took for granted for the thousandth time, an inanimate object, and it suddenly winked at her. “What’s that supposed to mean, the other way around? What was he like?” she prompted, intensely curious.
Lou looked away into the distance for a minute before he eyed her sideways, considering whether or not to talk about his brother. Finally he came out with, “Joe was great. He was born 25 minutes after me, but that was the only time I did anything ahead of him. We were yin and yang.”
They sat with their coffees in the café as Margaret waited for him to go on.
“My twin, who died,” Lou said with difficulty, “was a great guy. Much more fun than I was. Am.” Lou sat on a straight-backed café chair with his left leg crossed over the right, his foot tapping up and down ever so slightly. “We were what they call change of life babies. By the time we came along, both my sisters were almost out of the house already. I remember them taking care of me when I was a really little boy. They helped my parents a lot, to prepare them for the time after both my sisters left to go lead adult lives.
“But my brother,” Lou went on slowly, “Joey almost didn’t get born.”
He stopped talking and Margaret knew he was revisiting old pain, hesitant to open up a new aspect of himself (his brother, she amended as she waited) to review. Margaret carefully nodded to show she was listening and wanted to hear more.
Finally Lou went on. “I was born first, an easy delivery, but Joe was turned sideways or something.”
“He was a breach birth?”
Lou was annoyed at the interruption. “Breach. Right. Whatever. I was only 25 minutes old, so I don’t remember the details. Anyway, they had to do a Caesarean on my mother.”
“Don’t hospitals automatically do those for multiple births?” Margaret kept interrupting the flow of Lou’s story, but she couldn’t help herself.
“Damn it, Jim, I’m an office manager, not a doctor!” Lou grinned.
“Sorry,” she said contritely. “I promise, no more interruptions. Tell me about Joe!”
Joey was the youngest Bocci child by 25 minutes. He had a difficult birth but was an easy child. Joey was sweet natured from the moment he entered the world. Lou was a normal boy, engaging in activities such as Little League or pick up kickball games in the park. Lou liked stories about astronauts and wanted to be one when he grew up. Joey, though, was fragile.
For the most part, their parents left Lou on his own. He had friends and did passably well in school. They didn’t need to worry about him, and that meant they could concentrate on Joey.
Joey spent much of his own childhood at doctors’ offices or in the children’s ward at the hospital. It was impossible to pinpoint what was wrong with Joey’s body. Each new medical team identified new problems; each specialty branch of medicine claimed a piece of the little boy. Congenital disorders, the original hospital report stated.
“Congenital disorders. What a term!” Lou stood up. It was the signal it was time to go, and disappointed, Margaret trailed him to the front door of the coffee house.
NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2012. “Hit and Run” is the first chapter of my book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. This story will run all month. Broken In and my other novels are available at Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks.
Click here for my author page to purchase my books.