I’m the Youngest 

My name is Jordan and I’m the youngest. 

Hangers town Maryland. 

My brother Jordan was a cute little boy. I didn’t know that back when I was just his brother. He was quick to learn but mangled just enough to be adorable rather than a real prodigy. I didn’t need a best friend when I was a boy. I had a brother. 

A good best friend likes your ideas and will help you work on them until they fail or it’s supper time. They never say you’re stupid unless the idea is so ridiculous that the failure will be inevitable, dangerous  and irresistible. 

My brother was the best friend I could have wanted. He was enough different than I was to bring different ideas and skills to our sandbox. But he also could follow my reasoning. One day my sense of justice got our hides tanned and tanned. 

We had new neighbors. Uncle Elvins (Aunt Dorothy) Hege had bought the trailer down the road and fresh surveyor’s stakes affirmed the precise line where we went from being at home and not in trouble to being in trouble. We played in that grassy patch  transforming it effortlessly from an Amish Hayfield (with grass to be raked and made into a haystack) into the plains of Sinai with our chosen Rods turning us into Moses and Aaron. We could slay ten thousand without even leaning over that now obvious line.

Today there was a new development. Uncle Elvin had tilled up a nice big garden, Rich brown soil, fine granules smoothly tilled in light dirt drifts. Rows of little green plants topped the ridges extending all the way from the trailer to – WAY ONTO OUR PROPERTY!

We didn’t need to even discuss it. We each took a row and ran along it flipping the plants high in the air like the rooster tail behind a desert pickup truck. Our land was free of this invasion. We retreated to the house. The warriors turned back into little brats who had pulled up hundreds of dollars worth of organic seedlings uncle Elvinhad tended and then gratefully planted on the garden patch dad offered freely. 

Grandpap Martin came down the road with a tractor bucket load of bricks and dumped them in the yard. He had that smile he wore when he was pleasing children so we knew without asking that they were ours. The obvious thing to me was to build a castle right on the spot where God had delivered this bounty. Jordan wanted to count them. There were 604 Wholes. 20 Half Sides and 40 Endies. Just as with Legos, brick language between brothers is innate and undisputed. Some times you go to Sunday Dinner and are the company at someone else’s house and you secretly pity them for their silly lego names. On the way home you repeat them to each other like imitation Spanish and laugh until Dad says Boys be Quiet. 

We built so many things with those bricks. Even a throne so we never had to go to the house in the middle of an exciting new project. (Risk a random sighting, risk a bothersome chore.) We had other random scraps like a 2×2 metal plate that had served in more battles than a history channel addict and an assortment of civil war artifacts which might have been. 

Basically Jordan had a good heart and I was mischievous, “too much of the right spice”  my second grade teacher wrote. Unless he was angry. 

Being the youngest meant that he could kill a neighbor and with that one high pitched shriek transfer all guilt and punishment onto me. He’d only end that scream so he could retool and sink his teeth into any part of me he desired. If I got away he would get nearer the house and redeliver – ensuring that mom would behave right and ruin my day. Some children have a bed wetting problem. He had a biting problem that lasted until the orthodontist made it too darn complicated to bite anything, 

The Temper was a furious one. It came with all the wrath we can only imagine being rained down on the wicked. He even stabbed Janet. As stabbings go she was fortunate to have guarded with her arm and wasn’t mortally wounded. I remember him latched onto mom’s thigh like a leach, refusing to unclench his teeth until he was sure she was done paddling. 

That kind of temper is matched with a tenderness of heart. Jordan tended wounded animals. He’d see the person alone in the crowd and befriend them no matter how young or old. He’d recount the valuable things on the way home or at night when we debriefed each other on the moments of the day we were apart. Some nights I had to tell him fire truck stories. He loved them and adored his toy ladder truck. I think he secretly worshipped the only thing that could shriek louder than he could. I’d do my best but as the spicy son there were details that sometimes upset him, like the time the fire truck was going so fast it couldn’t stop in time and flew right through the burning house and broke the glass dishes, so the people couldn’t go through and get them from the ashes. He woke mom up to verify I had lied and I was to “quit tormenting your brother.”

Some nights it was hot. We took a blanket and layed it out on the asphalt porch roof with the big maple branches close enough for an imaginary climb from roof to tree an unverified fact. We’d sleep out there until the sun woke us. Or Dad. Once heavy rain wet that bed like a heaven sent tattler. 

Dad caught us a lot. We learned to wait him out. Let him check in on his sons with their eyes clenched shut to assure him we’d not wake up and do something bad. Sometimes he’d catch us despite all precautions. It was Mrs Corbett. She lived across Route 40 and called when she saw us in real danger, like rolling off the porch roof in our sleep. I was a grown man and visiting my family when I saw her – had to be upper 80’s all bent over with age on her front porch roof washing her windows. I could see their phone number on the side of their vans from where I sat. 

Jordan had the singing voice of one of the winged creatures carved in stone writhing on the pillars of some ancient cathedral in the encyclopedia. He kindly kept it down and got all the words right and enjoyed it as much as I did. Tapes we made had four part acapella harmony and the sound of an appliance droning. White noise to us, but deafening once you noticed it. 

Jordan loved math and computers. I never really touched a computer until affordable color screens allowed me to make pretty things without wasting a ream of paper. He was intuitively learning programming and laughed with pure happiness each time he “tricked” the computer into doing what he’d told it.

We had our separate bedrooms but always slept in the same room. The last night I slept with him was the day I realized an important physics lesson about mass vs. levers. He was big, I was tall and he could beat me. We slept on this old, full wave waterbed. He liked to wrap up completely tight like a burrito. I slept in a fold like a taco. Can’t stand anything holding me. He was there wrapped up and tired. I stood on the foot of the bed and tipped over like a statue falling from its pedestal. When I landed the water bed naturally launched the burrito almost two feet into the air and off the bed. I slid right out of my taco and ran to my room and locked the door. Terrified listening to an angry burrito capable of killing me with his fists unwrapping itself in the next room. When dad was home warfare had to be conducted in absolute silence. I could dance around that old house missing every squeaky board and tread but Jordan could only plot frozen in place. I would even push open is bedroom door and give a concerto of floorboard squeaks delivered to dad downstairs then vanish into my bed.  Those two could temper in harmony.

The summer I moved to my own room I lost my whole way of loving and being a friend. That companionship and effortless comraderie. The brutal bites that slowly trained me from my cruelty. The person with whom it was normal to be best at different things and proudest of the others ability.

One day we went swimming with a friend in a small farm pond. We took turns with a boat a friend had built with his brother.  My brother splashed in the water by the dock. It quit being scary and turned annoying. Then the blackest, darkest scary ever. No one but me felt that ear splitting scream that meant I was to blame. He thought I was stronger than iron because that car bent when it hit me. But I was not the hero that day. 

Jordan my brother and friend died that night in a hospital in Erie Pennsylvania. He was almost twelve. 


2 thoughts on “I’m the Youngest 

  1. I remember . . . Sending love and care . . . I lost my older brother when I was 6 and blamed myself for years till I finally matured enough to realize I didn’t kill him. I was no hero either, but neither was I the murderer I’d thought myself to be.


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