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(A short story of 6486 words)

Half a Brother


by Kathy Flann

Valdur – with his impossible wingspan – reached into the taxi, all the way across the passenger seat, and placed his hand on the Russian cabbie’s shoulder.

“Don’t!” I said. The traffic light had just turned green. “If he drives away, you’ll break your arm.” Behind my brother, I bent down and waved. Maybe I could defuse the situation with my vaguely Russian looks. I was boyish and gangly, not yet shaving daily like Valdur. But the cabbie only directed wide angry eyes at me, his jaw muscles tensing like he had marbles under his skin. The cars behind the taxi honked.

“Come on, man, give us a ride,” Valdur said, in his even, sunny tone. He always sounded the same, whether he was talking to our former social worker, Allison, or he was celebrating yet another of his personal bests for the Druid Park High School Terrapins basketball team. He had a voice like a man with a yacht, a man with no worries except for deciding how many hours to nap in the sun. “We have money,” Valdur told the cabbie, revealing the wad of bills in his other hand, money our mother had given us from the cash register of Karu International Food Mart, which she owned.

The cabbie responded the way all cabbies, store clerks, and restaurateurs responded to us, regardless of shoulder manhandling or Russian-ness – he pretended to be busy. He flipped on the “occupied” light and punched the gas, the engine roaring in a startling burst. And then he became a tiny toy cab on the horizon, or at least on the horizon of 22nd Street and the Baltimore sky, the shrinking sound of his music, the only evidence he’d been here.

Valdur, who had withdrawn his hand at the last second, lost his balance and now sat in the road, smiling. He shrugged. “I tried,” he said. I reached down to help him up, all seven feet of him. He was the only person I’d ever known who was taller than my own six feet and nine inches. And we were both still growing. I figured I might catch him because, even though our mother had started us in school the same year, he was ten and a half months older. Every night, I sneaked into the kitchen and polished off whatever milk was in the carton, and I ate my mother’s verivorst, her blood sausage. I thought tall thoughts...

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