Bert’s wife, Marge, had three older brothers who rarely visited, surprising in a way since Bert and Marge had a cabin in the Sierras with a view of Lake Tahoe. The brothers were somewhat mysterious in their goings on. Despite Bert’s 35 year marriage to Marge, he knew little of Tom, Lance and Bruno other than they were now over the age of 70. He had a long list of questions for them developed over the years, ones he knew he’d be reluctant to ask, sensing the queries would sound like a police interview.
One spring day when the snow was almost gone from the higher elevations, Marge announced at the breakfast table that her brothers were coming for a visit in a month. Bert was stunned at first, then asked loudly, “Why now?”
“Let me freshen your cup,” she said. Bert kept his frown. She poured the coffee, then sat down.
“Tom has prostate cancer, Lance is newly divorced and Bruno is out on parole,” she added. “So, they thought this was as good a time as any to catch up and make closures.”
“Closures? What’s that mean?”
“Without being melodramatic, I think this may be their last visit.”
“Is Tom going to die?”
“No, not yet—he’s the healthiest of the trio. Lance may be drinking again and Bruno is stranger than ever—drugs I suspect.”
“Great, sounds like a fun group as always.”
“They’re my brothers…”
Bert raised his hands in front of his face. “Stop,” he said. “I didn’t say they weren’t welcomed. I just hope their visit will be short.”
“Here’s one for you. If Bruno is on parole, how is he allowed to be in Nevada?”
“Good point, I’ll ask him.”
“You’d believe his answer.”
“Can’t you be nicer?”
“Ok, but no liquor in the cabin—I don’t want Lance to torch the place.”
“He said he’d been sober.”
“For how long?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Do I have to be here?”
A month later the three brothers were seated in chairs on the cabin’s deck with the shimmering blue water of Lake Tahoe in the distance. Marge was inside making hamburgers and salads while Bert watched her from the edge of the kitchen. The front door was opened and he could hear the brothers talking but he couldn’t distinguish the voices.
“ Bert is sure a nice guy.”(Lance).
“Yeah, our sister is sure lucky (Bruno).
“I think he’s a prick.” (Tom)
“Why bro?” (Bruno)
“He seems distant, like he doesn’t want us here.”(Tom)
“You’re wrong—I like him.(Lance).
Bert edged closer to the front door to find out what brother was making negative comments about him. He didn’t see the cane that Tom had laid against the dining room table–his legs got tangled in the cane, and he fell face forward with a loud thud.
Tom was the first one into the cabin. He stared at Bert’s crumpled body next to his cane.
“Are you okay?” asked Lance, pushing Tom aside.
Bert looked up and smiled. “I feel stupid.”
Bruno added, “Let me help you up.”
On his way up with Bruno’s assistance he saw Tom frowning and thought to himself, two out of three isn’t bad.
Less than a year later Bert saw Lance and Bruno at Tom’s funeral. He thought how he had disliked Tom simply based on what he had heard eavesdropping on the brother’s conversation at the cabin. They had never actually spoken to each other after Bert tripped over Tom’s cane. Now it was too late to make amends.
( Fast Fiction every Sunday here and at http://twivelist.wordpress.com where there are over 200 quick reads.)