For a time my brother lived under the floor.
We knew that if he bit us, we would die.
My father and I went finding fallen branches. We turned them into firewood.
We kept on rubber boots. We weren’t to move about the house without them. Only once in bed could we remove them. We never stepped on cracks.
My father filled the cracks but my brother popped them out.
I heard him running around at night. He pushed things. He broke things. I have no idea what we kept under the house.
At night I’d see his fingers.
We’re not brothers, he’d say.
Yes, we are, I’d say.
If you won’t touch me, we’re not brothers, he’d say.
My father played the organ to drown him out.
One day my father and I were out making firewood. He stood in a pile where the snow had melted.
The kindling split then stopped. He banged it down. It stuck. The axe had hit a knot. He put it down.
What’s wrong? I said.
This morning there was a jay. It flew over the trees.
He showed me the body of a bird.
One night I woke up and my brother’s hand was in the darkness. He had removed one board altogether.
Come, he said. Mother is sick.
I would have to be broken to fit inside that hole.
Touch her, he said. Reach in. She’s breathing.
He produced a second hand very different from his own.
Come here, he said.
I stayed in bed. I watched both hands.
When finally they slipped beneath the floor, I fell asleep.
When my father had finished a branch taller than our house, he gave me the axe.
I’m going off to find one, he said. He walked into the trees.
It was then I heard my brother crying. He poked his hand through a hole in the foundation.
Help me, he said. Help me. His arm made circles in the snow.
Robert Eversmann works for Deep Overstock. His website is roberteversmann.com.