Battleship

June we go to visit my Aunt Jenna in the country. I like it because of the pond nearby. It’s shaped like a battleship. Just like a battleship. One side is long and straight and then it curves up to a point, like the prow of a ship. And the other side has all these little gullies that poke into the land, and that’s where we can pretend to be the sailors on the deck of the battleship. “Are the torpedoes prepared, Jeffrey?! Then fire torpedo one! Fire torpedo one!”

That’s Jeffrey, my brother. One time, another boy was there, and he was great. He made a sound with his mouth when he fired torpedo one, and he could lift a bigger rock than I could lift to make the explosion on the water. He was great. But mostly I’m stuck with Jeffrey, and Jeffrey doesn’t like to fire the torpedoes. He says it’s stupid. He brings little goggles that Dad gave him and his wrist watch, and he puts his watch on the rock at the prow of the ship and he times himself swimming from end to end. First he does stretching exercises on the shore, and that’s really stupid. Then he gets in the water and takes deep breaths for like five minutes, and then he looks at the stupid watch, and then he swims to the other end of the pond. Then maybe he stops and takes a breath, or maybe not, and then he turns around, swims back, and looks at the stupid watch again. Then like an idiot he announces how long it took him. As if I care!

It’s not like he’s older than me. We’re twins. My Mom says I’m five minutes older than he is. Five whole minutes! That’s why I’m the captain and he fires the torpedoes. I think he’s just mad because I get to be the captain. Anyway, I didn’t feel like talking about my brother. It just makes me mad. I get back at him in a way, though, because I pretend that he’s the torpedo. I do both voices. “Fire torpedo one!” “Eye eye, sir!” “May God have mercy on their souls!” I always say that last bit because I saw it in a movie once, and it sent chills down my spine. “May God Have Mercy On Their Sooouuulllls!” Jeff’s looking at his watch, pretending, doing his stupid breathing. Then he’s off, and I want him to swim really fast this time because he’s sending the pirates to their watery graves. I forget that I need a big rock to make the explosion, because Jeffrey’s certainly not going to do anything cool like that. I find one just as Jeffrey’s started his way back. I say that thing about their souls again and heave the rock. It comes a little closer to Jeffrey than I planned, just a couple feet in front of him. It makes a huge splash. Jeffrey shoots up, choking on the water. He starts screaming at me. “You stupid son-of-a-bitch, I’ll kill you!!” And I feel like he means it, and he does. Jeffrey always means it. I start running, but he’s so mad he catches me in like five seconds and he throws me on the ground. He punches me in the face. He’s trying to hurt me, and he does. Jeffrey does what he tries to do.

My face is bleeding and he gets up off of me. I’m afraid of him. I start wiping my lip and I get blood all over my hand. I smear it around. It looks gory. I get up and I hold my bloody hand out so that Jeffrey can see it, and I say, “May God have mercy on your soul.” He turns around really fast and he says, “Don’t say that to me! Don’t you ever say that to me ever again, or I’ll kill you!”

“May God …” I start to say, but I’m prepared to run, and it’s a good thing. Jeffrey isn’t as mad as before so he can’t catch me, and I run swiftly, in the garments of a hero, bloody from battle, away from the terrible, loathsome, and deadly beast of the pond.

[Originally published in the online journal The Scrivenery in 1997.]

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