- Aull, Felice
- Date of entry: Nov-23-1997
The narrator, now a grown man, relates the story of his brother Del's troubled life and early death. The real story, however, concerns the narrator himself, as he reflects on his relationship with Del, his father's behavior toward both of them, and on the possibility that he (the narrator) played a role in Del's death.
When the narrator was fourteen, older brother Del--drunk at the time--was struck and killed by a train as he walked along the tracks. But the central event in the story is the narrator's betrayal of Del. Although Del had saved him from falling off a grain elevator roof, the narrator had falsely blamed Del for the near-fatal accident, out of fear of the father's fury, and because "After years of being on the receiving end, it wasn't in my nature to see Del as someone who could be wronged . . . ." [p. 57]
"My father had good reason to believe this lie . . . . " [p. 55] The incident occurred shortly after Del had been released from a juvenile detention facility--detained there for trying to strangle the narrator and threatening their father with a shotgun.
The narrator (later) finds in Del's notebook an essay revealing Del's intention to reform. But with the passage of time after the grain elevator episode, Del reverts to delinquent behavior; a year later he is dead. The narrator never reveals to his father the truth and the family never discusses Del's death.
At times, over the years, as the narrator searches for meaning and closure he believes he can "take all the loose ends of my life and fit them together perfectly . . . where all the details add up . . . ." [p. 68] In the end, however, we are left wondering whether this is possible--for the narrator--or for anyone.
Best American Short Stories 1996
John Edgar Wideman, with Katrina Kenison