My brother died in August. They put him in the ground on a warm day and I went to where he liked to be. The sun fell behind the trees and I sat on the edge, watching lightning bugs and wondering why I hadn’t kept a list of his wishes. Over my shoulder hung a bucket and rope on a rusty pulley. I glanced into the well, clinked my bottle against the stones, slick now with moss, and drank. At the bottom lay a childhood’s worth of pennies and I wondered if his dreams piled up there too, rusting in the darkness. Did they have weight of their own? Would they live on like copper or fall apart like earth?
I don’t know the answers to most questions, but I knew the flowers would wilt where I’d left them; curled against the polished marble, a shadow of what they’d been in the garden. Trees had lined the iron fence at the churchyard’s edge with leaves turned up for a rain that never came. I didn’t know anyone there but they all called me son and I hid my discomfort each time they mentioned my brother. The young rector prayed over the hole, then turned the earth, and I left as the diggers stamped out their cigarettes in the gravel by the groundskeeper’s shed.
Your brother, Your brother.
My brother and I spent hours peering over the edge of this well, wiping whiskey from our lips and listening for the plink-plink-plink of small change falling.
One night, I caught him by the shirt as he gazed down, chasing moonlight into the rippling darkness. One night, he stared into the chasm and said he’d like to dig to China and I said that a straight line would actually put him in the ocean somewhere west of Australia and he said straight was overrated. One night, I held his feet and he leaned all the way in and said the earth smelled like lavender and I said it was probably the lavender from the garden and he said he didn’t care for flowers and asked if the echo made his voice sound like the voice of God. One night, he squinted into the dark and said I wonder how deep is the water and I told him not much more than twenty-five feet and he said no: how deep is the water?
The moon came out and I left the beer to sweat on the stones and stood. I pulled a heavy ziplock from my pocket, turned it slowly upside down, then listened as the coins broke like raindrops on the still water.
Men rest where they must, I thought, but he would’ve liked being buried under all that fell after, that fell before, that lay waiting there in the bottom. The thought was quick, then gone, like the words were his, and I caught the last penny in my fist. He would’ve liked that, I thought, as I put it in my pocket. To sleep there with all he’d left in the cool dark. He would’ve liked that.
Stars joined the crescent moon and I took the last sip and dropped the bottle. It landed with a sploosh and I walked out into the gathering night, wondering how long it’d float before it filled with water and sank to the bottom with the rest.
Peter Amos lives in Queens, New York with his wife and two-year-old son. He was raised in rural Virginia and studied jazz and classical guitar in college before moving to the city. His fiction can be found in The Maryland Literary Review, Cleaver Magazine, and Eclectica.