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Of Doves and Eagles

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Six days before

Its dark. The only light comes from a greasy white bulb, hanging naked over a typewriter. A man in his early thirties is sitting hunched over working on a file. He sighs and sits up, runs his hands through his hair. He is very pale. He has been working for hours.

He stands up, pushing his chair across the cold concrete floor with a soft scrape. His feet are bare and there are ligature marks around his ankles. Something is keeping him here.

A voice comes from above. Soft and aggressive it calls down angrily:

What are you doing? I told you not to use it after dark! By god, if I hear one more word on that dinosaur then I’ll personally come down and ring your neck.

It sounds comical. A joke, made between friends. But the man reacts to it as if it is very real. He quickly sits back down in his chair and pushes the typewriter to one side with a herculean effort. He is very weak.

MAN: I’m finished anyway…

He is too quiet to hear even from across the room, let alone up several flights of stairs. He stands up again, careful to lift his chair this time so it makes no noise on the pavement. He wanders, lost, like a small child to the other side of the room. There is a small picture framed in plain balsawood duck taped to the wall.

A woman with a vintage haircut straight out of the twenties smiles back at him. Her deep green eyes seem to emit color even though the photo is in black in white. He runs a finger along the contour of her face, then her eyes. His sister stares back at him unabashedly.

MAN: I’ll find you (whispering) I’ll find you.

The little light left in the room is extinguished as the man flips a switch on the left side of the frame. In the darkness we can hear a dry sob, and then the heavy sigh of an exhausted body being eased to the ground. There is silence, and then he is asleep.

5 days before

We start this morning in a different place. A man, a tall thin older mustached man, is shaving over a porcelain washbasin. He is extremely methodical, starting at one side of his face just below the hollow of his jawbone, and working his way, inch by inch, towards the opposite side of his face. He never scratches himself, or spills even a drop of blood. However he has several handkerchiefs piled on the edge of the basin should they be necessary. A radio plays in the background.

RADIO: It’s the patriotic thing to do Jonathan, and millions are going out to do it. America can win this war if it has the help of ordinary citizens like you. You know we are close. All our able bodied boys are overseas fighting to save the lives of those in peril.

JONATHAN: Where exactly do I get a war bond? And how will I explain it to my wife? Is it a lot of money?

RADIO: No Jonathan, its very affordable. Only a few dollars. And think of all the good it will do. This is a war we can, no will, win. We should be proud that our great nation is going to put the Nazi Regime to rest faster then a bullet to the brain. As for your wife, she’ll be proud to have a husband who’s supporting his nation.

JONATHAN: Well thank you sir, I’ll take two. I’m only pained that I’m in a wheel chair. Other wise you know I’d be over there myself!

The man has finished shaving. He carefully lays his razor on the bottom shelf of a pine bathroom cabinet, and then turns on the water faucet. A stream of frigid water gushes into the basin. He cups his hand and waits for them to be filled. It takes only an instant. Then he submerges his face in the tiny pool allowing the shaving cream to float of his face and drain slowly back into the basin. When all of it has been removed, he steps back to admire his work.

A sound begins in the background. A click click click, quite obviously the keys of a typewriter. The man’s face grows grim, and then darker still and then he turns sharply on his heel and storms out of the bathroom.

Still in his robe and socks he hurtles down three flights of stairs into a grimy cinderblock hallway. The only light comes in the form of a thin strip, a golden line where the door ends and there is a gap before the pavement begins. The man takes a key from around his neck and forces it into the keyhole. Then, without knocking, he enters.

SHAVING MAN: D****t Glenn, I told you to keep quiet. I have to keep you here, but I don’t have to hear you at that machine all day and all night.

GLENN: I can’t help it Martin. I’m sorry, but you’ve given me nothing to do. The boredom is almost worse then the homesickness…

MARTIN: Well get over it. I can’t risk you turning anything against me. You know better then I do what you’re capable of. Need I remind you of the incident in Whales?

GLENN: I was saving her. The police told you so. I made a weapon to save her! It’s not my fault I’m so freaking resourceful! You’re just too pigheaded to see—

MARTIN: I don’t care if I’ve got the head of a mule. You listen to me, and you listen good. You aren’t out of here until the war is over. Over, do you hear me? And it’s your own fault too. If you hadn’t been touched in the head…

GLENN:I told you, I don’t know why the navy wouldn’t take me. I was drafted like everyone else, but they turned me down. It’s probably the arthritis.

MARTIN: Or maybe it’s the fact you’re a d*** fool. Now don’t be typing until twelve or I’ll personally break your fingers off.

With this, the man takes the same sharp turn on his heal and strides out of the room. His robe billows around him like the cloak of a king, making his ropey frame look particularly impressive. Glenn lets out another dry sob and then calls out sarcastically:

GLENN: I can tell its ten till twelve because you’ve given me such a nice clock!

He stabs a finger at the broken clock radio that sits on the floor in the corner. His finger falls when he realizes his brother can no longer hear him.

Four days before

He wakes up in the basement. His surroundings are as gloomy as ever. He gets slowly to his feet, arthritis aggravated from sleeping without a mattress on the cement floor. He looks again to the picture of his sister and then reaches into his pocket. He hasn’t told her yet. He couldn’t bear to. He has only two things in the capacious folds of his trousers. He has lost weight from eating so little. He draws both objects out, and sits cross-legged on the floor, placing them in front of him as if they hold a great weight. One of them is a revolver. Sleek and shining, fully loaded, a gift from Mary and overlooked by his brothers hubris. The other is a sketch. The subject is a young man, quite similar in age to the man holding his likeness, perhaps a year older. His shaggy hair falls to his shoulders but looks oddly dignified, something only a person of high stature could afford to wear. His suit is crisp and clean, starched fold accentuating the elegant swan like curve of his supple neck. A boldly striped tie runs in a perfectly straight line down his chest dividing it into two distinct hemispheres.

He knows that tie. He bought it for him.

In the lower right hand corner there is a message in code. He knows the code by heart, but it is so faded he must struggle to make it out.

To Glenn with love. I knew from the minute I met you.

He rubs irritably at wet eyes and then folds the paper up and puts it in his pocket. He is secretly glad he never told his brother.

He doesn’t move the revolver. He just stares at it. He knows what he must do, but until now it has never seemed like an option. It has been a vague last resort, a pillar to fall back on should things really begin to stack up against him.

He laughs a little. Stack up against him…how could the odds be any less in his favor. He was a captive, caged like an abused animal. His brother did not hesitate to hit him now. He remembered it in vivid detail.

Three months before

The two men walk in like awkward dance partners, hand and hand to keep from falling. It looks like a show of brotherly affection at first, perhaps a younger man helping his crippled senior. It quickly becomes plain that it is nothing of the kind, but rather a cruel and calculated plot against the younger. He stumbles a little and there is a glint of silver at his throat. As he falls forward the knife cuts a slim crimson line into his flesh. His brother quickly adjusts the pressure of the blade, loosening his hold.

They make their way into the middle of the room. There is a plain desk against one wall and a beaten clock radio in the corner. In a few weeks a picture of a woman would be the only decoration, and a typewriter the only way to pass the seemingly endless days and nights. However at the moment there is just the desk, the clock, the two men, and the shimmering knife.

MARTIN: You don’t try anything now. I killed a man in the last war. I killed many men. I won’t hesitate to gut you too.

GLENN (screaming): Shut up! Shut up! Why in gods name are you doing this? I told you they wouldn’t take me—I tried!

MARTIN: You obviously didn’t try hard enough. If I was younger I’d go, but I’m not. I can’t have the only able bodied member of our family strolling around
The street of New York while every other young man is dying for his country. It’s not right. What would people think?

GLENN (still screaming): Who cares what people think? I don’t and that’s all that should matter! You can’t keep me here forever, and don’t think I won’t tell when I get out. Mary will find out, she’ll realize and then she’ll find me. This will break her heart. Is that what you want? She lost her mother; do you want her to lose you too?

MARTIN: It isn’t important. This is the best thing for her anyway. Her reputation will be pure, not soiled by some spurious mongrel who wasn’t brave enough to help his fellow man.

GLENN: You have no idea why they wouldn’t take me. You have no Idea what I’ve been through!

MARTIN: I don’t much care what you’ve been through; you’re going to have to go through this. Our family is a proud line of soldiers d*****, and people are going to think you’re a soldier.

GLENN (quietly, almost whispering): You’re an idiot. I won’t be your downfall; this will be your downfall. Do you really think you’re political career is more important then you’re family? Than your blood brother?

MARTIN: My blood brother whose as cowardly as a beaten dog? The answer is yes. Yes I do.

GLENN: We may be related by blood…but you aren’t my brother anymore.

MARTIN: This is for your own good. Now stay down here quietly. I will strike you if you try to make any noise.

(His eyes flash and he stands up a little straighter. For a coward, he has little fear.)


(The older man growls and waits for his brother to stop shouting. When he keeps repeating himself, the man’s face grows very dark. His back arches and he pulls back his fist. It collides with his brother’s nose, breaking it easily. Blood flows freely down his younger brother’s shirt and neck, but he doesn’t care. The next blow is to his eye, and then to the side of the head.)

GLENN: Stop it Martin—god—you’re hurting me!

(The older brother ignores his younger brother’s cries for help. He punches him in the stomach, and when the young man buckles he moves on to his back, fist colliding again and again with the young man’s spine. The young man crumples to the floor and assumes the fetal position. He is struggling to catch his breath. His eye is swollen shut and the blood is forming a pool, wetting the side of his head.)
MARTIN: I warned you. Now stay down. Sweet dreams.

With this the older brother turns on his heel, something the younger brother has seen him do since infancy and walks out of the room. The battered boy hears the snick of a key in the lock and knows it is over. He lets the darkness close around him.

In the weeks to come his brother feeds him, at first with a weapon sometimes a gun, sometimes a baseball bat. However, gradually the need for intimidation decreases. His brother grows weak and sick and the older man can control him with just the backs of his hands. He allows him to shave once a day. On several occasions he prevents the young man from slitting his wrists. The weeks drag on. Neighbors gaze at letters forged, explaining the young mans heroics in a war he has never even seen. He knows not that surrender is close. That the concentration camps are being liberated.
His brother has no plans of releasing him.

One week before his sister receives a letter from Martin. Her beloved middle brother is dead. She collapses into a chair and cries, because she knows it could not have been the war that killed him.

One day before

He wakes up as usual, with the revolver in his pocket, and the sketch in his hand. He rises to his feet. The pain in his joints is growing worse. Perhaps he has influenza. He will certainly die if his brother does not release him soon.

He walks to his desk and tucks the sketch under the typewriter. His brother must not see, but the presence of it there, in such close proximity to his manuscript comforts him. He imagines him standing behind him, his smile as conflicted as ever, hair in his eyes and a loving hand on his shoulder. He raises his hand beside his neck and caresses the fictitious fingers keenly aware that he might never see him again.

There is a snick of a lock and his brother comes in carrying a bowl of soup and a slice of bread. That is all his brother ever brings him anymore. It is not enough to nourish him and his brother knows it. That is why he brings it day after day. He does not bring any water. His brother is parched.

MARTIN: Still at that infernal machine?

GLENN: That’s right.

MARTIN: Can I see what you’re writing? Don’t bother hiding it, I’ll just read it while you’re sleeping.

GLENN: I suppose. Is that for me or are you going to neglect your three-course dinner?

MARTIN: No, it’s yours. What is this Glenn…you’re writing about birds? I told you you’re touched in the head. Why are you writing about birds?

GLENN: I need more than soup.

MARTIN: There’s bread too. Why are you writing about birds?

GLENN: I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to fly.

MARTIN: Hm. You could have been a pilot.

GLENN: God Martin! I’m sick of this. Why can’t you just accept it already—I’m not a pilot. I’m not a sailor. I’m not a marine or a national guardsman. I am not a soldier. I will never be a soldier.

MARTIN: You could have tried harder.

GLENN: No…I couldn’t have. Martin, I’m in love. And for that they wouldn’t take me.

(The older brother raises an eyebrow. His mouth turns downward in a sneer. The young man trembles and pulls the proof out carefully from under the edge of the typewriter. He holds it like a piece of ancient papyrus, as if it might crumble to dust at any second. His brother takes the paper and unfolds it.)

MARTIN: What is this?

GLENN: Who is it. His name is Bernard. I love him.

MARTIN: You’re joking. This is why they wouldn’t take you? Because you’re…

GLENN: Yes. Now you know. Now you know that I might be touched in the head, or whatever you think causes this. But its not going to change. You can do what you want with me. I can never be a soldier.

MARTIN: You’re disgusting. I knew you were crazy, but I never would have guessed it was this. I’m giving you three days. Do you hear me? Three days. If you’re not done with this stupid insipid love story by then, you can kiss him goodbye. Not in front of me.

GLENN: You can’t do anything to him. He’s a doctor, who do you know in the medical field? He’s well liked, he has connections. You’ll never get to him.

MARTIN: But I can get to you.

(There is silence for a few moments.)

MARTIN: Like I said. Three days.

(He turns on his heel and exits.)

The day May 8 1945

(He is on his feet next to the door. When it swings open it will hide him in its shadow for a few seconds. And that’s all it will take. He is trembling, shaking so severely that the revolver in his hands is unsteady. He is careful not to hold it about his feet. The noise will be deafening and a single false shot will be the end of him. The broken clock radio read 8:15. It is the only minute of the day it is correct.

There are footsteps on the stairs, and the heavy heaving of water in a basin. He hears the basin being set down and then the snick of the key in the lock. His brother backs into the room, dragging a basing of shaving water behind him.)

MATIN: Where are you hiding Glenn.

GLENN: Here I am. Now stay down.

(The older brother’s eyes widen. He stares down the slick barrel of his brother’s revolver. The young man lets out a dry sob, and then another. Tears stream down his face, but he remains steady, the gun fixed on his brother’s heart.)

MARTIN: Lets talk about this Glenn…you know you can’t do this…I’m your brother, your blood brother. You’re not a killer.

GLENN: I’ve never killed a man, but there’s always a first time.

MARTIN: You don’t believe that. You’re not a killer—you’re not a murder…

GLENN: That’s what you call it? Murder? It’s self-defense. Any jury will see it that way. The only person who will ever know we didn’t struggle is you.

MARTIN: You’re making a mistake. Mary will be broken…you’ll never be able to undo this.

GLENN: I won’t have to. Now give me the key.

MARTIN: No. If you’re going to shoot me, shoot me.

GLENN: No. You’re right I’m not a killer. But I can be an injurer.

MARTIN: That’s not even a word—

GLENN: Give me the key!

MARTIN: Okay, okay! Take it. Just don’t do anything stupid.

GLENN: You mean like locking your little brother in your basement for three months? Like telling the police he’s at war? Like telling his own sister his dead?

MARTIN: It was for your own good.

GLENN: And this is going to be good for you. Good for Mary. Good for all of us.

He doesn’t turn on his heel, but rather walks out slowly and deliberately, keeping his eyes locked into his brother own dark irises. His brother closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose, and then disappears behind the closing door. In his new cell, the older brother hears the snick of the lock. His eyes fall on the straight razor. He knows he can’t do it.

So he sits down at the typewriter and begins to read.

Of Doves and Eagles

They are the wind
And the water
And the earth
They are the darkness
But not the fire
There is no light
Within them.

They are the eagles
They are the hawks
They have great and powerful wings
But they are fragile
And weak
Within their ribcages
Relying on the death of those
Beneath them to satisfy
Their hunger.

They are deeply ingrained
In every wood
In every meadow
The animals whisper in fear.
I know the feeling well.

I am a dove,
White and bare chested,
A martyr if killed
But for what cause I do not know.
They seek me out,
My white feathers against the green leaves
A sign of purity and a target on
My back.

They are my hunters.
I am their prey.
I am their prayer
To a higher salvation
They believe that somehow
Consuming my soul will make they higher
More powerful
More hateful and driven then
Ever before.

He will rise in the ranks
Be hailed as a brother
Be included in circles that only other predators can see.
And I will wither in my fields
With my wounds upon my wrists
Sacrificed for the purity of
Whom I readily die for.

I would readily die for.

But not like this. Not in the
Cruel talons of those who are the
Those who are the earth
Those who are the water.

I will die free and ignited
In a fire of my own
Burning with a
Sweet as a ripened
Exotic like the Sahara dessert
The color of tiger’s eyes.

He walks up the stairs still shaking. Adrenaline pumps in his veins. He did it. Euphoria sinks into his skin as he beholds the splendid open space around him. The wallpaper, the furniture, the photographs of family on the wall. It was like walking out of an optometrist’s with glasses for the first time, the world alive with color and minute miracles that before you had been blind to.
The phone is on a mahogany side table dripping with lace. His brother has done well for himself. When he sells all of this he will buy his sister a better apartment and Bernard a new suit.
He does not know the number of the police, so he dials the O for operator. The woman’s voice is kind and shrill and reminds him of his sister. He asks politely for the local precinct. They come in bright cars with gaudy lights and sirens. They ask him many questions and then wrap him in a blanket.
He is shaken and starved. They let him sit quietly in the corner as they bring his brother in handcuffs up from the basement. He tells a fantasy story about a brother who defected from his unit and came home with vengeance. How his own blood had stolen his revolver and locked him in his cellar. The police nod along with him but he can tell they don’t believe it.

OFFICER: So you are the victim?

MARTIN: There is no doubt.

OFFICER: You know… that’s odd though.

MARTIN: How so? My brother is mentally ill; he does odd and sometimes dangerous things.

OFFICER: Mentally ill or not, his sister has been at the precinct for weeks explaining that he never went to war at all, but had been kidnapped by his older brother, who I assume from your story, is you.

MARTIN: I don’t know where she would get such an idea. Glenn might have planted something like that in her head; she was always a very trusting girl.

OFFICER: We’ll see what the judge says. Take him to the station boys.

They filter out of the room slowly. They allow the young man to call his sister and Bernard and then they help him stand. He remembers something at the door though. He asks an officer, and the policeman kindly brings both items up from the basement. He tucks his poetry and his portrait under the blanket, and allows the officers to help him into a car.

Three days after

The trial is the largest that has been held by the courthouse, but due to the current events, and the final victory on German soil, the older brother’s trial is dwarfed. His lawyer arrives and puts on a show worthy of an Oscar, but the jury is sympathetic to the ill younger brother, who due to his influenza must attend the trial in a wheelchair. They vote almost unanimously with one exception, who later tells the press he had been bribed. The older brother gives the young man one last angry look, a look that says it isn’t over. But the young man knows it is. He can feel Bernard’s hand on his shoulder.

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