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“Brother, look!” At a young age, I fell in love with fireflies when my older brother took me out to a field one night to look at the stars. When I saw the insects flying around in the night sky, their bodies lighting up in an unfathomable rhythm, I couldn’t help but run out into the field and run around with them, arms outstretched and eyes wide. For a six year old, it was the best day of my life. Suddenly, the church bell sounded off signaling that it was nine o’ clock. Brother jumped from his seat, grabbed me (and the old beach chair) and charged up towards his car.
“We’re gonna get in so much trouble!” My brother sang as he threw the car into drive and sped towards our home. I giggled and put my hands above my head as the cool night wind poured into the car. I squealed as my brother handled the curves of the road with expertise. He glanced at me and laughed through his nose.
“Y’know, little dude,” My brother said as his eyes remained on the road, “you’re the only reason why I don’t want to go off to college next year.” His face was painted with a sad yet content smile. Tilting my head to the side, I asked, “What’s college?” He chuckled and ruffled my hair. My eyes widened seeing him take his hand off the steering wheel to ruffle my hair.
“H-hands on the circle!” I shouted with balled fists. My brother sputtered and then broke into a fit of laughter.
“It’s called the ‘steering wheel,’ Mattie.” My brother said while placing his hand back on the steering wheel. “And about college,” he sighed, “college is a place most people go to after you graduate from high school.” I gasped and then smiled.
“You’re in high school!” I said while sitting up from the passenger’s seat and turning to my brother.
“Yes, I am. The only problem is,” my brother sighed once again, “when you leave for college, most of the time, high school graduates have to leave their families and live at their college.” My brother’s smile was dying.
“You get to sleep in school? That’s pretty cool.” I murmured while squinting and nodding my head. My brother forced a laugh and then parked the car in front of our house; we’d reached home. My brother didn’t say anything nor did I.
“Um, brother?” I questioned while unbuckling my self and crawling over to him. He didn’t answer; he merely stared at the house blankly so I planted myself on his lap and hugged him. He hugged me back tightly without any words spoken. Warmth then tickled my back. I then realized that my brother was crying.
“Matthew… I don’t want to leave you here all alone…” He sobbed quietly. I patted his head the best a six year old could and began to sing to him his favorite song:
“When all the world is a hopeless jumble/And the raindrops tumble all around/Heaven opens a magic lane/When all the clouds darken up the skyway/There's a rainbow highway to be found/Leading from your windowpane/To a place behind the sun/Just a step beyond the rain/Somewhere, over the rainbow/Way up high/There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby/Somewhere, over the rainbow skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come true/Some day I'll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me/Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops/That's where you'll find me/Somewhere, over the rainbow blue birds fly/Birds fly over the rainbow/Why...then oh I can't I/Someday I wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me/Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops/That's where you'll find me.” My brother began to sob even harder as I sang. “Somewhere, over the rainbow blue birds fly/Birds fly over the rainbow/Why, then oh, why can't I?/If happy little blue birds fly behind the rainbow/Why, oh why can't I...” When I stopped singing, I climbed off my brother and out of the car. I ran around to the other side, opened his door and held my arms open for a hug.
“You obviously need it.” I said while flexing my fingers and bouncing on my toes. He smiled, dried his eyes and then stepped out. His huge arms wrapped around me and then carried me into the house. That house had our own personal H*ll. H*ll really did love us. He always stayed around, tormenting us verbally and physically. Heaven on the other hand worked long hours all day and didn’t get home until three in the morning. Today, H*ll personally greeted at the door. His big, meaty hand slapped my brother; my brother began to quiver. Tears began to form in my eyes and I buried my face in my brother’s chest.
“Get in here, you scum.” H*ll said drunkenly while grabbing my brother’s hair.
“You smell like alcohol, you old man.” My brother said while prying his ash brown hair away from H*ll’s hand. “You’re intoxicated. This isn’t a safe place for Matthew. I want you to leave or he and I will.” Hell glared at my brother, grabbed his face and pulled him forward.
“Y-you listen to me you, little s-s***. You ain’t gonna do n-nothin’ or say nothin’.” H*ll stuttered. My brother’s eyebrows knit together and then his face punched H*ll in the face. He scurried into the house and down into the den where he immediately locked the door as H*ll held his face.
“Mattie, go run and hide deep in the den. Where you always hide when we play hide and seek! I can never find you down here.” My brother said frantically. A large thump emitted from the other side of the door.
“B-but–” I stuttered.
“Just go!” My brother screamed while pressing his body against the door. I nodded and ran deeper and deeper into the den and hid behind the bookcase. The sound of breaking wood sounded and my brother screamed. The sound of someone falling down the stairs followed and there was another low grunt from my brother.
“Don’t you ever talk to me like that again!” H*ll screamed. A constricted cry came from my brother. A slap followed and once again, my brother cried out in pain. Continuous cries emitted and I cowered in fear. Suddenly, Heaven’s voice screamed and she came running down the stairs. Heaven and H*ll argued for awhile before Heaven threatened to call the police. H*ll began to beg for her not to. She ignored his request and did so anyways. I peeked out from behind the bookshelf and stared at my brother. He was battered and bloody and wasn’t moving. I quickly hid again and tried to keep myself from puking. H*ll is now in jail, my brother in the hospital and I myself at home with Heaven, crying constantly.
A week later when I visited my brother in the hospital, he said that he had a surprise for me. He had the nurse in the room pull out a glass jar with holes in the cover, turn off the lights in the room and draw the curtains. When I saw what was before me, couldn’t help but smile. He had captured light!
“I was thinking about you yesterday and how much you liked fireflies. So when I went outside yesterday, I asked for a jar with holes in the lid and caught a firefly for you.” He said while presenting the jar to me. With my mouth agape, I reached out for the jar. When it touched my hands, the firefly inside began to light up like crazy. My brother chuckled.
“It must like you.” He said. His smile was soft, unlike his scraggly voice. He must’ve been coughing or vomiting a lot. He looked deathly pale and scrawny. I nodded enthusiastically and hugged the jar. Heaven placed a hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Your brother must really love you a lot to capture light just for you.” Heaven said while stooping next to me and smiling even wider. A blush crept onto my cheeks as my happiness.
“Eric loves me a whole lot!” I said with a giggle. “And so does mommy.” She ruffled my hair and picked me up. She then turned to Eric and her smile softened. Eric smiled back and sighed. My mom’s smile disappeared and she rushed to the side of the hospital bed and began to sob into Eric’s chest.
“Don’t worry, mom. I’ll be fine.” Eric said while ruffling both my head and mommy’s. She smiled and continued to dry and Eric and I rubbed her back to comfort her. With any words exchanged, we knew what she was trying to say to us. A nurse came in thirty minutes afterwards and told us that we had to leave; visiting hours were over. I pouted and began to cry but left anyways after many goodbye kisses and hugs.
“We’ll be back tomorrow, Eric!” I shouted from mommy’s shoulder as she walked down the hall. Eric then began to cry as he continued to wave. It wasn’t a sad crying but a happy crying. To this day, I still won’t forget that day. The day my brother died, he gave me light. I believe that it was not just light, but his life. I still have the jar, and every time I touch it, Eric lights up to say “I love you.”