Day Dreams

Today, I am leaving for a leadership conference in Michigan. I am travelling by train with 75 other youth from Colorado, some of whom are longtime friends of mine. The theme of the conference is “Brotherhood.” This trip has been on my mind as I’ve been working on a devotion for this week. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Fiction reveals the truth that reality distorts.” Today, I’d like to share with you a short story I wrote a little over a year ago about two brothers. I hope you enjoy it.

“ ‘Listen to this dream,’ he said.” ~Genesis 37:6

Chris closed his eyes.

He leaned back and extended his arms on the deck around the hot tub. Sitting in the foaming hot water, all the troubles in the world seem to melt away. It had been stressful lately. Now it was nice to just relax.
A few deep breaths and he could remember everything vividly. He remembered the screaming. He remembered the hitting. He remembered those fateful words he yelled, “I hate you! I wish you were dead.” And he remembered Todd—his brother, his confidant, his friend—storming out of the house and driving away.

Todd and Chris used to come to the rec center a lot before he left. They’d sit in the hot tub for hours talking about sports and girls and teachers at school. Chris liked going with Todd to the rec center. It made him feel grown up.
He closed his eyes. The quiet of the pool room was a nice change from the noise at home. Well, the old noise at home. There hadn't been much noise since Todd left. Chris sort of missed the noise.

A sudden voice pulled him from his reverie. “Chris?” it asked. Chris opened his eyes. He blinked a few times, absolutely unsure of what to think.
“Todd?” he asked, his voice shaking and unsteady.
“Yeah,” Todd said and smiled. “How are you doing Bud?”
“I’m good,” Chris said, still a little shocked. Both of the brothers could sense the obvious tension, and Todd looked down at his feet for a few seconds. “You mind if I get in with you?” he asked.

“No, go ahead,” Chris replied, trying to muster up enthusiasm. Chris was of course glad to see him, but he couldn’t believe Todd was really there. And the fact he wasn’t yelling at Chris was another welcomed surprise..
“So, how’s your senior year going?” Todd asked as he slipped into the bubbles. He winced a little bit from the heat of the water.
“It’s been good,” Chris said.
“Still got straight A’s?” Todd asked as he makes a strict face, mocking how their Dad used to look when he’d ask about their grades.
“Absolutely,” Chris said and they both laugh. “How about you? How’s college?”
“It’s great,” he said. “All my professors are awesome, except my math teacher. I didn’t understand Calculus in High School and I don’t understand it now.”

They both laugh again. For Chris, it’s good to hear Todd laugh. Like old times.
After some more light conversation, Chris finally mustered up the courage to ask the question aching in his mind. “Todd, I need to ask you something.”
“What is it bud?” Todd looked at Chris with wide, curious eyes.
“Are you still mad at me?”
Todd’s face changed a little and he looked away. He smiled gently but remained fixated on the swirling water. A little chuckle moved his shoulders up and down. Then he turned to Chris and stared straight into his eyes.
“No,” he said with a smile. “I’m not mad.”
Chris chuckled at first. Then he felt warm tears forming. They started trickling down his cheeks as he started laughing.

“What is it?” Todd asked.
“I don’t know,” Chris said. “I figured you were still mad at me, you know for all the rotten things I said to you. I figured that’s why you hadn’t come home.”
Todd stood up and walked over to sit next to Chris. “Chris, I forgave you a long time ago. You’re my brother. I love you bud.” Then he put an arm around Chris’s shoulder and gave him a hug.
They moved apart a little and kept talking. After a while Chris stood up and said, “Why don’t we go home?”
Todd smiled and looked at him. Then he shook his head. “You know I can’t Chris.”
“Why not?” Chris asked.

Todd smiles. Then he starts to speak. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.”

Slowly his voice starts to change. It’s Todd’s face, but the voice sounds more and more like Pastor Mike. “A time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Pastor Mike closes the bible with a thump. The noise jolts Chris back to reality, and his eyes open.

“Todd was a remarkable young man,” Pastor Mike continues. “He was a great friend, a great son, and a great brother. His younger brother Chris has prepared a few words share with you all today.”

Chris looks up. That was his cue. Slowly he stands. His parents are seated on either side of him. His dad pats his shoulder. He takes a few uneasy steps and walks up to the pulpit. Looking out, the whole sanctuary is filled with people. It’s just the way Todd would have wanted it. It’s just the way Todd deserved to have it.
On the pulpit is a piece of paper with some notes Chris had scribbled out. As he looks at them, reading the first few lines in his head, none of what he prepared seems appropriate. Nothing he can say will bring his brother back.

Chris closes his eyes for a second. A few deep breaths and he can remember everything vividly. He remembers the screaming. He remembers the hitting. He remembers those fateful words he yelled, “I hate you! I wish you were dead.” And he remembers Todd—his brother, his confidant, his friend—storming out of the house and driving away. Chris never got the chance to say another word to Todd. He never said “I’m sorry.” He never said “I love you.”

What could he say now?

Zach Herzog

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