This biographical short story was written as part of Blogging Norfolk, a Writers' Centre Norwich and BBC project. For more information and to get involved, click here
One of the problems with being the younger sibling is that you never get a chance to do anything nice for them. They are the benefactor, you the grateful recipient. These roles fixed long before you even start school. And the worst thing is, you come to rely on things remaining that way. It is almost as though you do things specifically, subconsciously, to reinforce these dynamics.
Take this as a case in point. We were in a bar yesterday, a horrible modern young peoples bar, with purple lighting in the ceiling and on the walls cajoling couples into cavorting publically. But in the pale daylight of an autumn afternoon is just seemed seedy. My brother was nursing his pint of cider, pretending he likes alcohol to keep me company. I was trying not to drink my beer too quickly. Our partners were with us too – his wife, my girlfriend – drinking their coffees and laughing as they completed a crossword. All very peaceful.
And then the bombshell. The train we were waiting, the train that would take us back to our London home, was not booked for 6.30 today, but 6.30 tomorrow! I had booked the wrong date.
But never fear, Big Brother was there, striding forward to offer us bed and board for another night, “delighted to be able to help.” Well, we thought, Norwich is a nice place. It always amazes me how clean the air is. So back to his we went; to eat food he cooked; watch his TV; sleep in his spare bed.
This morning Big Bro and his wife rose early and headed off to work while we played our expected roles perfectly, sleeping in and pulling a sicky from work to explain our train booking error.
But things changed over night. As the door slammed shut I lifted my head from the pillow. Peeling the curtain back to watch him cycle off my pulse quickened. I showered, dressed, kissed my sleeping girlfriend, and began to weed the front garden. Cutting, digging, pruning; hands covered in soot, the skin made thin by the spent defence mechanisms of frail foliage. Sun shining down, slow-motion cars passing by steadily. I think I began to dream.
A salesman passed by, with wide rosy cheeks and ears that looked like tulips, and offered me two magic seeds in exchange for a glass of milk. Well, how could I refuse such an offer? I ran to a corner shop and came back with a whole carton of fresh milk. He placed the beans carefully in my hands and began to laugh. The laughter didn't die down until he was far out of earshot.
Unperturbed I thrust the seeds eagerly into the freshly ploughed soil, fetched a watering can, and gently watered the magic seeds. Perhaps, when spring springs and Norwich blooms once again, when I am back in grey London, these magic seeds will blossom and he will wonder why nature has blessed him so bounteously.