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STORM WATCH IW. S. Penn THE WEEK AFTER Christmas, we dragged out the tree, trailing silvery snippets of tinsel, to the curb, where an unknown service group would make its skeleton disappear at an unlikely hour. After the tree, we dragged out Kenny. Perhaps I shouldn't tell this story; but maybe I can keep the tone even, and glaze over the crevices and depressions—the horrors even I do not understand—and yet leave you with the grin of truth. Is this really me? Silly or not, it is a question I ask the whitecapped waves, at night, which seem to rise out of nowhere as I balance on a tilting deck of reasons for what has happened. I ask myself when I am alone—when Dara has taken ill to her cabin and I prowl the corners of the ship—looking for my fear, to face it, overpower it, willit away. From whatI understand of the sailors' English, we are skirting a typhoon. I believe that people have a purpose, and that they are circumscribed by it in certain moments—as the few minutes which passed between my birth and Kenny's that made me the olderbrother. Sometimes we are sure of it: but there are times in which, when they are over, we cannot detect the correct moment—like a sailor who realizes all at once that he is off course, yet does not know how or when he went wrong and cannotadmit it to himself because that would be like admitting certain destruction. Am I that sailor? The tree, by the time we got around to draggingit out, was little more than a tapered pole with nipples, teats where the branches had been. It hadn't been an expensive tree: it was a part of our faith to be against those sorts of displays. And we had been rushed in the selection of it: it had been a dark night, and Bobby, in all his useful clumsiness, had gotten hung up in the barbed wire fence. The moon hung like a scythe or cradle, and I sat in the back of the van with the tree as Kenny raced us away, muttering, 'everyone is expendable.' Perhaps he was right; but Beast, Bobby's Saint Bernard, decided to disagree—and when Bobby did not return by the following day, Beast became downright intractable. If you have ever known an animal that earned its name, you will understand what I mean by intractable: two hundred and fifty pounds going soft even in the bones, on your bed, when you were hurried by time; or plopping her head in your lap while you were sitting on the low couch, leaning up against you while you begged her to move, as the nerves in your leg went to sleep. Beast used these tricks; sometimes I think Beast knew more than I did; and it became apparent that Bobby was not entirely expendable. I offered to pay Bobby's fine, but Kenny wanted to break him out. "Is it worth it?" I said. The Missouri Review · 75 "That's not the point," Kenny said. "This isn't like the swim team, you know." We'd quit together; Td only trained all those years to be close to him. But Td known the point, then—what was it now? "It's worth it if you believe," he said. In what? I thought. So Kenny, in neat ratiocination, decided thatBobby mustbe retrieved from the simians at the zoo—his word for the local jail—and he began plan D. 'D,' I knew, meant dynamite—I had seen this plan in action before. Not actually observed, mind you: Kenny would disappear on his motorcycle one morning, and not return for several days; and then he'd enter, dirty and worn, sometimes beaten, waving a newsclipping nonchalantly, like one of those tiny flags children carry in parades. At first I didn't mind. Everything seemed to belong to the movement. But subtly, gradually—unnoticeably—the clippings began to grow like mushrooms, taking more prominent positions in the newspapers. I know you don't believe it. I don't blame you: neither had I believed, and...


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