For Your Eyes Only
by Eliot Moore


Chapter 9 (February 2007)

Jasmine died somewhere under the Afghan winter sun while I tossed in my bed Sunday night dreaming of Pino’s lips touching me. Like a distant underwater cataclysm, the resulting Tsunami did not strike our peaceful lives until half a day later. The bureaucracy of the military caught up to us soon after I joined Glyn on the sidewalk for our walk down the hill to school. I had not had an opportunity to talk to Pino over the weekend, so by Monday I was consumed with thoughts of him. It was natural that I turned to Glyn hoping for some better understanding of his little brother.

“He was a little hyper last night. I don’t know maybe it was my fault,” he answered in response to my probe. We walked on down the hill shoulder to shoulder in silence. “We had a fight last night,” Glyn added. I mumbled something audible and left his comment alone. It was a family thing and I knew the brothers well enough to know breaches healed rapidly between them. I worked on a topic shift, but the image of a hyper Pino clad in nothing but black briefs distracted me greatly. I walked a few paces before I realized Glyn had paused. I turned back to see what delayed him. “Mom and dad are giving me grief,” he began mournfully. “They found out Brittany and me are sleeping together.” His announcement surprised me. Up to this point we had assiduously refrained from discussing sex with each other.

“How did that happen?”

“She was over yesterday afternoon. We sort of fell asleep.”

“Oh man,” we shared a look that was a mixture of erotic exhilaration and morbid embarrassment. It was a frustrating time. Sex made men of us and our parent’s tyranny systematically chipped away at our new pride. I had wondered if Glyn’s parents took as liberal a view to premarital sex as mine. I suppose I should have thanked Jasmine and my brothers for this. I imagine my parents were weary when it came time to confronting their fifth hormonal adolescent bent on trampling the church’s sexual mores. Glyn was the eldest child and so he was doomed to blaze a trail through the disapproving drifts his parents blew in his path. I hoped Pino would find the trail all the easier for his brother’s trials.

“Brittany bailed on me and then it was time for the big lecture.” Glyn began walking again. He brushed my shoulder as he past and I caught up with him and bumped his in return. We jostled each other for a few paces before he resumed talking. “So I was listening to the new rules. You can imagine; no girl friends in my room, no more sex, respecting Brittany, we’re children still, remembering to be a role model for Pino. Anyway, they can’t stop us from being together. We’ll meet at her house. They don’t understand how much we care about each other. I mean, things are getting really serious between us Si.” I met that assertion with my characteristic silence. He stopped me with a hand when we reached the intersection. “Okay Si, just say it.”

“Say what?” I studied an errant chunk of black ice that must have tumbled off a car.

“You don’t agree.”

“That’s not fair Glyn. I know you care about Brittany a lot. I’m happy for you.”

“But?” he queried.

“No buts Glyn. Why are you pressing me?” A car pulled to a stop and the driver waved us across the street. “I can connect with what you are saying. You feel she’s special. You want to be with her. When you are together, it doesn’t matter what other people think. When you are not, you dream about him. You could tell the world, but you can’t. You said it once, it’s something private.” We hit the opposite curb and Glyn stopped me again. We were close to the school and I guess he wasn’t ready to let it go. I met his eyes finally and then sighed. “Be fair Glyn, I don’t want a fight. I’m not in any sort of position to judge Brittany. She doesn’t tell me anything. Fuck Glyn, she never did. She usually went her own way and when she felt like it, she had me tag along. I just never had a sense that she was ready to be serious. I think she could take me or leave me.” Glyn did not appear angry so I risked a few more words. “Your my friend Glyn, hold a little of yourself back. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

I was embarrassed by the flood of words so after a quick glance at Glyn I studied the tip of my shoe. “Thanks,” his voice drew my eyes back to open face. “You have been way cool about this whole thing. I still don’t know why she let you go.”

“Oh Glyn, I never knew you cared,” I teased.

Glyn wrapped his arms around me and tried to crush me in a bear hug. “It’s just you’re such a stud Si.”

“Just remember Brittany moved on.” Glyn dropped me at that and stepped back.

“You sound like Pino.” Glyn turned away from me to look down the street to where a steady stream of students filtered in the direction of the school’s front door. I asked him what he meant. “He doesn’t like Brittany. Mostly because she dumped you,” he grinned and that eased the tension between us. “Pino showed up in time for the last blast of parental concern. He was with you right?”

“Yes we were hanging out together.”

“So they sit him down and I have to listen to a repeat of the whole thing for his benefit. He likes it about as much as I did; but then he up and tells them he agrees Brittany and I should take it slow. We talked about it later. I told him he was just sucking up to mom and dad. He didn’t like that.” Glyn glanced my way and I nodded to let him know I was still listening. “What if she doesn’t love you Glyn? Isn’t that something you want to save for someone who cares for you?” Glyn mimicked his brother’s light alto voice. It sent a shiver up my spine.

“Okay,” I prompted noncommittally. We were both still standing shuffling our feet.

“So I say; right like you would turn down sex Pino.”

“What did he say to that?”

“He didn’t actually.” Glyn shrugged his shoulders. Someone from one of his classes called out to him and Glyn waved. “You want to invite me for lunch?” I smiled and nodded. Justin and Nate were headed my way and I could see Jessica on front steps. “Does it have to be love?” he asked quietly.

“Maybe not Glyn, but I think it’s probably better.”

“Yeah it probably is. How’re you and your sister doing?”

“Meh, we don’t connect that much. Maybe when her tour is over she will spend some time at home.”

Glyn gave me a little push and I fell back into a pile of snow. “Not her incest-boy, I mean Jessica.” I told him things were fine and they were. Jessica and I were good friends. Time with her was time well spent; just like my time with Glyn. I smiled at Glyn affectionately. He helped me up and together we brushed the snow off my clothes.

A military vehicle was pulling up to our house as I stood there content in Glyn’s friendship. Dad was downtown brewing coffee and mom took the crest of the wave by herself as she was muddling through her morning routine. As I was gathered up in the circle of my friends before the school and we dispersed to our different classrooms the wave diverted around the high school before moving on to Wallace Books where it engulfed my father. I was in my first period social studies class with Glyn as it broke over Peter. Peter reached Paul and John in Fort McMurray as I was doodling in Second period English. The turbulence reached my Grandma Brie and my uncles as I started third period. Years later, Peter told me he had come up to my bedroom to see how mom was doing. He saw her absently folding the clothes I had left strewn around the floor and then he had exclaimed, oh shit we forgot Simon. After that the wave washed back toward me.

Mr. Coats came to the door himself. “Bring your things Simon.” My math teacher gave me a look that suggested she was not surprised that yet another Wallace boy was being pulled from class by the principal. Justin gave me an evil grin that quickly faded to confusion. He knew that trouble never followed me around. Mr. Coats didn’t take me far. Without explanation I was staring into the stony face of my eldest brother. He said it with abrupt simplicity. I nodded back as if I was agreeing to Tai food for supper. Looking back, I don’t know why the first thing I thought to say was “Glyn was going to come over for lunch.” Mr. Coats stepped in quickly and promised to pass a message on to Glyn. I nodded and absorbed the principal’s polite words of condolence. Peter was close to tears. He pulled me into a tight embrace that embarrassed me and then we passed out of the school in silence.

I felt adrift for the next few days. People came in waves that just seemed to wash me along with everyone else. The house filled and emptied like the tide. I felt detached from the events around me, uncertain how I was supposed to respond to my sister’s death. One evening we had sat around the living room together and talk had turned to Jasmine. It became something of a wake. Peter even called it that and before long my brothers and Emma were drinking. They shared stories about my sister. Mostly it was Peter painting the broad canvas of my sister’s younger life. Paul could add details and even John had something to contribute. Peter turned to teasing my parents about Jasmine’s escapades. My mother pretended to be scandalized at these indiscretions for a while. My parents trumped my brothers with stories of their own. The laughter washed the grief away as we celebrated my sister’s life. I laughed with them as I sat with Emma’s arm around my shoulder. It reassured me to see my mother accept a glass of wine, kiss my dad and smile at Peter’s tales. It also made me sad watching the animated faces and listening to the stories. I felt too much like Emma, an outsider who could know Jasmine only through the legends my family remembered. I was the afterthought occupying Jasmine’s old bedroom: Jasmine and the boys, and this is little Simon. Peter mentioned Jasmine’s first boyfriend and the bribes he took to keep the youth’s visits secret. Dad shook his head in exasperation and complained about the number of teenage boys sneaking up the fire escape to Jasmine’s bedroom. The first it seemed when she was fifteen. He smiled at me as he finished. It drew me into the conversation for a minute and I was grateful. Dad’s noticing me meant something to me.

John and Paul stayed the week waiting for Jasmine’s funeral. Peter came and went. My parents relied on him quite a bit. Dad went back to work and mom followed a day later. I went with dad to Wallace Books. It was easier than staying at home. There was not much to do, so I wandered around the building dreaming of the future or sat at a computer listlessly switching between pages. Dad came up to me at one point and hugged me from behind, “I’m glad you’re here Simon.”

“Thanks,” I appreciated his words.

“Jasmine and the boys used to visit like you do now.” He squeezed me once more before going back to his own business.

I turned back to my email. The condolences had piled up as you might expect. I offered a few words to most of them. I confess, I might as well have cut and pasted a few times. I didn’t know what to say really. I had an email from Pino, I am sorry. I almost passed it over until I noticed he had sent it prior to my sister’s death. That made me smile. Events had driven Pino from my mind. I wondered if he had written those words after his argument with Glyn. Glyn and Pino had not left messages and neither had phoned me.

Thursday morning I hovered by the bay window considering the gray twilight. Mom and dad were off in the kitchen discussing meeting the plane carrying my sister home and the details of Jasmine’s funeral and the feast to follow. I needed to be away from it all. I watched as Glyn loped down the sidewalk across the street. He stopped short and crossed the street. Glyn paused on the sidewalk before our house as if he were waiting for me. It came to me he might have been there each morning since I had been pulled away. He shuffled his feet and then began to move on. I pushed open the front door and yelled out to him, “Wait up a minute.” He spun back and waved a greeting. I gathered my coat at the back steps and turned to my parents. “I’m going to school.” Mom smiled at me and told me that was probably a good idea.

“How’s it going?” Glyn asked me cautiously. I shrugged and tried to ignore his sober expression. We brushed against each other and fell into step. Nothing more was said for some time. The silence finally got to me.

“So what have I been missing?”

“Not much, just the usual stuff,” we went on for a bit longer before Glyn added, “It sucks, you know?”

“Yes it sucks,” I conceded. I didn’t want to talk about it, “Everything good with you, Pino staying out of trouble?” That earned me another friendly shoulder. I felt the stress of the last few days ease. For a moment I set aside the inevitable and unwelcome attention I was about to receive returning to school.

“Sure, he feels bad for you though.” I nodded. “Did you guys have a fight or something?” I thought about Pino’s email, I am sorry, he had said. There had been no fight, but perhaps Pino felt guilty about how the afternoon had ended. I carried the burden of my own guilt. I had let my desire overwhelm me and pushed too hard once again. “Pino’s beating himself up over something.” I mumbled something reassuring and Glyn passed over his question. Our conversation shifted to school.

The next few days went much as you might expect. I endured the sympathy and questions from my friends and grave looks from the staff. Justin punched my shoulder and Jessica and Brittany hugged me. I found shelter behind a façade of private grief. A road side bomb was detonated close to Jasmine’s LAV III near the town of Maywand, about 90 km west of Kandahar around 11:00 a.m. “Where she was going, what she was doing?” people would ask. I had no idea. I liked to think she was delivering medical supplies to some village full of children, but it seemed more likely she was headed up to the cave to kill Wasim and Aasir. Classmates offered loyal comments disparaging the Taliban. The comments didn’t help. I was bewildered by the mess Jasmine had created.

I found mom in my room when I came back from school the evening before the funeral. My thoughts whirled erotically around Pino and his subdued reply to my email, so her presence surprised me. She was stretched out on my bed, eyes closed. I paused in the doorway uncertainly till she opened her eyes and turned her head. “I was just resting for a minute.”

“That’s okay,” I dropped my bag by the desk and leaned against it watching her. Jasmine moved to Medicine Hat the summer she graduated. I got her room. I can still remember my excitement when Peter helped me move my toys and clothes from the room we were sharing down the hall. I was seven and Peter was sixteen. Mom and dad said Peter was older and needed his privacy. It felt odd the first while, sleeping in my sister’s bed and using her furniture. I missed Peter’s familiar presence across the room. I imagine Peter was relieved to have me out from under foot. In time I stopped thinking of it as Jasmine’s room.

“How are you doing sweetie?” I came over to the bed and sat on the edge beside her. I gave her a small hug because I knew she was sad. Emotions ran strong in my mother, but I had never experienced this much grief. My parents were two rocks I could always cling to. She pressed me close and when I pulled away she let me go, “Things going well at school; not too hard on you?”

“Everyone’s cool,” I stood up and moved back to my bag just to keep myself busy. Mom sat up and beckoned for me to come back. I sat beside her and she wrapped her strong arms around me.

“I remember this room full of Jasmine’s friends. She was always so busy. It was a soft peach and girlie. You never would have guessed she would go into the armed forces.”

“I remember. She didn’t like me coming in. I guess she didn’t like me much,” I risked adding.

“Oh well, that’s little brothers I guess. I remember thinking Maurice was a big pest too.” Maurice was my youngest uncle. Peter could sit in Jasmine’s room whenever he liked, I could come in when he was there. I let my mother touch my hair. “Jasmine made such a fuss when you were born. It was really funny. She was almost nine when I found out you were on the way,” she squeezed me lightly at that, “So excited and sure you would be a little sister. Small as you would be, I think she thought you would be an ally against the boys. Peter gave her such a hard time when you turned out to be another for the boy’s team. She sulked a bit and blamed your father and me for letting her down.” My mother switched tracks, “Your sister told me you were interested in Afghanistan and started sending her messages this fall. I’m glad.”

“Sure, we talked,” I reassured her. She gave me another squeeze.

“How is Jessica? I like her. I know things are all out of sorts right now. I hope they settle down after this weekend. It will be easier having her over then. We’ll get through all this.” I nodded agreement. I had no way to tell her the most unsettling thing in my life was Pino and his abrupt distance from me. I wanted her to leave so this could be my room again, not Jasmine’s. I wanted to say Jasmine’s death and everything surrounding it kept me from being with Pino and my friends. Instead, I sat with her arms around me and waited.

Jasmine’s memorial service was Saturday morning. The day started early with the bustle of preparations. I had no role except to be ready in a suit jacket borrowed from Kevin Stonechild and to stay close to Grandma Brie. It was left to Peter to speak for the brothers at the funeral. He spoke quietly and I was struck once again by how close he and Jasmine must have been. As he shared yet another anecdote I turned restlessly in my seat and searched the crowd. Past the rows of family the assembly were strangers and half remembered faces from the times my sister had brought visitors into the house. I recognized two weeping women as roommates from her university dorm in Medicine Hat. I think I was eight when we went to visit her on campus. Within a year she had quit school and moved to Edmonton. The room was filled with reminders of Jasmine’s regiment. I felt let down, I couldn’t see my friends.

The sound of my name called my attention back to Peter. I realized he had been connecting Jasmine to each of our lives. I listened as he described a family trip to Callaway Park when I was nine. Paul and John were off roaming the park and I was tagging along with the adults. Too often I took the rides by myself. Jasmine and I took the log ride three times that day. Sitting there listening to Peter joke about how wet we both had been I finally felt my sister’s presence. Jasmine’s T-shirt soaked through. The two of us compared nipples much to my mom and dad’s amusement. John snorted at this from where he sat beside Paul and Emma. Peter smiled at my mom and she smiled back. It warmed me to be part of this family. Peter moved on to the next story and I was glad it was him speaking for us. Dad would have cried. John or Paul would not have said it half as well. I had nothing to say. Peter found a way to laughter and he made my mother smile. Peter and Jasmine took me on the Rocky Mountain Rail at Callaway Park. My stomach did a flip the whole way through. When we got off I hurled the greasy contents of my stomach all over Jasmine’s sandals. Peter helped me clean up and then he bought me some ice cream.

As we followed Jasmine out, I caught sight of Glyn standing with a group of my friends. They were an awkward group ranged against the back wall. I imagine they wanted quit of the place as badly as I did. I wanted to stay with them, but of course I was carried away by the strong current of my family. They caught up to me as I stood waiting to be told what to do next. I was largely ignored by the press of people pausing to speak so I was very relieved to have them gather about me; even if I had to endure more condolences. After Brittany and the two Jessica’s mauled me I turned to Justin, “Come by tonight?”

“Sure man,” he replied and punched my arm. I smiled my gratitude. My brothers could escape to the bar with their friends. John and Paul were organizing a pub crawl wake, sort of a dénouement to the community feast my grandmother Brie and uncles insisted we hold. I would be marooned at home with the old folks and I dreaded that. My friends distracted me with gossip and plans. I felt wrapped in the warmth of their affection. The only shadow cast on that bright winter afternoon was the absence of Pino. I met Glyn’s eyes. There must have been a question in my eyes, but Glyn’s open face offered no answers.

My dad called over. It was time to join the family for Jasmine’s final journey. I had to join them, “After the hall tonight Si?” I shook my head regretfully and told him to make it after we got back home. Jessica pressed her warmth against me as my friends began to pull away. She kissed my cheek and I smiled, acknowledging her. She moved to join Dilsy and I turned back to Glyn and his missing shadow, my secret partner. Pino’s absence had produced an unexpected turmoil in me. I must have looked bleak.

“How’s Pino?” but that was not the real question. Glyn came closer to me. Behind me, my mother’s voice was insistent and I knew I should turn away.

“He wouldn’t come.”

I felt a pang. I wished I could step back and erase whatever I had done to drive Pino away. I should have understood that there was something more than that keeping us apart, but I was distracted by the fear I had gone too far with Pino and he was done with me. I could still feel Pino’s hand touching my hair as I enveloped him with my mouth, and then he was there kneeling before me, pulling away, and confessing he could not take me in his mouth in turn. The memory made me blush and I wanted him again. I wanted to tell Pino that it didn’t matter as long as I could have him. “I don’t blame him. This is not much fun.”

“He said it would only make things worse.” Glyn glanced at Jessica Prefontaine whispering something to Dilsy and then he turned back to me. “What did he mean Si?” Pino’s fresh features poked around the corner of Glyn’s puzzled face.

“I don’t know.” Pino’s saddened me further, “You know your brother best.” I turned to go.

“Not always Si, just remember he likes you.”

“He’s okay Glyn,” but that is not what I meant. “Say hey to Pino for me Glyn.”

“Sure Si.”

The ground beneath my feet was locked in ice. It added to the misery of burying my sister. I endured the crowd in the hall that followed. Family swirled around me and I thought of other times like this when it was some other family member. I wondered why it didn’t feel different. When grandpa Peter died I cried.

I was glad to throw the jacket aside when we made it home. The older cousins were in the living room. I sat a while listening to my brother’s conversation. John punched Peter in the shoulder and told him he had done a good job. Peter shrugged it off. He had talked himself out at the service. Paul brought him a drink and the three of them talked quietly together. I sat on the arm of the couch near Peter and Emma. Peter drank in silence as Paul and John discussed their work and the trip back north. I envied John and Paul their closeness and tried to imagine life in the crowded little apartment they shared with two other people in Fort McMurray. I got distorted glimpses of their life from the random pictures posted on Facebook. Party pictures filled with strangers, John more prominent than Paul. Cluttered rooms and over-flowing sinks that probably made my mother shudder. One picture caught Paul on the lip of a massive hole. A grey and black moonscape extended treeless to the horizon. I noticed John rub a new purple scar on the back of his hand. I realized my brothers lived and worked in as unfamiliar a place as Jasmine had. John graduated last spring and he earns far more than Peter. My brothers are both flush and they would fly back to work as casually as I would pay for a bus ticket. Peter shifted restlessly on the couch and Emma slipped her hand into his.

When the older cousins went out with my brothers I was left in the kitchen with the older generation. Dad and my uncles were having drinks but the women were drinking tea. The men talked about the opportunities in the north and nobody talked about Kandahar, road bombs or the Taliban. Aunt Liana gave me a hug as she passed on her way to the coffee maker. On her way back she asked me how school was going. My mom answered enthusiastically that I was an honours student. She beamed at me. It was the first cheerful sign since we had returned to the house. I shrugged my shoulders politely and endured a moment of everyone’s attention. Aunt Liana asked me if I liked school. What could I say? My academic reputation rested on the sharp contrast with my brothers. My parents thought me brilliant simply because the office had never phoned. I remembered all the parent teacher interviews where mom and dad listened sceptically to the good reports. I liked the way my parents smiled at me, there in the kitchen. I took the opportunity to tell them I was going out for a while, and then slipped discretely away to phone Justin.

The house was full of cousins. Most were in the basement watching a movie by nine. I stopped a while to see what they were doing and then went up to my room. I found some more in my bedroom working through my game collection. Norm was my age and Graham was twelve. Norm’s brother Jacob was eleven. I might have stayed and hung with them, but I needed to get out. Justine was waiting on the street when I got out.

“Why didn’t you ring the bell?”

Justin shrugged, “It would have been awkward.” He lifted a 26 of Rye. “I figured if your brothers could drink to your sister, we could too. Where should we go?” The February night was warm, but we wanted to get off the street. We turned toward Justine’s house and the privacy of his backyard shed. Justin lived three blocks from my house. He filled the time with idle chatter about his relationship with Dilsy. He didn’t question my silence and I was grateful. My mind was elsewhere. Justin pulled his dad’s ice fishing heater into the center of the shed and we sat beside each other on some lawn furniture. I slumped back and stared at the amber glow. He took a pull from the bottle and offered it to me. “Here, to your sister, to Jasmine.”

“Don’t you have some coke or something?”

“Simon, don’t be such a pussy. Take a drink.”

I took a small sip. The mouthwash flavour of it burned my throat. “This stuff is harsh Justin.” I didn’t drink. I’d tried some beer with Justin at Brittany’s. I had no idea why people liked the sour, skunky flavour of the stuff. I thought of my brothers off at some bar. John and Paul would be hard at it with a loud crowd of friends. I imagined Peter into himself beside Emma, nursing his misery. They would all be remembering my sister, but they would also be bragging up their lives and grousing; everyone together. I didn’t much like my life at that moment. I studied the chilled bottle of Rye a moment. “Fuck it,” I took another drink. She was my sister too.

Sometime later Justin passed me the depleted bottle. “Jessica is cool you know?”

“Who are we talking about, your Jessica or mine?” I’d stopped noticing the taste some time ago and my head was ringing in an interesting way. I passed the bottle back without taking a drink.

“Both Jessica’s, nope, I’m talking about your twin sister.”

“Shut up about that.”

“Okay, but I mean you two okay? Jessica thinks there’s something wrong, like you’re not really there or something.”

“She said that to Dilsy?” I took a sip when I had the bottle back.

“No it just seems that way to Jessica.”

“Who are we talking about here Justin, Dilsy or Jessica?”

“Jessica, my Jessica, I don’t like calling her Dilsy. It’s a dumb nickname. She’s my Jessica.” Justin seemed to savour the name.

“Well it is confusing the hell out of me man.” I felt quarrelsome and the silliness of it all allowed me to avoid Justin’s question. I sat with the bottle between the palms of my hand until Justin leaned over and pulled it free.

“Okay, Jessica thinks you and Prefontaine are on the outs. What’s with that? Do you still bone for Brittany?” I shook my head and stared at the heater until Justin nudged me. I glanced his way and caught the question in his eyes.

“We’re good friends, what’s the problem?”

“You and I are good friends Si, Prefontaine is…” He settled back with the bottle. “Oh leave it Si, your business right? I’m just making talk here.” His voice trailed off.

Jessica was perfect. Everyone from my mother to Justin thought so. I should have thought her perfect too. I watched Justin as he sat with his eyes closed, the half empty bottle dangling from one hand. We went back to the beginning and nobody knew me better than he did. He was sitting in a cold dark shed freezing his ass off so that I wouldn’t be alone on the night I buried my sister. I felt a flood or warmth and affection for Justin. “Hey Justin,” he opened one eye and looked at me, “not just good friends.”

“Jesus, let’s not get gay about this man,” and that pretty much shut me down right there.

“It’s all fucked up now,” I mumbled. I missed Pino badly.

“Does it make you angry?” Justin’s voice gained volume.


“Jasmine,” Justin sat up and looked at me. “I remember when we were seven or something, you and I were playing in your back yard. You had me doing some Tarzan thing off the side of the stairs leading up to her room. Both of us stripped down to these loin cloths. You had this big ass kitchen knife stuck in your belt; lucky you didn’t slice your dick off with that thing. We were trying to swing from the steps over to the picnic table. Anyway, she showed up with some friends. They laughed at us, the friends I mean. She didn’t though. I remember she took hold of me and ran down the stairs. She held me tight and screamed back at you, do it Mogli! Mogli, I swear to God you jumped onto the railing and grabbed that rope your brother Peter had rigged for us, remember?” Justin was giggling now, “I mean, you gave this blood curdling scream and threw yourself off the fucking stairs. You dropped like a rock man, jerked off the end of that rope and landed on top of both of us. The fucking knife almost went through me. Then you both rolled around on the grass until you pinned her.”

“She must have been eighteen.”

“I suppose, she was way cool Simon, way cool.”

“I guess”

“So aren’t you angry?” I stared at him. “Some people at school, when you were away, they said some things. Shit like your sister should never have been over there. The Afghanis have a right to pick their own leaders and we’re just trying to run their lives, stooge for the Americans.” Justin looked at me solemnly, “Sometimes I wish I was a soldier and I could go over too. Jasmine was way cool Si.” He took another pull at the bottle and settled back in his chair. The silence grew between us.

“I have to go.” I stood and then swayed on my feet. I didn’t really listen to what he had to say after that. I just took off, my thoughts on Jasmine and Pino.

I didn’t know the time. It was late my heart was pounding and the unaccustomed liquor roiled my stomach dangerously. I found myself walking unsteadily toward the park. I was hardly aware of what I was doing. The snow was still thick as I ploughed my way down to the beaten trail that cut across the park where I had played so often. I stumbled to a halt when I reached the twin black lines fading into the darkness on either hand. Justin didn’t know everything about me, there were the things Pino knew but Pino didn’t want to see me. It came to me that Pino probably didn’t want to know those things. I turned back toward my home.


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