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From 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do…

February 01, 2013

Every night when we were small, just before sleep my brother would whisper from his bed, “Shall we make a bridge?” I would slide out with my hands walking to his side, my feet propped on my bed, and he would crawl across my back to my bed, and then he would make a bridge, and I would crawl across him to mine, and then from our two beds we would hum and sing and babble until our words began to grow soft with sleep, and then I would hear his voice chant our blessing poem—

Good night,
God bless you,
Have sweet dreams,
See you tomorrow …

because we had developed this way to guard the day’s end, and I would reply to him softly enough so our parents would not hear from the living room down the hall, but he could hear me well, just there, “Good night, God bless you, have sweet dreams, see you tomorrow,” and then the understanding was that nothing more could be said, or need be said, for we had covered the bases of farewell, blessing, gift, and hope, and so could sleep, and we did. And then we woke up and it was high school, but still, somehow, as if to keep one landmark firm in a storm of change from his bed, through the soft Oregon dark just shadowed by Douglas fir limbs across the streetlight outside, from across the room I would hear, “Good night, God bless you, have sweet dreams, see you tomorrow,” and I would reply in kind, and then there were years and he was gone—to college, and into mystery, and we went our separate ways, to towns apart, to jobs, to families of our own, but still by dark so soft I will disturb no one—not wife or child—but addressing the soft Oregon dark I whisper to him, and then I listen … listen … in the dark I listen for my brother.

Excerpted from 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared ($16.95). Reprinted courtesy of Trinity University Press. Copyright 2012 by Kim Stafford.

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