This is part of the character development process for my novel, “Sarah”.
It was the first time I got jealous of my little brother.
Pops took us kids out to the archery range for what seemed like the millionth time that month, and me and Tony had been doing pretty terrible all month long. Pops really wanted us to be a marksman like him so he got us each a beginner compound bow and them finger tabs and arms guards and all that good stuff. Man, we were pretty terrible when we started. Couldn’t hit a bear if it was standing five feet in front of us. Mom would yell at Pops, “It’s too heavy for them! They can barely pull it back!” and he’d yell, “They’re supposed to grow into it!” Mom was right though; that bow was way too heavy. Come to think of it, Pops didn’t get us those child-size bows neither. Grown men use these, he said, you want to be men, don’t you? The damn things were almost as tall as we were. No wonder we were terrible. Damn near had to wait 10 years until they were actually “our size,” ’cause we were just kids when Pops got them for us, maybe seven and eight. Couldn’t hit nothin’ if we tried, and we tried damn hard.
But one morning, Tony hit the center of the target from 20 yards away, and I mean dead center. Smack-dab in the middle of that little black dot. It was a fluke. A total fluke. Tony kind of stumbled backwards and stared at the arrow stuck in the hay barrel there, and our Pops clapped and whistled. He grabbed Tony on the shoulder, put his other hand on his hip and held his head high as he looked at the arrow stuck in the center of the hay barrel there. “Son,” he said, “you just shot like a man.” Then he turned to me and said, “How come you not done that yet, boy? Yer the oldest one, how come you can’t even hit the target yet?” Then Tony got a little brown on his nose and started to tease me along with the old man, and I ran my mouth a little bit. I said, well Pops, if we had bows that were the same size as us maybe we both would be a little better, just like momma says. Pops got real quiet and took one step toward me and got in my face. He said, boy, if I wanted your opinion I’d ask for it. I’m older and I’m wiser. Now, you can either step yer ass back up and keep shooting or you can join your momma in the kitchen and wash dishes.
Tony didn’t say nothin’ after that and I just kept shooting. We didn’t make any good shots for the rest of the day, but that was better than making Pops mad. Oh lord, he was a force to be wreckin’ with, but that was pops—hot-headed and born without a stitch of fear in him. Mom said she woke up in the middle of the night once and actually saw him sleeping with one eye open, but that was a bit later in life and we found out that he had a stroke in his sleep. Pops taught us boys to be fighters, so even with bows too big and too heavy, we learned to deal with what we got.
But that day I got jealous of my younger brother. Older brothers were supposed to learn the hard stuff first, to get good at things first so we could be almost like a second dad, when Pops wasn’t around. And I think I was afraid of being alone and not needed…and that little shit got a good shot before me. I never wanted to disappoint Pops, and it always seemed we did a lot of disappointin’, me and Tony, and not just with archery. We couldn’t tie our shoelaces fast enough or spell Mississippi fast enough. Seemed the only thing he praised was momma’s cookin’, until that day at archery when Tony made the first winning shot. I think that was the proudest moment in his life. He had this big ol’ grin across his face like he’d get when momma’d put Jambalaya on the table for dinner—big ol’ shit eattin’ grin.
Yeah, I was jealous, but proud. Didn’t want to admit that at the time, but I was. I was proud.