Brother Thomas

Regiment at Spanglers Meadow - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Regiment at Spangler’s Meadow, 2017; Watercolor
Thomas lies face downward against the body of a dead soldier from his regiment. He is not hurt, but his little brother Joseph is shot and lies somewhere behind him in the meadow. If Thomas is going to get Joseph, he must do it quickly. The fighting will provide the only cover on that bright summer morning. The way it is going, it might soon be over. Once the fighting stops, there will be nothing to keep confederate soldiers from spotting his movements out there in the open.

Thomas abruptly turns his head to search for his brother. It is clear Union regiments are losing. Many from the 2nd Massachusetts are down. He notes the losses by the 27th Indiana and they shock him. His eyes tear up and a lump develops in his throat. A wave of hopelessness flows over him that he had not felt since the Battle of Cedar Mountain when Jackson was handing their butts to them. This morning’s order forced his regiment to attack the Confederates from the meadow now covered with bodies in blue uniforms. The 27th Indiana is receiving the worst of the assault from soldiers positioned behind a stone wall.

“If Joseph is alive, I’m going to shoot him,” says Thomas. It was Joseph who wanted to join the 2nd Massachusetts two years ago. Joseph joined for duty and honor. Thomas joined because he was not going to allow anyone to kill his little brother.

Thomas swallows his hopelessness and looks behind him for his brother. He has cover behind the body of a soldier who fell just after Joseph did. Thomas hears someone from the 27th yell, “Fire!” He takes a crouching stance and runs from body to body searching each face.

Thomas hears a ball fly by his ear with a whooshing sound. He dives for the ground, but he does not stop searching. He crawls across the field checking the faces of more soldiers than he believes could have marched between his brother and him. He believes he has gone in the wrong direction until he spots a pink handkerchief. Thomas tied a handkerchief he borrowed from their mother to the back of Joseph’s belt as a prank.

Thomas crawls to Joseph. Joseph lies face down, so Thomas fears the worst. He begins to call to him “Jo!” cries out Thomas. “Jo! Jo!”

Thomas arrives at Joseph’s body. He grabs the cross belt and rolls Joseph onto his back. Joseph’s face is distorted from pain. Thomas is relieved Joseph is alive. Joseph has both hands against his chest. There is a lot of blood behind them.

“Keep pressing down on that chest wound, Jo,” says Thomas.

“It’s just my hand,” says Joseph. “But it hurts like GRRR!”

“Can you move?” asks Thomas.

“Maybe,” says Joseph. “How’s my leg?” Thomas crawls down to take a look at Joseph’s leg. His light blue trousers are soaked in blood on the outside front of his thigh. There is more blood at the back of the same thigh. It looks to Thomas like the blood is from an exit wound.

“Unless you were shot twice, it doesn’t look too bad,” says Thomas.

“I was shot twice,” says Joseph. “I was shot in the leg once and fell. When I saw you hit the ground, I motioned to you with my hand. That’s when I got shot again. They shot my hand.”

“You idiot,” says Thomas. “You and I are going to run a three legged race to those rocks over there.”

“We can fight from here,” says Joseph.

“We’re done here,” says Thomas. “We were done before we started. Even the commander knew that. How are you going to shoot that musket with no hand? Are the Rebs just supposed to run over here and fall on your bayonet? I need to get you to those rocks and stop all that bleeding.”

“Alright,” says Joseph. “If it’ll get you to shut up.”

“How’d you manage to get shot in the right leg and right hand?” asks Thomas. “You’re going to have to put your right arm around me to hold yourself up. I’m going to have that disgusting hand dripping blood on my shoulder.”

“I’m just afraid I’m going to pick up an illness rubbing against your thigh,” says Joseph.

“Shut up,” says Thomas. “On three.”

“No,” says Joseph, “Ready. Go.”

“Fine,” says Thomas. “Ready. Go!” In one motion, Thomas pulls Joseph’s arm over his head and lifts him off the ground. Joseph growls with pain. Having run many three-legged races as children, they move quickly across the field despite the obstacles on the ground. Shots fly through the air by them with a whistling sound and they crouch. They reach the cover of a rock and Thomas pushes Joseph’s back against it. Thomas helps him lower himself and sit.

“Don’t get comfortable, boys!” yells another soldier. He fires his musket. “We’re getting flanked!”

“You hear that, Jo?” asks Thomas. “Can you make it back to the woods?”

“Guess we’ll find out,” says Joseph.

“Ready. Go?” asks Thomas. Joseph nods his head. “Ready. Go!” Thomas pulls Joseph’s arm over his head again and lifts him off the ground. Joseph exhales sharply. They run from the cover of one rock to another. The other soldiers continue firing, but they retreat. Thomas and Joseph run through the woods. The sound of muskets lessens. They only hear shots fired in the distance. Their footsteps and breathing make the loudest sound.

At camp, Thomas cleans and dresses Joseph’s wounds. Their mother’s pink handkerchief is wrapped around Joseph’s leg. Thomas looks over his little brother and leaves to wash himself.

Thomas pours water from his canteen over his hands to wash off Joseph’s blood. After he dries them, he examines them. They are trembling.

Thomas hears an order to fall in. He shakes his head. He runs to the spot where he left Joseph to pick up his gear.

“Because of you, I won’t have whiskey after this battle,” says Thomas.

“What?” asks Joseph. “We just came back.”

“You’d better hope I get shot, Jo,” says Thomas, “or I’m going to beat you when I get home.”

“Just raise your hand,” says Joseph, “and wave at the Rebs like an idiot.” Thomas reaches down and squeezes Joseph’s leg. Joseph yells from the pain. While Joseph’s eyes are closed, Thomas runs to join their regiment.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Anthony Opossum

virginia opossum - 2017 - widescreen
Eduardo Suré; Virginia Opossum, 2017; Watercolor

Anthony is a Virginia opossum. He is almost as large as a cat. Most of his fur is a mix of gray and brown colors, but his face is white. When he is going about his business, his black eyes and long face are pleading. His face and fur invite touch, but his bare tale is creepy. His long snout filled with sharp teeth is unsettling.

Anthony lives inside the hole of an oak tree. The oak tree is in a forest. From the forest, he can hear the sounds of people enjoying their backyards. Children are particularly loud. He can smell barbeques and even some of the uncooked food people place on their tables. He is tempted to investigate. One day, he does.

Anthony pokes his head out of the hole in the tree where he lives. He looks around. He smells the air. There is no danger. He cannot hear people, but he can always smell their food. He climbs out of the hole and down the side of the tree. He walks with a sway on the ground. The legs on one side of his body move forward together at the same time. Then, the legs on the other side of his body move forward together at the same time rustling the leaves on the forest floor beneath his feet.

Anthony arrives at a fence where the woods end and a backyard begins. The fence is wooden. It is built with vertical boards. An empty space as wide as the boards is between them. He easily fits through a gap and feels delightful scratches on his sides as he crawls through it.

Once Anthony is in the yard, the smell of food hits his nose. It places a gentle finger under his chin and leads him across the lawn to the side of the house. There he finds two garbage cans surrounded by loosely filled lawn and leaf bags. The cans are overfilled with white garbage bags that prop their lids open. The smell is so strong he can almost distinguish the food items of the buffet that awaits him.

Anthony looks for a way to climb to the opening of the cans. He sees a way up using the lawn and leaf bags. They create a kind of staircase. As he climbs the bags, he hears barking. He looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog sprinting from the back of the house toward him.

Anthony is suddenly overwhelmed by fear. His body takes over. He falls on his side as if he has been shot. He lays on top of a lawn and leaf bag with his mouth and eyes wide open. His tongue hangs out the side as if his last wish was to taste the top of the paper bag on which he lays. He emits a putrid green fluid from his anus. The dog is suddenly silent. The smell makes him pause. His eyes water. He throws up a little in his mouth. Someone calls the dog’s name from the back door of the house. The dog is eager to sprint away from the smell.

According to Anthony’s heart and breathing rate, he is in a coma. However, he is fully conscious and mortified. He would have rather been bitten – no, killed – by the dog than witness the look on its face after he soiled himself. He is incredulous that he was capable of putting that awful smell in the air. He feels like a coward.

Anthony stops death feigning once the dog is inside. He pulls his tongue back into his mouth and closes it. He stands. He hates himself for responding the way he did. He feels ashamed. He feels he is worth nothing and should be dead. He tells himself he must never act like a coward again. He needs to be able to live with himself.

Anthony climbs the rest of the way to the opening of a garbage can. He is going to eat his self-loathing. He tears open a bag with his claws. The smell of the food in the garbage bag is strong. It is mouthwatering. He finds a piece of fried chicken and tastes it. Delectable. The outside is crunchy. The meat inside is full of flavor. It makes him forget what happened. He finds bits of scrambled egg. There is a hint of cheese and salt. Appetizing. He tastes a blob of something unidentifiable. It appears as though it may have come from a kitchen sink strainer. Tasty. He is experiencing so much pleasure he does not notice the dog has returned.

The dog barks. It is an angry bark. It says, ‘The only good reason you have to be in my garbage can is that you are dead, and you are clearly not!’ The dog is a little mass of fur, skin folds, and rage.

Anthony must fight, but not against the dog. He is on a garbage bag on the can beyond the Toy dog’s reach. He must fight against the feelings inside of him that lead to involuntary death feigning. He feels his legs begin to fail him. The fight going on inside of him is fierce. His mouth opens. Food that is not completely chewed falls out of his mouth. He refocuses from the dog to relaxing his body. He lies calmly on the garbage bag. The dog is barking. He takes deep breaths. The dog is barking. He is soothed by the delicious smell of garbage. He tenses and relaxes his muscles to the rhythm of the dog’s barking.

A woman comes out of the back of the house to investigate the reason for the barking. She sees Anthony in the garbage. She begins waving her arms. She picks up a river stone from the landscaping by the stairs, throws it at him, and misses. He hisses. She picks up another stone, throws it, and it hits the can he is in. He screeches. She picks up a third stone.

Anthony does not know what happened to that third stone. He jumps off and sprints toward the woods. The dog chases him. Anthony turns around and shows the dog his numerous sharp teeth. The dog stops chasing him, but stands its ground and barks. Anthony turns around and walks toward the fence. He goes through a gap and into the woods.

Anthony does not run the rest of the way home. He walks with a defiant wobble. He took flight, but he does not feel that makes him a coward. He did not soil himself when the dog threatened. He responded to the woman’s attacks. He threatened the dog when it chased him. That was much better than feigning death and stinking up the place. He did what he wanted to do. He did not let fear take over.

As a result, Anthony’s world is larger. There are more places to go. There are more things to see. There is more delicious garbage to eat. That’s a good thing, because the life of a Virginia opossum is short. Anthony is making the most of it.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Christmas Egg Case

terry-the-mantis
Eduardo Sure; Terry the Mantis, 2016; Watercolor on Paper


A field of Douglas Fir trees was spread out in straight rows and straight columns. They were short enough to fit inside of a living room. On the trunk of one of those trees, an egg case was attached. Terry and 219 other Praying Mantises were in the egg case waiting for summer to arrive so they could come out.

After Thanksgiving, a woman walked through the rows of Douglas Fir trees. She really liked one of them. The tree was healthy, an ideal shape, and just the right height for her living room. So, the woman cut the tree down, tied it to her car, and took it home. Terry’s egg case was on that tree.

The Douglas Fir looked beautiful in the woman’s living room. She placed a star on top.  She wrapped twinkling lights around it. She hung shiny silver spheres from the tip of every branch. Where there weren’t spheres, she placed just the right amount of tinsel. The Douglas Fir was warm in the woman’s living room. So was the egg case where Terry and 219 other praying mantises waited for warm weather.

Warm weather had arrived since the tree was indoors. After weeks of warmth, on Christmas morning, the praying mantises came out of their egg case. The woman screamed when she saw Terry and 219 praying mantises crawling all over her tree. She opened a window that was beside the tree hoping that they would march out of her apartment on their own. Terry was a smart mantis and started to walk toward the window, but then felt the cold wind and believed that they would freeze if they went outside. Then, the woman came back with a vacuum cleaner. They would surely die if they remained on the tree. Terry had to do something.

Terry shouted, “Brothers and sisters; if we go outside, we will die! If we stay here, we will die! You all must run into the vent when you hear the woman scream!” Then, when the woman was close enough, Terry jumped on her head and crawled into her ear. The woman screamed.

Two-hundred-nineteen mantises marched into the vents as the woman thrashed around her living room. Terry crawled around in the woman’s ear until all of his brothers and sisters were inside of a vent and out of sight. When Terry crawled out, the woman was so relieved that she kept Terry as a pet. Since all of his family was safe, Terry was alright with that.

The End