WHY WE NEVER MISSED RUSSELL
(first appeared in Kinships #7, May 2007 and reprinted in Literary Bitch #1, Feb 2009)
When my brother, Russell, went away to attend college, he only took a small duffel bag with him. It was filled with the few things he considered important.
Last night, Mother and I tried to make Russell stay home and forget about going to college.
Russell said: "Leave me alone. I had enough memories of this stupid family to hound my way to hell. Dr. Rainey was right about all of you!"
"Son, college is only for losers who want to prove themselves otherwise," father said as if he was the world's expert on knowing what was good for people.
"Oh, shut up, Mark," Mom snapped. She curled, pouted, and chewed her lips to emphasize how angry she was.
Then they argued for an hour and forgot that they were supposed to prod Russell to stay.
I thumbed the copies of Penthouse I remembered sneaking under the mattress two days ago. The centerfolds were very, very nice. One of them reminded me of Stella, a girl from a long time ago. I could not remember how we were related, only that before she called 911, she had once said something like: "You really need help, Raymond. Mygodmygod--"
When I woke up the next morning, I saw Mom in the corner. She gave me a look, the one that said she was bored, sleepy, and badly needed to gossip with Elena, the half-Mexican woman in the other bed.
Elena tried to purge herself clean by drinking lots and lots of water.
I did not know that water could be toxic if taken in significant amounts.
A nurse went inside the room. Her hair was tied up in a bun. I did not like women who would not let their hair down.
There were a lot of things that I did not like.
There was no need to hide the stack of Penthouse since she acted as if they were invisible.
Dad, the idiot who never left the three of us alone, eyed the nurse's jiggling breasts.
The nurse checked on Elena, tinkered with the equipment beside her bed, and left.
I sat back and cursed Russell for leaving us.
Sometimes, I tried to stir my brother Russell out, since we were, after all, family. But you see, he just would not budge. Perhaps, next week we would simply forget that he even existed.
Besides, I was sure Russell never really went away to college. Dr. Rainey got rid of him. I could never forget how he referred to Russell as "a passive personality that could be yanked out without resistance and without leaving a psychological after-current behind."
Kristine Ong Muslim authored the full-length poetry collection, A Roomful of Machines (Searle Publishing, 2010). Her work has been accepted in over four hundred publications including Aberrant Dreams, Abyss & Apex, Alternative Coordinates, Expanded Horizons, Space & Time, and Tales of the Talisman. She has received several Honorable Mentions in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror as well as five nominations for the Pushcart Prize and four for the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling Award.