Since every family needs an outcast or two

‘You have another brother, don’t you?’  I said.

Cathy didn’t speak at first, like it was a question she had to think about for a while.  When she responded she spoke with measured words. 

‘I have two brothers, Mitchell and Gabe.  Gabe isn’t around much.’

‘Where does he go?’

‘He’s somewhere around the county, but I don’t know where.’

‘Does your mom know?’

‘No, no one knows.  He leaves a lot of the time.  He doesn’t even live in the house anymore.  He stays out in this shack, behind the house.’

‘A shack?  Why?’

‘I don’t know.’  Cathy seemed defensive about it.  ‘He’s just a little off sometimes, that’s all.’

‘What do you mean by off?’

‘He’s just a little off—I don’t know how to describe it.’  Cathy didn’t want to talk about Gabe but now I had to know. 

‘Give me an example.’

Cathy Calvert sighed. 

‘We used to visit Camp Cray, outside Lafayette.  Mom would take all three kids.  Even then Gabe was off.  We’d go out to the pools and catch crawdads.  We didn’t catch too much—maybe we’d get enough for supper.  Then we’d bring them back in a pail and we’d get Campy to fry them up for us with some butter.  Gabe would catch the most.  He made traps out of coffee cans.  It was his favorite thing.  But he didn’t eat his catch.  He’d bring them back and smash them with a stone, just to hear the shells crack.  He always used to do that sort of stuff.  People in town still talk about how he kills cats.’   

‘So where’s he now?  Is he around?’

‘He comes and goes,’ Cathy said.  ‘He sticks to his shack back behind the house.  I can hardly remember the last time he came inside.’   

‘Shouldn’t he be nearer to people if there’s something wrong with him?’ 

(I’d do creepy things too if I lived in some shack.)

‘Oh trust me—if mom could get him to move back indoors she would have. Gabe just doesn’t listen to her.  He doesn’t listen to anybody.’  I could see Cathy squirming.  She wanted to change the subject.  I let it go, looking out the window at the passing country.  I could see Poscataw was flat.  Pines loomed everywhere, indistinct in the darkness.  I could feel myself pitting in the sticky night air. 

‘So tell me about Helen,’ Cathy said.  This was the last thing I wanted to talk about. 

‘Let’s talk about something else,’ I said, but neither of us said anything for a long time.  My mind wandered back to the events that had provided the final shove out of California.

“Fine. What are your plans while you are here?

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk.”

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