“R”s are the hardest letters to draw, and the word “mirror” has three of them. That makes it my least favorite word so far.
When Remy comes (Remy starts with “R,” but it’s not so bad because there’s only one of them, even though the sign for his door, “Remy ‘s Room,” has two), it will be good to have everything labeled, because it will teach him English faster than if he just had to memorize everything. Mom said so. She said it’s very important for me to write names for all the things he’ll have to use and touch, and that includes: the different kinds of silverware in the drawer, though not the individual pieces, all the furniture, and the appliances in the kitchen, which is hard because they have so many parts. For example, “sink” is easy, but it includes “faucet” and “knobs” and “drain” and, when it’s on, “water.” You can’t do the water because it’s impossible, but you can’t do the knobs either, because the labels would be too small to read, and they would get wet and fall off. The stove is also hard, because you can label “stove,” and “oven,” and “controls,” but if you label the burners, the labels will catch on fire and you’ll burn the house down. Also, you can’t label “fire.”
Peter burned our last house down. He did it by accident, so you shouldn’t be mad, even if Sparky the turtle got killed and all the best books were burned up and the copies from the library have sticky covers and smell like old people. If something happens by accident, you’re not supposed to get mad, and you always have to do forgiving afterwards. Even if you got hurt, like the time Peter accidentally pushed me down the stairs and my arm broke in two places. He drew a skull and crossbones on the cast and said “sorry,” so I forgave him.
Sometimes I get mad, though. Like when I’m in the bathroom brushing my teeth before bed, and the mirror shows me something in the hallway that looks like Peter. That makes me mad. One time I threw my baseball at the mirror and smashed it to pieces, because it was lying, and Peter wasn’t in the hallway because he’s never even been to this house. Mom ran upstairs and hollered at me, and then she hugged me too hard and said I don’t really hate the mirror, I’m just sad inside. But I know what sad is and I know what hate is, and when I draw the label for the bathroom mirror, I’m going to make it as ugly as I can.
Then maybe when he learns English, Remy will ask me why the label is so ugly, and I can tell him about my big brother Peter who doesn’t live with us anymore because they sent him away to a big house with other parents and different rules. And I can tell him how even Dad cried when Peter left, and how Mom and Dad were really angry about the house and didn’t do forgiving, even though it was an accident and you’re not supposed to stay mad, and how I hope I never make an accident that bad, because then I won’t be allowed to live here either, and it will just be Mom and Dad and Remy, and he’s not even their real kid.
Remy’s car comes at three o’clock. His skin when he gets out is brown like a dark tan or the top of an acorn, and he doesn’t wave hello. He doesn’t have a baseball cap, and he isn’t wearing sneakers, and he looks scared. Mom and Dad put on their extra-nice voices and carry his bags for him, and the first thing his fingers touch is the label that says “light switch.”
Mom says that Remy used to live in France, and his parents died in a crash, and he’s family even though he doesn’t look like us. Maybe in France people don’t like to wave hello. Remy’s eyes get wet when he sees his new room, and when Mom and Dad go downstairs he goes into the closet and closes the door and doesn’t come out. There are labels in there for “hangers” and “rod” and “door” and “floor,” but there’s no light, so I guess he can’t see them.
I’m a good speller and I made sure all the labels were right, so Remy can learn faster, and so soon he can play with me and trade comic books like a real brother. But I’m not going to show him one thing, which is my secret. It’s a box under my bed labeled “Kitchen Matches” that rattles if you shake it, but instead of matches inside, there’s animal teeth. They’re all different sizes and shapes with bumps and sharp edges. I didn’t mean to keep them. I just wanted to touch them. I was going to put them back after school but the house burned down and Peter went away. I didn’t mess them up and I didn’t show anybody and it was just an accident. So if I see him again, and I say “sorry,” Peter will have to forgive me.
Then he’ll be my brother again.
Melon Wedick lives in Asheville, NC, where she writes, sings, and dreams of having a dog.