Nominated for the Locus Award for Best Novelet of the Year
We Never Talk About My Brother
by Peter S. Beagle
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
-- A. E. Housman
Nobody does anymore, haven't for years -- well, that's why you're here, ain't it,
one of those "Where Are They Now" pieces of yours? -- but it's funny, when you
think about it. I mean, even after what happened, and all this time, you'd think
Willa and I -- Willa's my sister -- you'd think we'd say at least Word One about
him now and then. To each other, maybe not to anyone else. But we don't, not
ever, even now. Hell, my wife won't talk about Esau, and she'd have more reason
than most. Lucky you found me first -- she'd have run you right on out of the
house, and she could do it, too. Tell the truth, shame the devil, the only reason I'm
sitting here talking to you at all is you having the mother wit to bring along that
bottle of Blanton's Single Barrel. Lord, I swear I can not remember the last time I
had any of that in the house.
Mind if you record me? No, no, you go ahead on, get your little tape thing going,
okay by me. Doesn't make a bit of difference. You're like to think I'm pretty
crazy before we're through, one way or another, but that don't make any
Well, okay then. Let's get started.
Last of the great TV anchormen, my brother, just as big as newsmen ever used to
get. Not like today -- too many of them in the game, too much competition, all
sort of, I don't know, interchangeable. More and more folks getting the news on
their computers, those little earphone gadgets, I don't know what-all. It's just
different than it was. Way different. Confess I kind of like it.
But back then, back then, Esau was just a little way south of a movie star.
Couldn't walk down the street, go out grocery-shopping, he'd get jumped by a
whole mob of his fans, his groupies. Couldn't turn on the TV and not see him on
half a dozen channels, broadcasting, or being interviewed, or being a special guest
on some show or other. I mean everything from big political stuff to cooking
shows, for heaven's sake. My friend Buddy Andreason, we go fishing weekends,
us and Kirby Rich, Buddy used to always tease me about it. Point to those little
girls on the news, screaming and running after Esau for autographs, and he'd say,
"Man, you could get yourself some of that so easy! Just tell them you're his
brother, you'll introduce them -- man, they'd be all over you! All over you!"
No, it's not a nickname, that was real. Esau Robbins. Right out of the Bible, the
Old Testament, the guy who sold his birthright to his brother for a mess of pottage.
Pottage is like soup or stew, something like that. Our Papa was a big Bible reader,
and there was ... I don't know, there was stuff that was funny to him that wasn't
real funny to anyone else. Like naming me and Esau like he did.
A lot easier to live with Jacob than a funny name like Esau, I guess -- you know,
when you're a kid. But I wasn't all that crazy about my name either, tell you the
truth, which is why I went with Jake first time anybody ever called me that in
school, never looked back. I mean, you think about it now. The Bible Esau's the
hunter, the fisherman, the outdoor guy -- okay, maybe not the brightest fellow,
not the most mannerly, maybe he cusses too much and spits his tobacco where he
shouldn't, but still. And Jacob's the sneaky one, you know? Esau's come home
beat and hungry and thirsty, and Jacob tricks him -- face it, Jacob tricks him right
out of his inheritance, his whole future, and their mama helps him do it, and God
thinks that's righteous, a righteous act. Makes you wonder about some things,