Brother Mine

To call it child neglect would be too soft. The single-wide was falling apart. Snow blanketed the leaky roof. They could see their breath in the bathroom.

Two brothers. Ages ten and seven. They had no heat. No food. No nothing. 1973 was a cold year.

To call it child neglect would be too soft. The single-wide was falling apart. Snow blanketed the leaky roof. They could see their breath in the bathroom.

And that is where they slept that winter. The bathroom. They huddled close, covered with garbage bags and quilts.

Their uncle was supposed to be raising them, but he’d been gone for weeks. Nobody knew where he was. Probably, they thought, in some gutter, drinking away his money.

“I’m cold,” said the youngest, trying to fall asleep.

“I know,” said the oldest. “Just wait, something good will happen.”

“But, how?”

“Magic.”

“Magic?”

“It always happens when you need it most.”

“What kinda magic?”

“The real kind.”

“Like in movies?”

“Yeah.”

It was only brother-to-brother talk. The oldest wasn’t even sure he believed it.

Before school, they split a candy bar found in a barren pantry for breakfast.

After lunch, they dug through the cafeteria garbage looking for leftover scraps.

A teacher saw them do it.

That same day, a teacher gave the oldest boy two heavy grocery bags full of canned goods.

A feast for supper. It was canned spaghetti, beans, and Campbell’s soup by flashlight. It was the first real meal they’d eaten in weeks.

Their smiles lit the inside of the dark trailer.

“Where’d you get all this food?” asked the youngest.

“Magic,” said the oldest.

“I like magic.”

“Me too.”

They ate so much they were sick. They slept in the bathtub with the door shut—towels tucked under the door to trap escaping heat. They shivered.

“My toes are cold.” the youngest said.

“It’s gonna be okay.”

“What’s gonna happen to us?”

“I don’t know. But don’t worry, it’s going to be alright.”

They woke the next morning. For breakfast: canned soup, Saltines, Ovaltine.

The oldest found something on the steps of the home. An electric heater. A gift from the unknown.

But electric heaters will do no good when your uncle hasn’t paid the light bill.

Still, they plugged it in just the same. Both boys stared at the heater and wished out loud.

“Where’s the magic?” the youngest asked.

The oldest snuck into their next-door neighbor’s garage and found extension cords. Lots of them. He connected them together, then strung them through the backyard.

“IT’S ON!” his brother screamed. “THE MAGIC WORKS!”

They fell asleep, lying before a heater which was no bigger than a breadbox. Smiles on their faces.

Their story is a long one. I don’t have room to tell it all here. If I did, I would tell you that their lives improved considerably.

I’d tell you about the middle-aged couple who adopted them after their uncle was arrested.

Then, I’d tell you about their new mother, and how she cooked Sunday suppers. How their father taught them to throw footballs. About family vacations.

I’d tell you about their weddings. About their families. Their children.

And I’d tell you about how the oldest still gives grocery bags away to needy families.

That’s what I’d tell you.

Then, I’d tell you that today I hugged a man with gray in his hair. A man who was once a malnourished boy. A boy who once convinced his little brother not to worry.

After that, I saw the man take the pulpit like he does every Sunday.

And he talked about magic.

31 comments

  1. Lisa Putman - January 31, 2018 8:47 am

    Sean, you’ve got the magic in you! God blesses me, through you, every night!

    Reply
  2. Leslie in NC - January 31, 2018 10:24 am

    What a sad and lovely story all at the same time. Your writing, Sean, is magic.

    Reply
  3. Angela Bailey - January 31, 2018 12:14 pm

    Sean, Thank you for always sharing “your magic”. I set down every morning with my cup of coffee and enjoy an email from you. I always look forward to it.

    Reply
  4. Connie - January 31, 2018 12:15 pm

    I can’t even tell you how touch my soul. That was heartbreaking and magical all at once. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - January 31, 2018 12:23 pm

    May I tell your words produce magic? They touch the heart and soul and make a person want to be better, kinder, more Christ-like. Thank you!

    Reply
  6. revbigbaldguy - January 31, 2018 12:26 pm

    Dang. I’ve got something in my eye. Magic. I’d like to go to this fellow’s church with you sometime, Sean. I’ll bring a bag of groceries.

    Reply
  7. Harriet - January 31, 2018 12:58 pm

    This one made the hair stand up on my legs and arms. I have no words!

    Reply
  8. janiesjottings - January 31, 2018 1:35 pm

    Precious beyond words.

    Reply
  9. Annie - January 31, 2018 2:09 pm

    🙂 <3

    Reply
  10. Marilyn - January 31, 2018 2:20 pm

    Your story was wonderful as always, thank God for the “magic.” In today’s society poverty stricken and hungry children are all around us. There are food and clothing pantries that desperately need help. If you can’t contribute monetarily, volunteer. Also, in many communities there are “backpack programs” for school age children. Backpacks are filled with non perishable food and personal items and given to students on Friday to insure they have nutrition over the weekend. We can all do something with little effort…..be the “Magic!”

    Reply
  11. Patricia Schmaltz - January 31, 2018 2:20 pm

    I too believe in magic. Maybe you should take a trip to Fairhope AL and talk to those who knew and loved Poppy Sims. Same thing; if you knew him, you loved him. He passed too soon this week, but his family is still there, being the wonderful family that he led. Thank YOU for bringing light and warmth into my world.

    Reply
  12. Jackye Thompson - January 31, 2018 2:32 pm

    The story of the two little brothers broight,tears but I too believe in magic ;I call it God’s love.
    Blessings ,Jackye

    Reply
  13. Kathy Grey - January 31, 2018 3:09 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  14. Naomi Smith - January 31, 2018 4:08 pm

    God bless the hands and feet of Jesus. We all are inspired to do more because of your stories.

    Reply
  15. Faye from Virginia - January 31, 2018 4:50 pm

    This was sad but inspiring. I believe in magic too and I am 66 years young!

    Reply
  16. Jack Quanstrum - January 31, 2018 5:49 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  17. muthahun - January 31, 2018 5:57 pm

    We can all use more magic these days, and more love. Thanks for sharing yours, Sean.

    Reply
  18. Barbara Schweck - January 31, 2018 6:18 pm

    Beautiful ending. Ah, if only one person had reported that they thought that something wierd was going on at the house with all those neglected children recently found. We are the hands and feet and heart of Jesus.

    Reply
  19. Candee - January 31, 2018 7:29 pm

    Wow!

    Reply
  20. Candee - January 31, 2018 7:35 pm

    Love what you do and how you do it, have read one of your books, working on another one. You are a wonderful writer, kept my interest every step of the way!

    Reply
  21. Frannie Keller - January 31, 2018 9:25 pm

    MAGIC! It still exists in your words.

    Reply
  22. Catherine - January 31, 2018 9:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing the unknown stories~they help make us better people…

    Reply
  23. Jody - January 31, 2018 9:47 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  24. Betty Higdon - January 31, 2018 10:23 pm

    I believe in your magic!!! I believe in the good people of this world!! I believe in God!! Keep writing, but don’t post until I get back from Walmart! I need to stock up on Kleenex tissue, again!!!!

    Reply
  25. Jack Darnell - January 31, 2018 11:33 pm

    I especially like this entry Sean, thanks. Life is good!

    Reply
  26. Sue Cronkite - February 1, 2018 12:42 am

    Wonderful!

    Reply
  27. Debra - February 1, 2018 2:21 am

    Thank you, Sean and bless your heart.

    Reply
  28. Michael Hawke - February 1, 2018 3:38 am

    Thank you. I needed a little manic tonight. May God bless.

    Reply
  29. Dru - February 1, 2018 3:44 am

    You’re killing me. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  30. Dru - February 1, 2018 3:48 am

    P.S. I remember the winter of 1973. It snowed in Tuscaloosa, and my brand new husband bought me a string of sparkling colored twinkle lights for our little tree. We lived in a single wide, too, but thank God it was warm. Bless those little brothers. Thanks again.

    Reply
  31. Pat Byers - February 2, 2018 10:08 pm

    I wasn’t sure where this was going? I began to feel anxiety. My breathing slowed. I slowed my reading to catch every word. “I’d tell you….” I am glad you did.
    Magic? (good people who notice and do the right thing).
    Thank you for this post. It reminds us to pay attention.

    Reply

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