Rebecca Shumway ©2017

The Long Game of Hide-And-Seek

Memoir

A short recount of brotherly love and loss.

Brotherly love. Daemon (left) and Jason (right). Circa 1992.

I am banished for miscreant behavior. I am wailing at the peak of my soprano register, hoping to summon an audience for my grievances. It isn’t working. This only galvanizes me to shriek louder.“Let me talk to her. I can calm her down.” My brother Daemon is pleading with Mother. I hold my breath to hear her response, but her voice speaks softly as it did when she was making a solemn point.“But that’s ridiculous,” replies Daemon, his adolescent voice deepening. “She is just a child.”He bursts in and wipes the tears from my eyes.“Let’s play a game with your stuffed animals,” he says.I nod happily.

 

We set about casting the characters, studying the faces of the animals before naming them. This one is Jake; that one is Spunk. Daemon pulls the string on the back of a hand-me-down doll, and it makes sounds straight out of a haunted carnival. Then he pulls the string slowly, and the sound comes out g…a…r…b…l…e…d. We fall over laughing. The freakish antagonist remains nameless.

The scene is set in a park: The two bears are picnicking. Spunk wants to fly a kite on a windless day. He runs over the bedspread, left and right, hopping and skipping. The kite crashes into the jam and toast, and Jake scolds Spunk for ruining his “sammich.” Spunk is very apologetic, and the two make amends.

Jake wants to play hide-and-seek.
“Fine! You count to 10,” says Spunk.
“One, two, three, four,” Jake counts. Spunk slides under a pillow.
“Ready or not, here I come.”

Jake roots like a bloodhound under the covers. He scales the headboard and dives into the bedsheets. Every inch is examined except where Spunk hides. Then the doll begins to mechanically moan, and Jake dives under the pillows in fright, only to find the fugitive.

We are laughing when Daemon’s neighborhood friend walks in.
“Let’s go play video games at my house,” says Paul.
“Okay, I was just playing with my sister for a bit,” says Daemon. He turns to me, “Are you okay?”
I give him a hug. “Yes!”

Daemon gets on a plane to live with his father. I play the same games he taught me. One day, Mother comes in. Her face is swollen; her red-rimmed eyes are dripping with tears.
“Daemon won’t be coming anymore,” she says, kneeling down next to me.
“Why?!” I say. (At 3 years old, I am already cognizant enough to perpetually ask “why.”)
“He has gone to a better place.” She speaks of heaven and angels.
“Why?” She looks quietly at me for a moment.
“Where his father lives, there are some mean people who don’t like some of Daemon’s friends because they are different.”
“Why?”
“They have different-colored skin. You know how Paul’s skin is darker than ours?”
“Yes.”
“Well, they don’t like him being friends with people like Paul. They called him names on the bus home from school, but Daemon was brave. He told them to stop. Then he got in his father’s car and drove away. But, since he was crying, the car spun into the bus and he died.”
“Maybe God will bring him back to us?”
“I don’t think so, honey.”
“I will pray every day.”
Mother weeps and leaves the room.

We go to his memorial. Mother’s face is eerily composed. People greet her, and we are seated in hard folding chairs. The little booklets have pictures of him. We turn to page three and sing:
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me / speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

Written while enrolled in Writing Strategies in the creative advertising program in the School of Communications + Journalism at Florida International University.