Sport 21: Spring 1998
Jo Randerson — The Two Brothers
The party went well. Superbly. Clearly. Everyone enjoyed everyone else. People commented on how pleasant everyone was to talk to. It was described as ‘a success’. People ‘got on with each other’, but not too much. Everyone talked to the grandparents. Anyone who vomited did it in an amusing and respectful way.
Someone made a speech and said what nice boys they were, Tim and John, John and Tim. They ‘radiated health and happiness, life and vigour’. Especially John—but Tim in his own way too. John said, ‘Shucks’ and, ‘Thanks’ and, ‘Really it's all due to our mother.’ Everyone laughed. He sat down. Tim stood up. Everyone had a sip of champagne. Tim said, ‘I'd just like to reiterate what John said. Mum has been a great mother. Thanks, Mother, thank you, Mum.’ He sat down. Everyone smiled. It was all very nice. The mother smiled. Tim smiled. John smiled. Everyone turned back to their drinks. A low conversational murmur began.
Then Tim stood back up again. He wasn't a very talkative bloke. John was the talky one. Tim had always kept himself to himself, been a little bit quiet, bit of a no-mates really. So it was quite surprising that he stood up to have another go. He had a little bit of a pause. Swayed a little. A gentle twitching began in his arms and legs, a pulsing in his brain. His mouth began to moisten and his lips began to shake. To stretch. And then his mouth (not him, it wasn't him, it wasn't Tim, but it was Tim's mouth), got up and made the following speech: ‘I have never been to Germany. Or to France. I do not know the river Rhine. I do not know a soft and gentle soil. A warm sunlight. I keep myself to myself. I stay in the familiar lands that I know. My life can be sectionalised into three seven-year periods, each of which has been progressively blacker than the one before. The lands I live in are cold and dark, empty regions of night and despair. My days have been long and black. My friends are shadows and underground creatures. page 59 We are not frequented by the sun. I have not spoken of it before. It is dark and continually darker, colder. This is my Russia. I am here and this is my Russia welcome to it. I am not my brother. I have no Rhine. The ground will bear no fruit for me no matter how I toil. How lucky for the lands where it grows so freely! So abundantly! So naturally! I am not a talkative bloke. A gross amount of effort has little or no result. Where is my Rhine? I keep myself to myself, always have, always will. My life can be sectionalised into three seven-year periods. Each has been progressively blacker than the first. How lucky for you where it all grows so freely! My life can be sectionalised into three seven-year periods. I am cautiously optimistic about the fourth.’
For a long time there was a silence and a stillness. The party was clearly over. No one was angry. No one was sad. Then quietly, one by one, everybody stood, and tightening their hats and coats, they went out into the night. Not a word was spoken. When a man has been silent for 21 years, there is nothing to be said. Somewhere in the house there was the sound of a mother crying. Not of shame, nor surprise, but of bitter familiarity—he spoke of lands that were not unknown to her, and recognising her child for the first time she wept for the size of the world, the passing of time and the seasonal nature of happiness.