I listen to the brothers in the dining room where hotel guests gather and sip weak cocktails out of glasses that drip long fingers of condensation. They sit with their wives and tend to their father, who dines at the head of the table.
In the dining room, their language spills across the room and lands on my tongue. It feels hard at first, cold, but I roll it around my mouth and it tastes how I imagine the colour yellow would.
I am on a family vacation with a family that isn’t speaking. Each morning we converge in the tiny kitchenette; offer tight smiles over Folgers instant coffee and swollen guavas.
“Sleep well?” we inquire. No eye contact. We nod, fall apart each morning. My father splits off first, claims he has work, but returns at the end of each day with sunburn blooming across his nose. My brother doesn’t leave the pullout couch. My mother walks the desert, a slight figure against the rocks and blood orange sand. Most days I join my sister at the hotel bar and down vodka sodas before noon. We’re too young to drink here but the bartender with the moustache doesn’t card us. She retreats to the cool marble of our hotel bathroom when the heat closes in; I shuffle along the beach and hope for a tsunami.
Today the brothers come to the pool with their father. I hear them before I see them; their staccato sentences tumble over bursts of laughter. They reach the patio and pull off their own clothes before one lifts his father’s arms, the other coaxing a shirt up and over the father’s soft belly, his proud head, all three a mess of brushing fingertips and browned limbs. They walk to the shallow end, the father lingering a half step behind them. Follow, the brothers gesture to him. Come in. They wade further, stretch their arms towards the older man. He can’t swim, I realize, but he reaches his palms to theirs and lifts his feet. The men roll him onto his back and he lies prone, the able hands of his sons holding him afloat. The father closes his eyes, smiles a private smile, and I wrench my gaze to the mountains. My mother drifts amongst the rocks, her white shirt lifting in the breeze.
Olivia Walton is a writer and film photographer based in Victoria, BC. Her nonfiction has appeared in PRISM International, This Side of West and Rifflandia Magazine.Her story "Brothers" is the second prize winner in the flash CNF category of our inaugural Short Forms Contest.