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Pitch And Brawl
The Boondock Saints
1000 words
March 2008
Adult content: concepts
Summary: Connor’s mouth, prepositional, onto into before between, softer than the hard lines Murph inherited. Murphy’s hands, circling and encircling, quick and clever modifiers, so like his own and unlike in their need to change him, to complicate him.

Their father smells of salt and gunpowder, distills a sweat heavy with harsh brine and Irish whisky that coils and ripens in the hair that springs wild from him -- as if he had been away at sea these past twenty-five years, not landbound and incarcerated in a Unionist prison. His beard, when he rests it briefly against Connor’s cheek, tugging roughly at the delicate skin there as if to chide him for it, gives off the faint tarry smell of rope; and with his father’s arms wrapped round him and his breath stirring the hair on his neck, he feels himself sway. These embraces leave him with a sick feel in his gut, one that he craves even as it roils through him and moves him to tears; but his father always breaks away too soon, unused as he is to standing still.


Murphy didn’t learn to speak until well into his fifth year. Sometimes, when there was something Murphy wanted to communicate, he would tug at Connor’s elbow, and stand with his hands cupped to Connor’s ear. Not talking, and not breathing, but something in between, which Connor would then dutifully translate. Sometimes, when Connor gave voice to Murphy’s inner childish dialogue, wants and fancies and inventions, he would make some of it up, put words in his brother’s mouth; but not as many as one would think.But little by little Murphy lost the need for it, until he was speaking on his own, although he never strayed far from Connor’s elbow. And Connor, who found he’d come to rely on Murphy’s silences as an opportunity to voice his own imagination, never looked much further than Murphy’s mouth.

Once Murphy got used to talking by himself, to the idea of himself as a thing separate from his twin, no one could get him to shut him up. Later, it was Murphy who convinced him to learn languages, a task he found tedious and thought himself ill-suited for; but he thrilled to the idea of having back that lost, secret mode of communication, a code that only he and Murph could crack.

And at night when they lay in the dark with shoulders and thighs lightly and warmly touching, listening to the rest of the building go on about the messy privilege of living -- shouts in anger made wordless and songlike by the separation of thin walls, shouts in pleasure accompanied by an unheard match on the telly, or by the creak of tested springs in a mattress -- Murphy would whisper the day’s new vocabulary against his cheek, teach him connections both grammatical and familial by the way his fingers fit between his own.

Eventually, Murphy’s words became his words, became a part of him in a way he never had to think about. And it was with the same thoughtlessness that he turned to Murphy and sought to breathe into him the beginnings of a new language, one that belonged only to them. Connor’s mouth, prepositional, onto into before between, softer than the hard lines Murph inherited. He imagined this mouth came from his father and would bestow it with the rough kindness he felt was appropriate to its lineage. Murphy’s hands, circling and encircling, quick and clever modifiers, so like his own and unlike in their need to change him, to complicate him.


Their father sounds his vengeance; his curse and pronouncement on them hangs unfurled in the air: End it.Murphy is the one who says, “I will in me hole ye mad bastard!”

And Da with his fist pulled back, roars, “Don’t you talk back!” and punctuates his sentence in Murph’s eye.

Connor touches knuckles to his lip, swelling hot and thudding with his heartbeat, and examines the smear of blood on his fist. His hands still smell of Murph’s skin, their shared spit. His mouth still tastes of him. The blood is all his own.

Murphy had crashed backwards into the card table, bottles and ashtrays spilling with musical clatter, the legs tipped and outspread, showing its belly. Now he crouches, hands in fists, eyes blinking and leaking, the one already hunching down small in its fold of skin. But the other defiant and staring their father down, not willing to take this man’s – this stranger’s – authority.

Da, shaken, rocks to a standstill above him. “Boys, boys,” he whispers, a sound like wind between two tall rocks. He looks to his hands, clenches them, loosens them. Tears down his cheeks, disappearing into his mustache, across his lips.

“I am your father. You’ll do as I say. The both of you.” But he has already turned away, and he sounds tired, and he sounds resigned. To them, or to the fight left in his brother, Connor doesn’t know which.

“You two are about as thick as horse-shite in a bottle,” he says, without force, his back a curved and heavy hull. “Do you think I came back for this? To find this? Me own sons.”

Connor knows, and understands, the same way he knows that Murphy can’t ever understand, that their father feels guilty for somehow having caused this. Them. What they are. That part of his anger comes from not being able to see how it’s wrong.


At night, with their backs rubbing too warm together, shoulder blades sliding in sweat, he thinks: the both of them have already forgotten what it’s like to be grown men. At night, under the sough and spray of their father’s snoring, Connor confesses.“When it was just you and me,” he says.

He doesn’t say it was better then, can’t say it, remembering how many times he’d dreamed of this, the three of them together, shared work and meals and his father’s hand on his cheek. He finds his twin’s fingers and binds them in his own, and he touches his mouth to their combined fist, and he doesn’t speak, doesn’t breathe. Murphy murmurs, and kicks at Connor’s shins in his sleep.

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