“Look at that one.” Cameron pointed to a bright star to the east of the plain. Blades of grass stuck to his brand new navy blue jacket. Seventh grade. Barely twelve. Coach was expecting me at school the day after tomorrow. Dartmouth had gotten into the lacrosse tournament this weekend.
“That’s the star I want named after me,” Cameron continued, smiling wide. His teeth gleamed in the moonlight despite his love of chocolate and his neglect of a toothbrush. I always thought it was unfair he never had a cavity. He kept his candy stash under his bed in a pile of his dirty underwear so the dog wouldn’t eat it.
“Wylie?” “Hmm” Something chirped loudly in my ear and I raised my head to see a cricket perched on my arm. “You're too quiet.” Could grasshoppers and crickets be related? They looked similar.
“I’m fine,” I insisted, jerking my arm to get the cricket off me. I would’ve killed it but it could have a family.
“Liar. I just told you the doctors diagnosed me with cancer and you haven't spoken since.”
I wrinkled my nose when I got a whiff of my armpits. When was the last time I showered? Had to be yesterday morning before I took Cameron to the hospital. Routine test, the doctor had said. Mom had a business meeting that morning…would she forgive herself for not being there?
“I'm processing,” I said, listening to the thousands of crickets around us. Cameron had claimed they would take over the whole state of Arkansas one day. As long as he was alive to see it, I didn’t mind fighting killer bugs with my lacrosse stick for the rest of my life.
“And?” My eyebrows furrowed at the sky. The clouds looked like floating bugs.
“And what?” More chirping.
“How do you feel?” he asked casually.
I hated that he was so calm. Mom must’ve been a wreck. Dad would probably have his assistant pick out Cameron’s tombstone.
“What?” Bastard. “How do you feel about your little brother having cancer?”
I folded my arms behind my head, burying my nails in my palm. “I'd feel better if you stopped saying cancer.” Cancer, cancer, cancer, everywhere. Cameron looked over at me before tilting his head back to look up at the night sky. It was dark for eight o'clock. Summer was almost over. The stars sparkled like raindrops in the sun.
“What if I said spinach instead?” The stars blurred out of focus. “You were diagnosed with spinach…” “Disease,” he finished. “I was diagnosed with spinach disease.”
I opened my mouth to meet his efforts with some kind of witty response but closed it again. Spinach disease. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I heard Cameron say, “I wonder what it would be like to die.”
The crickets were quiet.
Edited By: Rebecca Fox