My Brother Killed Superman

My brother killed Superman, or so he says --- wailsreally --- at 2:16am. Unrelenting. Inconsolable. It was adream, my mother tells him three nights in a row."I killed Superman," he shrieks.

"Just a dream," she says, gently rocking his bodyagainst hers.His seven year-old lungs gasping for forgiveness,tears bursting from the exploding fountain of hiseyes, streaming down his reddened cheeks. Inthirty-seven minutes he exhausts himself back tosleep.

It isn't the comic book hero or the motion picture"Man of Steel" he believes he's destroyed, but a locallegend. We stand and stare, every afternoon, at theman who lives at the end of the cul-de-sac, the manwho perches on the tiptop edge of his roof,perpetually clad in red rubber boots, a faded bluejogging suit, and a raggedy red beach towel fastenedaround his neck with a clothespin. He poses, kneesslightly bent, arms outstretched, eyes vacant, lookingmore like a cartoonish weather vane than the last sonof Krypton. We wonder if he will ever fall, tumble tothe ground like the wet yellow leaves that litter theyard below him. Mother says we shouldn't stare. It'sshameful, she says, and I don't know if she means ourgawking or his existence.

My brother's dreams continue. Four nights. Fivenights. Seven. Two weeks. Every day I show him it'sonly a dream. Superman still stands, simulatingflight, an enigma, clogging our young minds withquestions that won't be asked, let alone answered. Wenever hear him speak, never see him anywhere otherthan on the top of his great Fortress of Solitude. Wedon't even know his real name.

My father calls. Out of town working, he says. Nearlya month, and we haven't seen him, barely heard fromhim. He says he misses us. My mother says he'll behome soon. At thirteen, I'm old enough to see throughthis, old enough to know he isn't coming back, oldenough to know she's too afraid of these words to saythem out loud to us, so she locks them away in a roomwe're forbidden to enter. My brother doesn'tunderstand this, and I won't be the one who explainsit to him.

On the eighteenth day, we stand in Superman's yardand he isn't there. The late October light fades intodusk and we linger until the streetlights hum. Mymother calls us home. We eat and watch TV and read andplay and no one mentions what is missing. No one willsay these words out loud. No one will enter that room.At 1:48am, my brother startles me awake, jolts me froma dream. He's not crying, not screaming, but standingbeside my bed, staring at me through the darkness. "Ihad a dream," he says. "Did you kill Superman?" I ask."No," he says, "he just flew away." "That's good," Isay, and let him crawl into bed beside me. Soon hedrifts off and I stare at the ceiling, concentratingon the sound of his soft breathing. I can't go back tosleep. I was dreaming I killed Superman, but not thecomic book hero, not the motion picture Man of Steel,not the man who lives at the end of the cul-de-sac.When I close my eyes, he looks like my father.

About the author:

Christopher Fullerton is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, and the two-time winner of the Baucum Fulkerson Award for Fiction and Drama. His work has been published in Poesia and Exposure: The Univeristy of Arkansas Magazine for the Arts. He has also served as an editor for Ghoti Magazine.