Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us by the subtler web of our brains
-George Eliot’s Adam Bede
Of late, Woman and Man have repented of their decision never to let me lie on their bed. For years, I have dreamed of lying there. It is so soft and thick–I knew it would be heaven to lie there. When Man and Woman let me into their bedroom, they would pet me, and I would lay my head on the blanket and look up at them with my most becoming and pleading expression, but to no avail.
Then, the furnace broke. The moment I had been waiting for arrived–Woman patted the bed in that symbolic, “come hither” gesture, and I leaped onto the bed and burrowed in the blankets between Woman and Man. Even after the furnace was replaced, I was allowed to maintain my privilege. I am not allowed to repose there during the night (I think Man still harbors some ill feeling about the night I spent protecting his ship), but I am permitted to lie there in the evening sometimes, and on weekend mornings when Woman and Man are slow to relinquish the comforts of that wonderful bed.
I was lounging languidly on the bed this morning when I heard soft scratching noises at the front door. Man and Woman had gone out, so I was alone in the apartment. When the door opened, there was Orange Boy.
My elation at the sight and scent of my brother cannot be described. We sniffed one another and wagged our tails. Our mutual excitement was such that we could, at first, do nothing but frolic. More sober communications would have to wait. We jumped and ran and chased each other’s tails. We sprang up and crouched down and played with my toys. I felt almost a few weeks old again, learning how to play for the first time with my favorite brother, the dear friend of my infancy.
At last, we were exhausted. We lay down together on the rug and regarded one another. I waited for him to speak.
Finally, Orange Boy broke his silence.
“Humphrey, I can’t stay for long, but I had to see you. There is so much to explain, and I fear that I cannot give you the full explanation that you deserve today. Yet I cannot leave my story fully untold. Our mother did attack me; I was the weakest–there were no signs that I would become what I am today. She bit me and scratched me, and she destroyed my eye. I cowered in fear and tried to flee at first, but all the while I looked at her with my good eye. She did not kill me. There was a moment when she hesitated. She stopped her onslaught and was completely still and stared at me, and her expression changed, as if she saw something in me that surprised her.
“When she froze, I did not–I ran away and hid in one of the closets, holding in my whines and trying to understand what had happened. I did not dare to emerge until night had fallen and mother was in the enclosure with you and the others. Then, I went back, and I whined to you–called to you–scratching at the enclosure. I heard your reply, and it strengthened me. I did what I felt I must. I left home.
“What happened to me in the intervening weeks, months, and years, I will not fully disclose to you now. I don’t want to discuss all of that. You should know, though, dear brother, that I have found a purpose for my life, but my work has also put me in danger, and now, perhaps, you as well. You and I look quite similar, but for this eye patch, and you have stumbled upon me and I am worried that my enemies may discover you.
“Do you remember the squirrel you found? That was a warning for you, though you did not know it. There is a secret society whose dark deeds would make the fur on your spine stand up–and they do not like anyone to know their secrets or to stand in their way. One of the society’s members lives quite close to you, and I believe she watches your movements. I had to be extremely cautious in timing my visit today.
“Do nothing which would reveal that you know me. Do not look for me. Do not let anyone know we have spoken. I will visit you again when I can and will tell you more. It is painful to me to relate all of this to you, and I would prefer to simply enjoy your company for the remainder of our time together today.”
For some minutes we lay close by one another on the rug, and it was easy for me to imagine that we might always lie so, and that we might be permanently reunited as brothers and companions. After a time, however, he rose, and wagging his tail a few times, departed, though not before revealing one final piece of personal intelligence:
“Humphrey,” he said, “you should know that I have acquired a name of my own, as you have. Call me Edgar.”
Saying so, he was gone.
I fell into a melancholy humor for the remainder of the afternoon and pondered all that Orange Boy–Edgar–had told me. A secret society? One of its members was watching me? Who was it? What might she do? How could I help my brother, and what was this “work” he referred to?
I was distracted from my doleful musings when Woman and Man returned home. Hanukkah and Christmas are fast approaching, and they were busy with preparations in the apartment. Man shared with me a wind-up dreidel, which quite bewitched me. I do so love Woman and Man and am grateful for the comfort they provide. As the dreidel paced toward me on its unsteady plastic legs, my spirits lifted and I was absorbed with thoughts of biting at the dreidel and not with the mystery of my strange brother. I shall endeavor to be patient, and to help Edgar whenever I can, and in the interim, I will enjoy Woman and Man, the holidays, and all of life’s little pleasures.
When I speak of home, I speak of the place where…those I love are gathered together; and if that place were a gypsy’s tent, or a barn, I should call it by the same good name notwithstanding.
-Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby
These quotes via litquotes.com.