Of the Inconvenience of Greatness

The strange lustre that surrounds him conceals and shrouds him from us; our sight is there broken and dissipated.
MONTAIGNE, “OF THE INCONVENIENCE OF GREATNESS”

Once, when I was a child, my brother chased my sister around with an axe while I cowered under a desk with our two youngest siblings, my arms gripping their small bodies so close that I could not distinguish one racing heartbeat from another.

The sun threw itself across the carpet and landed in disjointed shards. From beneath the desk I could see two sets of feet circling and circling. Their shadows jerked behind them. There was panting, shrieking.

We huddled under the desk trying to make ourselves as small as possible. I heard a cough that sounded like a smothered laugh, and then the shadows stopped.

I could see my sister trembling beside the couch, her mascara dripping in leaden streaks down her cheeks. Her sodden eyes.

I could see dust motes suspended in light and my brother’s feet stepping toward the desk. One striped athletic sock in front of the other. The soft, trained stalk of a hunter.

My baby brother and sister burrowed deep against me and tried to suffocate their sobs. I could see the fine down of their arms, so white against their summer skin.

There was the axe….

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