ARTS & EXPRESSIONS
Brent's Ride on Faith
By Kathleen D., Grade 9, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB
Warm sunlight spilled through the cracks of the forest ceiling and danced across my sandy hair and freckled face. The river's edge lapped at the hoof beaten path that my brother and I were following. Where was I going? I wasn't sure. I just continued to chase the sunlight ambling down the path. Walking along side, the heart-pounding river with a bag swung across my back and an unsure destination in my mind.
My brother, Brent, had demanded the expedition, which had really surprised me. He was far from as strong as he used to be. He hadn't even the strength to walk more than a couple feet lately without getting tired.
My straw-stitched pack began to tear at my shoulders. I had lost track of time, and had forgotten my brother's limits. I collapsed on a moss-covered boulder to rest. I drew a long, deep breath and threw my sack from my aching shoulders.
As I sat there searching through my bag to find what was making it so unbearably heavy, a rush of panic hit me.
"Brent? Where are you, Sport?" I yelled, squinting my pale blue eyes to look through the walls of thick light.
A cough like a seal's bark answered my call. My brother waddled up the hill, the light reflecting of his bare head. I could see his pale body shake from fatigue even from my resting point that was at least 20 feet away from him.
"Hey pal, wanna call it a day? I'll carry ya back home." I begged, trying to sound as positive and unconcerned as possible as I reached for my bag.
Brent shook his bald head and kept on stumbling up the beaten path.
It was the quality I hated and loved most about my brother. He was so stubborn. A donkey would give into his master's call before Brent. I reckon, without his stubbornness, his cancer would've got him already. But, ol' Brent wasn't one to lay done and die. He was the fighter in the family. Sometimes though, his being stubborn was hazardous to his health, as he would push his weakened body too far.
I wasn't one to break his spirits. " Alrigh' then. Hurry up, slow poke!" I teased, as I purposely began to walk slower.
We kept on walking, until we reached a dead end.
"Looks like we hit an end to our journey." I said trying to sound as positive as possible. "Lets take this picnic lunch back to that last hill we passed." I smiled pointing to my back pack.
Brent wasn't listening. He stood there with that determined look on his face. His lips pulled back and his beautiful sea-green eyes filled with pride, lifting his head to the sky. He slipped down a stair case of rocks and disappeared.
"Brent!" I screamed. I jumped down the steep hill of stones and followed him. I found him standing at the brim of a shining meadow of silky grass waving in the wind's whispers.
"Ain't it nice, Jecht?" he asked, his eyes locked on the mesmerizing movements of the weeds.
"Yep, sure is Sport." I sighed. A sudden thought hit me. " How'd ya know this was here? Ye been here before?"
"Nope," he answered. " I just knew."
I stood there baffled, scratching my head. " Whatever Brent."
My moment of questioning was interrupted by a movement amongst the golden grass. My stare was fallowed by Brent's gazing eyes, as we looked to identify the intruder.
Running against the dancing grass, was the ugliest horse I've ever seen. I've wrestled and ridden a lot of horses in my day, and owned a few of them myself, but this horse was the living end. His butterscotch mane was strung across his face and his caramel coat was missing in places. He was a short, stocky stallion. Though there was one thing that attracted me to him. His eyes were a wonderful sea-green. He was still ugly though.
" Ain't he beautiful, Jecht?" wondered Brent.
I shook my head and looked at Brent in amazement. Then a thought hit me.
"Ye like him Brent?" I said encouragingly, bending down to his level and putting my own feelings for the horse aside.
He needed only to look at me with those eyes of his and I could read him like a book. " I'll get him for ya Bud!" I said smiling.
I slowly crept up towards the horse with my hands outstretched.
"Come on. My brother wants ya, and I ain't gonna let him down and disappointed." I whispered.
The horse stood there dumbfounded with a vacant expression on his face. " This is gonna be a piece of cake!" I thought silently to myself.
I took a giant leap towards the beast and wrapped my arms tightly around his neck. Suddenly, the stoney horse sprung to life. He shook me violently to and fro. As hard as tried, getting the lasso around his boney neck seemed impossible. He bucked me up and down in a panic, and threw me at least ten feet. In a bloody daze, I ended up with my head pounding, the rope tied around my wrists, laying across a bed of silk, with the horse staring over me.
"Ye're almost as stubborn as Brent." I said as five horses swirled in front of me.
The old brute snorted and turned away. When everything had become one of its self again, I realized that he was heading toward my brother. I never moved so fast or yelled so loud in my life.
"Brent! Look out! That crazy horse is gonna..."
I stopped so fast I nearly tumbled over. I went silent, the breeze rubbing the back of my sweaty neck. The old horse was gently nuzzling Brent's cheek. Brent's dry face broke into a smile, and his voice croaked into a smooth laugh that could have called the heavens down. I saw my brother for the first time in six months. A carefree child, laughing at life. At death.
A stood against the voice of the meadow, the grass tickling my bare legs. The sun highlighted tears sliding down my face. I watched my brother be a kid again. I watched him be Brent again.
I swear I saw the old steed motion Brent to climb atop his back. Surprisingly, Brent did as the old stallion commanded. You couldn't have paid Brent enough to ride Lightning or Buck, and I had trained them myself. Brent saw something in the old stallion's eyes. The same thing I saw in his. A determined boy. A stubborn boy. Someone who had a power to forever enjoy life.
"Golly," I thought puzzled.
Brent and the old stallion galloped against the meadows current. Giggling, laughing, smiling.
I sat down and watched as Brent raced away from death, cancer, and the truth. And I wasn't one to break his spirits.
"His name's Faith, Jecht! His name's Faith!" He squealed between cries of happiness and excitement.
After a couple of hours, I had convinced Brent to come have a bite to eat. And naturally, as little boys do, he rushed over to me a couple hours later.
We ate in silence, under the shade of a weeping willow until Brent spoke:
"This must be where God lives, huh Jecht?" Brent said stroking Faith. His lips were tied back and his eyes were filled with pride.
I was shocked. I'd never heard Brent speak about heaven or God since he was diagnosed.
"What makes ya say that Sport?"
"Ye can hear the angels."
I pulled back in astonishment.
"Listen, Jecht. Ain't they beautiful?"
I watched him close his eyes and draw a breath through a wheeze. I sat for a moment, quiet as possible. I heard the rustle of the willow vines, the wind against my face, and Brent and Faith's chest rise and fall. Not an angel.
"Yep. They're beautiful." I replied guiltily.
I wasn't one to break his spirits.
We went back and visited Faith for the next couple of weeks, until Brent couldn't do it anymore. His arms slowly turned to match sticks and his legs withered to toothpicks. His face became a skull covered by skin. His chest was brittle and I swore that I could see his heart beat against his ribs when he was to breathe.
I remember working in the garden one sunny afternoon in June. Brent was sitting in the shade trembling on a wooden chair. He held the stuffed horse Mama had stitched him, who he named Faith Jr., close to his throat, stroking his straw mane with his skeletal fingers.
I was turned against him. I couldn't bare to look at him. He didn't even resemble my brother anymore. Except those eyes. They'd never lose their strength.
The wind blew gently, the trees swayed to the wind's beat, and I could hear a small bird chirp.
Wait, that wasn't a bird. It was Brent.
"What's that, Sport?" I called to him, eyes closed tight.
"Faith..." he croaked and coughed, "faith..."
I opened my eyes to the sun. "Brent," I pleated, " Faith ain't coming..."
Before I could finish, I spotted a motion amongst the horizon. My stare was alone as I identified the intruder. It was Faith, and that scraggly sack of bones never looked so beautiful.
He trotted over to me, snorting and whining. I reached out to him, but he passed me by. Subconsciously, my eyes followed the horse towards the porch.
I watched the shell of my brother stroke him on the neck and scratch him on his bald patches.
I smiled, as I watched my brother come to life in the face of the boy sitting on my porch.
I snapped out of my daze. "What is it Brent?"
"I wanna ride."
I looked at him. I was about to remind him of his physical boundaries, but couldn't. He had his determined look on. He was going to do it wether I liked it or not.
I reached over and placed my hands around his stiff hips and heaved him onto Faith's back. Brent looked at me and smiled at me.
"Thanks Jecht." He whispered.
As Brent disappeared into the distance, I grabbed my white stallion, Lightning, and followed him into the lowering sun.
After twists and turns through the back roads of our town, Faith led us to his home. His home in God's meadow.
Brent wasted no time in pushing Faith to his limits. Lightning nearly toppled a few times from trying to keep up with them. Was Lightning trying to compete with their strength or their spirits?
We splashed in river beds, tumbled on grassy hills, and went where ever the wind took us. We sprinted, laughed and roamed until the sun went down.
Brent and I found a spot on a hill. We laied on the grass and stared at the night sky. A star fell from the sky and pierced the night.
"What'd you wish for Brent?" I asked, knowing full well he would wish for his cure. He always did.
"For you to hear the angels." He replied, the ocean in his eyes reflecting the moonlight.
Tears swelled in my eyes. Then I lay silent and listened.
I could hear them. In the wind's voice, the tree's symphony, and in natures embrace. They were speaking to me. They always had been, I just never listened before.
"Ain't they beautiful?" I asked.
"Goodnight Brent." I whispered.
"Night Jecht," he replied. " Jecht..."
"I love you," he choked onto my neck.
I smiled in spite of it all. He never ever told me that. How many little brothers tell their big brothers that anyhow?
"I love you too, sport," I said, and the ocean in his eyes shimmered even more brilliantly. It was as if he had waited his life to hear those words. Well, I ain't one to break his spirits.
It was the last time I saw the ocean. For when I awoke, Brent's chest was still and his body lay lifeless. He was dead.
Ma and I buried him in that very spot, under the willow in God's meadow. Since the funeral I hadn't been back to his grave. I don't know why. All I did know was that his death was as hard as listening to nails on a chalkboard for me.
So, I just worked my feelings away in the garden and in the barn. Ma always had some extra work for me, since I was man of the house.
Though no matter how hard I tried, the past crept up on me, and in a way I never expected.
One day, I was working in the garden, trying to blank my mind, when I saw something move. It was Faith. He came to me and whined.
"Brent ain't here Faith," I choked.
I turned from the horse. Suddenly I felt him nudge my back. I ignored him. He did it again, harder this time.
"What do you want Faith?" I yelled, whirling around and facing him with my tear stained face.
He motioned me to get on his back. Again I tried to ignore him, but I was trapped in his eyes. The ocean was in his eyes. Just like Brent.
I slowly pulled myself onto his bare back. Faith took of at the first signs of my satisfaction.
I nearly screamed when I saw where he took me. I soon found myself face to face with Brent's grave. A small wooden cross and cherry blossoms lain across the dirt. Faith Jr. was positioned at the edge of the unearthed dirt.
I turned to leave, when a thought hit me (either that or Faith's muzzle). A thought of acceptance. Brent was in God's meadow, God's home. He was dead. He was safe. And his body would forever lay here. The sun was slowly setting and I swore I saw Brent's face in it. Not the shell of him, but an adventurous, stubborn, boy, with the ocean held in his eyes.
Where was he going? He didn't know. He just continued to chase moonbeams in our night that he would live forever in. Riding along side a heart-pounding life with a determined look on his face and memories of his family in his head. And I would remember him like he'd want me to, cause I ain't one to break his spirits.
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