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Memories from the Grave

by Benjamin Bishop

Growing up, the garage became synonymous with bad news. A place where nothing good ever happened. It was in the garage, maybe a mere boy of six or seven years old, I first discovered just how short life really was. 

In the garage, bad news was an understatement.

The summer I was going into the first grade, my older brother John and I were playing cars on a chalk racetrack we had drawn on the floor of the garage. Oil stains became lakes, rusty nails were fallen over trees, and nuts and bolts turned into road hazards. When my dad walked in, can of beer in one hand, the door creaking angrily, he told us matter of factly that Rex, our golden retriever, had died. 

“Dumb dog ran out in front of a car.” Dad told us the bad news as he took a swig from his can, standing in front of our old family station wagon, the same way he would tell the next-door neighbor it looked like rain was coming because dark clouds were rolling in over the mountains. “What did he expect would happen? You play in the street, you’re going to get hit. Let that be a lesson to you boys.”

He stared at us for a moment, eyes glazed, as if debating whether or not to say something else. Then he gulped down the rest of his beer, nodded, and walked back inside. 

I cried in my brother’s lap for hours that night, huddled on his bed, with a blanket over our heads. 

“I loved him.”

John caressed my hair. 

“I know.” His voice, solemn. “So did I.” 

John drew a picture of me and him with Rex, to hang up beside my bed. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and stare at the picture for hours before finally falling asleep and would dream of a world where Rex hadn’t run into the street. 

Then, the winter of second grade, mom left. 

Dad took us out into the garage to tell us the bad news. Mom had packed up and left in the night while we were sleeping. 

“She took the goddamn car!” Dad, can in one hand, pointed at the vacant space in the garage where the old station wagon had been parked, as if to prove he wasn’t crazy. “How am I supposed to get to work now?”

She didn’t even say goodbye. Mom did, however, leave a note. John found it crumbled up in the garbage can, beneath the coffee grounds. Apparently, John told me, huddled beneath his blue blanket, sitting on his bed, mom told dad not to go looking for her or she would call the police on him, reporting him for domestic violence. I didn’t know what that meant, but John said it was fancy talk for smacking someone around

I thought that was strange because dad smacked us around all the time. I wondered why, if mom left because of that, why she hadn’t taken us with her.  

Later that day, John made another picture to hang up beside my bed. In this one, mom was smiling real big. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her smile like that, and hoped that wherever she had gone, she would be smiling like that now, even if John and I were not. 


“Maybe she will come back for us,” I suggested hopefully, a few weeks after mom had left. We were sitting in our room, me playing on the floor with some superhero action figures, and John, propped up against a pillow on his bed, reading a copy of Stephen King’s The Talisman

“Maybe,” John said distantly, looking up from his book and staring at the bedroom door. He dogeared the page he was on, tossed the book onto the end of his bed, and lay back onto his pillow. He turned towards the wall, his shoulders beginning to rise and fall. “Or maybe it’s just us now.”

For a moment, I sat and stared at my older brother, and then I hesitantly put my hand on his back. John flinched away, letting out a small welp. As he pulled away from me, I could see an angry dark blotch on his lower back where his shirt had lifted. 

“What happened?” I asked, pulling my hand away quickly as if I had made the mark on his back. 

“Dad happened.”

He wrapped his blue blanket around him, and I could tell he was crying. 

I lay down next to John, staring at the picture he had drawn of mom. I wondered if mom had found what she was looking for. I was angry that she had left us, but I was happy that John was still here with me. 

We stayed that way for a long time, him crying, and me staring at the picture of mom. I knew at that moment, mom was never coming back for us. She had left us. 

It was just like John said. 

We were all alone now. 

I got out of bed and crumbled up the picture of mom. 


I didn’t mean to break the TV. I was just so frustrated, and the TV was the first thing I saw. The instant I hit it, I knew I made a mistake, and a grave one at that. 

John and I were playing video games and he beat me again. He always won, and for the first time in my childhood, I thought I was finally going to beat him. Before I could stop myself, the video game controller left my hand, and then there was a crash as it connected with the center of the TV screen. We both watched the glass shatter like a broken windchime, sending out a web of cracks in every direction. The TV flickered for a moment, before fizzling out, just like my chances of getting out of this alive. 

Dad heard it too. 

“Come out here now!” He was in the garage. 

I looked at John and began to tremble. Tears spilled down my cheeks. 

“I said now!”

I couldn’t move. The image of the controller hitting the TV kept replaying in my mind and I knew that dad was going to do the same to me. I looked at the door to the garage, back at John, then walked slowly towards the door. 

As I turned the handle shakily in my hand, I felt John push passed me as he instead went into the garage. The door slammed behind him like the reverberating lid of a coffin. 

I stood there for a moment, for what felt like forever, unsure of what to do. Voices coming from behind the closed door, muffled nonsense. The door, a barrier between life and death. 

And then my brother was back. 

“He won’t bother us anymore.” His collar was stretched and torn and stains the color of rust were scattered haphazardly on his shirt. “I’m going to go lie down.”

John limped down the hall towards our bedroom and then closed the door. 

I didn’t see my dad again until three days later. He was hanging from the rafters in the garage, a rope around his neck. 


Besides me, there were only five other people at the funeral. The pastor, my uncle, and a family of two parents and a little girl with black pigtails. 

She was the one he had saved. 

John and I had been out in the garage, packing boxes. We were moving later that week to go live with our uncle, mom’s brother, from up north. When the social worker contacted him, after dad’s death, our uncle said he would be willing to take us both in. We had never met him before, but a change of scenery sounded just fine. 

John saw it before I did. He always did. He was always better than me at everything.

The ball went rolling into the street and the little girl with black pigtails had gone chasing after it, and her mom went chasing after her. But John was faster and got there first. The police said that the impact of the car killed John instantly. I think they were trying to provide me with some sort of comfort, but it didn’t help. John was still dead. 

During the three days that dad was gone, before he came back home and hung himself, John and I were lying in our beds at night and I asked him what had happened in the garage. His silence was deafening. He was quiet for so long, I thought maybe he hadn’t heard me or that he had fallen asleep, but then he did answer.

“You happened.” John got out of bed and put his blue blanket over me, tucking me in. “Now go to sleep.”

I didn’t understand what John meant that night, but now, sitting here at his funeral, I think I finally did. Looking at the little girl with the black pigtails, it made sense. 

John had gotten there first.


I sat on the floor of my and John’s empty bedroom with John’s blue blanket wrapped around me. All our memories, packed inside boxes in the back of a moving truck. Everything was gone from our room except the pictures that John had drawn me. Those were still tacked to the wall. Somehow I had missed them in the busyness of all the packing and John’s funeral. I was leaving to go up north with my uncle, but I told him I wanted to see our room one more time before we left. 

I don’t know when John did it, but sitting there in the bareness of the room, I saw that he had drawn one more picture. It was hanging in-between the picture of me and him with our dog Rex and the crumpled up picture of mom. 

One last memory. 

I got up, letting John’s blue blanket fall to the floor, and began untacking each picture, careful not to tear the corners. First, the one with Rex, and then the one of mom. The last one, the one John had somehow secretly drawn, I let hang there for a moment. The tears came again, along with a smile. 

In this last picture, John had drawn a picture of us. Me and him. In it, we were standing on his bed and we were both smiling. Around John’s shoulders, flowing across the paper, was John’s blue blanket, except John had written the words, “My superhero cape.” I couldn’t help it, but I began laughing through the tears, which sounded strange in the empty room. I carefully took down John’s last drawing, folded it with the others, and put my memories in my pocket. 

I gave our room one last look before picking up John’s blue blanket from off the floor, wrapping it over my shoulders, and closing the door behind me. 


Benjamin Bishop resides in Riverside County, CA. Benjamin has both a Bachelors and Masters in English Literature. Benjamin has poetry, fiction, and non-fiction published in several literary magazines and anthologies, such as Clever Fox Literary Magazine, The Expressionist Literary Magazine, Hey Hey Books, The Humanist, The Malu Zine, and Reverie Magazine.


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