There was always something wrong with my twin brother, some little kernel of not-right. Chess knew it. And he knew that whatever was wrong with him didn’t apply to me.
Being a twin is supposed to mean never being alone. We dressed alike, were crammed into the same room, shared the same dirty little strings of DNA, but were always, both of us, alone. I took it better than Chess. Chess was twitchy and filled with violent fury. I was merely twitchy.

Stop being afraid of me! Chess shouted one time, when we were little. We were in a vast, dandelion-covered field near our house in Nebraska. Chess had come outside to play Red Rover with the neighborhood children. I was part of the group. They all stopped, the children, stunned voiceless in the presence of Chess’ rage.

I gotta go, an undersized kid said. He had the look of a boy with a career in accounting in his future. He wanted to become that accountant. He ran off.

I’ll show you, Chess said to me. He practically whispered it, but the other kids heard and involuntarily backed off a step. Then, voluntarily, they peeled away one-by-one until only Chess and I stood in the field. Chess stood close enough for me to feel the anger pouring out of him as heat. He looked everywhere but my eyes.

You, he finally said, staring, trying to will a hole in my forehead, my cheek-bones, my chin. Chess turned on his heel and stalked off, leaving me standing alone in the field.

(An offering from Alpha Mike Foxtrot a novel available now from Paragraph Line Books)

John Sheppard served four years in the United States Army as an Illustrator (MOS 81E). He was honorably discharged after Gulf War I. He went on to receive an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Florida, where he studied under Padgett Powell, Marjorie Sandor and Harry Crews. He has worked as a grill cook, web site designer, junk mail writer, small town newspaper editor and civil servant. He lives in Chicago.

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