His name was Jimmy, but everybody called him Dodge, most never knowing why. He was just Dodge, our older brother who blazed a trail through life for the rest of us to follow, though we didn’t realize it at the time. I’m not sure if my brothers and sisters have ever realized how important Dodge was to us making it through our childhood. I have, now that it’s too late to say, “Thank you.”
We never talk about even when we remember Dodge at Christmas, or when we all get together to celebrate a birthday. It’s times like those when we are reminded of him and that no one has to “fix” him a plate. He’s gone now, having left the rest of us behind to live our happy lives of laughter in a world where he just never fit in. That is the one thing we could agree on if we ever remembered our brother out loud.
He drove an old Dodge Rambler he paid for doing odd jobs around town. Some believe that’s why everybody called him Dodge. It wasn’t, but I go along. It’s easier that way, less to remember. Sometimes remembering hurts, so I just think about by older brother with sad smile he wore and how much he loved his old car, and I teased him about wanting to trade cars.
“Nope,” he would say not even giving a second look at whatever car, I was driving. Back then I only drove the latest and the greatest, like all the other successful businessmen in our town.
“It’s Dodge,” my sister would say when we heard him rattle up her driveway. Shy, even around us he never stayed long, on those few Christmases when he did stop by bring us all gifts he had found at yard sales and thrift stores, not the kind of things we would ever display on our mantles coffee tables. We said thank you anyway. It’s the thought that counts. We always bought him socks and underwear, and one of us would buy him shoes, which most of the time he gave away. This was something I didn’t know until after he was gone and explained the worn through boots he always wore.
“Decided to dodge again today and go fishing,” he would tell anyone who asked why he wasn’t in school. I never saw any fish though, none of us did, and never wondered why. Instead, we imagined our older brother sitting by the river like Tom Sawyer, fishing away and feasting on blackberries while the rest of us droned through a boring classes, and dusty old books. In a way we hated Dodge or at least the way he got to skip school and we didn’t. So we he didn’t graduate, we all agreed it served him right, and when the only jobs he could get was odd jobs, that served him right too. Somehow he managed and I am not sure if any of us ever helped him, I know I didn’t, except to run a little plate of Christmas dinner over to where he stayed his one roomer, after we were all grown and safely off to college. I never stayed longer than it took to hand his plate and drop off his gifts, underwear and socks, and new pair of shoes. I wish I had now, even though his house was cold. I wish I hadn’t care so much about my clothes smelling like kerosene if I hugged him.
People who didn’t know my brother sometimes thought we called him Dodge because when the rest of us were signing up to go off and fight in the war, he stayed home. He tried three times to go along with us and fight for the red, white, and blue. In fact he was the first to try to join the service.
He never told us why he was turned down by the army. He didn’t have too. Everybody knew. It was for the same reason he got to skip school without anyone caring. He was slow. And he wasn’t fishing like he said. He was cleaning up behind hogs while the rest of us sat in warm classrooms and complained about the cafeteria food and too much homework. He gave the money he earned to our mama to keep us going. I think I am the only one in our family who knows this and I am not supposed to. Jimmy tried to make sure of that and my mama too, mainly so our daddy wouldn’t find out, I suppose.
Our mama did the best she could to love us, but our daddy always got in the way.
It wasn’t his school skipping, or his rattling old car, or him dodging the war that got my brother his name “Dodge.” When my brothers and sisters all pitched in so we could have it chipped in under his name on the stone that marks his grave, I went along. It was the thing to do, it was what we all called him and the only name he would answer to.
It hurts now, to see his name carved in that cold grey stone. It even makes me cry, when I go there alone and remember my brother who was never fast enough to dodge the fury of my father when he got liquored up and wanted to wail on some one. It hurt to not be able to say thank you or to hug him even though it will make my clothes smell like kerosene.
This is a work of fiction dedicated to DJT and all those of us who take a beating so the rest of us don’t have to. –Edward Reed 2020