The brothers planned to treat the wedding like a family reunion, intended to prove who was still and who was never. The wife-to-be was worried, but the groom insisted these guys were saviors—that day at the lake, running to him with their lives in hand, careful as an egg race, the boy-groom’s world wobbling on a spoon. Two ribs snapped during mouth-to-mouth, but the boy-groom breathed again, spent his whole life wearing those twin brothers on his chest like a medal, his model of holy.
In the grass parking lot, the brothers hugged, and one stole the other’s Stetson. They ran a brief competition for who could shake the groom’s hand hardest. They shared a grenade-shaped flask at the ceremony. They whispered threats as the lake lapped, smoked bad pot, and killed a keg long before their table was called. And later, as the first couple danced the first dance, the last star alighted and the brothers clasped hands. They arm-wrestled. A dozen others gathered, hyper. There were hoots, chants, bets, and taunts, a light beer poured over someone’s head. A fist six times in someone’s mouth.
And so much blood like a gift no one wanted. Red, unwrapped—an unending, gaudy mess. One wielded a fork, the other a knife, and the groom sprinted to the table, shouting, stabbing his finger at a gravel path to town. You couldn’t get between them until neither boy could stand, both so alive against the wrong side of history.
When the brothers stumbled past their trucks, and no one followed them to help find home, three dirty seagulls landed on the edge of the canopy tent. The birds had this report to make: the lake is not an ocean—you wouldn’t believe it, but it ends.
Tyler Barton is a cofounder of FEAR NO LIT, the organization responsible for the 2017 Submerging Writer Fellowship. He works as the assistant to the director of the Native American Literature Symposium, hosts the flash fiction podcast Show Your Work, and teaches writing to seniors in an assisted living facility. His stories are forthcoming in the Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Yemassee, and Bat City Review. Find him at @goftyler or tsbarton.com