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1.

Just as the old year ended at midnight, the men attempted to swim to Larkeny Island. It was just far enough to be inconvenient and coupled with swift currents; the swim the ultimate challenge of machismo. This would only be a renewed start to the attempts. Men from all over came to tiny Cullis Bay to attempt to swim to that tiny island. Mostly because the great hero Malcom was born here and braved the currents to retrieve an herb that would save his one true love. Such a swim was considered so difficult it was near impossible for any one but a destined hero to do.

Only one other person had ever made it to Larkney Island and he became a famous general, protected the capital city way inland, saved the queen, married the princess and became the now King Arcem. Every year, many men came through the city to try their hand at the swim, but a select few made it.

This new year, seven year old Asa was extremely jealous. His brother Breydon had just turned thirteen in the fall, making him old enough to attempt the swim along with the other men in the town. Asa wanted at least to watch the others swim (it was more motivated by the desire to watch his brother fail) but his mother and older sister ushered him back home.

“But Mom,” Asa protested, “I just want to see Dad and Breydon swim!”

Karen, at twelve was eerily diplomatic for her age. She put her arm around her brother and sighed deeply.

“I know Asa, I want to see Breydon choke under pressure as much as you. But think about it; while Father and Breydon are sleeping off their exhaustion, you and I can eat as many of Mother’s doughnuts as we please,” she reasoned. Asa hated when Karen was right. Which was most of the time.

Grumbling he went home and crawled into bed. He resolved not to go to sleep until he heard Breydon and his father stumble in the door. He wanted to hear all about how his oh-so-strong, brother of heroic prowess was certainly no great hero as everyone seemed to believe. Who cared about him? So what if he saved a few kids from a burning building a few months ago. It didn’t make Breydon a hero, it just made him a decent guy.

At least that made him a decent guy around other people. Breydon would still tease Asa at home and no one did anything about it. All right, Karen or Mom would get him to stop. It didn’t matter, Asa knew he was the one who was going to be a hero.

He heard Karen enter the room that he and Breydon shared. He sat up and gave her a half hearted grin. Karen sat on the bed and mussed his hair.

“Did you give Momma a kiss?” she asked.

“Yeah, Karie,” he said. Karen put her hands over his.

“You’ll be a great hero one day, Ace,” she said.

“Breydon’s always one step ahead,” Asa said. “I’ll never catch up.”

“You don’t have to catch up,” Karen told him. Asa was confused. How was he supposed to be a hero, if Breydon beat him to it?

“What do you mean?” he asked. Karen smiled and kissed his cheek. He promptly wiped it off.

“You’ll see,” she said as she shook her head. Asa watched her leave and once he heard her door close down the hall, he took out some paper and began to fold. He would always make paper boats to float out on the bay. He started doing that whenever his father left on his long sea monster hunting voyages. He liked to pretend that they’d reach his father’s boat and he’d know that Asa was thinking about him. Now he did it whenever anyone left for a while.

Cheryl, his best friend, was away for a few weeks, but that wasn’t why he was making boats. He was making them because he hoped that maybe one of them might find something or someone and alert them to his need for strength. Someday he’d be making these boats and be sending them toward Cullis Bay instead of away.

***

Breydon returned home with his father some hours later. He was dripping wet with defeat, and numb with disappointment, but he was invigorated. Maybe he wasn’t the hero everyone thought he was. Asa would be glad to know that his older brother wasn’t any closer to being a hero than he was. He dried off by the fire downstairs, his mother shaking her head and pouring hot tea for him and his father. The tradition of swimming in freezing water was something she didn’t approve of.

Breydon went upstairs after finishing his tea that he was mandated to drink. He half expected Asa to still be awake, vindictively glaring at him with his hazel eyes. Instead, his younger brother was sprawled across his bed, entangled within the folds of his sheets were paper boats. Breydon chuckled and pulled the blankets over his younger brother properly; it was cold after all.

Breydon didn’t pretend to know what was in store for his brother, but he was sure that kid was something else.

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February 2014

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