What Brought This On?

"Fiction"

by Gerald So

WHEN MY BROTHER, ANDY, WENT AWAY TO COLLEGE, he left me his fishing pole and a well-read copy of The Wind in the Willows. I didn't have the patience to finish or the discipline to read anything outside a classroom. It was summer besides, so the book sat piled on my dresser with CD cases and DVD booklets.

Three weeks later, Mom said, ''If you can't get into Princeton like Andy, at least make use of his closet space. Do you hear me?''
I grunted affirmatively.

Actually I was already using Andy's closet space, piling CDs, DVDs, and, I had to admit, VHS tapes. I was tired of Mom's nagging, but the best I could do was shift things around so the room looked cleaner.

As I moved the book from my dresser to my bed, a scrap of paper fell from between the pages. I ignored it until it was the last thing in the center of the room.

On it, Andy had written, ''There's a box on my side of the closet, on top of my report cards and term papers. You should see it now that my clothes are gone.''

That was it. No mention of what was in the box, which got me curious.

In all the years we'd shared the room, I never invaded Andy's space. His bed was made, mine wasn't. His clothes were folded and hung, mine weren't. Mom always compared us to Goofus and Gallant.

Digging through the closet, I saw the box he meant. It was well-kept cardboard like the rest, but showed none of Andy's clear block writing. I took it down and saw it was taped shut, but the tape was fairly new. I peeled it back as carefully as I could, lifted the flaps,and was almost  blinded by a stack of Playboys.

I scrambled to the door and locked it. I peered into the box again. Playboys, in plastic sleeves, but nonetheless in good condition. I couldn't imagine when he found the time. Also in the box were two small, brand new bottles of Johnson's Baby Oil.

I looked back to the closet and wondered how long the box had been there, hidden perfectly by the drape of his shirts.

My brother, the horndog. Who knew?

We never speak of the box when he calls or visits home, but I hang my shirts to keep it hidden. I replace the tape and replenish the baby oil. I change my linens more often. Andy and I get along better.

And, oh yeah, Mom doesn't nag anymore. Looking at the room, she just smiles, shakes her head, and says, ''What brought this on?''

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