Lights Out

“Can a tick talk?” I asked my brother Dave. I was on the lower bunk, he was above me. I could lift my legs and kick his mattress, which always got him laughing unless he was in a bad mood and then he’d say “Knock it off.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Do raccoons breed through their noses?”

The bedroom light was off and we were supposed to be sleeping, or at least pretending to be. But it was summer and the night still felt young, though it must have been close to midnight.

“If the world is round, why aren’t we all bow legged?” I asked.

“If you didn’t pee for a year and you bit someone, would they die?” Dave asked.

“Probably, unless you died first.”

“Here’s a serious question,” Dave said. “After you die, what do you look like after a year under the ground?”

I didn’t like that question. “I don’t know.”

“Does your hair keep growing? I heard that it does.”

I thought about that for a while. “That’s really weird.”

“Yeah. And worms eat up your skin.”

“That makes sense, I guess. I mean, you’re down there with the worms. But just your body because your spirit isn’t there anymore,” I said. “It’s up in heaven somewhere.”

“I wonder how long it takes before you start stinking,” he said.

I suddenly felt very tired. “I have no idea.”

“Am I weird for asking things like that?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Everyone wonders those things.”

He was silent for a while. “When I die, I want to go quick. Like, get shot, or just die in my sleep with a heart attack. I don’t want to feel anything.”

“Me too.”

Off in the distance we could hear a freight train rolling along the tracks, blowing its whistle. Crickets chirped quietly in the back yard. Other than that, the night was very still.

“Well, good night.”

“Good night.”

But it took a while before I could drift off, so I thought about all the girls I liked and imagined myself kissing them. Every one of them.