… She said to Nate in the passenger seat, “Your father.” Like he was a burden she had to bear, though both boys felt in their separate ways that she admired him. Their father was slow to express pleasure but even slower to anger; his pleasure in their existence, in the entity of family, discharged clouds of tenderness. He’s a sage, your father, Nana had said, and on another occasion, Nate takes after him. Now, alert to his place in the family hierarchy, Dylan had to counter such remarks. Who did he take after, Osama bin Laden?
Would they laugh if he said that?
It’s hard to be the “other” kid. The “other” kid can be the one who isn’t a prodigy, or who isn’t always in trouble, or who isn’t outgoing and popular. Some “other” kids are fine with their place; they develop their own yardsticks. But it’s especially hard when they’re also watching a brother die.
Dylan’s brother Nate is dying of cancer. That leaves Dylan with a complex array of emotions, from grief and fear to jealousy of the attention Nate gets, anger about always coming second, and guilt about feeling that way.
When I read the Contributor Note (after reading the story), my heart broke. This story is part of a collection, apparently not yet published, written by Solwitz to chronicle the death of her 13-year-old from cancer: “A collection that shrieks, as I did not, Weep, world.” The ski trip that forms the plot of the story actually happened, though many of the details differ and the characters are significantly altered to create a story. The effect of that Contributor Note has been to completely inhibit me from reacting to the story in any honest way: you don’t analyze someone’s sacrament.