Books lined his shelves, worn mass-market spines of one-word titles,
Carrie and Christine and Misery, It with its thumb-soft cover of a paper boat
nosing into a storm drain where three green talons hinted at something
much worse. Shining hardbacks for his Christmas pile in my parents’ closet,

stories I was too afraid to read bound for his precise, chronological rows.
My brother presided over a remote like a monarch, forever lording it
out of my reach. The night I couldn’t sleep after watching horror movies
at an older girl’s house, my mom said Say no next time, like it was okay

to tell someone what I did and did not want, like I could even know that
myself. Twenty years after I first feared it might be true, I said the one word
girlfriend at my brother’s house, my heart a paper boat in my throat. Afraid
of nothing, my brother tossed me the remote and asked what I wanted

to watch, and did my girlfriend have a name? Andy, I said, looking over
at his shelves, fuller now with even more stories – just words some writer
like me put to paper, his own nightmares laid bare in the light of day. I said
her name again, made it real: a dreamscape, a needful thing, a talisman.