I am the other brother, the one who wasn't famous. I am the dumb one, the one who chose to be a writer, and, to compound my sins, wanted to write well. That is why I am the non-famous brother. The poor one.
There wasn't much Colin couldn't do. He was the handsome one, the fast one, the one with all the charm, the luck, the sweet voice, the girls. That's OK, was OK. We all sail different ships.
Six weeks ago he wrote me from Miami. Tom, where can you go to escape? Me, I talk to sheep, walk on the moors, but I emailed back and said, "Ireland?"
"What is the best killing music?" he answered. I thought, "What?" It reminded me of that Iraq video, crazy GIs in armoured cars playing Meatloaf and dispensing death.
"Ring me," I said.
Now I'm driving west, the sky is filthy, the colour of discarded slate. Janet and I have hardly left and we haven't yet arrived, but there's a great ache floating up between us, a confusion of emotions, the loss, the step we are taking but at the same time a future, the inheritance and the cottage.
When we were boys, Colin wanted to be a soldier. I wanted to be a Dalek, so I could hide my crooked self. How the world turns.
So Colin left us the cottage and his letters says it comes with a field a cow, a yard and some chickens. He was never happy, he says, but maybe I will be content.
He knows me. He knows how I need things to be solid, to be old. He knows I need something honest, a fat river, a lazy tree that aches and sighs.
We are all asleep and it is coming, he wrote. I'm beating it, taking a short-cut, but you go to the cottage, it's yours and a man will bring you a cow and a few dozen hens. The rest us up to you, bro.
I should have been there, but after Paris, after Janet and Colin, we never found a way to get back. Janet now still aches, I can feel it, and now this, Colin, naked, face-down in a Miami penthouse, the bottle, the needles, I can feel the images swelling up, the old wants still there like an old, treacherous, deep pain.
But what is there but dreams, however dull? Like the child who places hope upon the water we take one more tilt. It is better to anticipate than to remember and regret. There is that windswept stone house waiting, a house far-off with one window glowing. I will be there and I will write about my mother, write about my father and fat-ankled aunts.
Janet will be unable to forget. She will suffer from the cold, and one day she will say she needs to leave me. I will have my typewriter, a plate, a bowl, my knife, fork and spoon and I will say I love it here and she will answer, "Where is here, Tom?"
There will be no panic, no flurry of regret. We will calmly part. I will have my doubts. I will confess to being human, but I will know what Colin knew, how we were made of stone and harsh winds. I'll ache as Janet leaves, but I will say, "I just love it here. I think I will stay."
I will watch her car until it disappears, then go inside and write Colin's story.