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Concept: The Things We Cannot Keep

I have many ideas lingering in my writing notebook waiting to see the light of day. Unfortunately, I cannot possibly flesh all of them out (at least not at this point), so I thought it’d be fun to share the concepts in a series of posts. Not all will become full-blown novels or even leave this blog, but some will. Which ones have the potential? Only time will tell.

My mother, our mother, once said that you always love your family. They’re part of you. They know you better than you often know yourself, and they’ll always be there for you. I didn’t believe that then, and I certainly don’t believe that now. The only reason I’m here is for Colin, my younger brother. I’ve always had a soft spot for him, being the youngest and all. He talked me into this, but I think it’s a terrible idea.

We’re waiting outside the federal prison in Eastern Washington on the vast plains that stretch between the Cascades and Spokane. The rolling hills in the distance isolate this brutal place where many criminals come to die, like my oldest brother. He’s getting out today after two decades behind bars in this dreadful place.

Were it left up to me, Wyatt would walk out of those gates and no one would be here to greet him, certainly not Colin and me, but Colin had other ideas. He’s naive like that. He thinks people can change. He thinks there’s inherent good in everyone. I’ve never been able to convince him otherwise, especially when it comes to Wyatt.

Colin always looked up to Wyatt, idolized him really. Wyatt could do no wrong in his eyes even when it was painfully obvious that he was doing some serious wrong. Wyatt took advantage of it, that much I could see. He’d tell stories of drag racing the streets late at night, bar fights that always ended with him victorious, or the beautiful girls who were nothing more than a fling to him. Colin would eat it up like a giddy little boy listening to his hero.

I learned early on never to trust my older brother. He is a liar and a cheat, and I doubt two decades in confinement have changed him much. He took advantage of anyone who gave him the benefit of a doubt including Colin and our mother. She went to her grave believing that he had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time several times over.

When he miraculously beat that murder conviction, she swore that God was looking over her son despite the evidence that suggested he had stabbed the other man to death. I think he did it, but he was saved by sloppy police work and a keen public defender just beginning her career as a star attorney. When he was hauled to jail for beating his first wife, she claimed the poor woman instigated it with her philandering ways and constant harping. Wyatt could do no wrong even when he did.

But it all finally caught up to him. He had never shed his teenage obsession with drag racing even after his  reflexes dulled through years of drug use and alcohol abuse, both of which he blamed on his ex-wives. Wyatt always had someone to blame for his own shortcomings. On that fateful night when Wyatt Conner finally ran out of luck, a young man died when Wyatt inexplicably swerved and hit his vehicle as they were racing through the flats just outside town.

While Wyatt escaped with only minor injuries, the young man died on impact in the crunch of metal and the ensuing fire. Wyatt was too high to realize what he had done, but he had run out of people to blame for his behavior, and he ended up with a manslaughter conviction and a long prison sentence.

With Wyatt behind bars, I felt relief. The constant drama he had caused our family had aged our mother beyond her years and put my impressionable younger brother at risk himself, but neither of them acknowledged this. Neither of them shared my disdain for Wyatt. Our mother wept at losing her oldest son, and she visited him every week until she took her own life on Christmas day almost 18 years ago. Colin struggled after losing the only father figure he had ever had. His life has been one long series of failed relationships and unfulfilling jobs. He still lives in the trailer park where we grew up in Tukwila clinging to his own idealized version of our family.

I tried to forget Wyatt. I blamed him for our mother’s death. I blamed him for Colin’s struggles, but I wanted to move on. I wanted to have my own life to prove that there was something worth saving in this tattered family of ours, but he always lurked in the background haunting me every time something went wrong. Somehow, I knew I would never escape my family.

A beep echoed behind the door near our seats followed by a grating noise that sounded like metal grinding on metal. I tensed in my chair, my knuckles turned white. The moment I had dreaded for so long had finally arrived.

When the door opened, a man resembling my older brother stood in shoddy clothes before us. Colin ran to him and hugged him. I hardly recognized him. He looked like Wyatt, but the wavy dark hair had thinned and been peppered with gray. The smooth taut face of his youth had been replaced with sagging, wrinkled skin. He looked much older than his forty-five years. Only his eyes remained the same. They had that deep, distant stare that promised me nothing had really changed in Wyatt Conner.

I stepped in behind Colin who still embraced his brother. When he finally pulled back and wiped the tears from his face, Wyatt looked at me.

“It’s been a long time, Luke,” he said.

“Yes, it has. How are you?” I felt awkward like I had just met him for the first time in my life.

“As good as can be, considering…” He shrugged his shoulders and raised his palms as if he was pointing out the obvious to me.

I extended my hand. He hesitated, but then, he extended both of his and shook my hand, cupping the back of mine with his other hand. A slight, unsure smile crept across his face.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. “I’ve had enough of this place.”

Colin draped his arm across Wyatt’s shoulder and hugged him close. “I thought we could all go camping this weekend just like we used to when we were kids.”

“I tried to talk him out of it,” I interjected, “but he insists it’d be good for you.”

Wyatt chuckled and looked at Colin in disbelief, but then, I saw something cross his face and he gave into the idea. “I’d like that. Just the three of us. Just like old times.”


A sense of dread overcame me as we walked out of the doors to the federal prison. A voice inside my head told me to put a stop to this nonsense, but I looked at Colin’s face and saw how happy he was. He hadn’t looked that happy in years. Maybe, just maybe, things had finally changed.

One comment on “Concept: The Things We Cannot Keep

  1. Becky says:

    This was a very good read.. Am interested to read the next chapter..You have left a lot of avenues open and have brought in a lot of thought of how people may change.

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