Killing Reuben: A Short Story

Killing Reuben: A Short Story

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This short story is republished from my 2015 anthology The Forging of Things.

Killing Reuben

“The world is such a beautiful place,” my little brother Reuben used to say as he would draw blue trees and red grass.

I would look at him curiously and say, “What do you mean?”

I tried not to sound judgmental or doubting since he was autistic. Although he was sixteen years old, he still had the innocent heart of a child. He was no doubt imaginative and thoughtful. What made him truly different from the rest of us was not his social apartness but his outlook of the world. He woke each day with newfound enthusiasm and an inspiring sense of wonder and awe. He loved learning new things and admired the different qualities and flaws in each person he met. So when he would declare how wonderful the world was, you couldn’t help but be amazed at how utterly happy he was.

Continuing to color in the shapes he drew, he would casually say, “Momma always says how cruel and unforgiving the world is. I don’t see it that way, though. I look at Mrs. Monica, and I just love how she smiles. Ricky always shares his fries with me when he doesn’t want anymore. They always make me happy. I just feel so happy when I go to sleep.”

His reply to my question would always put a big grin on my face. It thrilled me to know that Reuben was happy and enjoying life. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t help but look at the world in a different way. I could only see the looks of impatience on those who meet my brother, or I could hear the question “Is there something wrong with him?” over and over again. These conversations were the times when I would envy Reuben. He didn’t have a care in the world,

and any judgment that he faced passed right over his head. Where we always worry about the bad in the world, he only cared about and considered the good.

There were times when I lied outside with him on the lawn and counted the clouds or laughed at their shapes. In these special moments, I felt like I could understand his outlook on the world. We would put everything aside to enjoy each other’s company and bask in the warmth of the sun. I would look over to him and ask, “Hey, Reuben, what’s on your mind?”

He would stare thoughtfully upward as he considered the question. When he finally had this answer, he would look at me, smiling, and say, “I’m so happy. The sky is blue and that makes me happy.”

“You don’t like it when the sky is gray?”

“I love when the sky is gray too. I love the thunder and the lightning. I don’t think the sky can ever make me sad.”

“That’s wonderful, Reuben.”

One day, he came from school, beaming, and said cheerfully, “Guess what, Jerome, guess what!”

“What’s up, Reuben?” I couldn’t wait to hear his good news.

Every time he had something great to share, he would always confide in me first. I would always try to make his good news seem like the best news in the world because I never wanted him to feel neglected.

“I have a girlfriend!” He waited eagerly for my response.

My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. “Are you serious? That’s great! Who is it?” My heart pounded with excitement only because I knew that’s what made my brother happy.

“Alana Reinhart! She is in my homeroom. We always talked, and today, I asked her out. She said yes!”

Alana made my brother the happiest boy in the world. He would always tell me how beautiful and kind she was. He bragged to me about how she was a genius and how she would even help him with tough homework. For once, my brother had something—or rather someone—to feel proud of. He was beginning to explore new areas of love and open his heart up to something spectacular.

During the summer evenings, I took him for walks on the beach. We stared out at the fiery red ocean and spoke of wonderful impossibilities. He was amazed at how the ocean seemed to extend so far into nothing, which he filled with everything with his mind. He would suggest sitting on the soft cold sand and watching the sun until it was well under the horizon.

Again, he would repeat, “The world is such a beautiful place.”

“Yes, it is,” I said while staring mesmerized at the pastel-colored sky.

“No,” he said with no hint of hostility or rudeness. “You don’t get it. You don’t see it.”

“What don’t I see, Reuben?” This was the first time he had actually called me out on my lie.

“I always hear how horrible the world is, but I don’t want to think like that. I like to have beautiful world separate from ugly world. They can’t be the same.”

“Why not?” I couldn’t understand where my brother was going with this, but I tried my best to open up my mind and understand his thoughts.

“Because beautiful world is just too beautiful to be an ugly world too. Beautiful world has the sunsets, the trees, flowers, the bees, the sky, and love. That’s not ugly. It just isn’t.” His voice seemed to drop off into a reverie. I noticed how passionate he felt about his perspective of the world.

I looked at him endearingly and whispered, “Beautiful world is beautiful, but unfortunately, there are just not nice people out there.”

“But that’s where you’re wrong, Jerome. The not nice people don’t live in beautiful world. They have to live in ugly world, and I don’t want to live in ugly world, so I choose to live in beautiful world.”

And that’s when I understood what Reuben was talking about. In his mind, he had separated good things and bad things into two distinct categories, or more precisely, two distinct worlds. Where we tend to think of a world full of good and bad, he chooses to think of a world of good and world of bad where he decides to live in the world of good. It’s not that he doesn’t see the bad, but to him, it’s on the other side of the brick wall. When my eyes met his, at that moment, I understood him better than I ever had. The electricity that passed between us ignited the tight bond already between us. He made sense.

That was the last conversation I had with him. The following morning, he didn’t wake up. According to the doctor, he died from meningitis. The news hit me hard at first, and then it didn’t hit me at all. I remember being completely distraught and tuned out to everything else around me. For the next few weeks and months, I had shut down. The once colorful vibrant world seemed like murky gray sludge. So many emotions coursed through me the moment I found out had lost my little brother—sadness, anger, confusion, conflict, and finally emptiness. I felt nothing. I couldn’t help but feel betrayed by the world. My brother trusted it. He saw only its beauty, something that most people see for only a fleeting second. He lived in its beauty. He believed in his heart that he didn’t live in a world of hatred, violence, and death. To him, that ugly world did not concern him. It was far away and unreachable. He put all his heart and soul into this beautiful world, but it had let him down.

My brother had truly changed my life. In the short sixteen years I spent with him, he made me see the world in a way that no one else had. He had a heart as big as the moon, and he made sure to share it with everyone he knew. If anyone could truly be innocent and lonely, it was he. No one understood him, including me. But as opposed to everyone else, I took the time to listen to him and see the world through his eyes, and that world was truly beautiful. That world was a fairy tale, a dream come true. That was his world, the world that killed him.





Cover Image Credit: xdesktopwallpapers.com

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7 Reasons Why Literature Is So Important

"Literature Is One Of The Most Interesting And Significant Expressions Of Humanity." -P. T. Barnum
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Today, there are too many people who believe that literature is simply not important or underestimate its abilities to stand the test of time and give us great knowledge. There is a stigma in society that implies one who is more inclined toward science and math will somehow be more successful in life, and that one who is more passionate toward literature and other art forms will be destined to a life of low-paying jobs and unsatisfying careers. Somewhere along the line, the world has come to think that literature is insignificant. To me, however, literature serves as a gateway to learning of the past and expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world. Here are just a few reasons why literature is important.

1. Expanding horizons

First and foremost, literature opens our eyes and makes us see more than just what the front door shows. It helps us realize the wide world outside, surrounding us. With this, we begin to learn, ask questions, and build our intuitions and instincts. We expand our minds.

2. Building critical thinking skills

Many of us learn what critical thinking is in our language arts classes. When we read, we learn to look between the lines. We are taught to find symbols, make connections, find themes, learn about characters. Reading expands these skills, and we begin to look at a sentence with a larger sense of detail and depth and realize the importance of hidden meanings so that we may come to a conclusion.

3. A leap into the past

History and literature are entwined with each other. History is not just about power struggles, wars, names, and dates. It is about people who are products of their time, with their own lives. Today the world is nothing like it was in the 15th century; people have changed largely. Without literature, we would not know about our past, our families, the people who came before and walked on the same ground as us.

4. Appreciation for other cultures and beliefs

Reading about history, anthropology, or religious studies provides a method of learning about cultures and beliefs other than our own. It allows you to understand and experience these other systems of living and other worlds. We get a view of the inside looking out, a personal view and insight into the minds and reasoning of someone else. We can learn, understand, and appreciate it.

5. Better writing skills

When you open a book, when your eyes read the words and you take in its contents, do you ask yourself: How did this person imagine and write this? Well, many of those authors, poets, or playwrights used literature to expand their writing.

6. Addressing humanity

All literature, whether it be poems, essays, novels, or short stories, helps us address human nature and conditions which affect all people. These may be the need for growth, doubts and fears of success and failure, the need for friends and family, the goodness of compassion and empathy, trust, or the realization of imperfection. We learn that imperfection is not always bad and that normal can be boring. We learn that life must be lived to the fullest. We need literature in order to connect with our own humanity.

Literature is important and necessary. It provides growth, strengthens our minds and gives us the ability to think outside the box.

Cover Image Credit: google.com/images

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5 Quick Tips To Improve Your Focus And Time Management Skills

Here are five easy tips that helped my sense of productivity along the way.

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Lately, I've been pretty disappointed in my time management skills. I've been struggling to not only maintain all of my obligations but also my sense of joy while completing each task. And although I'd love to rain check on my responsibilities, I know that extended mental vacations are not a beneficial solution for long-term purposes. With this in mind, I've recently observed the ways that I manage my time as well as the methods I use to better improve my work ethic.
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https://www.andsoitcurls.com/blog/majorkeys-tools

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If you're anything like me, you probably work best with background noise. Now, while I love my Netflix account, I've recently discovered that binge-watching my favorite shows is only a distraction when I'm trying to meet a deadline. So, instead of compromising my focus I've recently decided to save my favorite podcasts episodes for when I'm bogged down with work.

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THIS IS A MAJOR ONE FOR ME! I have a terrible habit of complaining about my workload. And while it's easy to murmur about my obligations the effects of my comments are detrimental. I've been purposely replacing the phrase "I have to" with "I get to," to remind myself that every obligation is a blessing. I'm blessed to have a job and opportunities to fulfill.

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Lately, I've been taking great joy in checking off tasks from my "to-do list." Again, being a fan of visualization, it's rewarding to know that I've completed yet another task. This technique also serves as a healthy dose of encouragement to keep on trekking along, because the reality is if you could buckle down to achieve your goals once before, you can certainly do it again.

If anything, I hope that this list leaves you with healthy options to consider, when trying to tackle a stressful day.

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