Anders & Robin

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Chapter VIII

The next fifteen years of Tim's life bred few stories, though a good many important things happened. In two years, Alice Özdemir becomes Alice Wilson, and two months after that, Anders Wilson is born, on the 10th of April, 1984. On November 8th, 1986, Robin Wilson follows suit. As a fun sidenote, I came out as Faeowynn Wilson officially on October 25th, 1995, which also fits into this time frame. I really wanted to wear a certain costume with my friends. Thank you for pushing me, Halloween. But enough about me.

Much like a sibling might live in the shadow of another, this decade-and-a-half lives squarely in the shadow of events yet to come. Yet I find it important to document somehow, and struggle to recall stories of my dad's that truly highlight the transience of this period. So instead, speaking of siblings, I would like to take this time to honor my brothers, though I see them more like my cousins. Though we are familial and love each other dearly, we grew up in very different settings, both in terms of our parents and our surroundings. To thank them for their support (both emotional and managerial) in this time of struggle, I entreat you to join me for a story that my brothers told me.


* * * * *


So now, we find ourselves on a Saturday morning, sometime in the 1990s (memory is so fickle).

Via the magic of practiced internal rhythms, Anders and Robin both opened their eyes at almost 7:00 on the dot. The only reason they hadn't, is because their brains had first booted up at 6:45, as was tradition, so that they didn't have to immediately be wide awake, instead letting their minds acquiesce to all the responsibilities of being alert. So instead, they were, in their individual rooms, staring at the clock.

In Robin's room, it was 6:58. His room was the attic, repurposed. Not because there were no other rooms available, but because Robin really liked it. Its insulation was lacking, so it would be very cold in winter, very hot in summer. For the summer months, he slept in his underwear and without sheets, a fun humming day in and day out. In winter, he slept next to the metal "chimney", which was usually heated by the late-night fires that Tim would light (he found the couch more comfortable than a bed in the cold months). The rest of the room was relatively Spartan. Aside from a toy chest repurposed to be a clothes chest, a small shelf that Tim built for Robin to put some few books and stuffed animals on, and of course the bed and associated tiny bedside table, the only notable features of the room were the window and that Robin was the only person short enough to stand fully upright in it. This, of course, was what Robin loved most about living in the attic.

In Anders' room, it was 6:59, because there was a delay between their two clocks which no one had noticed yet. Anders was silently very smug about being the first one to the breakfast table by one minute every single time. Well, silently smug most of the time. Robin is very vocal whenever someone tries to say Anders was "silent" about anything, chiding his older sibling for for being a very gloat-happy child. Anders' room was fairly standard, except that he slept in the top bunk of a bunk bed that he alone occupied. The bottom bunk, once occupied by the youngest, had been changed into a desk, which Anders used to do his homework and store his mini-library (though it should be noted that it did a poor job of that; stacks of books spilled onto the floor in every corner of the room).

And then it was 7:00.

Anders shot out of bed, and Robin followed maybe forty-five seconds afterwards, clambering to switch out of his sleeping-clothes and into his daytime-garments. Anders, for his part, wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a tee with a large monkey face on it that read "THIS IS BANANAS!". Robin was mostly the same, except that his wardrobe has mostly little, tiny polos his size, which his mom thought were just adorable on him. Robin didn't care enough to protest, and so he became a well-dressed little man.

Anders came out of his bedroom and walked down the hall to the bathroom, finding it already open and containing his younger brother.

"Hey!"

Robin paused the brushing of his teeth to stick a tongue out at Anders: "I shlept an mah closhes!"

"Red, don't talk around your toothbrush!" In family legend, the Wilson household is actually one giant ear that connects directly to Alice at all times.

Robin spat out toothpaste, and turned to Anders: "I slept in my clothes."

"You shouldn't sleep in your clothes!"

"Don't sleep in your clothes, Redhead!"

"Okay Mom!" Robin shouted back, and then kicked Anders in the shoulder (he still wasn't tall enough to reach the sink without aid).

Anders chuckled, and then retrieved his own toothbrush and toothpaste, proceeding to spend a full thirty seconds brushing his teeth, then flossing, and then just as he was rinsing with mouthwash, Robin said:

"Get out of the bathroom, I need to go!"

Anders couldn't speak, and so gave him a look.

"Come on Andie, I need to go, get out of the bathroom!"

Anders pointed at the mouthful of mouthwash, and shook his head.

"Mom!"

"Andie, finish in the kitchen!"

Anders shot Robin a glare, and Robin reciprocated. But he listened to Alice, and ran into the kitchen to spit out his mouth wash.

"But Mom," he said, "I didn't run my head under water!"

"Just do that here."

"The sink is too high!"

Alice pulled over a chair, and helped Anders stand on it. After being hoisted up, he ran his hair under water and ran soap through it. He toweled off using a clean kitchen rag, then tossing it into the dirty rag bin under the sink and next to the trash can.

"Where's Dad?" Anders asked.

"Out helping Frank with his sheep, got some kind of digestion problem." Alice didn't hide the disapproval in her voice — she thought she'd made it clear how important family breakfast was to her. "But he made you and your brother stir fry."

"Then what are you making?"

"Dinner. It's a crockpot dish, it's going to cook for a very long time."

"Oh. Okay."

Anders sat at the table in the living room, situating himself in front of a bowl of stir fry.

"Don't eat before Robin is there with you!"

"I know, Mom."

Anders just kicked his feet back and forth, more than a little smug that, even despite Robin's newest tactic, he had made it to the table first. Like always. A win for Anders.

Robin came through moments later, and asked Alice basically the same questions, garnering the same responses, and then sitting down in front of his bowl of stir fry. Anders and Robin both said a prayer, to which Alice silently smiled, and then dug in.

At its conclusion, Anders and Robin peeled into their respective morning activities: reading for Anders, piano for Robin. Each got about forty minutes in, and then used the last five minutes before their bike ride to become prepared for that.

Without nudging from their mom, the brothers met in the garage at 7:55 on the dot. Wordlessly, each pulled their bike helmets off a shelf crowded with other knick-knacks — hammers, nails, screwdrivers, screws, extension cables, a bottle of mold killer, packages of sponges that really should be in the kitchen, piles of clothes and accessories that were slated to be donated to some non-profit, the like. Anders then went to the door of the garage, and pushed the button to open it. As the garage door opened, Robin brought the bikes from within to the street, and Anders closed the garage door as soon as he was out. He then ran out the garage, down the hall, and through the door, to emerge into the outdoors, where Robin was waiting.

Anders couldn't contain his excitement, strapping his bike helmet on the way to the street, climbing onto the bike as soon as he reached it and Robin had let go of it. At 8:00 exactly, the boys were pedaling down the street, flanked on both sides by fields, sometimes full of corn, sometimes full of small stout trees, other times full of cows, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, alpaca, and sheep. And when they passed the sheep, they shouted: "Morning Dad!"

Tim looked up from a sheep's mouth he was holding open, and took the time to wave to his boys before passing out of view behind a barn. Anders smiled. Even when his dad wasn't at work, he was finding some way to be with animals.

The day was young, the land was flat. Closeby were the fences, animals, and crops, but not far from that were the woods, thick and piney, lines of firs that sometimes cut small portions out of the farmland to reclaim, or found home in the pig pen of a farmer who didn't much mind. Though the open air, sun just above the horizon and cloudless blue skies were nice, Anders and Robin were headed for the treeline, where the road began to loosen, snaking instead of straight, curving instead of rigid, as organic and natural as a large gray river.

"I bet you I can get there first!" Anders yelled as he pelted forwards.

"Hey, no fair, Mom said stick together!"

"Then you're gonna have to catch up!"

Robin groaned and sped up, to which Anders giggled: and now it was a competition. The race was simple, until they finally passed the growing number of pines, and the road began to twist and turn. The brothers fought to make the tightest turns around the corners, sometimes banking so sharply that they appeared for a moment to be horizontal on their bikes, a miracle alone responsible for their perseverance against gravity to stay upon their vehicles.

Then, ignoring the lanes of the road and unable to hear a motor over their giggling and shouting, Anders nearly collided with a large black truck, its front peeking from around the corner just enough of a warning for Anders to glide out of the way, left only with half-deaf ears from its honks, better than a half-dead body from its bumper. Anders suddenly stopped on the side of the road, and held a hand to his racing heart in his chest.

Robin stopped just in front of him, staring wide-eyed at his older brother he suddenly felt he must keep in his vision at all times.

"Don't tell Mom," Anders gasped, and Robin nodded his head.

"It's not that far," Robin pointed out. "Let's walk." Anders agreed.

They held their bikes by the handles, and walked them the rest of the way up the wooded hill. Pollen filled the air, telling the boys it was spring, close to the end of their school year. They had already begun planning what their summer weeks would look like with Alice — nearly every hour of every day of the week would have some regulated, timed activity. With the freedom that came in the absence of school, Robin and Anders had excitedly suggested a bike ride every day. Come summer, they wanted to begin exploring every possible nook and cranny local to their area. Once finished, they could tell anyone where anything was, from the general to the esoteric. It was an ability their mom had over the entirety of Clackamas County. So, of course, their goal was the entirety of Oregon, just to one up her. But for this summer, they'd start small. A town like Boring felt like an entire world to kids their age.

They soon passed the burnt tree stump by the side of the road that told them they were nearing their destination. The boys looked at each other, smiled, and started to walk faster. Then, there was the fallen branch, and the baby tree, and finally, the trail. Unmarked.

Unmarked trailheads were magical things. It was only recognizable as a trail because of the rough look to the dirt, the absence of plants along the path, the lighter hue to the ground. They always beg questions; if they aren't on the maps, who knows they're here? Who walks them? And why make a trail here and not somewhere else? Do they lead to a nice secluded swimming spot? A clearing, a grove? A hut? For these reasons, the brothers loved finding unmarked trails. This one was just far enough out that when they found it first last Sunday, they had to bike back at that very moment to get home on time. But on a Saturday such as this one, there was an entire hour-and-a-half more allowance. A little more than forty-five minutes out and back, as the ride home was shorter on bike.

"Should we walk it?"

"Dad says not to bike new trails."

"Ok."

They found bushes behind which to hide their bikes, hearing in their head the warnings Alice had given them about people stealing bikes, and started down the trail.

The woods were temperate, the forest floor dim as the trees blocked all the morning light. A waft of pine passed under the boys' noses. This aroma, and the scent of manure from their neighborhood, would come to define their home, bringing them back to a place of calm no matter where in the world they were. But for now, necessarily, it was all they knew, and they paid it as much mind as one does the language they speak. The sounds of their confident steps sometimes mingled with those of a scurrying squirrel, a waking bird, or a dashing lizard. The trail was level, uphill to their left and downhill to their right.

Robin kept track of the time on a watch he got for Christmas, Anders on one he got for his birthday. They had not yet developed the skills necessary to appreciate nature as anything more than the state of things. They peered around not as wanderers in an art gallery, but as residents in their home. The trees were bedposts, dirt and dust soft sheets, animals pets and stumps tables. The only excitement in their hearts came from the idea that they might discover something special at the end.

"Pew!"

"What?"

Anders turned around, and saw that Robin was pointing with both his hands at Anders, thumbs straight up to imitate pistols. "Pew!" he shouted again, and this time, Anders ducked.

The game was on.

Suddenly, Anders and Robin were ducking between trees, rolling out of the way of one another, and shooting whenever they found an opportunity. No one kept track of how many times one or the other was shot, they would only yell "ow!" and feign an injury for a few seconds and then keep going. (Well, maybe Robin counted, but he didn't say anything.) In an instant, roles were made — Anders was suddenly Li'l Bill, the snooping scoundrel that stole Robin's — or should I say Robin Hood's — fair lady, a woman by the name of Maggie Belle, played sometimes by their friend Olivia who came to visit.

"You can't have her, Bill! Pew! Pew!"

"She made her own choice! Pew!"

"Augh! I've been hit!"

And so on and so forth, the game continued, until finally Robin caught Anders at the edge of a large stone, dramatized at this moment to be a large, sheer cliff. "She'll never be yours, Bill! Any last words?"

"Yeah… you'll never take me alive!"

Anders threw himself off the top, diving into the dirt and bed of dead pine needles, suddenly tumbling down the hill, over and over himself.

"You can't get away that easy!"

Robin threw himself after, laughing as he deliberately rolled and tumbled down the hill. But before he reached the bottom—

"Ow!"

"I didn't shoot you."

"Ow!"

Inertia finally put Robin's momentum aside, and he stood up at the flattened out bottom of the hill. As he wiped dirt from his pants and shirt, he looked towards Anders' voice, and saw the source of his pain: a statue.

It looked like a raccoon, minus one important detail; it was missing its tail. By the pose of the statue, it looked rather startled. Its eyes were wide, one of its front paws was off the ground, the angle of its back and front legs made its body into a subtle U-shape, with its head facing towards the hill.

Anders was splayed out on the ground, rubbing his head where it had made high-velocity contact with the stone, no longer Li'l Bill, now once more a child. Robin, however, approached it, perplexed as he was just by it being here.

"Is there a house nearby?" Robin asked.

"How should I know?" Anders snapped, still rubbing his head. And then: "Sorry."

"It's okay. I left my band-aid box on my bike. I can run back and get it."

"It's fine."

Robin circled the statue. Its detail was unimaginable — each individual fur seemed to have been rendered in the stone, each sign of dust and grime accumulated from the wild touched upon in its coat. Never before had Robin seen anything of this detail. It fascinated him.

"Do you hear that?" Anders said as he finally got to his feet.

"Hear what?"

"Sounds like a bird."

Robin giggled. "No duh."

"No, really really close."

Pulling out of his artistic daze, Robin began to hear it too. A tweeting, coming from the statue.

"Look!"

Robin circled to where Anders was, pointing into the slightly open mouth of the sculpture, and as he approached, the tweeting became louder and louder. Once he reached Anders' side, he crouched down and peered in. Sure enough, the vague outline of a bluebird became apparent, squirming inside the stone jaws and jowls.

"It sounds hurt!" Anders blurted.

"How did it get in there?"

"I don't know! We have to help it."

"How?"

The boys stewed on it for a second. They had nothing heavy enough to crack open the statue — and should they want to? Robin was very upset by the thought of breaking it open, but Anders seemed to find that of little consequence. Robin tried to remind him that it was probably someone's property, but Anders didn't seem to hear him.

"Dad," Anders concluded.

"Dad," Robin agreed.

They dashed back to the trail, then back up the trail, then wrangled their bikes out of bushes, put their helmets back on, stood them up on the side of the road, and flew across pavement on their way towards their father's work.


* * * * *


The farm supply store was never really bustling, but given their town, it was never fully quiet either. A steady flow of customers went in and out every day, buying feed or new chickens or replacing a rake, shovel, or some other tool of the trade. Tim knew nearly every person who went through, so it wasn't often he would be surprised when someone stepped through the door, but just about the last people he expected to see were his two boys, covered head to toe in dirt and sweat, rushing in like a boy had fallen into the well.

"What's going on, boys?"

"There's a hurt bird!!"

"What?"

The boys talked over each other:

"It's stuck—" "—sounds really hurt—" "—new trail we found—" "—rolled down a hill—" "—found a statue—" "—Andie hit his head—" "—mouth slightly open—"

"Boys! Slow down! Now explain, one at a time."

The two divulged the situation in full, and emphasized the urgency of the bird's fate.

"We don't know how hurt it is, Dad," they said. "We need to go save it."

Tim struggled to push down the wave of pride he felt, hearing his sons so fervently describe the plight of a bluebird, but it wormed its way into his expression, a golden, beaming smile spreading from cheek to cheek and pushing up his eyes.

"How can you be smiling at a time like this!?" Anders scolded.

Tim covered his mouth, embarrassment helping him force the smile down. Once ready, he addressed them: "I can't leave the store here for another maybe eight hours, I'm sorry, maybe you should go home and get your mom? If you save it and bring it home, I can probably help it when I get off work, okay?"

The boys frowned at this, telling Tim over and over that this was more important than work, but Tim was unyielding, reinforcing the need for him to be here. He was, after all, the only employee in the building at that moment. If he left, the store closed, and he would have to explain that to his boss.

Anders and Robin wouldn't let it go, couldn't let it go, only whining louder, insisting harder, raising their voices until everyone in the farm supply heard them asking, pleading, begging for Tim to leave his desk and come with them to the trail. And just as the scale in Tim's mind was tipping in favor of abandoning his post to water this emerging trait of his boys', someone came from around a shelf of feeds. Someone with a long, mountain-man beard, unkempt but not unsightly, and a balding tanned head.

"Al!" Tim greeted. "Have you met my boys? Anders, Robin, this is Al."

Al gave them a warm smile, but Anders only waved, and Robin spared but a glance for the stranger.

"Hi boys," Al spoke with a deep and resounding bass. "I hear you've found a hurt bird?"

"Yea!"

"A bluebird!"

"It's caught in the mouth of a statue!"

"I know, I know. I heard it across the store, ahaheh. Tim, why don't I go in your stead, eh? I don't have to be home for a bit, I've got tools in my truck, we could go take a crack at it, get a bird unstuck."

"Oh!" Tim expelled. "Yes, that sounds great!"

"What do you say, boys?"

The boys rumbled with agreement, to which Albert just laughed. "Sounds like a yes to me. Come on, we'll go faster if we all take my truck."


* * * * *


"We, we swear it was here!"

Anders stood in one spot, staring at where the raccoon used to be, whereas Robin stood right where the raccoon used to be, trying to see if he could summon it into existence by occupying the same space.

"It was a statue of a raccoon with no tail! I swear it!"

"I don't doubt you," Al said. "But it looks like someone took it away."

"Noo! Noo!" Robin started to throw a fit. He stomped the ground, kicked rocks, hurled sticks.

"Woah there, Red, wooah. There's no need to get so angry."

"It's not fair! It was right here!!"

Albert wasn't entirely sure how to calm Robin down, and so he stood by as the nearly-middleschooler paced and raged around the spot where this supposed statue resided. He looked down to Anders, the calmer child, as he just stood and watched his brother toil. So, Albert shrugged, and thought to himself: I guess we'll just wait this out. He ain't hurting anybody anyhow.

So Al found a sturdy, straight tree, and leaned up against it, closing his eyes and enjoying the few warm rays of sun that weren't impeded by branches. Robin's fire became a white noise, akin to construction work, loud but untroubling. And to it, Albert found a zen, and tuned in.

A good few minutes passed before Al noticed the forest was once again calm, and he cracked open an eye to see Robin, seated and defeated on the ground, having found his screaming accomplished nothing, did little to pull the statue back into existence.

"Are you done there, son?"

Robin sniffled.

Albert pulled himself into a standing position, took in a deep breath of air, and said: "Well, alright then. We best get you back home, right?"

Anders turned to Al, and said, keeping some but not all of the worry out of his voice: "We're really late to be home. Mom's gonna be worried."

"Is that so?" Al turned to Robin. "Hear that? We have to leave, Momma's waitin'."

Robin sniffled again.

"Would you come with us if I carried you on my back?"

Robin raised his head to make eye contact, and solemnly nodded.

"Alright boy, here we go."

Al picked up Robin, who was small even for his age, and led the boys back to the truck. To this day, my brothers still swear that they both saw that statue, and can lead anyone back to the spot where it was. To this day, they recount with ardor that day that they found it, and tried to save the bluebird. Now, they laugh about it, about what a strange thing it was to find as kids, an unexplained phenomenon, that no one really believed at the time.

What's odd is that everyone does now.




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