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Wit's End

Wit's End - Karen Joy Fowler The dead brother riffs: "Oliver would have been 26 if he'd lived. Rima felt an instant dislike for Martin who got to be 26 years old and probably didn't even appreciate it. It was such an unfair feeling that having it made her sneeze again. "Bless you," Addison said, which Rima didn't deserve; it only added to her guilt." p.35"Instead, in the moments between people's knocking on the door, she said that her father's death, being what it was and pretty awful all by itself, had reminded her of Oliver's death -- too painful to be comprehended at the time and therefore still seeping in slowly, even after 4 whole yrs had passed. "Everything was better w Oliver," Rima said, and she was crying again, because, unbelievable as it sounded, the rest of Rima's life had to be lived in its lesser, no-Oliver form. "No one would ever call her Irma again unless she made them. "The thing people don't understand about grief," Rima said, "is you don't just feel sad. You feel crazy." She was choking on her own breath when she said this, so there was no way she didn't sound as crazy as she felt." p.77"(If only Oliver had lived to see YouTube. It only Rima's mother had lived to see . . . But that death was so long past, Rima was hard pressed to think of anything her mother hadn't missed." p.92"Rima had tried jogging after Oliver died. She thought it would be smar to get physically exhausted. She thought if she were body-tired instead of, or along with, the heavy exhaustion of grief, she would think less. But the effort involved in lifting her feet over and over was too much for her. Later she tried again, but she found she'd been mistaken in her primary assumption. All you did when you ran was think. She hated it." p.197."When Rima was 8 or so, she and Oliver came down with chicken pox. Oliver 1st and Rima a half-day ater. They stayed home from school, which would have been great it they had been feeling better, playing Sorry and Yahtzee every morning and watching the Zach Grayson murder trial on All My Children every afternoon from opposite ends of the sofa, their feet piled together in the middle so that they could communicate with each other with kicks. Between naps they called for endless cups of hot tea with lemon and honey stirred in, which was the drink of choice for invalids in the Lanisell family. After a few days, though, everyone involved had had enough. Oliver's case was light, but he acted as though he had just as much right to misery as Rima did, which was aggravating in the extreme. One morning they quarreled for hrs over a geode that their father had sent them from Brazil. Oliver wished to break it open with a hammer. Rima wished to throw it from her 2nd-floor bedroom window like a grenade onto the driveway below, which, Oliver said, would break it too hard. There were tears (Oliver's) and their mother was forced to take the rock away from them. At lunchtime, they fought again over who got to deal with the plastic seal on the new jar of peanut butter. Rima wanted to peel it off without breaking it, while Oliver wanted to plunge a knife through so he could hear it pop, and Rima didn't even really care; she was just making Oliver cry now because she could. Their mother took the jar away and told them to go sit on the couch in the TV room and play a game in which they weren't allowed to talk or touch each other until she said so. If they managed to do this, which would demonstrate maturity and control, 2 things a spy needed, then she would teach them how to be spies. Like she was."You're not a spy." Oliver told her, and she ask him if she was sure about that."You're a mother." But there was already doubt in his voice. The woman on Scarecrow and Mrs. King was a spy, and her 2 little boys didn't know a thing about it, although honestly, they were dumb as posts. How many times did your mother have to miss dinner before you asked yourself what was that? (Their father, now, he could be a spy. He probably was. He was fooling no one.) Oliver followed Rima from the kitchen to the TV room and sat as far away from her as possible.When their mother arrived, she was carrying a single tray covered with a red-striped dish towel. She told them that this particular spy training came from Kipling's book Kim, which she would read to them later at bedtime. Grandma had read the same book and taught her this same game when she was a little girl."Grandma's not a spy," Oliver said. "She teaches nursery school."Rima could have pointed out that he had just lost the game in which they didn't talk until their mother said to. The only reason she didn't was that she was bored with making him cry.The new game was to look at the objects on the tray when the dish towel was removed and then see how many of them you could remember when the dish towel was put back. To this day, Rima could tell you many of the things that had been on that first tray. The peanut butter jar and the geode. Rima's charm bracelet and her toothbrush. Oliver's Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure and his Adam Bomb Garbage Pail kids card, a vial of some oil to help you meditate, a pearl drop earring, and a postcard from their father in Argentinaa, where a few years there'd been a dirty war. Rima had asked why some wars were dirtier than others, and he hadn't had a satisfactory answer. Oliver and Rima liked the game. They played several times that day and often afterward, making up trays for each other if their mother was busy. As Oliver got good at it, his enthusiasm for spying grew. He became an incorrigible eavesdropper, which lasted many years and maybe the rest of his life. Certainly he always knew more about Rima than she could easily account for." p. 236-8