The Day We Nearly Killed Our Brother

Jonny was going through his ‘skater-boy’ phase. A hint of ‘emo’. He was about eleven years old. That day he was wearing his favourite red and black striped wrist bands, a peaked grey hat, black t-shirt, grey skinny jeans, and Converse. His clothes drew attention to his lanky body.

It was warm enough to be in the garden; a day when the sun dipped in and out of clouds, the breeze slightly chilling whenever the sun decided to hide. Jonny was the first to go outside, as was so often the case. Our older brother, David, had torn himself away from the computer and gone out to join him.

There had been a shed at the top of our garden, but it became so rotten that we’d torn it down and were preparing to lay the foundations for a new one. A tree was beginning to lean out over it.

I walked up the steps to see what my brothers were doing, tiptoeing in my sandled feet, carefully avoiding the patio cracks and the colony of ants that spilled out of them. I flicked one off my toe.

It looked like a construction sight up there, largely because of the planks of wood, breeze blocks, sticks and other items that Jonny had decided to collect. The boys were busy attaching a length of blue rope to one end of a small ladder which we had acquired from a rubbish tip.

‘Hi,’ said David, with a glint in his eye as he looked up at me. ‘Jonny’s going to stand on a rung, and we’ll chuck the end of the rope over the tree branch and hoist him up!’

Jonny held up the ladder as David tied the rope securely, pulling it hard as he finished.

‘Are you sure the knot will be strong enough?’ I asked, anxiously looking back at the house. ‘Jonny, is this a good idea?’

‘Oh, yes,’ David dismissed, pulling at it again and then standing up, wiping dirt off his trousers, ‘I know how to tie a good knot.’

‘Yeah, I’m gunna do it,’ said Jonny, preparing to step on the bottom rung.

With some difficulty David and I yanked on the rope until it was about two feet off the ground. Although he wasn’t far from the floor his tallness added a significant amount of height.

It was then that the old rope snapped. I saw it in slow motion. The thud seemed to echo round my head as his back hit the ground.

He lay there for long seconds, still and quiet, eyes flickering behind their lids. Was it injury, or shock, or play-acting? I felt sick and my heart pounded. David’s mouth had fallen wide open.

We’ve killed him! Or broken his neck! He didn’t move. Paralysed for life, the doctor would say, gravely; he may never walk again

Jonny jumped up suddenly.

He ran down the garden, completely unscathed. My fear turned to anger as I watched him go. We caught a glimpse of his evil smile as he disappeared into the house.

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