The Favored Son

Gross sibling rivalry - Editor

by Philip Roberts

Two of them watched the elder Paulk writhe on the bed. With the blinds drawn and the sun all but swallowed up by the night, the two sons could barely make out the withered face twisted in pain, thick veins like vines wrapped around the nude upper body. Tufts of thin white puffed out of the boney, wrinkled chest, the hair disturbed as the old man clawed at his skin, drew blood here and there.

Brian, the youngest at the age of twenty-two, reached forward to offer aide, but Jacob stopped the act with a brief shake of his head, face all but consumed by the darkness. He kept his head down, the oldest and the keeper of his father’s life. Though the elder Paulk had offered Brian five years of love and support, Jacob had always made it known that Brian wasn’t blood related, done his best to stress it. Now he turned from the violent coughs and glistening blood dribbling down the old man’s parched lips and left the room. Though Brian could’ve stayed, could’ve protested, he followed in silence.

Jacob closed the bedroom door and stood for a time, backlit by a lamp, the resemblance between son and father clear in Jacob’s thin chin, sunken cheeks, and curly black hair. Brian had seen pictures of the elder Paulk in his youth, and had always marveled at the resemblance between the two.

Behind the thick oak door the old man screamed into the night, voice deep and strong for just a few seconds before it dissolved into a string of watery coughs.

“We need a doctor,” Brian urged, pushing aside his normal hesitance in the face of Jacob’s stern demeanor. He’d known from almost the first day that Jacob disliked him, though he’d never been able to tell why. Jacob was never outwardly cruel, merely distant and disconnected.

When Jacob looked to him, Brian couldn’t say what he saw in the face peering back, but he knew before Jacob started walking down the hall that they weren’t going to call a doctor. At the onset of Paulk’s degeneration two months prior Jacob had refused any medical help, and had Mr. Paulk not done the same, Brian might’ve gone out on his own to seek help.

Instead he followed Jacob through the large home and out into the frigid autumn day. Three miles out from the nearest town, only an expanse of fiery looking trees greeted them, even the ground consumed by the colorful, dead leaves.

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