I knew little of the lives of my younger brothers and sister in our teen years for reasons of mutual disinterest and, in my case, jerkiness. What tidings I heard of the brothers in particular were strange, mostly dealing with pyrotechnics and ballistics and complex vandalism involving defunct appliances and acquaintances' yards. I did not understand these things.
I married a man, and he became the friend and enemy of these brothers. They demanded time together for the purpose of ridiculing and injuring and defeating each other. They invented structures and folkways for the purpose of better accomplishing these goals. Where vandalism decreased, pyrotechnics and ballistics swelled and overflowed the balance.
None of these men looked particularly suspect. Lean, yes, but more quarterback than linebacker. Indeed not even quarterbacks, but tennis players and speechies, Coen aficionados and history buffs and Greek tutors. Why, then, the violence? Why the idiocy? Why the inflicting and inviting of utterly pointless pain? Why the games (games!) wherein loss threatened emasculation? Why the retrieval of submarine-sized logs from a frigid Gitche Gumee, equipped only with swim trunks and a moronic will?
Girls, I'll tell you. They are practicing. In this time and place they will probably not be called upon for the ultimate trial of manhood. But they might. And they would be ready. They would know fear. They would know courage. They would suffer pain. They would prevail. They would go first. They would leave last. For us.
And so he must appear to be an imbecile, because a world safe as ours gives him little authentic opportunity to put himself to the test. For both of these things we should be grateful. In time, he will teach his sons the same, and they will learn to fight and kill and suffer and yet come home to eat the cookies we baked in their absence.
Tell him he was real tough next time he comes in all sweaty.