Part 2 of Brother, Appearing …
“It is rude to stare. May I enter?”
I was speechless. In front of me, in single person, was my twin, less than my twin, and more. In appearance, he was me from the shoes to about mid-chest. From mid-chest to the top of his head, if there was such a point, he was me in fog. His upper half was a collection of particles held together in vague shape, just enough to cast the slightest shadow, a form lacking detail.
It was as if he were still in the process of forming, or of vanishing. As a whole he was more than my likeness, because my twin on the doorstep was also known as the World Carnival’s famous Incredible Vanishing Man.
The carnival’s promotional sketches I had seen in newspapers over the years, and lately posted around town, were well-drawn, but the artist had not done his appearance justice. What artist could draw a featureless face in recognizable detail, so that a relative, even a twin, could recognize it?
“Come in, come in,” I said. “How did you find me?”
“Twins know. I can’t stay long,” he said. “I have a show tonight. Tomorrow we travel to Oklahoma City. Then to Denver. Then San Francisco. We finish the season in Europe.”
My twin and I spent almost an hour together, and it seemed like minutes. My brother, the broken vessel, the throw-away baby, had never worked a day in his life. He simply stood behind a curtain twice nightly. When the curtain raised, he gestured this way and that to stunned and amazed paying audiences until the curtain closed.
Men, women and children fought their way to the front of the stage, to first see the Incredible Vanishing Child, then the Incredible Vanishing Young Man. Now approaching middle-age, he had dropped “Young” from his title.
My brother had made a great living out of being half himself. I, the whole one, the keeper, was not poor, but I lived week-to-week on my city wages. I was too normal for more. I told him what I could about our mother and her story, and my unremarkable life as an only son, but our time together was short.
“I’m going out on my own after the European leg of the tour,” he said. “The carnival has held me back. They pay me only a percentage of total earnings. I, the headliner, the one who made them what they are, get a cut of the profit.”
“But they have made you rich,” I said.
“Relatively. It’s the principle. I should be the one giving percentages, not getting one.” He checked his watch. “Which brings me to the purpose of my visit.”
“I want you to promote me when my contract us up. We will travel together, get to know one another, regain lost time. I offer you my current salary: fifteen percent of gross. I keep the rest.”
“That would mean giving up my life.”
“It would also mean making your present annual wage within two months with me, your twin brother, ‘The Incredible Vanishing Man,'”. He gestured dramatically, as if the curtain had just opened.
“Agreed,” I said, “with one condition.”
“That you drop the vanishing act. You are not the vanishing man anymore. You’re appearing, appearing before their very eyes, like magic. Like tonight at my door.”
. . .