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Sibling Rivalry

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My older brother Michael always liked to play in the water. Since we lived in a beach house in Florida, he could play as much as he wanted while we were home. Our parents had a rule against going out too far, since sometimes the neighbors drove their speedboats too far inland and they weren't the best drivers. To the minds of a 5 and 9 year old, it was just them being overprotective. We stayed near the shallow areas while being watched, but always had contests to see who could go out the farthest before getting washed over by waves. And Michael always got there first, since we were of the mindset that if you didn't have goggles, you couldn't go underwater, and he had his own pair.


Well, one day, our parents were going next door to the neighbor's house to check out his new boat. Since both areas of the beach had a view of our swimming area, our parents decided we could stay on our side to swim. We were happy about that because the neighbor's area had a lot of seaweed, and if you've ever touched seaweed with your feet, you know it's a very unpleasant feeling. The water wasn't very clear near the shore, so we couldn't see the seaweed. We swam, and swam (there's not much to do in the water, but we didn't care), until Michael noticed that our parents weren't really watching us. The neighbor had a...quite attractive female over, and our mother was distracted by conversation and our father by her very well-endowed physique. The neighbor himself was getting in his boat to show it off, so Michael thought this would be a great opportunity.

"Daniel, c'mon! I'm gonna win!" he teased as he started to swim out, knowing I couldn't keep up. I struggled against the tides as I frantically tried to pursue him.

"Slow down, I can't keep up!" I whined. Being the older brother he is, he eased up and let me catch up-before tearing ahead again. As he got out to what we called the Far Area (called such because it was where Michael couldn't touch the bottom anymore), he began to water dance.

"I got here first! I got here first!" he teased in a singsong voice. He continued, but he was cut of by the roar of the neighbor's boat turning its engine. Since we knew how terrible he was at driving, we started to back off. Except that when I started backing off, Michael started flailing in the water.

"Daniel! There's seaweed on my foot!" he yelped. Not in a frightened way, just so I could hear him. I started to swim back over, but that was when things started to get bad.

The boat, quite far away, made a grinding sound, as if something had gotten jammed in the engine block or the propeller. The worst part: It was now in line with Michael. It was going very slow, though, so if I hurried, he'd be fine. But the thing that made this the worst part? Remember when I said Michael always wins? He always won because I couldn't swim well. In the time it took me to get to him, the boat had closed half the distance between it and Michael.

"I can't get it loose!" he cried, knowing he was in danger. He took off his goggles and handed them to me. "Get down there and get it off me!" Any other time, I would have marveled at the fact that he'd let me use his goggles. But right now, I had to save his life. I dove under the water, looking for the tangled mess of seaweed. Around his right foot was a large, tangled fishnet. It'd probably gotten dragged here from the ocean. As much as I tugged, I couldn't get the net off. As I fidgeted with the mass, I felt a pull on my shoulders, two hands picking me out of the water. The hands shoved me as I broke the surface, and in my spinning vision, I saw the boat about three feet from Michael. I tried to get back to him, but the boat got to him before I did.


Do you know how agonizing it is to watch someone die? To watch someone you know, someone you care for be sliced into bloody chunks? I heard the screams of the neighbor, of our parents... my parents. And of Michael. The beginnings of a scream abruptly cut short as his body was mutilated. The neighbor was crying, sobbing uncontrollably. When he got to shore, my mother started to try to hit him out of pure rage and sadness. My father had the sense to call 911, to get someone on the scene.

The boat was a scam, barely worth the paint on the outside. The person the neighbor had bought it from had given him a really crappy boat for a really high price. The inspection showed that the propeller had jammed on some seaweed it should otherwise have been able to shear through, though how it had cut Michael so badly with that fact is beyond me. Two weeks after the pieces of Michael had been collected, my parents started planning the funeral.

That funeral was 13 years ago from today. If he hadn't pushed me out of the way, it would've been mine, too. Always had to be first at everything, didn't you? Miss ya, bro.

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