Patrick Somerville

from the April 2011 issue

XII. Due Cigni Negri, Two Black Swans

THERE WERE once two brothers, twins, each darker than the other, eyebrows, eyes, lips and even their teeth. Looking at them, you would guess at the color of their bones, at the shadows deep in their hearts. Were they altogether alike? No two things are altogether alike.

One woman they came to love, her hair white as snow, her eyes as soft a gray as rain.

She loved them both, each for his own person. She loved the one who led the way and the one who followed. Time she spent with one and then the other. One, when she was with the other, would watch, like a dog with his eyes on a pair of swans by the river’s edge. So came the day when one brother, the one who led or the one who followed, tasted blood, and his imagination took flight. He saw his brother with the woman. “It’s time,” he said softly as he drew his knife from its sheath. And so he slew his brother who lay panting by the side of the woman.

This story has its twin, where it is the other brother who does the slaying. And so in story there are two brothers living and two brothers dead. Ω

Tony Wolk is the author of three novels: Abraham Lincoln: A Novel Life, Good Friday, and Lincoln’s Daughter.