Dennis Must

Brother Carnival

Ethan Mueller, the narrator of Brother Carnival, has suffered a crisis of faith and is on the brink of taking his own life when he is informed by his father that he has an estranged brother who is an author. Whereupon he is handed a collection of his sibling’s stories and novel excerpts and urged to seek him out. “These stories are his effort to find you, Ethan. He’s been where you are now. Seek him out but it won’t be easy.” In effect, “Christopher Daugherty’s” writings function as the protagonist’s brother in absentia, thus creating the “dialogue” and suspenseful interplay between them. By immersing himself in the pieces, Ethan Mueller’s pursuit of his brother is a quest to discover himself.
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    But it isn’t ours. Luigi Pirandello wrote about such matters.

    So if you were to ask, say, Where do you live?—I would lie, recall my most recent role, and offer that person’s address.

    How many children do you have? Then I must think back to when I played a father and answer: six. He was a German soldier in a little-known World War II drama I starred in Off-Off-Broadway. His name was Josef, and he’d hidden his Waffen-SS uniform under the attic floorboards for fear that it would be discovered by one of his offspring.

    And your wife—who is she? I’ve had many, but then I picture the comeliest, Alana, whose raven-black hair she’d braid in one glorious plait. When she climbed the stairs to bed at night, I’d watch it sweep from the left side of her porcelain back to the right, pendulum-like. In a pre-Technicolor film, I’d taken her home to my widowed mother, who lived in Ohio.
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    Pretend all you want. Laugh and bullshit with your empty friends. Ratchet up the noise. Nothing will work, I assure you. I have all the time in the world—prick.

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