My brother, Stephen, was quite the globetrotter. He lived for a time in Mexico, traveled across the United States and made his home in Alaska for several years before finally settling on Martha’s Vineyard. Every place he went, he brought items back with him.
The vast majority, of those items, were part of his endless series of get rich quick schemes. Oh, he had lots of those! He was going to sell Mexican clothes in the US, but that never went anywhere. He was going to sell furs, from Alaska, to furriers in Boston. That didn’t work out; he lost his shirt.
Yet, he also brought many presents for the family; odd little things. One time, he returned from a trip to the southwest United States with the jawbone of a horse, which he gave to me. Now, I know that many people might say, “Wait, a bone? He gave you the jaw of a horse. Who did he think you were, Sampson?” Well, I wasn’t inclined to slay an army or even some people in general, but it didn’t matter to me.
The jawbone was so cool. I was the only kid on the block to have one. I was the envy of all my friends. Talk about major brownie points; am I right?
What I wondered about was what happened to the rest of the horse? He explained that the bones were out in the middle of a desert and thus the wind and sand had scattered the remains everywhere. He’d only found the one piece.
A couple more years rolled by and Steve made a point of coming home for Christmas. He wanted to get Mom and Dad some special items, something completely different. He and I went to Haymarket Square, in Boston.
Haymarket Square features collection of shops, which sell all manner of food items. We went to a cheese shop that had a block of cheese that was so big they used it as a chopping block for other cheeses! We got some spiced meats, great salamis and an entire crate of oranges.
Come Christmas morning, Mom and Dad were delighted with all of the food items. Steve loved the gifts we had for him. Then, tucked in under the tree was a special something for me.
My special present was unwrapped, as it was rather large and oddly shaped. All it had was a big red ribbon on it. It didn’t even have a tag, as it didn’t need one. One look and it was obvious for whom the gift was intended.
Now sure, I knew it didn’t match the jaw I had. There was no way Steve had gone back to the same desert and somehow found the remains of the same horse. Horse skulls are ostensibly interchangeable and, thus, the top went with the bottom.
That horse skull sat on our television in the living room for a great many years. I took it along with me as I moved to new home after new home. Yeah, it was creepy, in a way, and most definitely not normal, but I didn’t care.
The top of a horse skull was an odd Christmas gift from my brother, Steve, and I loved it. Eventually though, it did have to go. A married man, with a little baby, can’t have that sort of thing around the house; I donated it to the local Natural History Museum.
It makes me smile to think that Steve’s gift is on display somewhere entertaining and enthralling visitors for years to come.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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