David Clerson’s Brothers is an original, phantasmagoric piece of fiction that is steeped in myth and fable. In a world of “gruesome, gargantuan creatures, two-headed fish, turtles with shells as big as islands, whales with mouths so large they could consume entire cities,” two brothers set out to find their dog of a father. The elder brother is missing an arm, while his younger brother has been fashioned by his mother from that arm. Excess and adventure abound as fresh, original writing draws us in to “surreal, hostile worlds.” We meet the leech-boys, a wooden puppet the brothers drag from the sea to become a member of the family, six pig-children, and more, all conveyed in a tone that lies somewhere between delirium and a disturbing dream.
The sailboat was small and light, made of wood, and it glided on the ocean, attended by graceful seagulls and a few cormorants. This craft was much easier to handle than the brothers’ rowboat. This time, the older brother headed straight out to the open sea, pushed by fair, warm summer winds.
He had secured Puppet’s head to the bow, leaving his figurehead clad in the grey pelt. Often, the wind would fill the pelt, moving the body and limbs. It seemed to dance at the bow, and it made the older brother smile, a fleeting happiness.
There had been a barrel of fresh water in the boat when he set sail, along with a few dry biscuits and some smoked herring. The older brother ate parsimoniously, nearly fasting, and he almost never slept, his eyes wide open over dark circles carved out by a scalpel.
I’d spotted it lying in the ditch, one eye open, but perfectly still, its left side covered with black blood, its tongue hanging limply from its mouth. I’d stopped, as though the dead animal had been a boundary stone ordering me to a halt, and I’d taken the time to stare it down, thumbing my nose at death or bad luck.
It was a long-legged husky with lovely grey and black fur. Its half-open mouth showed off teeth more white than yellow. And even in this lifeless state, lying there in the ditch, it was impressively built. It was a dog from the north, well used to sniffing around bears and moose. It was also a pet, trained to warn humans of the dangers of the wild. But at the end of the day it was just another animal lying dead at the side of the road, hit by a pickup rattling by at 120 k.p.h. or a truck piled high with heavy logs.
And even though the sight of the dog was enough to spoil anyone’s appetite, I hadn’t eaten since the night before and hunger was gnawing away at my stomach. I looked at the animal, at its lifeless eye that would never see another thing, and I thought back to the grilled cheese I had eaten at nightfall at the rest stop in Hearst, the improbably French-speaking town in northern Ontario. I thought back to the coffee, too, paid for with my last few dollars, that I’d sipped slowly as I waited for morning to come. I recalled it sliding down into my stomach, whetting my appetite; I heard my stomach rumble and I thought of eating again, and told myself that I’d need to get to my destination before I could eat. And so I walked away from the dog, stuck my thumb in the air, and focused on the road. I walked. A cloud of smoke came out of my mouth and the frost creaked beneath my boots.