SOMETIMES PEOPLE ASK me what Lucas was like. And sometimes I think it would be easier to just show them the few loops of footage that play in the fleshiest corner of my mind. The brightest one is of Lucas and me when we were ten. It’s one of the last memories I have of him.
We took our dad’s ute out on the road. I was driving because my legs were longer. We rounded one of the corners and I only just caught the flash of black slip beneath the wheel as we slid into the loose gravel. I slammed the breaks on and jumped out. A magpie was taking long heavy gasps of air. Its wings had snapped into the most magnificent jagged lines and I kind of thought we could stick them back together.
‘Billy, it’s in pain. You gotta kill it,’ Lucas said.
I picked it up, and for a moment I wasn’t sure if it was real; there was no weight in my hands, it had all pooled in my chest. ‘I can’t,’ I whispered, tightening my fingers around its ribcage.
Lucas came over and collected the bird in his hands. He walked to the back of the ute and smashed its head against the tray before tossing it into the scrub on the side of the road. We got back in the car and drove home, and I hated him because his hands weren’t shaking and his eyes were dry and he didn’t seem to have any words to spare.
Right behind that memory, there’s another foggy clip that always follows, which is a little fuzzier, maybe because it was dark, but it’s the one I tell people because Lucas was a good kid and they should know that.
That same night, while I was pretending to sleep I saw Lucas pack a bag and slip out of our room into the moonlight, morphing into the shadows. I quickly got up and followed the sound of his footsteps. He hiked to the bend in the road where our tyres had skidded across the gravel. He spent hours flashing his torch along silver leaves and furry bark until he found the bird. It was stiff, as though it wasn’t really dead, just waiting for him to return. He’d brought a shovel and an old shoebox so it could rest easy in the harsh, dry ground. I saw him slip a note inside before closing the lid.
I never told Lucas that I followed him that night. Partly because it was so dark and partly because I’m not even sure he was there.