Susan L. Leary


My brother was born with a tumor wrapped around the bones in his right ear. The tiny structure a snail’s shell, this time with the snail inside. As he gets older, the tumor puts pressure on the bones & they break into a shrunken tuba or finch’s claw, something to move across the board in a child’s game. While the bones get rebuilt, my brother’s hearing is never the same, which means he has a good ear & a bad ear—& by the time he’s eleven, a mouth as crude as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. So it becomes a thing: in the backseat of the car, my brother leaning to whisper all the cuss words & dirty jokes to try & get me to laugh. Which I do, before murmuring back in his bad ear words tireless enough to wait. Because when dying, hearing is the last sense to go—& as my brother sank onto the bathroom tile, his head propped against the tub, perhaps he heard for the first time what I’d told him then: I like you a lot, you know…

Susan L. Leary is the author of Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021) as well as the chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019). She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.



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