By Harrison Candelaria Fletcher
I inherit the sword. Before my father dies, he decides that I, not my big brother, will receive the ceremonial blade from the secretive Masonic Order, to which the men in his family belonged. My brother will get the gold ring stamped with the family coat of arms—a broad gray shield emblazoned with a black cross, four white shells, and four silver arrowheads.
I’m proud of my heirloom. I sneak into the hallway storage closet to play with it while my mother prunes her rose bushes. I slip the dull-edged weapon from its tarnished brass sheath, grip the chipped black wooden handle with the knight’s helmet hilt, and run my finger along the clouded chrome surface etched with vines. My brother slides beside me into the cool darkness.
“You’d better put that back before you get in trouble,” he says, poking my ribs. “Besides, it’s not a real sword. It’s only for show. Mom says it’s what the old Masons use to tap the young Masons on the shoulder when they join the club. My ring’s better.”
I don’t believe him. I don’t want to believe him. I want to believe our father has chosen me as the family guardian, the warrior, the protector of his ghost.
To prove it, I challenge our little sister to a duel one morning while our mother weeds her irises. As her weapon, my sister selects our mother’s Russian olive switch, and we battle up and down the hallway. She drives me back with every blow—rattling my foil so hard it hurts my hand. When she swirls her stick like a musketeer, I jab her in the knuckle.
I apologize, but she tells anyway. Our mother packs away my heirloom until I’m “old enough to deserve it.” When my brother laughs, I don’t mind.
My sword drew blood.
Harrison Candelaria Fletcher in the author of the award-winning Descanso for My Father and Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams. His essays and prose poems have appeared widely in such venues as New Letters, TriQuarterly, and Puerto del Sol. A native New Mexican, he teaches in the MFA Programs at Vermont College of Fine Arts and Colorado State University. His new collection of lyric essays is forthcoming from the Machete Series at Ohio State University Press.
Originally appeared in NOR 5