The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions | Irafrateris by Rob Ehle



By Rob Ehle

The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions has been conceived as a monthly random match of mortal sin with family member to create a helpful home reference, not unlike the Merck Manual or the DSM IV.

It’s kind of funny that they’re related at all, how different they are, given the shared DNA, the identical cowlicks, the same stoop, making you think not so much of a litter as a pair of matched draft horses, since they’re big boys, but no two a worse match unless for single combat on a Greek plain, the only thing mutual about them their shared incomprehension at that mirror image and the feeling every time they look in each other’s face that there has been a theft, which, because they are brothers and gentlemen, embarrasses them, which they make little jokes about on holidays and other family meetings and must deprecate or dilute or disarm before it turns and there is the metal smell of indignation in the room, people wandering out for a glass of water or a magazine, or sitting still, casting glances, hunkering down for the coming fit, a wrath epileptic and helpless, as inevitable as an uncrashed wave, and despite the words they use, the stories they carry out like relics, there is nothing explicable by argument or reason but the insult of being one man walking the earth with another man’s face, two visages as uniform as prison garb and if not ridiculous in their identity at least remarkable, the fact of it brighter than either brother, as if God had bound their wrists and said, “Love each other or eat each other,” a marking for the world of the inadequacy of any one of us, but though they are twinned, neither is the other one, and it is a hard lesson.


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