Stuffed Sheep

Gina Yang
2014. 7. 13
It was on a postcard-perfect day in the summer–bathed in the golden rays of the sun and a symphony of birdsongs–that I shot my brother.
I held my trembling hands up in the air. The wild surge of adrenaline coursed through my veins, quickening my pulse to a frenzied beat. There was no denying the truth that lay before me: I had pulled the trigger. I had fired the shot. And now, I was guilty.
But the aftermath was oddly still: there was no cacophony of flashing blue lights or wailing sirens to pierce the stillness. No throngs of onlookers gathering around a cordoned-off murder scene, nor any wizened detectives prowling about for clues.You see, it was a mere BB gun, the kind you might find in a toy store, with aplastic barrel and flimsy grip. In fact it was so inconsequential that my target likely remained blithely unaware that his own life had nearly come to an end. I was all of ten years old, seething with pent up frustration from sibling rivalry and a burning sense of injustice. I knew this moment had been building to a boiling point–and that day, the inevitable eruption had occurred. Yes, my brother had to go.
13. 7. 2014
As the golden sun ascended on that idyllic Sunday morning, its warm rays gently filtered through my window, beckoning me to step outside. Without a second thought, I leapt out of bed and hastily slipped on my socks without bothering to match them, in order to more quickly join my friends at the playground . . .
until an annoying pest threatened to dampen my spirits. My mother had entrusted me with my younger sister-a task that would have been a breeze if had it not been for her long history of mischievous antics. But I refused to let this unwelcome burden weigh me down, for what could be more joyous for a twelve-year-old than seizing the opportunity to be surrounded by friends. A bird’s-eye view of our gathering would have resembled a scene straight out of a nature documentary, with a pack of wild gorillas pounding their chests and whooping and hollering. I’ll say it was just one of those typical days (except the mysterious disappearance of a BB gun, and oddly enough, my sister)
2014. 7. 13
The scorching sun bore down on me as I fixed my gaze upon my brother from afar. His silhouette, a blurred amalgamation of him and his friends, exuded an air of carefree abandon, ignorant of the looming danger that was about to strike him down. My mind raced with impulsive thoughts and reckless schemes, as I yearned to be a fearless rebel, striking a blow for the downtrodden everywhere. My heart throbbed within my chest as I stumbled upon an unattended BB gun in the grass. With fingers trembling, I snatched up the weapon and aimed it squarely at my brother’s unsuspecting back, ready to execute my vengeful mission. Once, twice, and then a third time, I squeezed with all my might–Bang!--the deafening crack of gunfire echoed throughout the playground. Or so I had imagined. Instead, the sound was more akin to a plump fly striking a windowpane, before sliding to the ground in a drunken stupor.
But who knows if the events of that fateful day were premeditated or if my young mind was capable of such malevolent deeds? Either way, my flighty and distracted brother was just oblivious enough not to realize he had been shot. It was a stroke of genius, an airtight alibi that would leave even the most astute investigator baffled. “Accused walks free after a confused victim is surprised to hear he was shot,”the headline might have read. Only I, the perpetrator and sole witness, knew the truth, and I was free as a bird.
Yet, as I basked in the glory of my cleverness, a thought crept into my mind. Would guilt, that ever-present specter, catch up to me? Would my conscience, burdened by the weight of my misdeed, eventually betray me? The answer loomed ominously in the distance, a foreboding cloud on the horizon. Burdened by these novel feelings,I made my way home, feigning nonchalance.
13. 7. 2014
As I crossed the threshold of my home, the scent of freshly baked cookies greeted me, but my mother’s serious expression forced me to wipe the smile off my face. I sensed something was off. What could it be? I wondered, but before I could voice my thoughts, my mother began to reprimand me for neglecting my younger sister. In my mind, I pictured my sister tattling on me. Having to shoulder such a burden is oftentimes vexing, and I must confess that, at times, I long for the simpler days of youth. Days when every action, no matter how frivolous, is indulged by parents. The mere two-year age gap between my sister and me formed a chasm between us and catapulted me into the position of a premature adulthood, burdened with the weight of responsibility that comes with being an elder sibling and obliged to set an exemplary standard. Will she ever truly understand the burden I carry?
2014. 7. 13
Obviously, there seems to be a plethora of misunderstandings brewing, but let me start by clarifying one thing–this wasn’t just any ordinary day, it was my birthday. But, it appears that someone didn’t understand. Let us venture back in time to uncover the prelude to this tale.Nay, let us cast back the tape to the moment of my birth, that fateful day which set in motion a tale of two siblings, forever intertwined yet worlds apart. For, as fate would have it, my older brother and I, though bound by blood and kin, shared little else in common. From his earliest days, he was the favored one, a darling cherub that drew all eyes to his alabaster skin, prominent cheekbones, and soulful, dark eyes. And then there was I, born into this world two years later, a mere afterthought to my brother’s radiant aura. My dear grandmother even jestingly asked whether I had been exchanged at birth with some other babe. As my mother would take us out for leisurely strolls, the townsfolk would gather around us, drawn in by my brother’s angelic countenance.And yet, when their eyes fell upon me, they would pause, uncertain, as if struggling to make sense of my existence. “Is that a boy?” they would ask, their eyes scanning my form, oblivious to the pink hairpin that adorned my hair.
How could we, who had emerged from the same womb, be so different? Perhaps my grandmother was onto something, or there was some other murky secret surrounding my birth. And as we grew older, the chasm between us only deepened; his star only shone brighter, drawing admirers from far and wide, while I, his younger sister, languished in his shadow, unnoticed and unremarkable. In the halls of our elementary school, my brother was the shining golden boy, tall and radiant, with a magnetic charm that drew people to him like moths to a flame. Meanwhile, I was his black sheep of a sister, dwarfed by his towering stature, cowering behind my low self-esteem, seeing myself as his diametric reflection on every level. The golden boy with his black sheep sister–who could deny it? Every time I heard the word ‘brother,’ it would send a faint wince across my face, as I braced for yet another unfavorable comparison to he-who-could-do-no-wrong. Of course, he’d never understand that sickening feeling one gets when the world seems to conspire against one, determined to make every step a struggle, every breath a battle. While he effortlessly glides to the top of the mountain, I am left to claw my way up, inch by agonizing inch. And every time I look up to see his shining star burning bright, I feel like a tiny speck of dust, completely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And so it was that cracks between us became fissures, and the bond of kinship that should have been a uniter became a source of bitterness and pain.
2014. 7. 13.
The sun was slowly setting over the city, casting an orange and pink glow across the sky. My brother had disappeared yet again, no doubt burning off his endless supply of energy. As the evening approached, my mother sent messages to my brother, urging him to come home for my birthday dinner. Finally, he sauntered through the door, his face sullen and uninterested. He halfheartedly tossed a white, fluffy stuffed sheep on the sofa, muttering something about winning it from a claw machine. I retorted with an equally uninterested attitude before shoving the stuffed animal into the top of the wardrobe.
13. 7. 2014
As I stepped into the arcade with my friends, the sound of clanging machines and flashing lights filled my senses. My eyes darted around the room until they landed on the claw crane machine–and I knew exactly what I had to do. My little sister had been talking about her birthday for weeks, singing about it non-stop.
I inserted a coin into the machine and positioned the claw over the perfect prize, a soft and fluffy doll. I held my breath as the claw closed, but as I lifted it up, the toy slipped through its grasp. Undeterred, I fed more coins into the machine, the minute sticking by in a blur as I became more and more focused. Finally, I managed to snag the stuffed sheep. But, my pockets were empty, and I had to walk all the way home, a distance that would take ages. When I finally presented the doll to my sister, she didn’t seem that happy. Not the reaction I was expecting. I guess she doesn’t like sheep.
2015. 7. 13
And now he’s gone. The poignant reality of his absence still lingers. Several months have passed since he departed for an American middle school. The resounding silence from his end has left an ominous hush in its wake, as though the absence of his presence has cast a pall over the once vibrant household. Has he forgotten about me? What about my birthday? His once-familiar seat at the dinner table now stands empty ,a stark reminder of his absence.
2016. 7. 13
Now, I find myself in the midst of a new beginning–a middle school far away from my elementary school. Here, amid a sea of unfamiliar faces, I am unshackled from the weight of my brother’s shadow. For the first time, I feel liberated from the burden of his legacy, as if his presence in my life was nothing but a fleeting memory.Today, on my birthday, I spent time with newfound friends who, with genuine warmth
and generosity, showered me with thoughtful gifts–none of which was a stuffed sheep. Despite the conspicuous absence of any calls from my brother, I chanced upon a series of images he had sent to my mother that featured a boisterous crowd of friends. In that moment,I realized the futility of my needless concern–my brother was, and always will be, unapologetically himself, no matter where life takes him.
2020. 7. 13
It’s but a mere handful of weeks before I will embark on a journey to the United States, where I’ll attend a high school just an hour away from my brother’s. As I prepare for this new chapter in my life, I am filled with a sense of fierce determination–a resolute belief that I will succeed and prove to him, and myself, that I can not only match him but surpass him.
2021. 7. 13
On what was supposed to be a day of jubilation, I found myself in a foreign land, drowning in a sea of melancholy. The once-glimmering beacon of high school had since faded into the rearview mirror, replaced by a gauntlet of challenges that seemed to stretch into eternity. As I wandered the unfamiliar streets, the nagging sense of otherness I felt gnawed at me like persistent ache, a constant reminder thatI’m the outsider. Every carefree face I encountered only served to further exacerbate my own profound melancholy. Indeed, my BB gun intervention did nothing to improve my life. I still compare myself to others at every turn, although (thankfully) I no longer try to shoot people. Even that is a qualified positive though; my feelings haven't stopped exploding because I've dealt with them, they're merely hibernating because I suppress them, and all the while my mind grows blacker inside. My stunted self-esteem is no match for the untarnished perfection of those I see all around me. The birthday that I’m obsessed with, the only thing that makes me special, was no longer there.
And on that day, my mother sent a photo that teleported me back in time to that birthday dinner. There I am, scowling, with my mischievous brother posed with silly hand gestures above my head. Yet, I did not seem grumpy; there was a glimmer of joy in my eyes that I had long forgotten. As I gazed at the photo, tears welled up in my eyes, and a wave of wistfulness washed over me. Yet, it wasn’t until I moved to America that began to think about the difficulties that my brother may have faced. Although he always appeared happy in the photos he sent, I could imagine that he must have gone through the same struggles I did. But, unlike me, he never expressed his feelings, always playing the role of the mature, responsible older sibling.Other nostalgic memories involving my brother came to mind too, but my thoughts were still invaded and overpowered by those people that had always compared the two of us. It felt sickening that I could allow wholesome family memories to be tainted by petty jealousies and an incurable inferiority complex. But through the fissures opened by these more mature reflections, some insight crept in too. Back then, was I acting out for my brother's attention? Making ill-advised attempts to get him to notice me and spend more time with me instead of his horde of worshippers? In the playground that day, maybe I wasn’t resentful of his popularity, his charm and his lifestyle; maybe I was just crushed that I wasn't part of it anymore. It wasn't jealousy, it was sorrow. Our bond seemed to be disintegrating as we grew up.
2022. 7. 13
It was my birthday. I was no longer alone, as my brother and I were both at home. My brother presented me with a stuffed animal, this time a black sheep. Remarkably, as I ventured back to my room, I discovered the old, dusty white sheep that I had stuffed into the wardrobe. It had somehow stood the test of time. I placed the black sheep next to the white one and decided that they were both my favorites.Then I wondered what black sheep even meant, who gets to decide that? And this time, I felt invigorated and called to action; I reached for my pen - not a BB gun this time - determined to shoot some truth and fire off some wisdom. I resolved to write about that playground scene and record my true feelings because it was the only way I could process them, achieve closure, and move forward. And, though my brother and I may not engage in frequent conversations, we share a bond that runs deep, a connection that transcends words. Despite our silence, we understand each other. And through writing, I no longer hide, afraid to expose my vulnerabilities. And it’s okay to get lost sometimes. It’s okay not to pretend to be okay because for all of us, this is our first life. And my narrative would start something like this:
It was on a postcard-perfect day in the summer–bathed in the golden rays of the sun and a symphony of birdsongs–that I shot my brother.
Gina Yang is a young writer based in Southborough, Massachusetts. She is currently a junior at St. Mark's School. Her personal narratives, short stories, and poems have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Writers, The Young Authors, the National Council of Teachers of English, Teen Ink Magazine, Youth Be Heart, Cathartic Literary Magazine, and more.

"the sheep looms" by orphanjones is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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