Frank was smiling, which wasn’t unusual exactly, but smiling wasn’t the first thing Harry thought about when he thought about his brother. Frank was strong and stoic and smart. And good natured till the cows came home, but that didn’t always show on his face. When it did, it mattered. When he smiled, it meant something.
“Hell of a game,” said Frank, and smiled, and looked up the stairs before sneaking out his pocket knife.
“Hell of a game,” agreed Harry, hands shoved in his pockets and looking up the stairs too. Whatever Frank saw there, or didn’t see, was a mystery to him. Far as he could tell, their parents were sleeping soundly and Frank was up to something. And Frank was very rarely up to something.
“Should do something to celebrate,” he said, testing the edge against his thumb.
“Thought we just did,” said Harry, and grinned at him and he could still feel the thumps of his teammates’ fists against his back, the press of Mary Jane Beauchamp’s lips against his, the taste of a cherry soda and a late night hamburger, the sound of the record player skipping.
Frank shook his head and lifted his hand and angled his head towards the corner of the room. That didn’t mean much to Harry until he realized that Frank wasn’t motioning towards the radio. The liquor cabinet had been an ominous presence in that corner since they were kids, never breached.
“Someone’s going to notice.”
“Maybe,” said Frank, but he slipped his knife in there and popped the lock and didn’t leave a mark behind. Sometimes Frank was magic. “What’s it going to be?”
They’d had a beer together before, of course, and Harry knew the difference between whiskey and rum but he had no idea which one he would prefer. Equal but different. He shrugged and dug a nickel out of his pocket. One or the other, but never both.
“Heads the left, tails the right,” he said, and flipped the coin.
“What would you do, Frank?” said Harry, pouring them both two fingers of scotch, measured with actual fingers. Not his fingers; a gag gift from a holiday Christmas party that wrapped around his drinking glasses like it was molded to them. Maybe it was. Frank couldn’t say.
“Well, you already know what I think,” said Frank. If Harry was hoping to get a different answer from him, he was barking up the wrong tree.
“Not about…her,” clarified Harry, shaking his head. Shame, really. Harry was a good listener, but not when it was something he didn’t want to hear. And when it came to women, it was never anything he wanted to hear. Frank loved his brother like he loved himself, but he really didn’t know his ass from his elbow when it came to women. Just no objectivity at all. “I’ve got options there.”
“Do you, now?” said Frank. “First I’m hearing of it.”
“Not sure I’m ready to talk about that yet,” admitted Harry. “Not even sure there’s anything to talk about. But that’s not what I’m asking you about either.”
“All right,” said Frank. Work, then. “Here’s what I think. You keep your feet on the ground and your mind open, same as always. This agent seems sharp enough underneath the woo-woo, and if I didn’t know you had good instincts about your work I never would have trusted the town in your hands.”
“The town wasn’t a gift,” said Harry. “You didn’t bestow it on me.”
“Didn’t I?” said Frank, hinting at a smile as he sipped his scotch.
Harry just inclined his head slightly. The legacy of the Truman family in Twin Peaks ran deep, from father to son and brother to brother, an unbroken line of law and order. “You know I’d tell you more if it were mine to tell.”
“No need,” said Frank. “You didn’t invite me over for advice anyway. You invited me over to tell you that you didn’t need it.”
“Maybe,” said Harry, which was as good as a yes. Harry was the one who got in his head sometimes, and Frank was the one that got him out of it. “How’s the family?”
“Good, good,” said Frank, relaxing back into his chair. “Doris has taken up quilting, of all things. Never thought she’d take an interest in anything her mother would approve of. And that boy is growing like a weed.”
“Well, that’s the Truman genes for you,” said Harry. “Lots of time for the rest of him to catch up.”
“Lots of time for a lot of things,” agreed Frank, when they both knew full well that there was never enough.
The New Year’s Eve party at the Roadhouse was going strong as the minutes ticked inevitably onward, and Harry was happy to have no part in it other than to observe from a nearby hill, sitting next to a campfire with his brother and a pot of coffee and half-empty bottle of whiskey. Any New Year’s Eve, even when it wasn’t the dawn of a new millennium, was a working night for the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department.
“Quiet so far,” said Frank, sipping his coffee rhythmically. Harry glanced over at the Roadhouse. It was anything but quiet. “All things considered.”
The radio at Harry’s side crackled to life, Hawk reporting an altercation that he already had well in hand. Still, it reminded them both that this was a volatile night.
“Glad you could get away,” said Harry. “It’s been a while, and it doesn’t hurt to have the backup.”
“Well, Doris is having a ladies night out so there’s no place for me there,” said Frank, “and my son’s at that age where the last thing he wants is his old man looking over his shoulder.”
“I remember that age,” said Harry. “If he’s anything like us….”
“Not sure he is,” admitted Frank. Be a shame, really. But maybe the Truman legacy had reached the end of its cycle with the brothers, and the town would move on to something new instead of the old cycles again and again.
A noise caught their attention from nearby. Firecrackers. Nothing to worry about as long as they didn’t last longer than it took for Harry to take a long, slow sip of his drink.
“Sorry to hear you couldn’t go away for the holidays like you were hoping, though.”
“Well, it was a long shot anyway,” said Harry, heaving a quiet sigh. Best laid plans and all. A week at the cabin was just what the doctor ordered. “Albert ended up back in DC for a couple of weeks, so that was that. Better to have me here where I’m needed. I’m not much the vacationing type.”
“You could be, if you wanted,” said Frank. “You don’t have to choose between work and life. You can have both.”
“Maybe someday,” said Harry. “I think I’ll know when it’s time.”
“Just don’t go expecting there to be a sign,” said Frank. “I think there’s been enough of that around here. Can’t live your life to someone else’s schedule.”
“Looking good,” said Frank, removing his hat as he stepped into Harry’s house, smoothing his hair down with one hand. It never worked, but he tried it anyway. There was that one bit on top, just on the right, that had a mind of its own. Family trait, his mother used to tell him, but he never saw it on anybody else. All of Harry’s hair did its own thing, and their mother’s hair had always been perfect.
“Feeling good,” said Harry, closing the door behind him with a faint click. Frank felt like it should have been a more resounding thud, but things were very rarely the way you thought they should be. “You?”
“Strange times, Harry,” he said. “Strange times.”
Harry chuckled and nodded his head and opened the fridge to pull out two beers, holding them between the fingers of one hand. He lifted them just a little, in question.
“Are you supposed to be having that?” said Frank. “You all clear?”
“Clear as a blue sky,” said Harry, “and happy to be enjoying the finer things.”
“In that case,” said Frank, “I’d be happy to join you for a cold one.”
“Or more than that,” said Frank. “Got a lot to talk about.”
A conversation that had been on hold for over twenty-five years, in fact. Two halves of an experience coming together at last.
“Thanks for keeping me in the loop as much as you could,” said Harry. “Lots of blanks to fill in now, though.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Start at the beginning.”
“I might need to start at the end.”
“Sometimes they’re the same thing,” said Harry and cracked his beer and settled in.