The Benson Bucket List – An Excerpt
A young woman is staying at her brother’s house for the first time in years to recover from an injury. She experiences conflicting emotions over their dynamic and finds herself secretly yearning for the past.
He kept to himself, and so did I.
I napped in my bedroom, and Eric went on with his day. I didn’t know what exactly he was doing, but sometimes I could guess. Like when I woke up to the creaking of the hardwood floor outside of the room and heard what I believed was Eric talking business on his cell. His feet always had to move whenever he was on the phone, exactly how I remembered him.
He only came into my room once or twice just to check on me. Besides my legs being kind of sore, the only thing I had to complain about was my boredom. I wished that I’d brought books or something, but I wasn’t exactly feeling up to a trip to the library.
“Well, maybe I have some books lying around the house somewhere,” Eric said after I told him.
I stifled a giggle. “You mean your algebra workbooks?”
Eric didn’t answer my question, and I figured he knew I wasn’t being entirely serious. Instead, he said, “I’ll go look for you. Be right back.”
He was off in an instant, leaving me waiting. I had to admit, it was sweet of him. Especially considering the fact that he wasn’t exactly a reader. It was one of those moments that made me grow hopeful for a brief moment, until I pushed it away as quickly as it came.
Eric returned with two hardcover books in his arms. I was pleasantly surprised. “Where’d you find those?”
“In the basement,” he answered casually. It made sense. Eric kept a lot of our old things down there, and there was no telling what we might find and when. Part of me wanted to go down there and explore, but a bigger part of me pushed that thought away. My physical state explained most of why I did that, but there was something else too.
Eric and I weren’t there yet. And I didn’t know if we’d ever be.
That was okay though. I could settle for this. “Thanks, Eric,” I said, grabbing the books from him.
I gave both of the covers a quick glance. To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984. Eric and I had once needed those copies back when we were in school, and I supposed that he had kept them around for all of this time.
My brother’s eyes shifted. “I know they’re not much, but-”
“Oh, no,” I interrupted him. “They’re classics.”
“Right. Classics are good.”
We fell into another bout of silence. Eric looked around the room, hands in his front pockets. It was like he was lingering around to say something more but didn’t quite know what that something was. It was starting to make me want to fill the silence too, but what was there to be said?
“Need anything else?” he finally asked me.
I shook my head.
“Okay. Call me if you do. I’ll leave you to read.”
And he did.
I didn’t do much reading while Eric was gone. I was too busy overthinking our recent exchange. Sometimes it helped to escape into someone else’s story when I was in that state of mind, but even that wasn’t working. I was still preoccupied with that same, stiff energy that was prevalent between Eric and I. It was what I wanted, right? My brother and I being polite to each other on the surface but never venturing deeper than that? It was a safe dynamic, but even so, I felt badly for wanting it. Something about Eric’s interactions with me was telling me that he didn’t exactly want the same thing.
If I were to try to fix it and have those deeper conversations with him – the ones that truly connected people – I wasn’t so sure that would even end well. I had past experience to justify that.
Sometimes, when my feelings were too much for me to handle, I’d write them all out. That’s exactly what I did. I thought I would have written more, but maybe it was just right.
I remember those days.
When the sun would shine and my ice cream would melt, running down the wafer cone like little pink raindrops, falling onto my hands to create a sticky, sweet substance I would lick off while trailing behind him.
I remember those days.
When he would make me laugh so hard my cheeks would hurt, when he would dare me to beat him in a relay race, when he would lift me high enough to feed a carrot to a pony at the petting zoo.
I remember those days.
When he was himself. When he wasn’t someone else.
When he was my best friend.
Now he’s just confused.
I started working on The Benson Bucket List a couple years before joining Girls Write Now; it has grown, evolved, and taken on several different names since its initial draft, but the heart of the story remains the same: it’s about two siblings breaking down the emotional wall between them and rediscovering what keeps them close. I learn more and more about this story as the years go on, and I feel called to tell it the way it is meant to be told. It’s the project I worked religiously on when there was nothing else for me to do, and I think that’s what ultimately made me realize that I am a writer.
Sophia Takrouri is an aspiring author from Mount Vernon, Ohio. She considers creative expression to be her biggest passion and is always striving to improve her craft and build her community. She is currently an Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for BreakBread Literacy Project after completing a literary internship. She is also an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Residential Workshop 2022. She does NaNoWriMo every year, even if she doesn't always win, and hopes to pursue her creative dreams in college. When she is not writing stories, she is writing to her pen pals or improving her Arabic.