They say blood is thicker than water, but would it be enough? The end of the civil war was an interesting time for the Carson family, picking up the pieces of a forgotten childhood, a time when the only thing worth fighting over was Mama’s biscuits.
Kurt paced the parlor floor anxiously waiting for his brothers return, he earnestly wanted to reconnect with his little brother Jake, but still he felt betrayed, growing up they were rarely separated, and when war broke out, his brother left the farm to side with the Union, something he still struggled to understand, how could Jake leave every thing they had worked so hard for? And for what purpose?
He couldn’t hate his own flesh and blood, yet still he was very uncomfortable, and would probably never see his brother in the same light ever again, for four years they fought opposing sides, often times on the same battlefield, firing at each other, he had heard Jake was wounded several times, and often wondered if any were the cause of his own bullets, and how would Jake see him after all this time?
“Kurt Carson, Stop pacing! You’ll wear a hole into the rug, your brother said he would be here with the eleven O’clock train, stop worrying, he wouldn’t have agreed to come if he didn’t want to see you, it can only mean good things”
Kurt shrugged and gave his wife a half of a smile “You’re right of course, but I’m afraid of how I will react, I can’t get over his betrayal, I’m not sure I ever will. Why did he do it?”
Maggie looked thoughtful “Only Jake can answer that, now sit down and hold the baby a moment, I need to make sure the meal is prepared” she gently laid their daughter in his arms and stepped into the kitchen saying as she went “This war has torn apart many families, but not everyone is reconciling, we can only hope for the best and offer forgiveness if any good is to come of it”
Jake looked at his watch for the hundredth time, he hadn’t slept well since he received his brothers invitation to return home, and even the lull of the train did nothing to ease his nerves, He was surprised Kurt, was even willing to see him, he knew his brother would never understand why he chose the Union, and felt betrayed by his actions, but Jake knew in his mind he had done what he thought was right, Kurt sided with the confederacy fighting for his rights, but Jake felt those rights were nothing, if denied to half the population because of skin color, he read and reread the missive in his hands trying to see if there was hidden motive in between the lines, but couldn’t find any in the simple request.
I hope this missive finds you well, too much time has passed between us, and I hope to reconcile our differences, I’m not sure I will understand why you fought for the Union, but you are my brother and deserve to have a say in your defense, please consider coming home if only for a short visit, I would love for you to meet my wife Maggie, and your little niece Jane. I only wish to see you well and whole, and maybe we can put the past behind, and resolve to only let the future give us new opportunities to build new memories.
Your Brother Kurt
Jake folded up the letter and put it back in his pocket, recognizing the lay of the land as the train slowed to a stop, he tried to erase the memories of battle that still haunted him, and replace it with memories of Kurt and him going off to school or helping their Pa in the field.
Pasting on a mirthless smile, he stepped off the train and headed for the old homestead, the closer he got the slower his steps became, he kept telling himself to turn back, to start a new life, and forget the past, and move on, but his legs kept trudging forward till he found himself walking up the little path to the front door, he raised his hand to knock on the sideboard, but before he knew what was happening the door swung open, and two big arms pulled him into a bear hug, and he saw Kurt smiling at him, Jake hung his head bashfully
“Hiya Kurt, it…It’s good to see you, looks like you came out okay, I…I, was always worried it’d be one of my minnie balls sending you to the great beyond, don’t think I coulda lived with myself”
Kurt looked at Jake, and suddenly nothing else mattered, he was just so happy to see his little brother alive and well.
“Lil’ Brother It’s so good to see you, welcome home!”
Introductions were made, and Jake gingerly held his little niece, not sure what to make of things but relieved nonetheless, they talked for hours of times past, and when the initial ice had broken, they began to talk of their time in the war.
“There I was at the top of the hill, fighting for my life, my unit all around me, surrounded by the confederate army, all I could see was gray for what seemed like miles, I could see the Virginia flag in the distance and knew you were there, and I prayed I would not see you face to face, it felt wrong to fire on what was most likely my neighbors, but I also had a duty to see all men free and if it meant I was to die, then I was ready, Kurt I loved our country too, I still do, but not at the price of slavery, the Union wanted to make all men free, and I wanted to be apart of that, I only wish the shedding of blood was unnecessary, but on the battlefield, I quickly learned it was kill or be killed, every man who went under my bayonet and rifle, I prayed their forgiveness, and avoided looking at their faces”
Kurt sighed he understood Jake to a degree, but he still felt strongly against the government for forcing their hand to make all comply “I remember that day well, though I didn’t know you were there till the battle was over. I was glad we were pushing the Union back, and every battle we won, I thought would be the last, I confess I didn’t feel a thing for my enemy, all I wanted was to end the bloody madness, and prove the south didn’t need the government telling us what to do, I knew you were in several of those battles but I chose to ignore the fact, I thought if I could keep pretending you weren’t there it would be easier, I became blind to my rage, I saw all their faces and the agony, but I was numb to their suffering, it was just one less man to contend with and one more victory for Virginia, I was hurt by your betrayal, I wanted you by my side, not facing me, but when I ended up in the hospital my life hanging by a thread, I knew I could never hate you, I understood you had to make your own choice, as I did mine… Maggie has helped me see that, I only want to put this all behind us and move on, Maggie and I are hoping to convince you to stay”
Jake listened, letting his brother vent and say his piece, he understood his hurt, but holding onto that rough part of their past, did nothing for either of them, it was best to just forgive and forget, with a smile he firmly shook his brothers hand “I would be happy to stay as long as you’ll have me”
Maggie smiled from the doorway of the kitchen, happy tears filling her eyes as she hugged her infant close and whispered in her ear “There is no blood thicker in all of Virginia than Carson blood”