• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 01

Brennan’s Burden

When my brother Brennan eloped out of nowhere he left me a note, Biro on binder paper folded into an airplane on my desk.

Dear Al,
I can't tell you the reason I left because it'll make you an accessory.

The hairs on my arms couldn't decide if they wanted to stand. It seemed like a completely Brennan prank. Still, it was a pretty bold way to up his stakes.

Under my bed you'll find a box.

Just to humour him, I went to his room—musty—and knelt on the floor—dusty—to peer under the mattress. There, as promised, was a box with a padlock.

In my Walking Dead box set, you'll find the key.

I found it buried in a drawer, sacrificed on the altar of PirateBay. It was missing a disc, but had a plain silver key wedged into the slot.

I fit the key to the lock and twisted. It popped open smoothly, and slid off the clasp. I sat there apprehensively.

There are things in the box you need to help me get rid of. Think of somewhere inconspicuous.

Wasn't that accessory to crime?

Don't worry, they're not body parts.

It could be drugs.

Or drugs.

I flung it open.


Brennan’s Burden

Inside was a whole assortment of trinkets: coins, jewellery, a couple handkerchiefs, wire spectacles, a few worn scarves. The sort of collection you'd find at a vintage thrift store.

What they hell were they?

Still, I figured I might as well get something out of it, so I called up the weekend flea market and on Saturday morning lugged myself and the box down. I'd found silver trays and white doilies to display the paraphernalia. I was only having trouble coming up with a catchy tagline. 'Brennan's Burden' didn't quite seem to fit, but as a private middle finger I slotted the letters into the board anyway.

Right before the market was due to open I got a call.

"Al!" It was Brennan, panicky as hell. "Did you get rid of it?"

"I am. Are you gonna tell me what's going on?"

"It was nothing," he said defensively. "A prank...a dare. Rachel and I—no one got hurt or anything."

"What the hell? What did you do?"

He mumbled something.

"Excuse me?!"

"I robbed a few graves!" he exclaimed. The line went dead.

I gaped at my phone. Then, swiftly, I swapped out the doilies for an ashen scarf. As I rearranged my sign a woman stopped by, fanning herself and smiling. "Why the gothic decoration?"

I gave her the kind of smile that winks. "Vintage black humour." I propped the signboard back up, letting her read the slogan.


Brennan’s Burden

"My set didn't come with an apostrophe," I whispered.

She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Adds to the mystique, my dear." She tweaked my letter O. "For extra irregularity." She fished out her purse. "And I'll take those glasses—my mother read me bedtime stories in those glasses."