Horatio is my big brother. He was nearly man-sized by the time I turned four, so sometimes it felt like there were three adults in my family.
He was also smarter than me. When we played with army men, all of his guys had super weapons and flying packs. They looked just like my guys, but Horatio insisted that his were different. I held up one of my guys that looked the same as the guy Horatio had just flown from under the bed to a sniper position on his desk.
"Can this guy fly too?" I asked.
He compared the two identical army men, shook his head and handed mine back to me.
"No," he said, "your guy has a regular gun and can't fly."
So it was Horatio that taught me about lying, a lesson I've been grateful for ever since.
Of course not all his lies were intentional. One day before I was born he looked up at the dull February sky, and then across a blinding patch of icy snow and told our sister with great authority, "The only light in winter is the snow."
But I always believed him. When I was seven, a neighbor kid started bragging about how tough his sister, Kathy was. "Horatio could beat her up," I bragged.
"No, he couldn't," said the neighbor. "How old is your brother?"
"Yeah, well Kathy is SIXTEEN!"
That night I asked my brother to prove how tough he was by beating up a sixteen-year-old girl. He refused, although he insisted it wasn't because he was scared. "He won't fight, but it's not because he's yellow," I told Kathy's kid brother the next day.
"Then why won't he fight?"
"I don't know, but I'm pretty sure Horatio has a good reason. I just can't figure out what it might be."
Years later, Horatio went off to Perversity University. They still wore gym uniforms back then and I stole his shirt first chance I got. I wore it constantly - so often I never found time to wash it. "Pee Yeww!" said Gilderfroom Hockinfielder as I walked into 8th grade English class.
"Yes," I said, "PU rocks!"
It also rocked because when I wore the shirt into the local package store, I could buy whatever I wanted. I'm not sure if they thought I went to Perversity University, or they just wanted me to buy my stuff and leave. Dozens of us at the Foster Brooks Middle School got our college-prep credits in binge drinking because of Horatio and his PU gym shirt.
But none of us could drink like Horatio's best friend, Tippy. Two days before Horatio got married; Tippy led a group of us out for my brother's bachelor party. The party consisted of eight hours of bar hopping. We had to go to several because I think Tippy drank each bar dry - at least of all the Budweiser. At 2 AM we ended up at Horatio's house and watched amazed as Tippy urinated on the hedge non-stop until 2:25.
"What kind of shrubs are those?" I asked my brother.
"When I planted them, they were boxwood." he said, "but now I guess they're Anheuser bushes."
Horatio is a Grandfather now and very pleased about it. His grandson is just getting the hang of walking and talking. I wonder if Horatio has already bought an army men video game so he can play with the little guy - with two identical armies...
Except that Grandpa's guys will have super weapons and flying packs.
Horatio and I are both getting more like Grandpa Simpson. Won't this blog be great then?