Sibling Rivalry by Robert Kaplan

A series of shorts, a view to the past, with the tension between siblings a constant theme.

Sibling Rivalry

I’d never asked for a brother, but suddenly, there he was, and I got a Disney View Master, a plastic toy that brought a slide show to life as light shined through. While my mother nursed my brother in the rocking chair, I would sit in the corner pushing the button, advancing scenes of Dumbo, Pluto and Mickey Mouse, pretending not to be interested in the commotion surrounding him, wondering where he’d come from. Although my mother had had a belly larger than her body, I’d already forgotten her pregnant. My brother appeared to arrive immaculately which just showed my ignorance of the world at 4 years old. There’d been complications with the delivery. The hemorrhaging nearly killed my mother. Though she survived, it still seemed that I’d lost her to him.

The Ugly Butterfly

I crossed over the rock wall behind my house to get to Hank’s with my brother copying my every step along the way. I told him to go home but he wouldn’t listen. He never did. He was too little to play with us. We were big boys and he could get hurt playing what we were playing, which would get me in trouble with my mother, so Hank and I put caterpillars on the back of his shirt. This got him to go home but also got me in trouble when I got home. My brother didn’t leave until the 40th caterpillar. The caterpillars were everywhere that summer. They ate the green off my mother’s favorite trees but she still searched through the closet to find a glass jar so I could make one my pet. I let my caterpillar crawl up and down my arms, tickling me as it moved across my skin. I cared for my caterpillar like I would always have it, making sure it had plenty of leaves to eat, but my caterpillar was not a dog, and by July, it retreated to a cocoon only to come out a gypsy moth and fly away. This was pretty much what happened to my friendship with Hank.

At the Catskill Game Farm

My brother only wanted to feed the ducks. He held the seed my mother gave him, two quarters worth, tight in his left hand, while he picked one out. No sooner did he move toward this duck, than the other ducks began to follow him. The birds knew prey when they saw it. They had my brother marked for an easy meal. He quickly found himself surrounded. As the ducks pecked at his feet, they didn’t seem as friendly as they’d appeared from outside the petting zoo. They hovered over him. He couldn’t control his fear. He couldn’t hold back his tears. He didn’t stop crying until my father picked him up out of the angry throng. The ducks spread their wings with no intent of flying. They aimed to intimidate. The meanness in their eyes showed they understood the game in game farm.


Robert Kaplan earned his MFA in fiction at Columbia University’s School of the Arts (2015). He is currently at work on his first novel, THE MOTHER, and is the social media curator at The Creative Process. He also holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Michigan. His interests include but are not limited to literature, science fiction, crime novels, the Ancient Greeks, evolution, causation, non-zero sum games and entanglement theory. He is a Brooklyn expatriate living in New Jersey with his three children.