I never meant to hurt anyone. It was the last thing I ever wanted to do, but in moments that pass by quicker than lightening, things just happen. That seems to be the story of my life. Things happen before I can stop them, before I even understand what's happening. Sometimes it's my eagerness that gets me into trouble-like when Mother makes me help her with the canning and all I can think about is getting out of that hot kitchen, sneaking down to the creek, and burying myself in the cold water. But sometimes, what gets me in trouble is just plain anger.

Like the time when I was ten, and Henry was harassing me again, and I was just sick of him that day. I never understood what was so much fun about picking on girls, but that seemed to be the favorite pastime of both my brothers. Seemed to me that teenage boys could find plenty else to occupy their time with, and it would make me madder than a hornet. Maybe that was why they did it.

We weren't poor back then, but we weren't like the Doyle's either-we didn't have a housekeeper to clean up after us-and since I was the only girl, I got stuck with washing the dishes after dinner every day while the boys got to run off to do heaven knows what with heaven knows who. Henry should have just left me alone. But he never could pass up a chance to needle me, and he slapped my behind as he dropped his plate into the wash tub. I must have gotten madder than I ever had before, because I don't exactly remember deciding to do it, but the next thing I knew, Henry had a knife in his neck.

What happened after that is still a blur. I think I was as horrified as Henry was, and we both just stood there staring at each other in shock. I couldn't even remember throwing that knife across the room. But there he stood half-way in the kitchen and half-way in the family room, a trickle of blood running down his neck and seeping into the collar of his Sunday shirt. I remember thinking that Mother would have a time getting that stain out on the washboard. She'd complain about her knuckles getting raw.

Henry pulled the knife out, and then the blood just shot out of him. It hit Mother's table cloth, the white one with the lace around the bottom that her mother had made for a wedding present. It hit the wall and the door frame where Henry stood. He stared at it kind of wide-eyed for a moment. Then just as Daddy came back in the room, Henry sank to the floor.

Something lit a fire under my feet, and I was beside him even quicker than Daddy. Like I said, it all seemed to happen in a haze of confusion and regret, so I don't remember placing the dishtowel over the wound, but I remember the dark red stain spreading through it. I remember Daddy calling for Mother and hollering at Henry that he'd be alright. I remember the look on Daddy's face when he yelled at me to get another rag-his face pale, his brown eyes wide and accusing. I'd only seen him look scared once before, and it just about did me in to think I'd be responsible for him losing another son.

I couldn't move from Henry's side, though. Because at that very moment something else happened I didn't understand. My hands started feeling funny, kind of like they were going to sleep, and a tingle worked its way down my arm, through my elbow and out of the tips of my fingers. I don't remember Daddy yelling anymore, or Mother scrambling around me. I just remember Henry's face going all quiet, his eyes kind of settling into a peaceful gaze into mine. I felt his fingers touch my hand, and then I felt his neck. The blood slid under my fingers and dripped onto the wood floor. And then it stopped.

Henry kept looking at me, and I remember wondering what he was thinking. I hated for him to be mad at me. As much as I hated his picking on me, I loved him fierce-almost as much as Daddy. Henry could make you smile in a second, no matter what had you in a mess. Out of all my brothers, he was the only one that ever really knew me, the only one who liked playing with me. I couldn't stand the thought that I'd hurt him.

"Henry?" I whispered. "You alright?"

Mother's hands came out of nowhere and shoved the rag back onto his neck, wiping blood away. She told Daddy to get some clean water and more rags, and he grabbed the pail from beside the door as he ran out the back toward the well.

Mother kept dabbing the rag at the wound, and Henry kept looking at me like nothing had happened, like he was amused by the whole commotion. He almost grinned. Then Mother pulled the rag away and sat back on her heels.

"I don't understand," she said, nearly breathless. "Where did all this blood come from?"

I looked at her then, because I thought maybe she was in shock too. "His neck, Mother. I didn't mean to. I just..."

Henry sat up and rubbed his hand over the spot that had shot blood across the room only moments earlier, but nothing was there. Not even a scratch. He looked at me, and I looked back at him, and I knew what he knew, cause we both saw what happened, but I don't think either one of us knew anything that made sense.

Daddy burst back into the kitchen with the water sloshing out of the pail, and he looked wild-eyed at Mother. "What do you want me to do?"

She shook her head, still looking bewildered. "I guess we need to get this mess cleaned up. I still don't know what happened. What was all the fuss about?"

Daddy took a few steps toward us, the same bewildered look in his eyes. He knelt by Henry and ran his hand over his neck. Henry just sat there. I just sat there.

Mother grabbed the bucket of water and started scrubbing the floor, mumbling about how she'd never get the stain out of the table cloth and it was as good as garbage now. Daddy helped Henry up and ran his hand behind his own neck.

"I reckon you're alright then," Daddy said.

"Yes, sir," Henry answered.

Then he ran out the door like nothing had happened. Everyone went back to their business, so I figured I must have somehow imagined that knife hitting Henry. I looked around the floor and finally found it; then I took it back over to the tub to wash it up.

Sometimes I still remember that day in a dream, and I wonder how much of it really happened, and how much of my memory my dreams have changed. It's hard to know.

Now, when I remember that day, it's not the memory of the knife or Henry, or Mother scrubbing up blood for hours that my mind sits on. Instead, I think about all the ruckus going on around us, and not one of us realizing that Daddy was already sick.