Gorilla gorilla gorilla

by Emily Weber

Marlow jabbed his big sister in the ribs when he spotted the first star. "There's one!"

Eve hmmed in her thoughtful way. "You can't map it until there's more, though. Give it a few."

They waited. Another brilliant January sunset had flushed from the sky minutes ago, around 4:15 (Marlow's science textbook, Our Changing Planet, claimed winter suns used to set later in the day). Marlow shuffled out of his windbreaker and used it as a cushion against the acorn-littered tree house floor. Eve sketched something in her spiral bound book, one hand working the charcoal pencil and the other holding a flashlight.

"How come we never come up here anymore?" Marlow asked.

"I dunno," Eve said. "Tree houses are for little kids. We're not kids anymore."

"There's another star. Oh, another!" Marlow dug his "Mapping the Night Sky" worksheet from his pocket and glared at the blank circle waiting for stars. "I can't do this. Can you help me?"

Eve frowned. "Draw what you see. They're just dots."

"I can't."

"Fine. Here." She considered the blank canvas of the page for a moment before starting.

Marlow slid her sketchbook from her lap. "What are you drawing today?"

"Gorilla gorilla gorilla."

Marlow giggled. "What?"

"That's the real name for the Western lowland gorilla. The last ones died this year." Eve pointed the flashlight toward her sketch. "See? Some gorillas actually communicated using sign language." Her sketch: palms gently spread a few inches apart in front of his gorilla lips like a prayer, eyes nearly closed.

"What's he signing?"


"He's sad?"


"Because he died?"

"The gorillas didn't just die. They went extinct," Eve said quietly.

"Same thing."

"Not the same thing."

A cool wind stirred the empty tree branches around them and the dark wisps of Eve's braid. She mapped a few constellations he recognized from class: Canis major, the big dog; Lepus, the hare; Gemini, the twins. They had been so easy to see in the textbook, like connect-the-dots, completely different from the real clumps of stars splattered above. Marlow turned off his flashlight, grateful it wasn't too cloudy to do his homework. After a few minutes, Eve handed her brother the half-completed worksheet and took back her sketch book.

"How come you only draw extinct things?" Marlow asked as they swapped.

"I don't know." For a long minute Marlow was sure she wouldn't answer him at all. Mom and Dad practically had to ground her to get her to put down the sketchbook and come to dinner or do her homework or brush her teeth or go to bed. And even then, he could usually hear from the other side of their room the click of her flashlight, the rustle of her sheets, the tender scrape of charcoal on paper as she sketched late into the night.

"I like to imagine the things I draw are still alive, somehow," Eve said at last.

"In your drawings?"

"In my head. I think if I was going extinct, I'd want to know someone was thinking about me after I was gone."

Something cold settled in Marlow's stomach. He folded up his star map, slipped it back into his jacket. "Will you draw me when I die?"

Eve pointed the flashlight down, taking him in for a moment: the scrunch of his forehead, the puff of his cheeks, the dirty jacket, the laces coming undone on his left boot. "They'll fix everything by the time you're a grown-up," she said, reaching out a stiff hand to ruffle his curls. "You don't get a page in my book."

Marlow nodded solemnly. "Okay."

"Done with your map? Let's go back inside."

Marlow slid out of the tree house with a grunt, landing in a feline crouch on his hands and feet. Eve waited until she heard the back door slam shut before flipping to the first page in her sketch book, the first extinct thing in her book: her brother's boyish eyes flecked with starlight; wondrous and frightened, full of curiosity. She gave them one last look before tearing out the page with a flourish and crushing it in the black hole of her hand.

BIO: Emily Weber is putting down roots in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, after living for years on the other side of the state. Her work has been published in The Adroit Journal, Soundings East, and elsewhere.