Note: I set this story in modern times for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to give the readers the freedom to choose whom the brother might be, and that required establishing a time and place which rendered either of them being a viable possibility. Secondly, I wanted to allow the story an opportunity to resonate with the readers—so much easier if the story takes place in the same universe in which the readers live.
Audra Barkley wheeled her car into the yard, grabbed the book out of the passenger seat and made a dash for the comfort of the family home. Not for the first time she wondered how people had managed, before the advent of air-conditioning, to live in this oppressive heat. Those same musings somehow had been validated by that very book.
She burst through the solid front door and rushed through the archway into the open area where the family had gathered. They stood to greet her, to welcome her home. It had been a long stretch since the New Year. Of course, they each had been to see her at the university, but it wasn't the same as having her home. She returned their greetings and then sought the brother she most especially had been wanting to see.
Thrusting the book at him, she demanded, "Sign it. I want my copy autographed as always—don't know how I forgot to get it done when you visited." She waited until he took it from her, then added, "And, just so you know, I'm not sure I appreciate how you portrayed me as a rebellious, spoiled brat." Her eyes were flashing and her dimples showed. The family laughed.
She realized this was the book he'd often talked of writing. The book about the family—well not about the family, exactly. More about what it was like to be a part of this family, and what it took to create such a family. Only he'd set it in a different era, in the early days of the State, when this area was less settled—the so-called wild west days. But anyone who knew could tell. The young couple who settled in the lawless, raw valley and built an empire through blood and sweat—in one case too much blood—the patriarch killed and his wife, sons and daughter left to carry on. The hole he left eventually filled by the appearance of a heretofore unknown, illegitimate son. Indeed, it was not hard to see the parallels.
He signed her copy and handed it back to her. "Likely the last time I'll have to do that."
Silence! What had he said? Surely they must have misheard. As one, the questions came, "What do you mean by that? What are you saying? Last time?"
"Lowest early sales ever. Hopes were moderate with the first book—I wasn't a known name. Had much greater expectations with the second, and they were realized. However, over time that has changed, and this time, the response has plummeted."
"Who cares? It's not like you need the money. It's not why you've ever written."
"True. And that worked fine as long as I kept it that way. Wrote for myself ... for my own reasons. Shared my writings with all of you, a few choice friends, people who would comment on what I'd written, tell me what they liked, what worked, what didn't—provided the encouragement for me to keep going, to get better. I'm guessing some of you, and certainly some of those friends, shared my offerings with others. I have no idea if those people took a quick browse through, or actually read it. No idea what they thought of it—I had no way of finding out. And, it didn't matter because I wasn't expecting feedback from other than the people I knew had read it.
"That all changed when I agreed to publish. Now I knew my writings were available to many more people—hundreds more. And I looked forward to getting their feedback in the only way possible: they bought the book. And now they don't. Somehow the lack of response to the published works has crumpled my spirit, killed my enthusiasm to write. I can't see continuing.
"Sometimes, when things you enjoyed cease to bring enjoyment, you have to let go. Who knows why supposedly-loyal readers ceased to let me know they appreciated my efforts—ceased to buy my books. Perhaps the reasons don't matter—they belong to those people, and I have no power to change that. What does matter is that it affected me and I do have the power to discontinue the effect."
"But what will you do, Son. When you handed me your first effort you said it was something you had to do—like it was something inside you that had to get out because it interfered with your daily work, your life. The thoughts, the ideas, were an ongoing distraction, until they were put to paper. Are you saying that has changed?"
"No. Not at all. It hasn't changed."
"So, what do you plan to do?"
"As I see it, I have two choices. I stop publishing. Or I die."
At their looks of alarm, he hastened to clarify. "The latter shows no signs of being an immediate solution, so I have opted to discontinue publishing. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and is providing no return. Time and effort I can put towards my work, my family—and my writing."
He briefly locked eyes with each one and saw the respect and acceptance therein. Pointing to the book his sister held he declared, "That is my last published work. I'm going back to being a writer."
He smiled as he realized, at that moment, he had come to a decision. The relief was profound.
"It was a nice experience while it lasted. I can wish all those readers well, and hope they find a new source of enjoyment to which they may choose to express their appreciation. For me, it's time to say goodbye."