“You’re God’s born loser, you know that?”
— George St. Geegland to Gil Faizon, Oh Hello! On Broadway (2017)
They were brothers first.
It would not always be so, later on, but first, they were brothers. The first brothers, to be exact, born of Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden.
Writing hadn’t been invented yet, so George became a farmer.
Acting hadn’t been invented yet either, so Gil became a shepherd.
“I like sheep,” Gil would always say, “but I feel like they’re not the most attractive animal.”
“Uh huh,” George would say.
“I just think, if they were more attractive, it would really spice up my day-to-day. I’ve gotta stare at them all the time, you know. Maybe if they looked like raccoons…”
One day, God asked for a sacrifice. Gil brought Her some of his sheep, the nicest and fluffiest ones of the entire flock. George brought Her some of his least-bruised fruits and vegetables.
“Great job, Gil,” said God. “George… eh. Maybe better luck next time.”
“This is bullshit,” whined George. “This is discrimination! Come on!”
Gil’s self-satisfied, smug look was almost too much to handle.
“You motherfucker,” said George. A great red rage overtook him, and he went into the house and rummaged around in the kitchen drawers until he found his dad’s old sword.
Back out in the field, Gil was petting one of his sheep.
“Hey Gil,” said George, coming up behind him.
Gil turned around. “Wazzup?”
And George brought down the sword with a fury upon his brother. He just wanted to make him hurt, that’s all, make him suffer for embarrassing George in front of the Almighty, but by the time the sword fell to the ground, next to Gil’s unmoving, bloodied form, George realized he might have gone just a bit too far.
“What have I done?” cried George passionately, thereby inventing the theater, and then fled into the hills.
God found him there and asked, “George, where is your brother?”
And George said, “Probably fucking a raccoon. How should I know? I’m not his keeper.”
And God said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. I literally just saw you murder him. I’m God, I can see everything. You have his blood all over your hands.”
And George said, “No I don’t,” and tried to wipe his hands off on his pants.
And God said, “Jesus, you are the worst. Okay, I’m cursing you.”
And George said, “Who’s Jesus?”
So George wandered the Earth for a thousand years, smelling so bad that nobody was willing to get close enough to kill him.
Eventually he ran into Gil again, which somehow didn’t surprise him. After everything I’ve been through, he thought, this might as well happen.
He threw himself at Gil’s feet in the middle of the street market in Ur and started to wail and keen, repenting, begging for forgiveness.
“Hey, hey man, it’s alright, it’s alright,” said Gil, a gentle hand on George’s shoulder. “What did you do? Must’ve been pretty bad.”
George looked up. “….You don’t remember?”
“No, but you seem cool. Wanna be my roommate?”
They lasted about nine years in that little room above the copper-monger’s, until one day Gil put his clumsy elbow right into one of George’s still-drying clay tablets, ruining his cuneiform first draft of Gilgamesh 2: 2 Gilga 2 Mesh.
Then George’s vision went red and his hands were around Gil’s throat and Gil was choking, until he wasn’t anymore. George let go, and Gil fell to the mud-brick floor, dead.
“Ah, shit,” said George. And that was that.
He wasn’t sure if he’d get another chance, but a few centuries on in Greece he found Gil in a temple devoted to Aphrodite, dressed up like a virgin and being fawned over by curly-haired acolytes.
“Hey, let’s blow this popsicle stand,” he said, grabbing Gil’s hand.
“Oh, thanks, dude,” said Gil, trusting as ever. “I think they were about to castrate me!”
Sixteen years later, George was thinking, Not bad for a second try, as he stood on the roof of their house, looking down into the courtyard where Gil’s body lay shattered on the mosaic tile.
Gil gets him, is the thing. Even when George has to start over with him from the beginning, it’s like no time’s passed at all. They fall back into their routine; making crass jokes, eating various fish-based meals, doing insane amounts of whatever drugs are available.
I’m not gonna do it again, he’d say to himself. I’m not gonna kill him. We’re best friends. I wouldn’t kill my best friend. I wouldn’t kill my brother. Come on, I’m not a psychopath.
(He first told himself that back when they were living in Heliopolis, in a small hut on the banks of the Nile. Back then, nobody had figured out yet that it wasn’t just a river.)
George shacks up with women, takes up concubines, even fools around with a male prostitute or two, to try and drive himself off-course, avoid the inevitable.
But eventually, though, there’s nobody else. It’s always just him and Gil, at every end, no matter what. They never have anyone but each other, and George can’t live without him, but he certainly can’t live with him, either, his lip-smacking and skin-flaking and slobbiness ands sheer pig-headed idiocy.
Fate wins out: the hammer falls, the knife sinks in. One time he even lights him on fire. It feels good, really good— right up until it doesn’t. And then, he waits for him to come back.
George invented stand-up comedy when he got up before a rowdy pub in 14th-century England and started ranting to the assembled crowd.
“What’s the deal with immortality, anyway?” he slurred. “I mean, it’s bullshit, right? As soon as I find him, I start aging again. Wrinkles, gray hairs, the works. Then as soon as he’s dead, it’s like, boom. SNAP. Back to the old me. New me. Whatever. Gives me the heebie jeebies.”
Mead sloshed out of the flagon in his hand as he gesticulated. “I guess the deal is, if I let him live, I would get to die. Seems fair, right? Except it’s not fair, because She knows I’ll never, ever get that far!”
“And don’t get me started,” he added, “on trying to tell him jokes I learned in Ancient Rome. You ever hear the one about the wasp and the cuckold? No, you haven’t, cause it isn’t fucking funny in any language other than Latin!”
Nobody laughed. George decided to stick to writing plays.
He wondered, on occasion, what he’d do if Gil ever remembered. In 1849, when he pointed the pistol at him in the middle of the saloon, George thought he saw a flicker of understanding in Gil’s face, like all six thousand years were flashing before his eyes at once, but then George pulled the trigger and Gil slumped over dead on the dusty wood floor.
“And that’s for insulting my cowboy boots, you fatuous prick!”
In New York, they got old together. Older than they’d ever gotten. George was being good. He really, really was. The invention of anti-psychotics was a godsend— well, he doubted She had anything do with it, but it was a blessing all the same.
One day, Gil was going face-to-plate with the remnants of his mostaccioli, making the kind of disgusting mouth-noises that drove George insane.
George drummed his fingers on the table, to stop the itching in them that tugged them towards Gil’s throat. “Hey, Gil. You ever heard of Cain and Abel?”
“Yeah, of course,” said Gil, licking his lips. “Funny story, it was actually my parshah at my bar mitzvah. I did my d’var torah about how Cain got a bad rap. It wasn’t his fault! Having to be a farmer would make anyone want to commit violent crimes.”
George cast his eyes upwards and directed a hearty, internal fuck you towards the heavens for that one.
When the call came down the line about the CBS gig, and George was first to the phone, that red rage crept into the corners of his vision, and he was back on the field outside Eden, being judged unfairly by a cruel God, one who favored his stupid dipshit brother for no good fucking reason.
He didn’t want to kill Gil again. That was the long and short of it. He’d hoped he’d gotten it out of his system with Daphne, and then Marla, and then Catherine, but that just wasn’t the same. It never was.
He had to kill Gil again, though, because that was who he was, because that was what he did. Then it’d all start again. He was really tired of starting again.
“Gil, I need to tell you something,” he said, that night after the show. It had all come out in front of the cameras, and George had finally understood the true meaning of the word catharsis.
“More personal revelations?” Gil said. “But George, I’m emotionally ex-hor-sted. Don’t tell me I actually got the USA Network job too—”
“No. Not like that.”
Gil stared at him expectantly, pursing his lips. “Go on.”
George took a deep breath. “Okay. Basically, six thousand years ago I killed you for the first time, and I’ve been cursed to walk the earth forever, killing a different reincarnation of you in every era, as penance for my sins.”
“Oh? That’s all you’ve got?!”
“I’m processing! It’s a lot to take in, man!”
“Yeah, I guess so. Can you hurry it up, though? I gotta get to the vulnerable part quickly or it’ll come out the other end in one big fart.”
“Okay, okay,” said Gil, with a grimace. “Go for it.”
“Well— look. I decided I’m not gonna do it this time.”
“Kill you, you idiot!”
“How generous of you,” said Gil, dryly.
“But it’ll be hard,” said George, swallowing hard. “That’s why I’m telling you. This is the first time I’ve ever told you. I… I want you to hold me accountable.”
Gil softened. “Hold you? Why didn’t you just say so?”
And he reached over and brought George in for a squishy hug.
I could do it now, George thought. He’s got his guard down. I could get my hands around his neck and choke the life right out of him, like I did in Mesopotamia.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he patted Gil softly on the back. “Hey,” he said. “I’m sorry. For everything. Let’s go get French dip sandwiches and drink the juice straight.”
And Gil said, “Alright!”