"Scott, we need to keep moving." Steve was standing up ahead, tapping his foot restlessly.
Scott watched his younger brother disappear down the trail. He thought that there was something fragile about Steve. Steve was a restless person, driven, passionate, intense, and he always seemed to be running out of time. He concealed his insecurity and sensitivity in a shell of prickliness and a weird sense of humor. Steve had a gloomy streak, and a tendency to be moody, to become angry and depressed, as if he had a hidden wound that oozed and could never heal. He also had an impulsive, generous nature, and his kindheartedness could get him into trouble.
The Sillett brothers had grown up sharing a bunk bed in a little bedroom in a duplex house with a neat yard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Scott had claimed the top bunk, because he was older, and Steve had slept in the bottom. As children, they had invented a private language, which no one else could understand, and they still sometimes spoke it with each other. It sounded like some kind of bizarre German. Their father, Terence B. Sillett, had majored in mathematics in college but had been unemployed for a number of years. Before he stopped working, he had been a salesman. He had sold insurance, real estate, and auto parts, and he had also worked as a chimneysweep, but he had developed spiritual longings. Eventually, he grew a beard and began meditating and spending a lot of time reading books on reincarnation and Hinduism and esoteric forms of Christianity. "I wanted to understand what the being called Christ was," Terence Sillett explained to me once.
The boys' mother, Julianna Sillett, discussed matters with Terence, and they decided to switch roles. She became the full-time money- earner in the family. She was a registered nurse, and she got a job working in the labor-and-delivery room at a hospital in Harrisburg. Terence stayed at home during the day and took care of the boys and their sister, Liana, the youngest of the Sillett children. He did the grocery shopping, cooked meals for the children, made their school lunches, supervised their homework, and he tucked them into bed when their mother was working the night shift at the hospital. Alcohol became a steady companion of Terence Sillett.
Excerpted from The Wild Trees by Richard Preston Copyright © 2007 by Richard Preston. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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