Father coughed up a strange yellowish substance, and I remembered the warnings of Sensei and his wife.
"Being bedridden so long has affected his stomach," my mother concluded.
She didn't know what was happening. I looked into her eyes and was overcome with pity.
When my brother and I were together in the hearth room, he asked if I'd heard. He was referring to what the doctor had said on taking his leave. I knew full well what it was, even without having heard.
My brother turned to me. "Would you be willing to stay and take care of the house?"
I didn't answer.
"Mother can't do it alone," he added. The thought of me wasting away here, drinking in smells of the earth, seemed not to concern him. "If you just want to read your books, you can read out here in the country. You won't need to hold down a job. What could be better?"
"Isn't that the role of the eldest son?" I responded.
"You know I'm in no position to do it," he dismissed me offhand.
My brother, it seemed, was determined to make a name for himself in the world.
"If you can't do it, then we'll have to impose on our uncle. In that case, though, one of us will likely have to take Mother in."
"I'm not so sure she'll agree to leave."
Before our father was even in his grave, we were thus discussing life without him.