Vanity Fair Scribe Investigates Her Family

I love you more than anyone, I say. You are my brother. We are Brenners. Team Carl.

There is no epiphany. There are no final words.

"Don't leave me," he says. Tears run down his cheeks. "I am sorry for everything."

"I will be back in four days," I say. "Nothing bad is going to happen. There is nothing to worry about."

"No one ever tells you the truth," Carl says.

He fills jumbo lawn-and-leaf Hefty bags with files. "House-cleaning," he says. A copy of the New Testament is on his desk. I see a box marked "Orchard."

"Father Jesus," he now says before every meal, "we pray for our troops in Iraq."

I have a list in the car. Last-minute sources to double-check: Queries from Mary Flynn, the chief of research for the magazine at which I work. Phone calls I must make to Paris in the next twenty-four hours. Phrases to double-check and translate for the text: My notes on a legal pad—"On piege les mecs: Is this the idiom for 'one sets a trap'?" A review of a Leonardo da Vinci show of drawings at the Met, from The New York Review of Books. I have circled the word "sfumato." Later, I search it on Wikipedia.


"Sfumato is the Italian term for a painting technique which overlays translucent layers of colour to create perceptions of depth, volume and form. In particular, it refers to the blending of colours or tones so subtly that there is no perceptible transition."

In Italian, sfumato means "vanished," with connotations of "smoky," and is derived from the Italian word fumo, meaning "smoke." Leonardo described "sfumato" as "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

I always tell everything I know.

Why are you always interrupting? Carl always says.

I regret everything.

If Carl could speak, what would he say?

Excerpted from Apples and Oranges by Marie Brenner. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Brenner. Published in May 2008 by Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

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