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MEG TUITE

Going to visit Mom’s sister, two states over

 

Sister pinches me in the leg and I turn to punch her, but she shows me two Pall Malls she stole from Mom’s purse before we left, clamps my mouth with her hand. We are in the back-back of the station wagon lying on our stomachs and the three brothers are sitting in the back seat, Mom and Dad ragging in the front about Aunt Velma.
‘Velma is taking care of things now.’
‘That woman can’t tell her ass from her face!’ Dad looks back at his boys and elongates his fat red cheeks, raises his eyebrows into a monkey face and adds, ‘not that that would be an easy task.’
John, Bill and George look up from their Yahtzee game, start chuckling, nudge each other.
‘Randall, please.’ Mom sighs. ‘She’s my sister. She needs our help.’
‘What the hell? Just because she finally got some ‘rocket without a launchpad’ to rack her? She should be thankful she got it at all.’ He raises his eyebrows and snorts.
Mom hits Dad on the chest. ‘You know what happened to that girl was a crime. Now I’m going to be with my baby sister through this next horrible ordeal.’ Mom starts rummaging through her purse for some Kleenex, wipes her eyes and bites her lip.
Dad shakes his head. ‘Yeah, so now Velma can have some doctor vacuum out some John, Bill or George as though he’s trash. Well it’s a goddamn sin,’ he growls and starts hacking.
The boys all look up again. Once they know Mom and Dad aren’t expecting an answer, the three of them drop their heads back to their cut-throat match, screeching that one or the other has to do a re-throw of the die because of the rocking car. Dad drives about twenty miles per hour on the highway. Everyone passes, giving us dirty looks.
Sister pinches my arm this time when Dad lights up a cigarette. I smack her anyway as she snaps her Wonder Woman lighter in my face. My cheeks form two balloons as I puff away on the third cigarette I have ever sucked on in my thirteen years of life. Sister is sixteen and has stolen clothes, albums, jewelry, candy, liquor, cigarettes and boyfriends. Her world is vast and rotates around a planet. I am a clinging satellite.
I have one friend at school, Jody, who is a lot like Sister. She is always explaining why everything is the way I pretend it isn’t.
‘Flatsy Patsy, where the hell are your boobs?’
‘Kick, the asshole in the nuts if he drools on you.’
‘Get in that store and pocket a fucking candy bar for chrissake. Something!’ She’d shake her head and push me in the door.
John and George look back at us as Sister and I blow smoke out the side windows. John rolls his eyes and grabs the cigarette out of my hand, sucks the rest of the butt in one drag. He’s such an asshole.
‘How can you call yourself a goddamn Christian,’ Dad says as he lowers the window and flicks out his cigarette in sync with Sister and John.
Mom gives one of her ‘I hate you, pretend to like you’ snorts. ‘A Christian? So what would you call your friends for starters? Hmmm? The parish altar boys? Clark is giving me the ‘I’d like to bend you over the pew’ smirk every time I see him in church.’
Dad pats another cigarette out of his pack and drips it on his lips.
Sister taps me. I watch as she pulls a cigarette out of her sock. This one isn’t like the Pall Mall we smoked before. It’s wrinkled and twisted on the ends. She snaps her Wonder Woman lighter. She winks at me as her eyes become galaxies.

 

 

 

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