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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why you can't count on my sister if a murderer is in your house

Do you have a sibling that is ferociously loyal? I mean, so loyal that if someone hurts your feelings, that sibling will literally rip out their eyeballs and feed those eyeballs to them?

Fig. 1.1
Eyeballs: They’re what’s for dinner. If you hurt my feelings. And my sister hears you.

Because that’s my sister. She has avenged me when ex-boyfriends have misbehaved.  She has stayed up all night after a car accident that caused her SO much pain to make a photo album for me for my birthday.  She has left a friend’s house in Pearland and made it to my apartment near downtown Houston in about fifteen minutes when I called her crying about the end of a relationship. When I got some bad news last Wednesday, she drove out to my apartment, six months pregnant and probably tired after working all day, in rush hour traffic to make sure that I would be ok. That’s my little sister.

But if there’s a possibility that there is a murderer in your house and you look to my sister for help, your ass is on your own.  This is the harsh lesson I learned when I was about ten.

First, you need some background on how my brother, sister and I were when we were younger to appreciate the story I’m about to tell you.

I’m the oldest child. When you’re the oldest child, the responsibility often falls on you to watch younger brothers and sisters because your parents assume that, as the oldest and most responsible, you’re not doing things that might scar your younger siblings for life. Some of the things parents do not think an older sibling is doing while they are at work include:

-Making them play Mama Cat Baby Cat, wherein the mama cat, while lounging on top of the bed and pretending to purr, tells the baby cat where to put toys back that were previously  strewn about the room. The baby cat then picks said toys up in her mouth, meows, occasionally chases invisible string and puts the toys back where they belong. Is it my fault that baby cats like to clean shared bedrooms? Is it my fault baby cat thought this was a fun game?

Fig. 1.2
My sister enjoyed Mama Cat, Baby Cat most of the way through high school. We didn’t even share a room anymore.

-Telling your younger brother you possess the magical power to turn anybody invisible, and you are choosing him to showcase that power. So with one wave of a sparkly baton and reciting some kind of poem you heard on Pee Wee’s Play House, the kid’s invisible. Then, the “only way you can see him sneaking around the house is by the footprints he’s leaving in the carpet”.  And then you tell him that you don’t know how to make him visible again. And then he cries. A lot. And then your mom comes home. And then he tearfully asks your mom if she can see him.  And then there’s a lot of judging going on even though it was JARRETT who loved the game so much.

Fig. 1.3
Couches: They make lousy hiding places. Also, my brother had a sweet bowl cut.

-Singing very loudly and obnoxiously at the top of your lungs any time your younger sister tries to talk, causing the sound of your singing (beautiful and songbird-like as it may be) to turn her stomach nearly 16 years later (she needs to let this one go.)

Fig. 1.4
Paula Abdul was incredible. But not as incredible as my voice.

These are just a handful of the things my parents probably did not think I was doing after school and over long summer hours when they were very hard at work trying to pay for things like mortgages and cars and cheerleading and soccer and baseball and piano lessons and karate (which promptly ended when I accidentally poked my instructor in the eye while trying to balance on one foot)and other things, like purchasing replacement fuses when my brother blew out all of the electricity in the house (I’m not actually sure they had to buy replacement fuses, but he did throw all of the breakers when a screw “accidentally” fell into an open light socket).

Don’t be fooled though. Younger siblings dish it out in less manipulative but possibly more damaging ways. Like the time my sister thought she saw a tiger awake under my bed, and instead of warning me, she ran to my parent’s room and never said anything to anybody. I’ll repeat that last part. SHE THOUGHT SHE SAW A LIVE, MAN-EATING TIGER UNDER MY BED WHILE I WAS ASLEEP AND DIDN’T TELL ANYBODY. Was it a real tiger? Is that really the point?! She THOUGHT it was a real tiger!

Fig. 1.5
If you’re worried about being “the girl who cried tiger” and it’s my life that’s at stake, risk it.

Now that you have the background, you’ll fully understand why I was always left in charge and why, if you think murderers are breaking into your home, you probably don’t want my sister there as your only backup.

Let me preface this story by explaining that children do not believe in abstract things like fate or Eskimos or physics. They believe in very scary monsters, Santa Claus and murderers, in that order.

Fig. 1.6
If you pick the wrong mall Santa, sometimes very scary monsters, Santa Claus and murderers are all the same thing. Also, this was the beginning stages of my brother's sweet bowl cut.

That being said, we were home alone one day over the summer. My brother, sister and I were all in my parent’s bedroom watching Hey Dude (that’s right, Hey Dude. What’s up, 1991?), with the doors and windows in the house open. Then the bedroom door slammed shut. It didn’t just slam shut. It slammed shut with precisely the amount of force it would take for someone who was not the little cartoon version of Arthur in Sword and the Stone to try and pull the sword out of the anvil.

Fig. 1.7
This guy: Not King Arthur. Also, your hat is stupid.

Remember way back, when I said that kids don’t believe in abstract things like fate, Eskimos or physics?

We assumed that the reason the door slammed was NOT that with all of the doors and windows in the house open, a vacuum effect was created when the wind blew, thus shutting the bedroom door. I mean, my science fair project up to this point was making toothpaste out of baking soda, for which I substituted powdered sugar because it tasted better.

We were absolutely 100 percent positive the door slammed shut because there was obviously a murderer on the other side, and that he shut the door to corral us in and would bake us in the oven and eat us after he was finished going through all our stuff. And all I could think about was how this murderer would definitely steal my Jem doll. And probably Teddy Ruxpin, even though I had accidentally poked one of his eyes out, thus rendering him a terrible, blinking cyclopean monster. And that he would leave the Fob, because fobs were only minor characters in the world of Teddy Ruxpin, and no one wants a backup dancer unless you’re Britney Spears.

All of this took place in about half a second. We sat there staring at the door, hoping that one of our parents would come through it and say something like “just joking! no murderers here!”, but they didn’t. I scrambled off the bed and my sister was already gone. I looked up just in time to see her LOCKING HERSELF IN THE BATHROOM WITH MY BROTHER AND I ON THE OTHER SIDE SEPARATED FROM THE MURDERER BY ONLY A THIN BEDROOM DOOR. I tried reasoning with her.

Me: Meg, let us in.
Megan: NO.
Me: Please?
Megan: NO.
Me: How about Jarrett?
Megan: I SAID NO!
Me: Why not?
Megan: There’s not enough room.

In her defense, it was a small bathroom, but when there’s a murderer afoot, you’re supposed to come together as a family and squeeze into the bathroom.

The situation was immediately compounded by the fact that my brother was five, and was going through a phase. At different points in my little brother’s young life, he went through phases that made him aspire to do out-of-the-ordinary things. For example, for a while after Happy Gilmore came out, he wanted to be a golfer. He went through a MacGuyver phase that resulted in all kinds of electronics being shorted out. After Ace Ventura came out, he walked around like Jim Carrey for a while. At one point, he wanted to be a clown.

On this particular day, in this particular setting, my little brother wanted to be a ninja. This was coupled with a toy he had gotten from Little Caesar’s. When he was about five, if my parents went to Little Caesar’s, my brother would lose his mind to go inside and say “please, please”. If you said “please please” to a worker at Little Caesar’s, they gave you a plastic toy that some six-month-old child in China made for exactly half of one cent.

Fig. 1.8
I mean, the toy thing is at the very end, and it’s really not important, but do you REMEMBER this commercial?!

The toy he had in his possession the day the murderers tried to kill us was a plastic pan flute that made no type of discernable music whatsoever.

So I had just finished trying to negotiate with my sister, who had locked herself in the bathroom, to open the door and at least let my brother in, and she was clearly not going to give in. I turned around to find my brother, because I was going to stick him the closet or under the bed or something, and I didn’t see him.

I didn’t see him, because he was crouched down in a very threatening position near the bedroom door peering under the crack.

Me: What are you doing.
Jarrett (who is whispering conspiratorially): I’m setting a booby trap.
Me: What kind of booby trap. That’s a bad idea.
Jarrett (still whispering): I put my toy I got from saying pleaseplease under the door. When the killer tries to steal it, I’ll open the door, and karate chop him in the face.
Me: That’s a dumb idea. No one wants that stupid toy. (because their arms would be full of Jem and Teddy Ruxpin, and if they had enough room left, ALL of my Sweet Valley High books. Also, that’s not a booby trap, it’s just misdirection, but I let it slide because he was five.)
Jarrett (who, all of a sudden, is absolutely not concerned with whispering anymore): IT IS NOT A DUMB IDEA. THEY WILL WANT MY TOY.
Me: Shut UP! They will KILL us! And Megan is NOT letting us in the bathroom!

So now, not only is the murderer sure that we’re in the room, he’s mad that Jarrett’s trying to bribe him with a stupid toy that the murderer could get for free just by saying “please, please”. It was about then that I decided it would be a good idea to call my mother at work. I had learned from Miss Richardson, a terrifying counselor in elementary school, that if you called 9-1-1 and didn’t need it, your parents would be arrested, you would be shipped off to an orphanage, you would never see anyone you loved ever again and eventually you would end up working sound for Milli Vanilli or something horrible like that. So calling the police was out.

Fig. 1.9
Girl you know it, girl you know it, girl you know it was NOT going to end like this for me.

I called my mom. She explained how doors can shut by themselves to me, but all I heard was “there is a murderer or a monster in the house. Get into the bathroom or you and your brother will die”. I also remember telling her that Megan wouldn’t let us in the bathroom. Looking back, my mom didn’t sound surprised. I guess some parts of our personality are ingrained in us from birth, and my mom was aware that my sister would leave us and never look back if a murderer were in the house.

So while my mom called our neighbor to come over and check on us, I tried to reason with my sister, the original cut-and-run-er.

Me: Megan, please let us in.
Megan: No.
Me: Meg. You have to let us in.
Megan: GO AWAY!
Jarrett (who is still ready to strike): Jennie! HE WILL TRY TO GET MY TOY!

Eventually my neighbor came over, called out to us, tried to explain that there weren’t any murderers in the house and that everything was ok.

We were able to (finally) coax Megan out of the bathroom, but obviously, if there had been a murderer (or a monster) in the house, it was definitely going to kill Jarrett and I.

And Megan was very clearly ok with that.