My Sister, Part Five
Cranberries on lace make a startling effect. Leona’s ruff dripped glistening red like a virgin on motel sheets. Shocking!
Leona’s screams discomfited those wretched birds in the yard below and they set to flapping and squawking and banging themselves against the chicken wire. The people in the front house — my sister’s landlords —came scowling out their back door. First, an Iranian; then, chickens; now, a screaming pilgrim; they looked up, aghast, at their garage apartment.
My sister fled sobbing to her kitchen, to dear vodka with a smidge of OJ. Leona gasped like a fish out of water while cranberry sauce bonded with the Dow of her hair — it fused with and stained and ruined her pious permanent. Leona’s buckled hat lay jauntily askew, and upon the Bible she’d placed beside her plate sat my sister’s crystal jelly boat, an heirloom passed down through five generations, miraculously unbroken.\
“Get the fuck out of my house, you fucking whore!”
That came from my sister, now back in the dining room, with Smirnoff banshee eyes. Minki finally looked up from his plate of glistening bones — he was fundamentally aroused by foul-mouthed American women. “Huh huh,” Minki chuckled, dripping schmaltz. He looked over at me, waved a chicken bone at my sister and winked.
I imagined him with a turkey drumstick up his ass, and I too chuckled, which made Minki believe we were pals. He winked again.
Dad had headphones on. Carol Burnett was on the Watchman. Dad laughed out loud, out of the blue. Dad has a great laugh.
“You plastic slut!” my sister shouted at the still-gasping Leona, and Dad burst into peals of laughter. Leona glared at our headphoned Dad. Then I laughed, and so did my good buddy Minki. At that moment, outrage kidnapped Leona.
Leona rose from her chair. “I’m a Christian,” she said.
She had a Jesus Fish pinned to her shoulder, dripping cranberry jelly.
“You’re dressed like a fucking pilgrim!” my sister screeched, and the landlords below tuned their ears. “And you USE my hopeless father.”
It’s a shame Brancusi never worked with chicken gravy — in the air, so fluid; chicken gravy arcs like science fiction.
My sister is an elegant human, part by design and partly innate. She was undoubtedly dressed in Anne Klein, a chic trend of the times, one which made women resemble Buster Keaton, who was a brilliant and funny man. Fashion is tricky and costly, on many levels. My sister used to pride herself on her composed demeanor — wardrobe, grooming and furnishings equaled demeanor. She spent so much effort on that demeanor, it made her nutty.
Now, she’s fine; she’s a living artist.
Leona hoisted an expensive ceramic pitcher and sloshed two pints of canned chicken gravy, yellow as the sun, with perfect accuracy. (It) hit my sister just below the throat, for a moment a cameo, and then an exploding star.
“I’ll shove that fucking bible down your throat!” my sister blazed, and Dad guffawed, stomping his feet (Tim Conway was his favorite).
Leona looked like she was losing her mind. My sister looked like the beginning of a painting by Jackson Pollock. She had assumed a fighter’s stance, weight evenly distributed, her right hand tightly clenching a heavy glass tumbler full of vodka. Leona, the whitest of women, bobbled her head like Queen Latifah, pissed off, in 1984 (nowadays, that particular bobble is a signature move of females everywhere, funniest on Asian girls).
Minki was fascinated by this situation: “This is the sexy,” he slobbered, winking uncontrollably. And then he smelled his armpits, deeply and with pleasure.
“What are you doing there?” I asked Minki.
“Dirty American women,” he leered, eyelids strobing.
Dad wheezed, tears in his eyes (Mrs. Wiggins).
And Minki’s words struck a chord in my brother, and my brother’s chords are not often heard on this earth.
“Leona’s mom is hot,” my brother said, talking about the weather. And that was enough for Leona.
“Satan!” bellowed Leona, “Satan is here in this room.”
Leona kicked savagely at her chair, sending it rumbling across the wooden floor. The landlords below looked at each other and made hesitant steps in every direction.
“Shut the fuck up,” my sister screamed at Leona, “my fucking landlords will hear you.”
Minki rubbed his chicken fingers on his crotch, listening intently, his eyelids trapped shut in exquisite spasms. Dad doubled over, laughing himself sick, then bolted for the bathroom, still plugged to Carol Burnett. (My father and my sister both have weak bladders. One time, my sister peed in the trunk of my Toyota in a Jack in the Box drive-thru. She doesn’t deny it.)
“I’m praying for you; I’ll save you!” cried Leona, gesticulating wildly at my sister. With uncharacteristic agility, Leona sped around the table to where Minki sat blinded by Arabian ecstasy. Her hard-heeled pilgrim shoes made flamenco sounds as she ran.
“Heathen,” spat Leona, peering down on Minki, and she smacked Minki hard in the face. Minki’s eyes shot open.
Leona grabbed the carving knife. “Satan!” Leona wailed, a terrible sound.
Minki thrust forward his breast: “I have no fear of death,” he shouted, “American sow!”
Did I mention Minki was hairy? Like a yak was Minki: one thick eyebrow that nearly met his hairline and nose hair you could braid. This was the swinging 80’s, and hipster men, especially foreign men, wore their silken shirts open to the navel. Body hair was in vogue, swarthy types were getting the girls. When Minki puffed up his chest it looked like he was covered with tarantulas.
“We invent massematics!” Minki roared.
“Is your mom at home now, Leona?” (my brother).
“Satan!” hissed Leona, blowing the spittle of Christ onto Minki’s ancient skin. She brandished the carving knife in the air above her head.
The landlady ran back into her house while the landlord moved cautiously towards the stairs leading up to my sister’s apartment.
A little about Leona:
- She took her degree in concert accordion at the University of Denver.
- She took her fashion cues from “Little House on the Prairie.”
- You wouldn’t say she was sincere.
- She was a newly-born-again Christian.
- She loved to sing — a piercing operatic falsetto.
- She convinced me to hate “Lady of Spain.”
At that moment, Dad came giggling out of the bathroom, a big urine stain on the crotch of his Sans-A-Belts.Too late.
“I love Tim Conway,” he wheezed, slowly dying from laughter.
Leona reared back and stared hard at my father. Then she looked at Minki and back at my father again.
“Involuntary Loss of Bodily Functions,” Leona hissed to no one, to the air. And then she began to tremble, and the carving knife wobbled in her hand. Then came a sound to chill the heart of any human, a sound of wrath and terror the likes of which I don’t care to hear twice in my life:
“INVOLUNTARY LOSS OF BODILY FUNCTIONS,” Leona bellowed, causing the chickens below to panic and glasses to overturn on the Thanksgiving table.
The landlord on the stairs outside squeaked, hopped, and ran back into his home.
“My pants are clean. I swear,” said my brother.
Buster Keaton versus the Pilgrim
Never happened. The glass was never thrown, Leona’s coiffure remained unmussed. Instead, my sister wept inconsolably while Dad laughed uncontrollably.
“All I wanted was for us to be a family. One day a year,” my sister wailed.
“It’s because Satan is with us, honey,” cooed Leona, who was zeroed in on Minki.
Minki spat out some Iranian words and pushed away from the table. He snatched up his nunchuks and went down into the dooryard, where the chickens were.
Run From Satan!
The artfully-laid table was a mess, chicken gravy and cranberry sauce everywhere. Dad had peed himself; our brother was hot for Leona’s mom; Minki was Satan; I did nothing; Leona was our stepmother; everything was ruined. My sister’s glass heart had been cracked again. Downstairs, the chickens began to scream. My sister bolted from her Thanksgiving Dinner, down the rickety stairs and stopped, sobbing in the driveway. The landlords peered from behind their kitchen curtains. The landlady was talking on the phone and nodding her head.
Meet The Nitwit
In those days, my sister drove a ’69 canary yellow Karman Ghia Cabriolet, the ragtop. It sat before her as Pegasus. The chickens were in hysterics. My sister added squealing tires and the smell of burning rubber to our Thanksgiving atmosphere. She goosed the Ghia on the turn from her driveway and ran smack into the trunk of a BMW stopped in the road. The trunk crumpled. The driver of the BMW was the bucktoothed nitwit. The nitwit, waiting for his date to come out, was propelled forward with such force that the paramedics needed the Jaws of Life to extract his teeth from the dashboard.
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