When we were children, my sister Cathy took her frustrations out on me. She was strong, I was weak. It was your basic Darwinian situation and we both understood that if push came to shove she would kick my a**. She was cunning and diabolical as well, and took great pleasure in both the planning and the execution of my a** kickings.
Cathy was an expert with a yo-yo and seemed always to have one twirling. It was a good indicator of mood: if she was Walking the Dog or Rocking the Baby I felt safe, if I heard the baleful snap! snap! of the yo-yo repeatedly hitting her hand, I knew to watch out for an out-of-control Around the World that would “accidentally” find the soft dip of my temple.
When I was about five, my front tooth became loose. I was lying on the top bunk, moving it around with my tongue, pushing it to the point of pain and then easing up. Cathy was below me on the bottom bunk throwing a tennis ball against the wall as hard as she could over and over again with her one good arm. The ball flew into my upper bunk and while retrieving it she noticed me moving my tooth.
“You won’t believe how much you can buy with front-tooth money,” she said nonchalantly, laying her traps.
“It’s not loose enough to come out today,” I replied.
“Sure it is. Just get a long piece of floss and tie one end around the tooth and the other end around the bedpost on the top bunk then jump off—it’ll be so quick you won’t even feel it.” She said this as dispassionately as someone explaining how to remove a wart with Compound W. Did I mention she was cunning?
“Really? Jump off the top bunk?” The act of jumping so far seemed more horrifying than the pulling of one’s own teeth, but Cathy jumped off most things just for the sake of jumping, which was why, at this particular moment, she had a cast running fingers to elbow.
“Sure, what’s the big deal?” she said casually as she rammed the hook of a wire hanger up the cast to scratch her wrist, “I do it all the time.”
There was a part of me that wanted to jump off things and ride horses bareback and hide out in tree forts well after dark. “Okay, but don’t rush me. I need to do it slow,” I said.
She shrugged, said, “I won’t even be in the room,” and wandered off, seemingly unconcerned with whether or not I’d do it. Did I mention diabolical?
Pulling out a few yards of floss, I tied one end around my tooth and the other end around the bedpost. After 15 minutes of psyching myself up, I mustered the courage to jump. I fell hard but the tooth was still intact; the floss was too long and never became taught enough to yank it out.
I stood there, still attached to the bedpost and relieved in some small way when Cathy burst into the room swinging her arm cast like a propeller. I turned to look just as she yelled, “HI-YAH” and karate chopped the floss with her swinging cast. My tooth went flying across the room and landed with a dainty “plink” in the heat vent. Surprised by the attack, my scream was delayed until the open socket started gushing blood.
This was not her first attempt at harm. There was also the time she nudged me out of a moving car on a mountain road.
We were in my parent’s old Corvair, before there was any sort of concern about child safety in cars. Though I was a toddler and my sister was a tot, on this particular Sunday drive up to the mountains, we were in no way strapped down. Cathy waited patiently until we had made it off paved streets and were on the rugged Bull Gap Road on the way up to the top of Mt. Ashland before pulling the trigger. Even at the tender age of four, her timing was impeccable—as we rounded an outside turn she reached across me, put her little fingers around the door handle and pulled. Like a cork out of champagne, I popped out the door, hit the dirt road, and rolled down a short bank.
To make herself feel better, my mother reminds me that it was fall and the ground was soft. Damages were minimal, though I am really bad at remembering phone numbers.
I still hate the sound of a yo-yo.
3 weeks ago