I was secretly hunting for candy, knowing where the loot was often hidden but this time my search went… awry. Inside my father’s gym bag weren’t Snicker Bars or Cheese Doodles, but a strange stack of little foil’s I initially thought was bubble gum. Realizing, to my shock and horror, the shiny packets were “rubbers” I was spun into- what can only be described as- a crisis of consciousness.
Catholic school preached that any sort of birth control was a mortal sin, not just any garden variety sin, but one that got you scorched somewhere deep inside the bowels of hell. I was scared my father would get roasted, but more importantly, was upset there wasn’t any gum. So, in order to wreak havoc without saying a word, I snatched my mother’s pin cushion and proceeded to poke holes in every ungodlike packet. Being meticulous with my precision of poking pins in letters where holes could not be seen, I went to bed that night knowing Baby Jesus was probably smiling down on me.
Nine months later my baby brother was born.
He was like G.I. Joe in camouflage diapers from the get-go, and about as cuddly as a tornado in a trailer park. A force of nature that boggled the mind, the warrior soul hidden deep within him often tried to take control in every situation. When he was just an infant being held by granny, he wanted to be let down but she wouldn’t let him go. In retaliation he whizzed all over her silk Sunday dress, while simultaneously snatching her expensive prescription glasses, pulling them off of her face, punching her in the nose, than throwing them so high into the air that when they finally hit the ground broke into a million pieces.
When he was about four years old, he cordoned off the upstairs of our house, guarding the bedrooms as if they were filled with gold. I had to get my homework done, so gently tip-toed through the “forbidden zone” as he came rushing at me nude, wearing cowboy boots, hat and a holster with fake plastic silver guns. I sniggered at his insanity and inability to shoot me- until he pistol whipped me until I screamed for mercy. I actually got scared when the little dude got nude, as did my two other sisters, as we watched him play these weird war games, afraid to piss him off.
Ironically, my brother had a gift for drawing and painting when he wasn’t rummaging through peoples garbage cans, turning tossed-out household items into lethal weapons. He once found an innocent tea cup spinner the little old lady down the street threw away. It was one of those devices you put on the bottom of your cupboard shelves to hang tea cups from that helps save space. We laughed as my brother gloated over his find, even as he spent all day sharpening it into some kind of weird contraption. Later he marched us all outside in-line like prisoners of war to make us witness his creation. We were horrified as we watched it spin and whir through the air, before slicing into a tree.
He wore Ninja suits with masks when he wasn’t in school, and once cornered me in the bathroom with a stun gun two inches from my face. My mother never disciplined him, because she thought he was “sent by God”. Little did my mom know, he was actually sent by her very own pincushion.
One day, my mother was called up to his school by his homeroom teacher, a mean old nun who could have really used a breath mint. She had done a surprise inspection of all the students’ desks, had seen all kinds of things in over 50 years of teaching “but this,” she made the sign of the cross, “shows the makings of the devil”. Flinging open his desk, there were no pictures of angels and saints drawn on his notebook pads like other kids carelessly doodled. There were, however, elaborately drawn guns, hand grenades, headstones and daggers, all dripping blood that certainly wasn’t coming from his savior Jesus Christ. My mother came home crying that her beloved golden child had somewhere, between birth and second grade, turned into the Tasmanian Devil.
I remember being in awe of my brothers artistic abilities, as my mother forced him to destroy every picture of gore he had ever drawn. “You will now use faceless notebooks without covers, as punishment for all those violent images you have drawn!” My mother cried having to scold her beloved little messiah.
My brother was silent, like a soldier of war being interrogated, refusing to give in.
My mom left the room tearful and distraught as I said, “Those were really good pictures, sorry you had to tear them up,” I actually felt sorry for the little worm.
He calmly looked at me, and checking that the coast was clear, ripped the spirals from his notebooks. Wrapping them around his fingers he said “These make perfect death grips, do you want me to make you one too? If I sharpen the ends, you can probably poke out someone’s eye.”
Fast forward 37 years later, where that pin cushion again came back to haunt me.
It was set to be the perfect day. My inner Martha Stewart had made a rare appearance and was cooking a delectable feast. The aroma of roast turkey and all the fixings, not to mention a perfectly set table themed with perfect decorations added to the event. Holiday music and a lovely fire added just the right ambience to the room as I awaited my guests, who were all due at any moment.
Two of the guests were my brother and his wife, both intelligence officers in the military, who had insisted on bringing dessert. I was a little reluctant to have anyone do anything, but they really wanted to contribute so I was glad they wanted to represent. They told me there were “killer bakeries” near where they lived, and since they lived four and a half hours away bringing something simple like a pie or cake did make a lot of sense. I was curious about what they would bring; knowing the two were big foodies and it would probably be a unique item to add to my spectacular feast.
People started arriving and I started wondering where my brother and his wife were, though I was aware that the roads were slippery, figuring that must have slowed them down. My bro was a communications expert, so if there was a problem he would have let me know- or so I thought. We all waited for over an hour as I tried keeping the food warm when, rosy cheeked and stomping snow, they finally arrived. Apologizing for being late, they also apologized for bringing their two rotten dogs (that were bigger than buffalos and meaner than snakes), who proceeded to run up the stairs barking causing pandemonium with the guests.
One dog knocked a man over launching his red wine all over the floor, staining the white wall and an antique painting. The other brute ran towards the couch, mauling a woman’s arm as she grappled for her limb, now deathly afraid and screaming for her life.
“Oh,” my brother sauntered over to her rolling his eyes, “Sandy (the devil-dog) is just trying to pull you off the couch because, well, she likes to have the best seat….do you mind moving?”
“Put them in the garage!” I screamed, horrified the rotten devils were going to try and steal the turkey that was sitting on the counter. I mentally scanned the documents of my homeowners insurance, worried there could be a lawsuit if anyone had broken skin.
My brother was indignant, “What? Put our dogs in the garage? They are our children! If they have to go into the garage, so do we!”
It was about that moment another woman screamed, as one of the fiends jumped up on her and tried plucking an appetizer out of her hand- as it plopped to the ground and got gobbled up by the beast.
“CAN’T YOU SEE HOW HUNGRY THEY ARE?” screamed my brother, oblivious to the terror they were causing.
This, of course, was when we both instantly reverted back to childhood. “I want those flea bags put into the garage NOW!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs.
My brother hurled his hate bombs at me. “You stink! That food probably sucks! It will probably make us all sick! The coroner better be on your speed dial because everyone will die after they eat it!” he lowered his voice than whispered menacingly, “I should take you down now before you cause any more insurrections!” This was no idle threat because the little piss-ant has a license to kill.
I went for his throat as we wrestled to the ground and his rotten dogs got into the act and tried to bite my head off. “That’s it! Get them out of here!” I was at my wits end but, worse yet, my hair was messed up as people stood gob-struck at the lunacy unraveling before them.
“Why do you always have to be mean to your brother?” Asked his wife, who always backed the little brat up no matter what he did.
“Yeah,” moaned my brother, “you were always mean to me, probably because you got hit by an ugly stick!”
Flashbacks of the little brat gleefully calling me “Jugs!” at the pool when he was ten years old came flooding back; where all I could see was his giggling face as he humiliated me before doing a cannonball and soaking all the sunbathers.
“Just shave your back and make some doormats you rotten little troll!” I said on a roll.
My brother’s wife was appalled and once again chimed in, “What a mean thing to say! You need to apologize to your brother!” The woman was near tears.
“Are you kidding me…” I turned to see one of the dogs taking a dump in the middle of the room, “THAT’S IT!” I had a meltdown better than a marshmallow on a hot pan of baked beans. “GET THOSE ROTTEN BASTARDS OUT OF HERE!”
My brother snickered, “Fine. I’ll put them in the garage but first you need to feed them.”
“I haven’t got any dog food,” I said utterly perplexed.
“They don’t eat dog food, they eat human food,” said his wife, calmly gazing at the turkey.
I was amazed at the audacity of these two.
“I promised them a Thanksgiving dinner, so where is your knife so I can give them the drumsticks-…..they’ll only eat dark meat.” My brother started slamming drawers, trying to find a knife so he could carve the turkey.
“Stop it,” I said, “they can have some food when we’re done!”
“In our house they always eat first,” said his wife, “otherwise they get depressed.”
I looked at the dogs, who must have understood every word we were saying, as their tails wagged in anticipation at the prospect of getting fed first.
“No!” I shrieked, “They get eat after all of us when we are having dessert…by the way where is it?” I didn’t see anything and started to panic.
“We brought your precious dessert, don’t worry,” sneered my brother.
“Well where did you put it? Did you leave it in the car?” I was relieved they didn’t forget.
“No, we have it right here,” His wife opened her purse and threw a box of instant pudding at me.
I was beyond disgusted with these two who were turning my day of dreams into a pile of screams. “This is all you brought?” I seethed.
My brother was cocky, “Yes it is. So bite me, Miss Fancy Pants! This ain’t good enough for you and all your Aspen friends?”
One of the guests had brought a couple of homemade pies, so it wasn’t as devastating as it could have been. Dinner was eaten in silence as those rotten dogs howled the whole time in the garage, ruining the calm ambience I had so painstakingly created. Desperate to shut the flea bags up, I brought them down some food that they devoured it faster than locusts on a wheat field, while practically taking off my arm.
I guess the moral of the story is this; if you innocently poke a few rubbers with a pin you may wind up with a little brother, his henchman wife and two howling dogs that can ruin your Thanksgiving dinner or your life. Needless to say, later that night, I did not give thanks for pins.