"Y'know, Monica farts, ALL the time." My older brother Brandon drops this bomb casually, then giggles with glee as my current crush swallows and stares stupidly at his shoes. "She's been to the doctor about it but even he doesn't know what's wrong."
He was bigger. He was stronger. Most importantly, he was older and at the age of fifteen had apparently sworn an oath dedicating his life to ruining mine. Gone was the sweet, smiling youngster with a face full of sunshine. In his place trawled a scowling teen with a chip on his shoulder that could rival the Grand Canyon.
I tried to conduct the very delicate business of being a 13-year-old girl as far from his evil eye as possible. Sometimes, though, avoiding a tornado proves rather difficult and, well, you just don't make it to the storm cellar in time.
This latest torture session had started when I had the unmitigated gall to actually think it was safe to invite my new junior high crush over to the house.
"Okay, I'll see you in a minute." After untangling myself from a phone cord stretched so much it could nearly reach outside the house, I hang up the telephone.
Before taking the very bold and exciting step of inviting the super hot Joe Bonham over I'd thoroughly checked the house from top to bottom, taking extra care to listen at Brandon's always locked door (he'd taken to using his ground floor bedroom window as an entry/exit) to make sure the coast was clear.
There was Jordan, quietly watching afternoon cartoons in the basement, an occasional chortle interrupting The Roadrunner's "MEEP MEEP!" Shaun was hippety-hopping about on the trampoline in the backyard. Mom was, of course, at work.
After investigating the "fort" Brandon had erected from old wood he found piled in our shed I officially declared the premises a Brandon-Free Zone and had raced to the kitchen telephone to invite Joe over.
After I hang up the phone I hustle to my bedroom to slide into a pair of my best acid-washed jeans. The extremely stylish ones with the bow perched atop the zippered ankle. I twirl in my full length mirror to examine the effect. Niiice. I top the jeans with my very cool black tee-shirt with "Lifes A Beach" spray painted in hot pink across a chartreuse tropical beach scene, then skip to the bathroom to check my bangs.
As my fingers peck at my perfectly curled bangs like a demented chicken, to my utter dismay I hear the front door slam shut. I freeze as the unmistakable pound of my brother's feet on the stairs beat to the rhythm of my rapidly approaching heart attack.
I stand still, hand on the turquoise canister of Aqua Net, ears straining, praying to god it is only little Shaun in search of fruit roll-ups. In my heart I know it is Him. The Evil One. The squeak of the cereal cabinet confirms my worst fears. Oh Heavenly Father above above! Brandon is home and Joe was, at this very moment, innocently heading straight into the yawning maws of hell!
Bang arrangement forgotten, I pace the bathroom floor furtively before leaping into action. I ease open the door, carefully look both ways then ballet dance across the hall toward the phone in my mom's room. Frantically, I dial Joe's digits.
"Is Joe there?" I hiss desperately at his mother.
"No, dear. He's on his way to a friend's house." She sing-songs down the line Donna Reed style. I could almost smell the cookies baking in her kitsch kitchen with it's green and white gingham curtains, a complimentary contrast to the red walls painted in an old-timey Coca Cola motif.
"Can I give him a message?" She asks politely. So this is what normal families are like, I marveled. Cordial phone conversations, mothers at home preparing dinner. Little Johnny probably enjoying milk and freshly baked cookies at a silver and formica kitchen table.
"Um... No. Thanks anyway!" I slam down the phone and skitter to the living room window and peer out despairingly, just in time to see Joe press the doorbell down below. Before I can move, Brandon thunders heavily down the hall shouting I'll get it!
I scramble after him but it's too late. I round the corner to a nightmarish scene. There stands Joe in all his hunky fourteen-year old glory. Joe AND my big brother Brandon.
My older brother turns to me, a wicked grin through which all manner of putrescence from his dark soul enters the universe splits his horrifying countenance.
"Soooo..." he says to Joe. "You like my sister, huh? I bet you wouldn't like her if you smelled the bathroom every morning when she finishes."
Embarrassed, Joe looks to me for help but I am agog at this gargantuan leap into new and humiliating territory. I can only gurgle "Nu-uh.."
"In fact," Brandon continues unabashedly, "yesterday she forgot to flush. You would not BeLIEVE the size of the loaf she left sitting there. Biggest turd you ever saw. She really pinched off a record breaker!"
I spiral into despair, my young life flashes before my eyes before I regain enough composure to rush Joe from The Wicked One's gnarly clutches.
"C'mon Joe. Lets go hang out in my room." I try my best to ignore Brandon, but the three of us know there is no recovery from 'stinky loaf' talk. At least I don't give Brandon what he really wants. Tears, screaming, slamming doors. Those are the only reactions that will satiate The Beast.
"Seriously Joe, I'm not lying!" Brandon continues. "Why would I make THAT up? That would just be weird." He utters this last bit before casually taking a bite of his cereal.
Oh, the trickery! The sheer duplicity! I drag Joe down the hall by the handful of tee-shirt I've grasped in my fist.
"You know, Monica wet the bed until she was eight years old." Brandon trails us down the hall, shoveling giant spoonfuls of Trix into his snarling mouth. I slam my door and thankfully, he stays out. Apparently, his work here is done.
"Just thought you should know, man!" He shouts helpfully through the wood laminate door.
Inside the bedroom, Joe and I stare at each other in silence. Finding words is akin to locating Waldo in my little brother's favorite book.
"He is SUCH a liar." I finally sputter, careful not to get too defensive for fear of appearing guilty. But it's ruined. Joe doesn't know my family well enough to brush off their special brand of horror.