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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)

TITLE: A Fly in the Ointment
By Debi Derrick


“Flies in the ointment, flies in the jam; you are what you say I am!” with a hoot, a hop and a laugh (in that order), my big brother effectively doused my best effort to call him a name and reduced me to a sputtering, frustrated, red-faced little kid.

That, of course, is what older brothers do to kid sisters.

For some, it’s an art form. My brother possessed every attribute needed for the craft. Fine intelligence. Sharp wit. Passion for a good joke. And me. A kid sister who consistently managed to fall – no, rush -- into his most diabolical schemes.

Like this one. Johnny was in his early teens, maybe 13 or 14. That put me around 10. I had wandered haplessly into the kitchen to find my brother with an empty pickle jar and, unbeknownst to me, a devilish plan for his little sister. He started by confiding in me about the secret club he had joined. I could join, too, he said. But I would have to pass an initiation.

Wow! My brother was going to let me do something he was doing! I jumped at the chance. Sure, I’d go through the initiation! Whatever it took.

He immediately began preparing my initiation ritual. First it was the empty pickle jar. Well, not quite empty. It still had a good swig of pickle juice in it. He dumped in some mustard, swirled it around. Then he began expanding on the potion, reaching into the kitchen cabinet and coming out with odds and ends, bits and pieces of oddly incongruous spices and liquids until the pickle juice took on hues and texture it was never meant to have.

“You have to drink this,” he said, explaining I would have to drink every drop to even be considered for the secret club. I’m sure there was a smirk on his face, but I certainly didn’t see it at the time. Probably a side effect from chug-a-lugging the most awful-tasting, greenish-looking concoction ever to come from a family kitchen temporarily taken over by a teen-age mad scientist.

When the jar was empty, I looked at him expectantly, waiting for whatever exciting adventure would come next now that I was a member of his secret club.

And then the laughing began. There was no secret club, he said. It was just a practical joke! That’s when my feeble attempt at name calling began. An attempt which he so deliciously and quickly brought to an early end. After all, it was useless to call him a name after his poetic declaration.

This was hardly the last of my moments with Johnny. There was the tree house he built in the middle of the biggest patch of poison ivy you ever saw. Yes, you guessed it. I was allergic, he wasn’t.

Perhaps the best moment of all came one hot and hazy Southeast Texas summer day when he let me accompany him on a fishing trip down the road from our house. We stopped at a bridge over a tiny creek, threw in our hooks and bait and waited to see if a perch would happen by that was as naïve as I was.

I fell into a kind of summer daydream, listening to the sounds of the barely moving creek and innumerable critters that surrounded us in the trees and brush. The creek bank included several stands of cattails, green stalks reaching skyward, their odd, hotdog-shaped tips swaying in the gentle breeze.

“I wonder what a cattail feels like?” I asked. I wasn’t really asking anybody, not even Johnny. It was just my little kid mind wandering down a summer path.

Johnny didn’t say a thing. He put down his fishing pole, went around the side of the bridge and plunged downward to the edge of the creek, pulling out his pocket knife as he went. He returned in a heartbeat, cattail in hand so I could find out what they felt like.

That, of course, is what older brothers do to kid sisters.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Chrissi Dunn05/08/08
I love how you set the scene here, and how in the end they truly were great friends. Very well written.
Debbie Wistrom05/08/08
Awwww, I loved this, fact or fiction is is wonderful. This line says exactly what it meant, perfect."took on hues and texture it was never meant to have"

If true, I bet you could do a book of short stories. You are blessed, either way.
Beth LaBuff 05/10/08
I had to make a face at your descriptive writing with the"oddly incongruous spices and liquids until the pickle juice took on hues…" You have brother and sister relationships down pat. :) This was very entertaining to read.