“Do you remember the rules?” Mom asked as she gathered her purse to leave.
“Don’t answer the phone,” I projected in my best monotone.
“And,” she prompted.
“Don’t answer the door,” my saintly sister Gayle enthused.
“Good!” Mom seemed delighted. “There’s one more rule that you absolutely must follow.”
“Don’t burn down the garage,” I offered with a helpful grin.
Mom’s facial expression indicated that I was neither helpful nor remotely funny.
“No fighting,” Gayle offered with a halo nearly visible above her jet black hair. I thought I was going to be sick.
“Be back soon.” With that Mom left two pre-adolescent children home - alone.
As soon as Mom drove away Gayle’s smile faded like a stain under the influence of bleach, “Stay out of my way and leave me alone.”
I tried to point out that she had just demonstrated a beautiful Gilliganism which was followed by a most brilliant glare. I felt it was in my best interest to retire to my room and allow my sister as much space as possible. However, I couldn’t seem to leave without one parting verbal, yet eloquent, shot, “You’re stupid!”
Suddenly Gayle was right in front of me before the “..pid” finished dribbling from my mouth.
“What did you call me?” She asked through gritted teeth. “Go ahead, say it again.”
I was sweating profusely at the base of my back and the fuzz on my upper lip was moist and distracting. Then I seemed to hear another voice, “Are you gonna stand for that?”
“Who said that?” the voice in my head asked.
“Oh, don’t mind me. It’s you I’m worried about,” the voice soothed.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s your sister. Now, I know you’re probably not intimidated by what she just told you, but it was pretty rude,” the voice continued.
“You know, you’re right.” I replied.
“Say, I’ve got a great idea.” The voice sounded joyous.
“You do?” I was looking for a way out.
“You should challenge Gayle to a slapping contest,” the voice cackled.
“Oh, that wouldn’t do, Mr. Sinister-voice-in-my-head,” I replied in holy fervor. “You see, I think this would fall under the rule that says we aren’t supposed to fight.”
“Yes, I see your point. Hmmm.” The voice seemed distracted. “Say, technically she demonstrated a great rudeness just after your mother left.”
I had to admit, this may fall under the clause that indicated she might have been the original causal agent in this dispute.
“After the slap-fest you might want to look out the window and covet your neighbor’s cattle.” The voice ended with a chuckle.
“I said you’re stupid!” My ears started sweating as the words actually tumbled from my mouth in the presence of my big sister.
“I am not!” she yelled.
“Do you want to settle this,” I yelled back.
“Yea!” she agreed.
“Yea?” I choked and then my voice crackled, “I challenge you to a slapping contest.”
“What?” She laughed, gasping for air.
“You heard me right, a slapping contest. I slap you and if you cry then you’re stupid. If you don’t cry then you get to slap me and if I cry then I’m stupid.” I suddenly seemed so confident.
“Stupid, huh?” she chuckled. “Go ahead - anytime you‘re ready.”
I pulled my hand backward and whacked her right on the shoulder with a satisfying ‘Thwack‘. I felt my efforts moving me closer to an admission of stupidity.
“Are you finished?” she asked as she cracked her knuckles. She pulled her arm back and ‘BOOM’.
“Say are you O.K.?” she asked as she reached down to help me up.
“Fish jerky,” I mumbled incoherently. Coming to myself in time I raised myself up to my full height and whacked her again on the other arm. Was she actually chortling?
“I feel bad for you,” she said as she let fly with another solid sonic boom.
“I want those fries extra crispy,” I mumbled as she looked on in disbelief (at least I think one of those six faces was hers).
This went on a few more times until I noticed a slight tensing of muscles around my mouth. There was solid constriction of throat muscles and then a clear fluid filled and spilled over eyes crossed and blurry. The wails of a vanquished foe wafted through the halls of our house as two words came spilling over a raw throat, “I’m stupid.”
In that moment it seemed everyone agreed.