The Secret

The man ran for his life, skipping down the stairs ten steps at a time like a kangaroo running for his life and skipping down the stairs ten steps at a time – except I don’t see why that would ever happen.  A bullet skimmed past his head – the man’s, not the kangaroo’s – and buried itself in the wall.  Another man followed right behind him, except that man acted nothing like a kangaroo but more like an Australian tiger out hunting kangaroos.  Now, you must be telling yourself, Thomas is going to write another clichéd action story with the good guy being chased by kangaroos, uh, I mean, the bad guys.  All right, so replace the first man by my brother Will, the bullet with a Siemens SL65 – that’s a cell phone, for all those I-hate-technology people – the second man by my sister Geri, and the kangaroo by, I don’t know, a chimpanzee, and you got a classic weekend afternoon at our house.

“I’ll kill you, asshole!”  A mother talking to her son’s murderer?  Of course not! Try: my sister threatening my brother after he guillotined all her Barbie dolls – and trust me, there was a shitload of them.  Enough to ask yourself, why?  But as ruthless as the execution of the sweet and innocent blondes was, it was an appropriate and necessary response by my brother, who barely survived a heart attack when he found, the day before, his collection of soccer trading cards – brace yourself for this – shredded to pieces, becoming as useless as a guillotined Barbie doll.  Of course, that was only a comeback because Will had done something to Geri the day before, who had done something to my brother the day before that.

The endless conflict started on August 15th, 1987.  Yes, the very same day my brother was born.  Weird coincidence, huh?  I was only two at the time so I don’t remember how it all happened, but it eventually led to that frightful afternoon, and my brother leaping like a kangaroo – sorry, chimpanzee – down the stairs, barely avoiding a Siemens SL65 comet that crashed against the wall and smashed into millions of pieces like a spaceship blown up in any sci-fi movie.  My sister, never the athlete, followed close behind, proving those stupid posters with corny quotes wrong: practice doesn’t make perfect, envy does.  My sister really wanted to kill Will, so she managed to keep up with him.

Somehow, one of the numerous Barbie dolls’ head had managed to find its way far, far away from its home – my sister’s bedroom – and landed in the vast, exotic ground floor hallway.  My brother running at the pace of a chimpanzee – do they really run that fast? – he did not see the tiny but dangerous obstacle that had camouflaged into its new environment.  He slipped, fell.  Now, imagine a porcelain vase dropping on concrete floor; it would smash like the cell phone earlier against the wall, its tiny debris spreading on the floor around the epicenter.  That’s what would have happened to my brother’s head, because the skull, though stronger, is kind of like porcelain.  Fortunately for Will, though, our floor was not made of concrete, but of a hideous, flamboyant yellow carpet that reminded me of a bee relieved of its black stripes.  My brother lying unconscious on the ugly insect, Geri caught up to him.

And that is how I lost my brother.  No, I kid.  My sister didn’t kill him.  She was about to, but …

“Don’t do it!” I yelled, interrupting her in mid-act, her sharp, high-heeled shoe only a few inches away from his unconscious face.

The femme fatale looked at me.  Quick, I thought to myself, think of a reason, or else she’ll really do it.  “What good will he be dead?  Make him your bitch.”

She hesitated.  My heart pounded like a lunatic pounding on the door of his cell.  “He won’t listen to me.  He’ll keep pissing me off.  Sorry, he’s got to go.”

Slow down, Terminator.  “What if you could blackmail him?  If I told you his best-kept secret?  Trust me, he’d do anything you’d ask.”

“Shoot.”

I looked at Will, still on the ugly carpet, unconscious, not hearing a word of our conversation.  Sorry, bro.  Best I could do.  So I told her.  It’s such a big secret that I can only write it in Arabic.  Here goes:  تؤخس٤ـكْڞڥٳځڿێےڼګٌُڀ٠ڌ.  Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking.  What the fuck was my brother thinking about?  But, what can you do?

My sister put her heels away just as my brother woke up, dazed.

She smiled.  “Will, why don’t you go get me a glass of water?”

“Yeah, sure, why don’t I?  And at the same time, why don’t I glue all your Barbie dolls’ head back on their body?”  Sarcasm runs in the family – except for my sister.  I think it’s more a guy thing.

“What an excellent idea!  Why don’t you or …”

“Or what?” my brother exclaimed.

My sister set up the trap.  “Well, do you really wanna know what I know?”

“Geri, you don’t know shit from fuck,” said my brother, exasperated.  “OK?  So why don’t you go get me a glass of water, Woman, before I start to get angry.”

“Or…” said Geri, “I could tell mom and dad about,” the secret.  Refer to above Arabic text.

My brother shot me a glance that said: traitor.  I looked away, in shame.  Couldn’t he realize I did it to save his life?  To save his fucking life?

“I’m still waiting for my glass of water,” said my sister.

My brother, defeated, his head low like the low blow he’d just received, dragged his feet to the kitchen.  He looked nothing like a kangaroo.  Not even a chimpanzee.

 

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