Tony

To my knowledge, no one has ever gotten her own sister pregnant, but when she was sixteen and we all found out she was, I blamed myself. It was the firecrackers. When my sister was four and I was six, the babysitter and I would throw firecrackers at the bedroom wall to scare my sister and make her cry. I don’t remember if it was my idea or Tony’s, the babysitter, but it was probably mine. Tony was not pretty. Girls named Tony are never pretty.  They are the opposite of girls named Lisa, which was the name of the pretty girl who lived across the street from us and who also sometimes babysat my sister and I. Lisa was pretty and thin and had green eyes and hair that feathered like Blair’s from “The Facts of Life”, but we preferred Tony with her badly cut, not curly but poofy dark hair and her big squishy thighs and arms that she packed into knee-length cut-off black jean shorts and faded concert tees. Tony had a big nice doughy face and lived in one those houses that when you stepped inside the first thing you noticed was that it smelled a lot like cheese.  Now that I think of it, it was probably the brothers, Tony had four, all older, that made it stink like that. We only went to her house once, she always came to ours and we loved her because she would really get down and play with us. She would dance with us in the unfinished basement.  She taught us how to modify Barbie’s clothes so she was more punk rock, and she knew how the Barbie and Ken and Barbie’s ugly best friend—the one who was missing a head—plot line was supposed to go.  She liked me better than my sister, but everyone did because my sister was the hard kid but Tony was mostly nice to both of us. At bedtime though, Tony would put my sister in bed and turn the lights off for pitch darkness so I wouldn’t be seen when I snuck into my sister’s room while Tony sang Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” which was my signal to throw the Snap Pop firecrackers against the wall.  The noise and the gunpowder smell and the flashes would be followed by my sister’s wail and then sniffles, while Tony would comfort her and pretend she hadn’t seen or heard what was upsetting to my sister. My sister never told on us. I still don’t know if it’s because at the time she actually believed Tony, or if she just didn’t want to get us in trouble. More likely she’d just forgotten it by morning.  Even more likely that she’d forgotten it because that was same year that kicked off the beginning of the loud year between our parents.  My sister was probably still too young to understand that something was ending, and anyway by the time our parents would come home and pay Tony for watching us, and by the time the bickering between them escalated to yelling and to slamming doors, and by the time things, not Snap Pops, were hitting the walls my sister would be fast asleep, exhausted from crying because of the firecrackers.

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