The Mustard and The Door

sister

I love my sisters more than I love pepperoni and mushrooms on pizza. I have two: the younger, Jillian, a full ten years younger than me, with whom I had the big brother advantage of seeming cool merely by virtue of our size differential; and the elder Jenn, just three years younger than me. Jenn and I are as close as can be having reached our mutual adulthood, but practically from birth and up into our high-school years, this was not the case. This is the story of how we finally bonded.

For starters, in our youth, I could liken myself and Jenn to the US and the USSR at the height of the Cold War, only with more shots fired. She screamed at me. She told on me even though our mother dealt punishment out to the rule breaker and the tattle-tale in equal magnitude and duration. I, in turn, ignored her. My friend Justin and I made fun of Jenn simply because she was younger and excluded her whenever possible. I took sides against her with Mom whenever it suited my purposes. It’s safe to say we were both to blame (can we agree that children are prone to ‘evil phases?’), but she was the one mostly under fire because she knew nothing of diplomacy. She was all ’let me park my nukes right next to Florida’ and I was all ’secret Bay of Pigs invasion gone terribly awry.’

So one day when I was about 15 and Jenn was about 12, we were home alone after school and I was cleaning up the living room while she was watching TV. I piled up some dirty plates and silverware precariously on one of the steps leading up to the kitchen, and just one step below this unstable porcelain structure lay Jenn’s most prized possession: a pair of brand new $100 Birkenstocks. Of course my pile of plates collapsed. Of course a giant dollop of yellow mustard was transferred from one of the plates to the pristine German suede of one of Jenn’s sandals. Of course Jenn jumped up from the couch, grabbed a mustard laden fork and heaved it at me (don’t worry, her aim was terrible), and then of course I chased her up the stairs, past the kitchen, down the hall, and into our parents’ bedroom.

At this point, with Jenn slamming the bedroom door in my face and me running full speed after her, our fight was pretty standard issue stuff, and had the next thing not happened, we would have retreated into our respective corners until the next flare up and that would be that. But the next thing did happen: I ran smack into the thin plywood door, my right hand caving in a sizable divot right at mom-eye-level, sounding a sickening crunch throughout the house. Silence from within. Then the door swung open, my sister’s face a mask of terror as she saw the damage.

“What are we going to do?” she said. Now what she didn’t say was “what are YOU going to do,” or, “YOU are in so much trouble” or “I’M calling MOM.” For the first time she realized that there was no way we weren’t both getting grounded for this. For the first time the two of us stood united against our common foe. It was as if a hostile alien race appeared over the earth, forcing the Yankees and the Red Army to call it quits and shake their fists instead at the sky. We tried so hard to hide that door. We tried flipping the door and the hinges didn’t line up right. We tried swapping the door with the one across the hall where a convenient hole-hiding shoe-rack hung, but ran into the same issue. We tried in vain to fix the hole for hours. Nothing worked.

When Mom came home we had to confess. Neither Jenn nor I can remember the nature or quantity of our mutual punishment, except that we took it together, and then things got better between us. When writing this, I texted mom to ask her if she remembered how much trouble we got into. Her response: “Yup! Plenty!”

About Woody Battaglia

Woody Battaglia is a writer and comedian based in his hometown of Rochester, NY, where he also puts on themed variety shows under the banner Not 100% Normal. You can hear more of his work on The Letterheads Podcast, and if he's laughing you can hear him for miles around.

About Woody Battaglia

Woody Battaglia is a writer and comedian based in his hometown of Rochester, NY, where he also puts on themed variety shows under the banner Not 100% Normal. You can hear more of his work on The Letterheads Podcast, and if he's laughing you can hear him for miles around.

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