“Murph!” Mom screamed from across the kitchen, her arms weighed with platters of green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, turkey, and stuffing. “What have you done to my floor?”
“Nothing,” I shrugged, submerging an empty pot into the sink, a grey oily substance, the dregs of Thanksgiving gravy bubbled to the surface.
“Dive! Dive! Lieutenant, the engine room is flooded! Jettison all loosh articles through the torpedo tubesh.”
Hunt for Red October was on Netflix an hour earlier, so I did my best Sean Connery.
“My floor! There’s water all over my nice
recently stained and securely waterproofed floor!”
Bree stood next to a damp cloth in her hand, sighing like an old furnace or an older woman suffering her dotard husband. Somehow recreating the Poseidon Adventure with the gravy boat had drowned the last of her patience.
“Mom,” she sighed. “You’re oldest child is an idiot.”
“Damn the torpedoes, man!” I screamed, as my hands manipulated a ladle between the soapy foam. “Sea monster oft the port bow!”
Our new and remodeled kitchen has finally been opened for business. New cabinets (pine), new dishwashers (2), new ovens (4), new countertops (gray), and new tiny TV (basically a cell-phone taped to the wall). Unfortunately, despite the financial investment, the dishwashers are still not functional, a fact not discovered until after dinner on Thanksgiving. Sooo . . . all the dishes need to be cleaned by hand.
To my sister and Mom, the sink was . . . well, a sink. To mine eyes, the unturned pots transformed into large sea-going vessels billowing thick black smoke, a man-made island devoted to piracy and the consumption of nicotine. All the remnants of Earth had vanished with the ice caps, all continents, nations, and cities swallowed by the icy blackness of the frothy dishpan sea. Only a lone ship like a small tin cup remained, manned by a mutant sailor: half-man, half-fish, all Kevin Costner.
I make some halfhearted efforts to cite the movie but thought better or it. The value of a train wreck — if any could be found — lies in the spectacle not the dialogue.
“Mom!” Bree huffed. “Murph is playing Waterworld again!”
“I would have thought you’d have better taste, Murph,” Mom sighed, handing Bree a fresh towel.
“There’s only so many nautical-themed films I can muster without being redundant,” I mutter, scouring a casserole dish with a moth-eaten dishrag. “Besides it annoys Bree. What other purpose do I have as an older brother?”
“Uh . . . not annoying me?” Bree screamed, locking her arms on her hips, a danger sign for any other male but for an older brother . . .
“No,” I declare, flicking my wet fingers at Bree, “annoying little baby sisters are a crucial part of my office. The babies of any family receive countless blessing from birth: fewer rules, less strict ordinances on bedtime, no younger siblings to clean up after, less stress, less guilt. You get to stay kids much longer than I ever did. By first grade, I had to learn to parent three younger siblings while taking a 2PM nap and Mom still refused to let me watch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.”
“Like Conan the Barbarian in space. Anyway, Mom thought there was too much fighting. She didn’t like the violence, fantasy and Skellator notwithstanding. You on the other hand could have sleep overs in third-grade, eat ice cream on a weeknight, and you have the internet. Something has to give. Balance must be achieved. Besides I could get kicked out of the guild of older brothers if I shrunk from my responsibilities. And then where would I be?”
I tussled her hair with a wet soapy hand.
“Still breathing,” she muttered acidly.
The boys continue to clear the table. Plates, pots, casserole dishes, and an assorted legion of grimed spoons, knives and forks besiege the sink. Unceremoniously I dunk the potato-crusted pots in the basin, rubbing hands and rags over the lumps, dislodging food particles which drift off like rats deserting a sinking ship. I grin at the metaphor and turn on the faucets at full blast. The sink had grown cold so I grabbed at a large wooden ladle and dumped a slimy stream of Dawn into the black water, stirring all the detritus into a steaming whirlpool.
“Boil, boil, toil and trouble! Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Bits of tater and lima bean. Pie of pumpkin, whip’d in cream. Yams in sugar, vegetable stew. Churn together and turn to goo! Bwaahaaaa!! Cackle cackle. . . ”
“You’re only embarrassing yourself,” Bree said, hurriedly turning off the water before the sink overflowed. “You know that don’t you? It’s not me that’s others are seeing, right?”
I cup a handful of suds from the sink and lather the soap onto my chin until I shape the bubbles into a nice lengthy . . . well, beard might be exaggerating, but a sizable goatee at least.
“See that’s the thing, isn’t it? I already won that game. I don’t really care anymore what folks think . . . not most folks at least, if I’m honest with myself. It’s like being moderately invincible like . . .”
“Superman, right?” Bree posed.
“More like Aquaman. Strong as the deepest darkest trench but not impregnable. I’m a geek, and I don’t care who knows it. Everything I love and do will ultimately bring me a tinge of embarrassment and exclusion from really fancy restaurants where they don’t know a Tardis from a tangerine, but that’s okay. I know who I am a little now, and knowing that is really the best feeling in the whole damn world, isn’t it?”
“Murph!” Mom shouted from the other room. “What did you say in this house?”
“Dammit,” I whispered. “I said ‘darn’ Mom! Bree’s been cursing like a sailor while I’ve been washing dishes. It’s really quite shameful. I think she’s trying to corrupt me.”
Mom turned a corner to scour and look disapproving only to catch Bree in the process of whaling on my arm. At which point, I think she lost interest. Personally, I lost feeling in my pinky, which luckily enough is not particularly useful in gaming. Nonetheless, my arm is still bruised. All my siblings are stronger than me in point of fact, but my digital kung-fu (i.e. Tekken, Clay Fighter) is unbeatable. Thus everything evens out in the end.
“Me corrupt you. More like the other way around.”
“If you’re lucky,” I smile. “Come on. Grab your brother and let’s play some Mario Kart.”
“Only if I get to be Yoshi,” she demanded, poking a finger in my chest.
“Depends if you’re the first one down-” A wet dish towel collided with my face, and when I regained my vision, my sister was half-way down the basement steps.