Friday, Dec 7th
~ Boston ~
“Sis, sorry I’m late. My lab ran over, but I bolted as soon as I could. What’s wrong?”
Pep Pastor, a college junior, is removing his scarf as he sits down at a café in Harvard Square in Cambridge. He’s thin and has his thick, dark hair stylishly flipped up in the front. Pep is barely five foot seven and is wearing a thick hoodie over a cable knit sweater, jeans, and plaid, slip-on sneakers. Across from him at a table for two sits his older sister, Tommy, actually Tommasina. She is wearing a navy blue wool coat, a grey skirt with dark leggings and boots, and a maroon turtleneck. She has medium brown hair worn just past her shoulders and has a dancer’s body, albeit a short one, at five feet, two inches. At 26, she is six years older than Pep. Tommy is blowing her nose. Her eyes are clearly red. She slides a paper cup toward her brother.
“Thanks for coming,” she says. “I hope this is still hot.”
He slugs down half of the cup.
“It’s fine,” he says. “At this point of the semester, it’s simply fuel. Now, tell your baby brother what’s wrong.”
Tommy puts down her hot chocolate. She takes in a breath and lets it out slowly.
“I finally did it,” she says. “I swore I never would, but there it was. I did it.”
“Sis, you are typically the rock of the family. You have held my hand through more than I can remember. I have been waiting the bulk of my 20 years for this moment to be there for you, but bear with me. I’m new at this and I want to get it right. I need you to clarify something. What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I used his name,” she says, lowering her eyes.
Pep lifts his eyebrows, clearly for effect, but then lowers them in legitimate confusion.
“I used Dad’s name. I swore to myself I would never do it and out of nowhere, bang, there it was.”
“I’d leave out the bang next time you tell the story.”
Tommy shoots him a look—no, the look. Pep softly puts his hand on hers.
“Sorry, Sis, new at this. Take a breath and tell me the story.”
“Okay, you recall that my department was hosting a seminar at the Harborside Hotel this week and that I was in charge?”
“Yes, I vaguely remember you mentioning it. Oh yes, I needed to get a restraining order on Facebook because you wouldn’t shut up about it. Ethnobotany, correct?”
She gives him another look, but less severe this time.
Tommy continues, “Everything went great all week until this morning. As executive director, I made all of the arrangements with the hotel. Today was the closing event with the keynote speaker addressing everyone at a luncheon in the main ballroom. I show up at the ballroom this morning and the room was empty of tables and chairs. I immediately ran to the manager, who incidentally was happy to get the booking when they couldn’t sell the space. The officious little snot tells me that we have been bumped to a different space.”
“Hey, you can’t call him that,” says Pep, with mock offense.
“Why not? It certainly fits.”
“It’s just that you have called me an officious little snot so often that I kind of look at it as our thing.”
“Sorry, I guess I made a mild effort to stop using that term since you ‘exited the closet,’ if you will.”
“Sis, I did not become gay because you called me an officious little snot. As much as I wish to avoid stereotypes, for all I know, the opposite is the case. I kind of miss it. Besides, according to you, I was the last person on the planet to accept it anyway.”
“While it’s clear that it was obvious to the other seven billion of us, you know that Mom is still not convinced. I actually stopped calling you the snot thing in deference to her. You seemed impervious to insult, but I could see the pain in her face.”
“I’ve seen it too. Why can’t she accept that it’s just a quirk of genetics? Our brother is a ginger. You have freckles. Mom went to college for God’s sake.”
“First of all, if she didn’t go to college to find a husband, that still turned out to be the net effect. Also, Pep, she comes from a generation and culture that to some degree looks upon your ‘condition’ as a reflection on the mother. I know that she knows better in her head, but in her heart, who knows. Give her time.”
“Great, pass me the tissues and get on with your story.”
“Okay, so I look at the ‘alternate space’ and it’s worse than horrible. It looks like a boiler room in the basement. It’s too small, laid out wrong, and forget about the multi-media. I calmly tell him that this is unacceptable and insist on the original room. He tells me that some team from Houston came in town early for the Monday night game against the Pats due to the incoming storm and this shithole was apparently the only thing they could get on short notice. They need the ballroom to walk through plays or something until they can arrange a practice field.”
“I assume you had some sort of contract.”
“Of course. So I mention that and the fact that we already paid them for the venue. He said he would be happy to refund our money, which really pissed me off.”
Pep has witnessed this type of storm brewing in his sister many times before.
“Defcon 4!” he shouts.
“I pull out the contract to show him,” says Tommy as she slides down imaginary glasses and looks down her nose, “and this turd says, ‘Maybe you should read the fine print. You paid for ballroom space, not a specific ballroom. As you can see, we have placed you in Ballroom F.’ I shout back, ‘You mean the Ballroom F with the hand-drawn cardboard sign?’ And this twerp says, ‘Never the less.’”
“No shit!” says Pep. “A Katherine Hep-BURN!”
Tommy slumps her shoulders.
“So I shove the contract up to his face, pointing out my name, and just blurt it out,” she says.
In unison, they both say, “Do you know who my father is?”
Resigned, Tommy points her finger at her temple, cocks her thumb and says, “Yeah, BANG!”
“Let me guess the rest,” says Pep. “A pause to think, a moment of recognition, blood leaves the face, everything is fixed without a hitch, and you never see the guy again. Something like that?”
“Pretty much. Oh, we also got a shitload of free flowers.”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Texans. The Houston team is the Texans. You stole NFL flowers. You are now officially my favorite person.”
“No I’m not,” she says. “I’m a fucking gangster.”
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