Oh, Sister Dear

by Ron Van Sweringen


Fanny Kimball was dead before breakfast, putting a perfectly good bowl of cream of wheat and two pieces of raisin toast to waste. Her sister Minnie had prepared Fanny’s food and her own soft-boiled egg and Rice Krispies while waiting for Fanny to come out of her bedroom at eight o'clock.

By eight-thirty, Minnie knew something was wrong and tapped gently on the door. A feeling of apprehension made her hands tremble as she listened for any sound of life. Finally she summoned her nerve and turned the doorknob.

A dim yellow light filled the small bedroom, filtering through the drawn window shades. Minnie could barely make out Fanny and the mountain of pink curlers in her hair.

It took her a moment to realize she had forgotten something again. Fanny’s hands were still tied together with the piece of clothesline rope. “No wonder she wouldn’t come out of her bedroom,” Minnie thought, “she’s mad and doing this for spite.”

“I’m sorry, sister,” she said, sitting on the side of the bed. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me lately. I’ll undo your hands immediately.”

“I should think so,” Fanny shot back, “Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is lying on your back all the time?”

“No worse than sleeping on that old sofa in the living room, I imagine,” Minnie replied, fumbling with the ropes.

“Well, you lost when we drew straws for the bedroom, fair’s fair.”

“That’s what you said the night Martin Miller came to take me out and took you instead,” Minnie replied.

“For heaven sakes, not that again. That was fifty years ago,” Fanny groaned.

“Fifty long years,” Minnie corrected her, still fumbling with the rope.

“What’s taking you so long, sister?”

“It’s too dark in here,” Minnie replied. “I can’t see how to untie the knot. Wait till I put up the shades.”

“No, leave them down. I’m not made up yet.”

Minnie threw up her hands in exasperation. “It’s your choice. Either stay tied up or let me put the shades up so I can see what I’m doing.”

“All right, but promise you won’t look at me.”

“What’s the matter with you? I’m your sister, for heaven’s sake.”

“Never mind that,” Fanny answered. “You haven’t seen me without my makeup in fifty years, since that night.”

“Well then, it’s about time,” Minnie chuckled, giving the first window shade a sharp jerk. The second and third shades followed in quick succession until bright sunlight filled the room. “There,” Minnie said, turning toward the bed, “that’s not so bad is it?”

Fanny was silent.

“Oh, sister, dear” — Minnie smiled at Fanny’s mummified remains — “Martin Miller would hardly recognize you even if he could see from under the concrete in the basement floor.”


Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen

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