- OUR MAGICAL ISLAND
“Hey, Cam,” MaCall whispered, nudging me in the side to wake up.
“What?” I asked groggily, peeling one eye open. “What time is it?”
“Midnight,” MaCall grinned.
“I got some M&Ms from the vending machine at gymnastics. Do you want to share them with me on a magical island?” MaCall asked excitedly.
“Huh?” I moaned.
“A magical island—the roof!” MaCall whispered, her green eyes lighting up. “Now go get these jeans and tennis shoes on—I don’t want you to get hurt in case you fall off!” MaCall urged, thrusting clothes at me.
Yawning, I pulled them on.
“Put this belt on too,” MaCall commanded, handing me a pink sparkly belt. “I’m also wearing one. We’ll attach another one between us so we can be like mountain climbers,” MaCall explained, hurriedly tying my belt while she double-knotted hers.
“Uh… shouldn’t we tie mine tighter?” I asked, looking doubtfully at my mountain-climbing getup.
“Don’t worry about it. You’re lighter than I am,” MaCall sniffed, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder. “Wait. Let me just make sure Mom and Dad are asleep. You stay here.”
MaCall tiptoed over to our parents’ room and placed her ear to the door as I sat there fuming. MaCall thinks she’s stealthier than I am, but the truth is, she’s downright noisy. Every time we sneak downstairs to “get a glass of water,” (i.e., eat ice cream and watch our favorite latenight TV show), she either creaks every stair or topples down the whole flight with a giant BANG that would wake the dead. Well I guess the last thing is kind of my fault. I kind of advised her that the faster you move, the quieter you go, but now I see it depends on who’s going.
“Definitely snoring,” MaCall announced cheerfully, beckoning for me to follow her. “Well Cam, are you ready?” she asked, quietly opening her bedroom window. (It’s the only one in the house with a removable screen.)
“Yes,” I snorted with all the pride an eight-year-old could muster.
“Yo. Don’t snort at me like that. I’m thirteen years old. You’re lucky I’m bringing you on this adventure!” MaCall whispered, looking all offended.
MaCall pushed me out the window and onto the wood-shingled roof that slanted below it.
“Ouch, MaCall!” I screeched, trying to pry the splinter out of my hand.
“Now stay there, I’m coming out!” MaCall announced.
Two seconds later, she had plopped down beside me.
“Whoops!” she cried as she almost slipped on a loose shingle.
“If Dad knew about this, he would be so mad!” MaCall said, calmly ripping open her bag of M&Ms and pouring them into her mouth.
“Oh yeah. Here,” she said, handing me one brown M&M.
“Oh gee, thanks,” I said, crunching down my one M&M.
“You’re welcome!” MaCall said cheerfully, silently enjoying her bag of M&Ms.
To tell you the truth, I was getting a bit bored.
“Do you have any more candy?” I asked hopefully.
“I’m not a vending machine,” MaCall said dryly.
“MaCall, can we go back now?” I asked hopefully.
A car’s headlights suddenly shone against our house.
“Duck!” MaCall screeched, diving to hide her head between her arms.
Personally, I don’t think it helped much. I looked at my sister and sighed.
“MaCall, I don’t feel like I’m on a magical island. I feel like I’m watching you eat M&Ms,” I moaned, watching her scarf down the last one.
“What? You mean you’re not at this very moment burying your toes in hot sizzling sand as the sun sinks into the sea?” MaCall whispered, closing her eyes and sprawling back on the splintery shingles with a contented sigh.
“Well then… use your imagination!” MaCall screeched, then clapped her hand over her mouth. “Do you think Mom and Dad heard that?”
“Yes,” I whispered, closing my eyes and grinning. “Even a deaf person would.”
“Huh. Then maybe we should go back now,” MaCall said hurriedly, scrambling to her feet. “Wouldn’t want to get grounded for the next 300 years.”
MaCall reached out a hand to me and looked at me with mischief in her bright green eyes. I reached out my hand to clasp hers, and at that moment, I knew she was my sister.
* * *
- MY SISTER THE SPY
“Hey, Cam, guess what?” MaCall giggled.
“What?” I groaned, knowing this meant trouble.
“I made us these files for our ‘agency,’” MaCall chirped, slapping down a manila folder with a mysterious number 52 on it.
“Did you steal these from Dad’s office?” I asked, looking at them suspiciously.
“Yeah, well that is not the topic,” MaCall said breezily. “The topic is that we are starting our own spy agency.”
“Aren’t you excited?” MaCall breathed, her eyes practically popping out of her head.
“Uh, the thing is, MaCall… whenever we do something together, I usually get in trouble.”
MaCall looked offended. “Name five times that happened.”
“Well, there was that one time that you convinced me to eat candy on the roof with you because it was a magical island and then dad found the wrappers when he was hanging the Christmas lights.”
“Umm—that’s one,” MaCall shrugged in disgust.
“And then there was the time you hid your stray cat in my closet and Dad thought it was my cat.”
“Well…” MaCall hemmed.
“…after which Dad made us knock on every door in the neighborhood to ask if they had lost a cat—which was really embarrassing.”
“That was last year,” MaCall said, rolling her eyes.
“And then you’re always making me play Naiads… ” I began.
“I object to the word ‘always,’” MaCall interrupted.
“Dad yelled at us for three hours for that!”
“It’s not every day you can pretend you’re a water nymph and steal your little brothers’ souls,” MaCall said smugly.
“Also, just recently you gave me five dollars to buy you a drink and a brownie and it ended up costing $6.25…”
“How was I supposed to know it would be that expensive?” MaCall protested.
“It was really embarrassing because there was a long line of people staring at me,” I harrumphed. “And then there was… huh,” I hesitated, trying to remember the long list of injustices I had endured over the years.
“That’s four things,” MaCall said, her eyes bright with triumph.
“There’ve been so many things it’s hard to remember,” I protested.
“Mom and Dad won’t even hear about this,” MaCall murmured, pulling out her cool wax seal kit.
I squirmed uncertainly.
“Fine! I’ll just be a spy by myself then,” MaCall shrugged, flouncing off.
“OK, I’ll be a spy with you!” I shouted.
“Great!” MaCall cried, whipping around and looking delighted. “Your first mission is…”
“But I’ll only be a spy with you under one condition,” I interjected.
“And what is that?” MaCall moaned.
“If we get in trouble you have to tell Mom and Dad it was your idea!” I declared.
“What-ever, can you just sign this contract?” MaCall groaned, shoving a sheet of paper in my face.
“I promise to be a spy with MaCall,” I read aloud. “Signed, Cameron Manor.”
“Now write your name on the bottom line,” MaCall ordered, pointing at the blank line.
“OK,” I replied, scribbling in my best cursive.
“Great! Now we must seal the envelope,” MaCall announced, lighting the red candle in her wax seal kit and dripping the wax all over the envelope.
“Aren’t you supposed to drip the wax into a circle?” I asked, feeling confused.
“Yeah, but this way makes it look prettier,” MaCall grinned, stamping it with her M for MaCall signet ring and burning the edges for a finishing touch.
“Girls, what are you doing?” Dad asked, sticking his head in the room and sniffing suspiciously. “What’s that smell?”
“What smell?” MaCall asked innocently, shoving the evidence in my drawer.
“What are you two even doing?” Dad asked, marching into the room to find out for himself.
Dad yanked open the door to find a burned manila envelope with red wax dripped all over it.
“Girls! Just what do you think you’re doing?” Dad yelled, slamming the drawer shut with a bang. “You could’ve burned the whole house down!”
“Sorry,” MaCall shrugged.
“MaCall, don’t you have something to tell Dad?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” MaCall said, turning away.
“Girls, I don’t want to see you doing this again unless Mom or I give you permission,” Dad said sternly, stalking off sighing.
“OK, now let’s get back to business,” MaCall said, sighing with relief.
“What? Are you kidding me!” I screeched.
“Uh… no,” MaCall answered.
“Did you hear what Dad just said?” I asked.
“Yeah, a good spy is not put off easily,” MaCall said. “Besides, you signed the contract.”
“Great! Time for your first mission. You may open the envelope now,” MaCall said in a hoity-toity voice, waving her hand in the air like a princess.
“Whatever, but if I get in any more trouble…”
MaCall just rolled her eyes.
I opened the envelope. Here is what it said:
To: Agent Grover
From: Agent Smuff
Mission: Go borrow $20 from Mom’s purse
Reward: When one agent helps another, that agent will be helped
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“Uh… what do you think? Go steal $20 from Mom’s purse!” MaCall screeched, getting red in the face.
“OK!” I roared back.
I tiptoed off to my Mom’s room, only to find that she was sleeping with her purse!
“Pssst… Cameron, get over here,” MaCall whispered.
“What do you want now?” I asked, tiptoeing back where MaCall was poking her head out from behind the door.
“I forgot to tell you… good luck, Grover,” MaCall grinned, winking at me.
“Am I free to go now?” I asked impatiently, tapping my toes.
I sighed and tiptoed back to the room where my mother was sleeping, unaware of the drama that was unfolding two inches from her nose. Heart pounding, I carefully lifted her arm and slipped her purse out. Quickly, I snatched a $20 bill from her worn brown leather wallet, put everything back the way it was, and dashed out of the room.
“Here you go, Agent Smuff. Mission accomplished,” I sighed, tossing the $20 bill at my sister.
MaCall looked at the bill.
“Uh uh uh!” MaCall tsked disapprovingly. “I recall saying ‘$40 dollars.’”
“You mean I have to go in there again?” I asked, horrified.
“Yes, you must… you have not completed your mission, Agent Grover,” Agent Smuff snapped, green eyes flashing.
“OK fine, but this is the last mission,” I said angrily, stalking off.
MaCall just grinned.
* * *
The next day, MaCall returned from her rhythmic gymnastic convention with a new ribbon stick, new ribbon, new clubs, new tape, and a new ball.
“Well, I guess you gotta help me now,” I observed politely, eyeing all her new stuff.
“What is it you want?” MaCall asked in her nicest tone. She was in a really good mood because she had just gotten everything she wanted.
“A new mp3 player!” I answered without hesitation. It was only $20 (which I knew because my sister had just gotten one), so I thought it was a fair trade.
Agent Smuff looked shocked.
“What are you thinking? I can’t just go out and buy you that kind of stuff!” MaCall screeched.
“But you said, ‘when one agent helps another, that agent will be helped,’” I said, remembering my contract.
“Yeah, hmmm…” my sister muttered distractedly, disappearing into her room.
And that was the end of the agency.
* * *
- MY SISTER’S GARAGE SALE
“I know how much you love boxes, Cam,” the sticky note read.
I stared at three battered boxes that didn’t even close properly. Probably my sister hadn’t wanted to lug them down to the garbage can, so she had “gifted” them to me. I sighed and lugged them to the corner of my room, where they sagged on top of the rest of her “presents.”
I am my sister’s beneficiary, the one upon whom she lavishes gifts. Two-inch pencil stubs, old discolored nail polish, broken jewelry where the beads fall off and the clasps don’t clasp, stained sticky notes with only two sheets left, books that don’t “look good” in her room—all these treasures are mine for the enjoying.
I think what it really is, is that she can’t be bothered to walk down the stairs, so she uses my room as a garbage dump.
One day I decided to speak up.
“MaCall, I just don’t want your trash,” I said politely, delicately placing a year’s worth of MaCall’s gifts back in her room.
“That’s not trash… those are my gifts!”MaCall cried, her eyes wounded.
I stood there, trying to be firm.
“Caaammm!”—sniff sniff—How c- could you?” MaCall wailed.
It’s actually kind of funny to watch teenagers cry, ’cause every once in a while you can see a smile poke out through their tears. I cleared my throat and threw my shoulders back, trying to remember the speech I had prepared.
“MaCall, for the past year I have been collecting your ‘gifts,’ and I don’t want them anymore!” I screeched, stalking out of the room to take a hot shower to cool off.
When I returned, MaCall was sprawled on my bed, muttering in her sleep. (For some reason I scored the best mattress in the house, and MaCall knows it. Also, MaCall doesn’t like making her own bed, so she sleeps in mine.)
I poked her.
“MaCall, can I have my bed back?” I asked politely.
“Mom, don’t wake me up! I can’t do that right now…” MaCall groaned through a cobweb of dreams.
With a sigh, I plopped onto MaCall’s bed and fell asleep.
“What is going on? I never said you could sleep in here!” MaCall screeched, catapulting me out of her bed with one swoop.
“Um, MaCall—you were in my bed. Where else was I supposed to sleep?” I pointed out, rubbing my butt.
MaCall glared at me, then flounced off.
Two minutes later, she was back.
“I am really sorry about what happened. Will you forgive me?” MaCall asked, green eyes wide and as calm as a kitten.
“OK fine,” I muttered, wondering what she was up to now.
“Well… would you like to buy some special scratch paper? It’s five cents for twenty sheets,” MaCall asked brightly.
I looked at the sheaf of papers MaCall had thrust at me. Basically, it was the blank backsides of MaCall’s old home- work that she had sprayed with Sweet Pea perfume.
“Uhhh…” I hesitated.
“You don’t like the scent? I also carry them in La Poison,” MaCall chirped, her eyes lighting up.
“I’ll stick with Sweet Pea,” I answered, handing over a nickel.
When it comes to MaCall, don’t even bother to resist. It’s better to do just whatever’s on her mind.
“Thank you for your business. Now would you care to look at the other items I have for sale?” MaCall said brightly, shoving the nickel in her pocket.
Before I could answer, MaCall waved her hand over an elaborate display of old pencils, dirty eraser pieces, Elmo hair scrunchies we had last worn when we were five years old, plastic necklaces whose “diamonds” had long fallen off, and…
“MaCall!” I screeched, snatching up my favorite frog pajamas that were now curiously… shorts.
“Yes?” MaCall asked innocently.
“What did you do to my favorite frog pajamas?!” I screeched, clutching them to my chest.
“I had no idea those were yours,” MaCall huffed. “Anyway, they look much better now.”
I stalked out of MaCall’s room, furious. MaCall was always cutting up her clothes in an attempt to be a fashion designer, but cutting up my favorite frog pajamas was going a bit too far.
“It’s artistic!” MaCall called out desperately.
I pressed my hands over my ears, trying to shut her out.
What I really need, I thought, is a little sister. Someone I could dress up, tell advice to, give stuff…
“Hey, Jack!” I called out to my six-yearold brother as he bent over the carpet to draw an eye patch on his pirate.
“What do you want?” Jack muttered, looking up at me in annoyance. Jack hates to be interrupted, but this was an emergency.
“Would you like to buy some special scratch paper?” I asked brightly. “Just five cents for twenty sheets.”
“What do you mean by ‘special?’” Jack asked curiously, looking up at me with a gap where his tooth should have been.
“Uhhh… they smell really good,” I answered, thrusting the sheets under his nose.
“I’ll pass,” Jack said, returning to his pirate drawing.
Oh dear. I think I’m just not cut out for sales.