Johnny America


My Sis­ter, Part Five


Cran­ber­ries on lace make a star­tling ef­fect. Leon­a’s ruff dripped glis­ten­ing red like a vir­gin on mo­tel sheets. Shocking!

Leon­a’s screams dis­com­fit­ed those wretched birds in the yard be­low and they set to flap­ping and squawk­ing and bang­ing them­selves against the chick­en wire. The peo­ple in the front house  —  my sis­ter’s land­lords  —  came scowl­ing out their back door. First, an Iran­ian; then, chick­ens; now, a scream­ing pil­grim; they looked up, aghast, at their garage apartment.

My sis­ter fled sob­bing to her kitchen, to dear vod­ka with a smidge of OJ. Leona gasped like a fish out of wa­ter while cran­ber­ry sauce bond­ed with the Dow of her hair  —  it fused with and stained and ru­ined her pi­ous per­ma­nent. Leon­a’s buck­led hat lay jaun­ti­ly askew, and up­on the Bible she’d placed be­side her plate sat my sis­ter’s crys­tal jel­ly boat, an heir­loom passed down through five gen­er­a­tions, mirac­u­lous­ly unbroken.

“Get the fuck out of my house, you fuck­ing whore!”

That came from my sis­ter, now back in the din­ing room, with Smirnoff ban­shee eyes. Min­ki fi­nal­ly looked up from his plate of glis­ten­ing bones  —  he was fun­da­men­tal­ly aroused by foul-mouthed Amer­i­can women. “Huh huh,” Min­ki chuck­led, drip­ping schmaltz. He looked over at me, waved a chick­en bone at my sis­ter and winked.

I imag­ined him with a turkey drum­stick up his ass, and I too chuck­led, which made Min­ki be­lieve we were pals. He winked again.

Dad had head­phones on. Car­ol Bur­nett was on the Watch­man. Dad laughed out loud, out of the blue. Dad has a great laugh.

“You plas­tic slut!” my sis­ter shout­ed at the still-gasp­ing Leona, and Dad burst in­to peals of laugh­ter. Leona glared at our head­phoned Dad. Then I laughed, and so did my good bud­dy Min­ki. At that mo­ment, out­rage kid­napped Leona.


Leona rose from her chair. “I’m a Chris­t­ian,” she said.

She had a Je­sus Fish pinned to her shoul­der, drip­ping cran­ber­ry jelly.

“You’re dressed like a fuck­ing pil­grim!” my sis­ter screeched, and the land­lords be­low tuned their ears. “And you USE my hope­less father.”

It’s a shame Bran­cusi nev­er worked with chick­en gravy  —  in the air, so flu­id; chick­en gravy arcs like sci­ence fiction.


My sis­ter is an el­e­gant hu­man, part by de­sign and part­ly in­nate. She was un­doubt­ed­ly dressed in Anne Klein, a chic trend of the times, one which made women re­sem­ble Buster Keaton, who was a bril­liant and fun­ny man. Fash­ion is tricky and cost­ly, on many lev­els. My sis­ter used to pride her­self on her com­posed de­meanor  —  wardrobe, groom­ing and fur­nish­ings equaled de­meanor. She spent so much ef­fort on that de­meanor, it made her nutty.

Now, she’s fine; she’s a liv­ing artist.

Leona hoist­ed an ex­pen­sive ce­ram­ic pitch­er and sloshed two pints of canned chick­en gravy, yel­low as the sun, with per­fect ac­cu­ra­cy. (It) hit my sis­ter just be­low the throat, for a mo­ment a cameo, and then an ex­plod­ing star.

White Hot

“I’ll shove that fuck­ing bible down your throat!” my sis­ter blazed, and Dad guf­fawed, stomp­ing his feet (Tim Con­way was his favorite).

Leona looked like she was los­ing her mind. My sis­ter looked like the be­gin­ning of a paint­ing by Jack­son Pol­lock. She had as­sumed a fight­er’s stance, weight even­ly dis­trib­uted, her right hand tight­ly clench­ing a heavy glass tum­bler full of vod­ka. Leona, the whitest of women, bob­bled her head like Queen Lat­i­fah, pissed off, in 1984 (nowa­days, that par­tic­u­lar bob­ble is a sig­na­ture move of fe­males every­where, fun­ni­est on Asian girls).

Min­ki was fas­ci­nat­ed by this sit­u­a­tion: “This is the sexy,” he slob­bered, wink­ing un­con­trol­lably. And then he smelled his armpits, deeply and with pleasure.

“What are you do­ing there?” I asked Minki.

“Dirty Amer­i­can women,” he leered, eye­lids strobing.

Dad wheezed, tears in his eyes (Mrs. Wiggins).

And Minki’s words struck a chord in my broth­er, and my broth­er’s chords are not of­ten heard on this earth.

“Leon­a’s mom is hot,” my broth­er said, talk­ing about the weath­er. And that was enough for Leona.


“Sa­tan!” bel­lowed Leona, “Sa­tan is here in this room.”

Leona kicked sav­age­ly at her chair, send­ing it rum­bling across the wood­en floor. The land­lords be­low looked at each oth­er and made hes­i­tant steps in every direction.

“Shut the fuck up,” my sis­ter screamed at Leona, “my fuck­ing land­lords will hear you.”

Min­ki rubbed his chick­en fin­gers on his crotch, lis­ten­ing in­tent­ly, his eye­lids trapped shut in ex­quis­ite spasms. Dad dou­bled over, laugh­ing him­self sick, then bolt­ed for the bath­room, still plugged to Car­ol Bur­nett. (My fa­ther and my sis­ter both have weak blad­ders. One time, my sis­ter peed in the trunk of my Toy­ota in a Jack in the Box dri­ve-thru. She does­n’t de­ny it.)

“I’m pray­ing for you; I’ll save you!” cried Leona, ges­tic­u­lat­ing wild­ly at my sis­ter. With un­char­ac­ter­is­tic agili­ty, Leona sped around the ta­ble to where Min­ki sat blind­ed by Ara­bi­an ec­sta­sy. Her hard-heeled pil­grim shoes made fla­men­co sounds as she ran.

“Hea­then,” spat Leona, peer­ing down on Min­ki, and she smacked Min­ki hard in the face. Minki’s eyes shot open.

Leona grabbed the carv­ing knife. “Sa­tan!” Leona wailed, a ter­ri­ble sound.

Min­ki thrust for­ward his breast: “I have no fear of death,” he shout­ed, “Amer­i­can sow!”


Did I men­tion Min­ki was hairy? Like a yak was Min­ki: one thick eye­brow that near­ly met his hair­line and nose hair you could braid. This was the swing­ing 80’s, and hip­ster men, es­pe­cial­ly for­eign men, wore their silken shirts open to the navel. Body hair was in vogue, swarthy types were get­ting the girls. When Min­ki puffed up his chest it looked like he was cov­ered with tarantulas.

“We in­vent masse­mat­ics!” Min­ki roared.

“Is your mom at home now, Leona?” (my brother).

“Sa­tan!” hissed Leona, blow­ing the spit­tle of Christ on­to Minki’s an­cient skin. She bran­dished the carv­ing knife in the air above her head.

The land­la­dy ran back in­to her house while the land­lord moved cau­tious­ly to­wards the stairs lead­ing up to my sis­ter’s apartment.

A lit­tle about Leona:

At that mo­ment, Dad came gig­gling out of the bath­room, a big urine stain on the crotch of his Sans-A-Belts.Too late.

“I love Tim Con­way,” he wheezed, slow­ly dy­ing from laughter.

Leona reared back and stared hard at my fa­ther. Then she looked at Min­ki and back at my fa­ther again.

“In­vol­un­tary Loss of Bod­i­ly Func­tions,” Leona hissed to no one, to the air. And then she be­gan to trem­ble, and the carv­ing knife wob­bled in her hand. Then came a sound to chill the heart of any hu­man, a sound of wrath and ter­ror the likes of which I don’t care to hear twice in my life:

“INVOLUNTARY LOSS OF BODILY FUNCTIONS,” Leona bel­lowed, caus­ing the chick­ens be­low to pan­ic and glass­es to over­turn on the Thanks­giv­ing table.

The land­lord on the stairs out­side squeaked, hopped, and ran back in­to his home.

“My pants are clean. I swear,” said my brother.

Buster Keaton ver­sus the Pilgrim

Nev­er hap­pened. The glass was nev­er thrown, Leon­a’s coif­fure re­mained un­mussed. In­stead, my sis­ter wept in­con­solably while Dad laughed uncontrollably.

“All I want­ed was for us to be a fam­i­ly. One day a year,” my sis­ter wailed.

“It’s be­cause Sa­tan is with us, hon­ey,” cooed Leona, who was ze­roed in on Minki.

Min­ki spat out some Iran­ian words and pushed away from the ta­ble. He snatched up his nunchuks and went down in­to the door­yard, where the chick­ens were.

Run From Satan!

The art­ful­ly-laid ta­ble was a mess, chick­en gravy and cran­ber­ry sauce every­where. Dad had peed him­self; our broth­er was hot for Leon­a’s mom; Min­ki was Sa­tan; I did noth­ing; Leona was our step­moth­er; every­thing was ru­ined. My sis­ter’s glass heart had been cracked again. Down­stairs, the chick­ens be­gan to scream. My sis­ter bolt­ed from her Thanks­giv­ing Din­ner, down the rick­ety stairs and stopped, sob­bing in the dri­ve­way. The land­lords peered from be­hind their kitchen cur­tains. The land­la­dy was talk­ing on the phone and nod­ding her head.

Meet The Nitwit

In those days, my sis­ter drove a ’69 ca­nary yel­low Kar­man Ghia Cabri­o­let, the rag­top. It sat be­fore her as Pe­ga­sus. The chick­ens were in hys­ter­ics. My sis­ter added squeal­ing tires and the smell of burn­ing rub­ber to our Thanks­giv­ing at­mos­phere. She goosed the Ghia on the turn from her dri­ve­way and ran smack in­to the trunk of a BMW stopped in the road. The trunk crum­pled. The dri­ver of the BMW was the buck­toothed nitwit. The nitwit, wait­ing for his date to come out, was pro­pelled for­ward with such force that the para­medics need­ed the Jaws of Life to ex­tract his teeth from the dashboard.

Filed under Writer X's Sister on May 19th, 2004

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