Sister Stop Breathing

What can you do if you want your sister to stop breathing?

Ice her up and drive north. Head to Santa Cruz. There you will find a main street called

Main Street. You can showcase her to people. Go to the Kinko’s parking lot and introduce her. Say, “I bet you didn’t know I had a sister! This is she. She’s made of ice.” The kids will want to touch her arm, and the sister will move in tiny waves. Once you have asserted that the sister exists and she is made of ice, breathe down her frozen face. The sister will begin to melt. The children will scream.

The first thing you to need realize is, nobody’s watching. I never said anything derogatory during the Super Bowl, a State of the Nation address, or a rerun of Friends. I’ve aired Saturdays, either 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, not exactly prime time, and the folks watching TV then aren’t the kind of people you need to be image-conscious around. There are literally more of you here now than there are viewers, and that would be true if half of you left to go the bathroom. But enough with the excuses: This is an apology, so the exact number of people who heard you mercilessly mocked, week in and week out, for thirty years, is irrelevant. What’s important is that all of it is in good fun. People are laughing with you, not at you. Best of all, most of what I said isn’t true—not mostly. Besides: Who outside of Berwyn would even know what a Berwyn was if not for me? Imagine, all these years, that voice moaning, “Elk Grove Village” instead. Or “Shaumburg.” Or “Harvey.” “Minooka.” “Beecher.” Berwyn is on the map. Berwyn sings. Berwyn is where it’s at. How does any of this make me qualified to be your mayor? It doesn’t. But it reminds me of a story:

“Tell me a story,” the bearded man sitting on my living-room sofa commands. The situation, I must say, is anything but pleasant. I’m someone who writes stories, not someone who tells them. And even that isn’t something I do on demand. The last time anyone asked me to tell him a story, it was my son. That was a year ago. I told him something about a fairy and a ferret—I don’t even remember what exactly—and within two minutes he was fast asleep. But the situation is fundamentally different. Because my son doesn’t have a beard, or a pistol. Because my son asked for the story nicely, and this man is simply trying to rob me of it.

Zach and Amber’s baby was born with a rare condition which the doctors told them was called craniopagus parasiticus. This meant that their baby had two heads. Or–more properly–it meant that there had once been two babies, conjoined twins, but the second one had failed to develop completely. They were connected by the fused crowns of their skulls, and shared a small portion of the parietal lobes of their brains.

The second twin, which was called the “parasitic” twin, had a head and a neck but didn’t really have a body. The neck stump below the head contained fragments of bone and vestiges of a heart and lungs, and there were tiny buds attached to the neck that were the beginnings of limbs.

The day after his brother left the house for good, Marty Hanson picked out the smallest boy in his sixth grade class and waited until the boy was alone. He approached him, telling him that he’d found a dead dog decomposing in a far corner of the school’s courtyard. The boy, who was new at the school and whose name Marty could not remember, stuffed his hands deep into his pockets, nearly to the elbows, and said, “So?” He was looking at a dandelion near his sneaker’s toe.

We rode our bikes through  a gateway, between two old whale lookouts linked by a twenty-foot-long banner — “Welcome  to Summer” — a trident-wielding mariner  standing sentinel over the final “r.” A few island moms were fussing over deep tin dishes, removing foil from littlenecks, adjusting  burners  under  weakfish stew  and  Jersey  corn  chowder.  A double- decker barbecue belched saffron-shrimp smoke. Girls jumped double Dutch in the side lot, and high school kids played basketball against the old Coast Guard building at a hoop with a metal chain net.