“Tell Your Sister, Sister”

Fiction by Ben Murphy

   Tara always thought of repression as a myth, a psychological put-on. Now she lives with it. The rape itself she doesn’t remember. She remembers being on the bathroom floor and there being blood. She was drunk and had to get her skirt down. Kids were looking in through the open door. This doesn’t happen in the suburbs.    
    She stumbled home and lay in bed. There was a racing feeling in her body. Like an engine in her chest someone was gunning nonstop. Maybe if she had a relationship with him, maybe magically it could all turn normal. She raced to his side every free chance she had.    
    Tara sits in the back seat of a stolen car. She’s smoking a joint and sipping at a bottle of Southern Comfort. Gus is at the wheel cruising around the suburbs. All the while Niles is dismantling the car’s interior.
    Niles is rail thin. He only wears black, to match his long straight black hair. He’s vain about his looks and carries a lint brush. Gus is shabby, in jeans and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. He’s got long blond dreadlocks. People take a look and say, “The guy’s on drugs.” Both are in their 20s. Tara is a teenage girl. She doesn’t know it, but she’s got it all going on. She’s got the figure with the blond hair and blue eyes.    
    Tara is sandwiched against the door. Gus pulls in behind the Price Chopper. Niles takes the parts from the stolen car and puts them in the trunk of a stolen newish black Audi. Tara and Niles get in the Audi.
    Niles says, “Take this. It’ll make you laugh.”
    She swallows a blue paper tablet. They drive the Audi onto the freeway. Gus follows behind them in a beat-up green pickup. The truck matters. It’s all in Gus’s name and completely legal.
    Closer to the city, they pull into M+F junkyard. M for misdemeanors and F for felonies.
    Niles gets out. He talks to a man who looks like Anthony Soprano. Anthony takes out a roll and peels off three  hundred dollar bills. He rummages through the trunk and hands over two more twenties. Niles gets into the truck cab, along with Tara and Gus.
    Niles says, “He likes me. He gave me forty for the stuff in the trunk.”    
    Tara says, “You’re always smart when it comes to the stuff.” They drive out of the junkyard.
    Niles says, “Pull into this 7-Eleven.”
    Tara forgets she’s hungry. The mescaline is starting to take effect. She sets a cherry Big Gulp at the register. Gus wants a Red Bull. Niles has a Big Gulp and jumbo-sized hot dog. He pays for the food.    
    In the truck cab, Niles rests his hot dog on the dashboard. They pull into traffic.
    Somehow they fall into singing this mad chant.
    “Himina! Hamina! Himina! Hamina! Crandle!” It’s so funny. Where does it come from? A Looney Tunes cartoon? Or maybe an episode of “The Honeymooners”?    
    Tara shouts, “Again! Again!”
    Niles says, “One more time and that’s it.”
    “Himina! Hamina! Himina! Hamina! Crandle!”
    Tara, staring at the hot dog, says, “Just look at it.”
    Niles says, “Someone should eat it.”
    She says, “You bought it, you eat it.”
    Niles says, “I’m seeing trails. You aren’t meant to trip and eat at the same time. Gus, you didn’t drop mescaline. Why don’t you eat it?”
    Gus thinks he’s being made fun of. Plus he’s angry he was left out of the mescaline high. He says, “I don’t want it.”
    Tara says, “It has the proportions of a zeppelin.”
    Niles says, “Led Zeppelin. It’s a heavy metal hot dog.”
    Tara says, “It’s like the monolith in 2001. My God, it’s full of stars!”
    Niles rolls down the window and throws it out.
    She says, “Now that’s just wasteful.”
    Niles says, “I’m not driving with a monolith, zeppelin, heavy metal hot dog.” This causes Tara to laugh. Niles kisses her and hooks his left arm over her shoulder.
    Later, at home, Tara is fully dressed, kneeling in the empty tub praying. Myra walks in. “Sorry.”
    Myra goes back out. She raps three times and goes back in. She sits on the toilet. Now Tara is lying horizontal in the tub.
    Myra says, “You don’t really have to kneel to pray. I find sitting or laying in bed just as good.”
    Tara says, “I wanted it to count.”
    “You look like a real junkie. Lying in an empty tub, fully dressed. What are you coming off?”
    “A blue paper tablet?”
    “A friend gave it to me.”
    “Good friend. Real mescaline is a cactus. You took speed and strychnine. Rat poison.”
    “It was fun till about two hours ago.”
    “If you have to trip, let me get you mushrooms. Something natural, that won’t fuck you up.”
    “You’d do that?”
    “It feels like I’m speeding my face off.”
    “I wouldn’t recommend mind-altering drugs for you.”
    Myra flushes the toilet and exits. They were almost equals. But there at the end was her constant superior attitude. Tonight she doesn’t want to go to the motel, but knows she will. All she has to do is suffer through dinner. Then she can lie in her darkened room and rest.
    In the motel, Niles rests in a room filled with smoke. On the boom box, Billy Joel sings, “Captain Jack will get you high tonight!”
    He thinks it’s cool, because Billy Joel is referring to the fifth of Jack Daniels he’s actually holding in his hand. To Niles’s way of thinking, he now qualifies as a rock star.
     Tara leaves on her bike. A quarter-mile back, on her own bike, Myra tails her. Tara dumps her bike in the weeds. She crosses four lanes of highway in one dash. Myra watches, her heart in her mouth. Tara flies up a hill, her feet churning up rocks and puffs of dry earth. She crosses a parking lot, knocks on a motel door, and somebody lets her in.
    These motel people are criminal types even Myra wouldn’t party with. What’s brought her 17-year-old sister here? Myra turns her bike around and heads for home.
     Myra is a short, attractive 20-year-old with long, wavy black hair. The next morning, as the train makes that last sprint, underground through the tunnel and into the city, she reflects on herself in the windows. The lights come up and they turn into black mirrors. She’s never had any self-esteem. She decides her face looks fat and ugly. She flutters her lips like a neighing horse. She averts her face, away from the reflection.
    Myra mans the phones at a large lawyers’ office. She always takes lunch outside, on the steps to Madison Square Garden. She balances a slice of pizza on her lap, knees held closed in a thigh-length skirt. A Rastafarian beams her a white smile. The look is so honestly sexual, she can’t help but feel pretty and smile right back. She enters a deli and buys a can of Foster’s. Back on the steps, Myra finishes off the extra-large can of beer. Later, at work, she has that membrane: that bubble you travel in when you’re high. As if all the time belongs to you. Her buzz leaves her on the commute home. Where again, she’s the liar. Supposedly sober.
    Mom’s linen housedress fits her chubby body like a pillowcase. Some days she’ll never change into street clothes. There’s nowhere to go. Dad’s away so much, it’s possible he carries on a whole other life, with a different family. But he doesn’t. He drinks at a bar, close to work, in the city.
    All morning Mom cleans house. But at the stroke of noon, out comes the first cocktail.
     Now, across the dinner table from Myra, Mom has her tight-lipped face of irritation. Myra cuts away all the fat and veins from her steak.
    Mom puts her knife and fork down and shakes her head. “What you do to a steak.”
    Myra says, “I’m sorry. It’s fat and I’m not going to eat it.”
     Meanwhile, Tara is sitting there tripping on something, again. She’s hunched over her plate picking. Her finger keeps wandering up her nose, working on an itch that won’t go away. Myra realizes that Tara is better looking than her. She’s got the height, blond hair, and blue eyes.
     Mom asks, “Are you going to A.A. tonight?”
    “Yes, like you and Dad agreed,” Myra says. “Twice a week. Work, A.A. and treatment, and next semester I can go back to college again.”
    “How’s work?”
    “No, really, do you like it?”
    “You want to know if I’m gonna quit.”
    Mom says, “Tara, you haven’t touched yours.”
    “I don’t feel well. I have a headache.”
    Mom asks, “Do you want a Dristan?”
    “No. Bed and rest.”
    Myra breathes easier with Tara gone.

    Ben Murphy, a former Water Mill resident, is the author of a novel, “Eight O’Clock Hydrox,” for which he is seeking a publisher, as well as numerous short stories, some of which have previously appeared in The Star.