It’s Christmas time and mom and dad are out. Nikki places Kenny Rogers in the record player and we don our feet in homemade slippers from Auntie Vicky. We fight over the red skirt, the one that twirls like a true figure skater, and decide to take turns with it. We line up beneath the staircase and as soon as Kenny’s skipping-over-the-gravel voice fills the large dining room, Jodie glides and spins across the square linoleum, skating for a million people. Around the third interval she won’t give me the skirt. This is a problem.
“Oh yeah?” I give her a hefty shove into the wall and instantly, after the sound of busting drywall and the scratching record, the house falls silent. Jodie starts crying after seeing the hole in the wall her elbow made. Nikki rushes to her side and I stand in silence, guilty. And guilty in our house is bad, bad news.
“Amy look what you did! You’re gonna be in so much trouble!”
“Jodie I’m sorry! Nikki we can’t tell them, he’ll kill me,” I move to help Jodie who’s already standing, still sobbing. She doesn’t yell at me or get back. She never does. She just looks down, looks at Nikki. I feel terrible, yet not as terrible as my impending doom.
“Okay, we just need a story. Quick, think,” Nikki says.
“She tripped because her slippers were too slippery!”
The dent was the size of a baseball and almost as deep. There was no hiding it. We put Kenny and the skirt away and paced. They’d be home soon. I imagined the hits coming. And worse—the chasing. If only I was brave enough to not run. Nikki was covering because she knew if dad was going to punish anyone, it would be me. It was always me. In a sick way I feel proud of it—all the hits I take for my sisters, leaving them safe. As much of an asshole as I can be, I always want their safety. And I want them to look to me for protection. I thought they did, but in hindsight, I think it was pity with a mix of gratitude, with a dab of pretending it didn’t happen, my acts of chivalry all in my head.