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The Life Cycle of the Slater Home This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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            The first walk through my house is downright surreal.
            Nothing works in my house. None of the appliances, neither of the cars, none of the decorations, the upstairs bathroom…everything has broken, at least a little bit.
            "How do you do this?" they say, amazed. "Your ghettoness-to-income ratio is unprecedented."            
            <i>(I may be paraphrasing slightly.)</i>
            "It's a four-step process," I say with a bit of attitude, because an impressively crappy house is always something to be proud of.
            "Ooh. Ahh. Shiny."
            <i>(I don't really know how friends talk.)</i>
            Here today is this process. How does everything in our house get destroyed? How do we do it so fast? How can you do it too?
            Behold.

Step One: Acquisition
            "Where's the coffee?" I yelled, rifling through the cabinet. I knew we didn't keep coffee in there, but I didn't care; I would start planning a Garage Expedition if it didn't show up soon.
            My sister padded into the kitchen. "I drank it all," she informed me sweetly.
            "You went through <i>half a bag of coffee</i>? In <i>one night</i>?"
            "What, you can't?"
            Actually I probably could, but my way of doing so would be to spill 95% of it on the floor. "You are an evil bastard and friendless loser, Sarah Slater."
            "Yes, but I'm an evil bastard and friendless loser <i>with caffeine.</i>"
            She always wins these things.
            I sighed and sifted through the cabinet until I found our tin of cash. "Fine then. I'm going to the convenience store."
            "You might want to pick up some creamer while you're at it."
            I hate my sister.
            So, I walked to the convenience store. This had historically placed between "English homework" and "Giving porcupine massages," on my list of "Things I Desperately Want To Do On A Saturday Morning," but I had a remorseless jerk for a sister, and so I was here.
            "Hi, Rebecca," I said to the college-age blonde behind the counter. "How's it shaking? Lame, right?"
            Rebecca gave me a wide-eyed stare. "Huh?"
            "Kinda sucks to be working Saturday morning, doesn't it?"
            "It's Saturday?"
            Rebecca is the girl that made me believe in stereotypes again.
            I reminded myself that ignorance is bliss, smiled blandly, and proceeded to the back of the store, looking for creamer and coffee. My parent's grocery-shopping habits can be described as "erratic" at best and "The Cannibal Games," at worst, so I knew my way around pretty well.
            "That's not very much coffee," Rebecca observed when I went to the counter.
            "Just trying to get to get to Thursday," I said. "Or Christmas. Or whenever my parents decide the Monsters of Costco won't eat them."
            "There are monsters at Costco?" Rebecca said. "Oh, you mean the bouncers?"
            "The…what?"
            "The people at Costco who ask for your card and won't let you in?"
            "Those….aren't…." <i>Ignorance is bliss.</i> "Yeah. Those monsters."
            I paid for my painfully overpriced medication and escorted myself out. The morning was bright and sunny and seemed to have increased about 20 degrees in temperature during my ten-minute shopping trip, because my morning just didn't suck enough already.
            I ambled down the sidewalk, enjoying the Great Outdoors, marveling at the intellectual capacity of certain blonde females, and singing praises to the virtues of sisterhood. In the midst of my joyous admiration of the wonders of mankind, I happened to stumble upon a garage sale.
            "Lydia!" the lady who lived there called out. I didn't recognize her, but she looked as old as my mother so I made inferences. "How nice to see you out!"
            Because what you always want to do when it's 9 am and 92 degrees outside is sit and chat. "Yeah….how nice to see you…." <i>Whoever you are. </i>
            "How's school?"
            <i>It's very…July-ish.</i> "Good."
            "You want to look around?"
            "Um…maybe another time. I gotta go home and make coffee or my sister and I might cease to function."
            "Wait," she said, getting up. "Your mother said you were looking for a mirror?"
            "I was contemplating it," I conceded. <i>Although the added stress of seeing my face consistently throughout the day might be the final nail in the coffin of my sanity. </i>
            My neighbor pointed towards a gorgeous oval mirror leaning up against a table. It was maybe two feet tall and eighteen inches wide and <i>beautiful,</i> with a silver metal border stamped with a circular design, like fish scales. "Well, you can have that one if you want it."
            "I can <i>have</i> it?"
            "Do you want it?"
            "It's amazing!"
            "Your mother said you might like it."
            "Well, she was right." I picked up the mirror, which definitely had some heft to it, but luckily I was only a few houses away from my coffeemaker now. "Thanks!"
            "Have a nice weekend!"
            "Yeah, you too."
           
Step Two: Abandonment
            I threw the mirror on my bed when I got home, then onto the floor next to my bed that night, then leaning up against my bookcase when I almost stepped on it the next morning, then on my desk when I tried to get a library book from the bottom shelf of my bookcase, then back to my bed when I sat down at my desk to write out a note, then the floor next to my bed the morning after that…
            Look, if you'd seen me with the mosquito net, you'd understand why I wasn't raring to have a hammer-and-nails party any time soon.
            Eventually, however, I decided I couldn't put it off any more. It was a beautiful mirror, and I was about half a cycle away from breaking it. The push had come to the shove. The music was to be faced. It was time to man up and do this already.
            "Sarah! Sarah, will you nail up this thing for me?"
            You didn't see the mosquito net.
            Sarah opened her door. "What?"
            "You know that mirror I got at that garage sale? Well, I still haven't nailed it up. Will you do it for me?"
            "You stick a nail in the wall and hit it with a hammer. It's not rocket science."
            "Remember the mosquito net?"
            "Yeah...you know, it works better if you don't glue a stapler up there."
            "I didn't <i>glue</i> it! It stapled itself!"
            "Staplers don't work like that, Lydia."
            "Do you really think I'd be dumb enough to glue a stapler to my ceiling?"
            "I wouldn't, except you're the first person I've met to take out a five-inch diameter piece of plaster out of the side of their <i>wall</i> trying to nail something to the <i>ceiling</i>."
            That was the most successful part of the enterprise.
            "Well, unless you want to be using ELF makeup for the next four years, you'll help me prevent any possible home-improvement projects we might encounter."
            "Point taken."
            Sarah went out in the garage to locate necessary supplies while I looked for a spot to put the mirror. It wasn't hard. My decorating style lies somewhere between "minimalist" and "Hurricane Katrina," so I had plenty of space.
            "Where's the mirror?" Sarah asked.
            "It's on the floor over there."
            Sarah went over to pick it up. "It's heavy," she commented, holding it up. "Wow! It's beautiful."
            "Isn't it? I love the fish scales."
            "Yeah, it's….wow. It's <i>amazing</i>." She shook her head. "Where do you want it?"
            While she busied herself with the hammer-and-nails tasks that coordinated people are so effective at, I contented myself to sort through the random objects I'd acquired on my bed throughout the day. Books. Clothes. Boxes. A dead lizard. The usual.
            (I don't know why so lizards decide to crawl through my entire backyard, up my patio steps, over a three-inch threshold on my door, and finally up to my bed only to die on my pillow, but I'm beginning to hypothesize some kind of lizard religion.)
            "Voila," Sarah said. "Your mirror is done. And look, I managed to do it without three thousand dollars worth of damages."
            "Oh, come on! It was only three thousand because they decided to do the <i>entire</i> ceiling! That's not my fault!"
            "You're saying the darts you kept up there for six years without anyone noticing were just natural occurrences?"
            No one believes me when I blame the lizards.

Step three: Usage.
            Summer came and went in its usual summery way- eleven-hour computer marathons, listening to my sister lecture me on "Black is Black" versus "Black Drama" mascara for hours on end out of sheer loneliness, staring into my backyard into the wee hours of the morning watching for candlelit lizard vigils.
            It's not that I don't <i>have</i> friends. They just…live far away. That's all.
            The night before school was its own nightmare. Sarah was in my room, whining about how she needed new eyeliner, while I audibly tried to remember where I'd put my backpack. The five-hour-long-search for my backpack was an annual tradition I'd had since first grade, with no end in sight.
            "Seriously, where the hell could it even <i>be</i>? I checked every <i>corner of my room</i>-"
            "Why does she have to work today? All I have is blue and brown eyeliner! I can't start high school with <i>blue eyeliner</i>!"
            "Is it in the garage? Why would it even be in the garage?"
            "I've been trying to get her to take me to Macy's for, like, <i>two weeks</i>-"
            "My room is actually clean for once! I cleaned my entire room looking for that bastard, and I still can't find it!"
            The bonds of sisterhood ring strong and true with us, yes they do.
            Sarah turned towards my mirror and started patting her face. "Maybe if I used the right eyeshadow it wouldn't look completely ridiculous…Can I do my makeup in here? I broke my mirror."
            "Don't you have, like, five of those?"
            "I have two. And the little one's too small for my face."
            "We have plates smaller than that mirror, Sarah. How big do you think your face is?"
            "All I want to do is borrow your mirror! Why is that such a big deal? Come on, Lydia!"
            "I don't <i>mind</i>, it's just kind of <i>strange</i>-"
            "You're so selfish. Mom's always saying that. You never share."
            "Maybe I wouldn't mind sharing so much if you hadn't broken three pairs of my headphones, two cellphones, god only knows how many mp3 players-"
            "Hey, you broke the blue headphones with that chair."
            "You left it in the middle of the hallway! What did you expect me to do?"
            "Walk around it, maybe?"
            "It was in the middle of the hallway!"
            "It's a giant chair! How do you not see a giant chair?!"
            "It's not <i>giant</i>…"
            We went on like that for way too long, but the end result was Sarah's temporary possession of my mirror. It was very sad and tragic and a terrible blow to my self-esteem and all, but I had bigger fish to fry.
            Or lizards, more like it, as it'd been almost two weeks since my family's last Costco trip.
            I wandered around the house for a time, looking in linen closets, opening random cabinets, poking around the family room, still finding nothing. I sighed in frustration and sat down on the couch before banging a key on the piano. "Stupid, stupid, stupid thing."
            The key sounded muffled.
            Curious, I stood up and plunked the key again. Muffled. I pulled back the lid of the piano, and lo and behold, there was my backpack. And a dead lizard.

Step Four: Initiation
            "Well, <i>that</i> was a long day," I said, dumping my half-unzipped backpack on my living room couch, because that is exactly where that thing belongs.
            "I hate school," my sister said, dumping her textbook-laden bag directly on top of mine, because that is exactly where <i>that</i> thing belongs.
            "You're going to crush my laptop!"
            "Who brings a laptop to school on the first day?"
            "Who brings six textbooks to school on the first day?"
            "Freshmen."
            I couldn't argue with that.
            "I'm hungry," I said.
            "Make food," my sister said, wandering away into her room and sitting down at her desk. I followed.
            "I don't think we have any."
            "Go hunt," she suggested.
            "Do we have a crossbow anywhere?"
            "I don't think you totally understand how hunting works."
            "What's wrong with a crossbow?"
            "Are you trying to kill a <i>moose</i>?"
            "Moose make great afternoon snacks."
            "I don't think you totally understand how eating works, either."
            I leaned against her wall. "You think that bag of rice in the bottom of the drawer is still edible?"
            "If it hasn't become a sentient life form yet."
            "Does rice do that?"
            "I think it's been long enough for the forces of evolution to work their magic."
            It takes a lot of adaptation to survive my house.
            "This mirror sucks," Sarah grumbled. "It's all warped."
            "That's <i>my</i> mirror!"
            "Well, that explains it."
            School puts my sister in a very hurtful mood.
            "Give it back! It's mine, anyway!"
            "You lent it to me!"
            "Do you not understand the meaning of the word 'lend'?"
            "I'm your sister. Lending means its mine."
            "No, lending means if you don't give it back to me, I'll raise an army of lizards to steal it back in the dead of night."
            I don't think either of us totally understand the meaning of the word "lend."
            "Fine," my sister said. "It's terrible anyway." She picked it up. "Catch!"
            "No!" I screeched at her. She laughed.
            "Just kidding," she said.
            Then she threw it at me.
            It was a heavy mirror, and I could tell the lighthanded throw wasn't going to land anywhere near me. Desperately, I belly flopped onto the floor with one hand outstretched, because volleyball instincts are harder to kill than you might think.
            Note: Volleyball practice is not the best place to pick up mirror-saving skills.
            The mirror landed on the back of my hand at an angle, for maximum sharp-edge-digging power. Then it flopped over onto the side.
            "Did you just…ambush hug my floor?" my sister asked.
            "I think I broke my hip bones."
            "Was that some kind of overenthusiastic high five?"
            "I think I broke my hand too."
            "Why are you making love to my floor, Lydia?"
            "I don't think I can stand up."
            "Okay," my sister said. She nudged me out of the way with her foot, then set to work at her computer. "Look, Patrick's online!"
            "Sarah?"
            "Yes?"
            "I think I'm dead."
            "You'll be a more convincing corpse if you're quiet."
            I lay there in unsympathetic pain for another two hours, possibly falling asleep, possibly passing out, possibly really bad at keeping track of time.
            <i>I should probably figure out how this works before tryouts. </i>
            My sister remembered my plight around six, trying to push her chair back to go to dinner. "Are you still there?" she said incredulously.
            My sister is an incredibly observant person.
            "I think I'm dead," I repeated to her.
            "Get off my floor," she said. "It's dinnertime."
            "Are you sure our parents remember what that word <i>actually</i> means?"
            "No. But get off my floor anyway."
            I stood up. My hand still hurt from being crushed by a heavy metal mirror, but my hips seemed to have recovered. "Did I save the mirror?"
            "I don't know."
            I turned over the mirror to see the front. It had a huge crack in it.
            "You broke it," I said, my voice as broken as the mirror. "You threw it on your floor and I crushed my hand to save it and it still died."
            "It entered the Slater house," my sister said. "You knew it was going to die."
            I tilted my head to the side. "You're right."
            "Let's go eat dinner now."
            "It looks like it <i>belongs.</i>"
            "There's a sentient rice monster awaiting us, Lydia."
            "I'm going to go hang it back up," I declared.
            I carried it to my room, looked at the place it was supposed to be affixed to my wall, chucked it on my bed, and went to eat the rice monster.



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