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Life With Brothers
My brother Max and I have always had a very special relationship. I have one with Woody also, but Max and I have more in common. When Max and I were younger, he cried a lot. He always had trouble with the children at his school. My family would always try to comfort him with words, but he would be comforted the most when I gave him a silent hug.
I remember that as he got older, he had more trouble with kids at school. As a result, he went through many defensive phases. I remember his Goth phase most vividly. He had changed his hair color/style almost every week, and his favorite pants had been black with chains from Hot Topic.
I remember when Max and Woody had been determined to “toughen me up” for the kids in Elementary School and Middle School—most likely because of their experiences. Woody was galloped around in a headlock at recess in Elementary School, and Max had had a hard time for being short and pudgy. Woody now has a black belt in karate, and Max has sprouted to six foot tall and has grown muscles galore, not to mention outgrown ADHD. This is a minor disease and is just a medical term for a short attention span.
They try to “toughen me up,” funnily enough, by criticizing and insulting me. This and a number of other things have caused my dad to pour milk on, throw a chair at, throw a can at, and scream at Max. This has caused me to yell out my dad and cry. Again, funnily enough, I don’t get a chair thrown at me. I can’t say that Max doesn’t deserve it (on a number of occasions he has been very disrespectful toward my parents), but I think my parents might have given a more effective punishment.
I remember Max punched a hole in the wall because my babysitter had irritated him, and he had had to plaster it over. I remember the smell of singed plaster and the sight of it crumbling. He scared me half out of my wits.
And I remember an important incident that happened this past summer . . .
Max, Woody and I were doing DDR around August—or rather, I was doing DDR while Woody and Max showed off. DDR is short for Dance Dance Revolution. It is a pad that you hook up to the TV—sort of like a videogame, except physical. This was the conversation that was happening behind me while I jumped and stepped.
“Hey! Watch this! I’m going to do a double kick!” announced Max.
“Quit showing off, Max!” ordered Woody.
“Mollie, watch--I’m going to do a double kick!”Max repeated.
So Max aimed a double kick at our very low basement ceiling. The next thing I heard was a loud crack and a thud. And the next thing I saw when I turned around was Max crouched on the floor, holding his head.
“AAAHH! Oh my god!,” I screamed, involuntarily.
“Shut up, Mollie!” Max shrieked in pain. “You always overreact to everything!”
I shut up and went upstairs. On the soft, beige chair in the living room, I started to cry.
I was so scared that Max was hurt. Our parents were away visiting my sick grandmother in New York (who is better now but used to be in clinical depression).
About five minutes later, Woody came upstairs looking weary and frightened. This got me even more scared. Although Woody is always half asleep, I had never seen him frightened.
“Woody, what’s wrong?” I asked tearfully.
“Well, um, Max’s sort of bleeding.” Woody said.
“What!” I shrieked and started to cry again. At that moment, the doorbell rang. It was Woody’s girlfriend, Deirdre. They’d been together for almost three years. Deirdre went to Pitt her first year of college, then switched to the Community College. Woody’s in his second year at Pitt.
“What’s wrong?” asked Deirdre, alarmed.
“It’s M-m-Max! H-he split h-his head ooo-open! O-on the ceiling d-downs-stairs!” I blubbered.
“Woody! What happened?” Deirdre asked curiously.
“Max,” Woody took a deep breath, “was showing off downstairs and collided his head with our low basement ceiling.”
“Is he alright?” Deirdre asked in a hushed voice.
“He should be,” Woody said. Woody went downstairs and Deirdre hugged me. A moment later he came up.
“Max wants to see you,” he said. “He says he’s sorry for yelling at you and wants to apologize. I think he’s more upset about that than bleeding from his head,” he added with a grin.
I went downstairs, shaking, and crying. I saw Max come out of the bathroom holding a mass of bloody paper towels to his head. His eyes were as red as the blood. I stifled a shriek when I remembered that’s what made him yell at me in the first place.
“It’s okay,” Max said with a watery grin. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.” He hung his head and I realized he was hiding his tears.
“It’s okay.” I buried my face in his sleeve. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” He rewarded me with another watery smile.
“I think you should go to the hospital. Mommy and Daddy have left our health insurance cards,” I said urgently.
“It’s fine.” He said. I gave him a doubtful look. I went upstairs and told Woody to persuade him to go to the hospital. He went downstairs. Deirdre and I went upstairs to my parents’ big bedroom. She hugged me again and I cried.
Woody came upstairs a few minutes later. “He’s very reluctant to go,” he said.
“I’ll watch Mollie while you two go to the hospital,” Deirdre volunteered.
“Okay. Why don’t you two go for a walk in the park?” Woody said with a wry grin.
“Okay, Mollie—you know where the house keys are, right?” Deirdre asked.
“Right,” I choked out.
“’Kay then, we’re goin’ for a walk.” She said and grabbed my hand and dragged me downstairs.
“Bye, Max! Bye, Woody!” I yelled over my shoulder as we slammed the door.
We went for a long walk through Frick Park. The sun shone on the green leaves as a perfect gold tint. My terrified mood had almost evaporated. Almost. I was almost skipping in spite of the stones on the dirt trail. Deirdre and I talked about Max. We talked about Woody. We talked about ourselves. We talked about school. Finally, we got home. Max and Woody weren’t back yet. We went into the house and played DDR. Eventually, I heard a car door slam.
“They’re back!” I squealed. I raced upstairs and out the front door.
“Max! Woody!” I shouted. “Max, are you okay? Woody, what happened?”
“Once you guys were gone, I persuaded Max to come to the Emergency Room. Deirdre said that since it could be a head fracture, he’d need to go. He got a CAT scan and some staples.” Woody said.
“What—a CAT scan? Staples? Why would he need staples? What’re you talking about?” I asked.
Woody grinned. “ A CAT scan is to make sure your brain works okay. Staples are like stitches.”
“He looks okay to me,” I said, forgetting to insult him. Max grinned.
That night, Max cooked up stuffed tomatoes, onion soup, and salmon. Deirdre stayed for dinner, but I was still nervous that his head might split open any second into his plate of ingenious deliciousness.
The next day, my parents would be home. The day before, Deirdre had called my parents and told them what had happened. Unbelievably, they said, “Oh, he’s all right! He has a hard head from all those times banging his head as a kid. We’ll be home tomorrow as planned.”
The next afternoon, Max had an idea.
“You know what’d be cool?” Max asked. “It’d be cool for Mom and Dad to come home to a restaurant. I’d obviously be the chef; Mollie could be their waitress; and Woody could be the Maitre d’. We don’t have to if you don’t want to, though,” he finished hastily, looking at our faces.
“What the heck are you talking about?!” I shouted, “That’s a great idea!”
“Yeah, Max,” said Woody. “But do you think we can get it done by the time they get home?”
“Yeah, sure, no prob.” Said Max airily. “Okay, so we need to make menus and decide what I should make.”
“Oooh! We should put fake stuff on the menus, like horse hooves with apples or cow intestine with tongue!,” exclaimed Woody.
“Good idea, Woody!” Max said, impressed.
“Eeew! Hooves! Intestine! Tongue! You guys are disgusting!,” I said, disgusted. “Whatever. I have a perfect waitressing outfit, though. Just like in the restaurants!”
“Cool,” said Max, “Let’s start the menus!” He ran upstairs to get some special sweet smelling ink to make them with.
When he came down, I said, “We should have a name for our restaurant. How about the MS Restaurant?!” Those were the initials for our last name.
Woody and Max looked at each other. I could tell that they wanted to include me, but they thought that they could come up with something better.
“Well…” said Woody, faltering at a reproving glance from Max.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Max. He had been acting unusually nice to me since he had his head split. He either had a concussion or was still guilty about yelling at me. “Woody, you use the calligraphy pen to write out our name. Your other job is to make three menus. Mollie will help you and I’ll see what we can use to cook.”
“Yes sir, General Max,” Woody muttered.
“Oh, be quiet. I’m the cook and it was my idea.” Max retorted. I was irritated that I was just a helper, but I hid it.
“How about salmon for Daddy and a veggie dish for Mommy?” I suggested.” For the entrees, of course. We should have appetizers and buttered bread, too.”
“Wow!” said Woody, and I knew he wasn’t being sarcastic.
“You’re going to be a great waitress!” said Max, sounding genuine. “Maybe you should say stuff like “Sir, may I suggest the Supreme Salmon?” And stuff, so they don’t order the wrong dishes.”
“Okay!” I answered. “Get started on the menus while I change into the waitressing outfit!” I went upstairs to change. It really was the perfect waitressing outfit, I remember thinking. It was a long-sleeved white shirt with ruffled smocking at the rounded neck and ends of the sleeves. The pants were black leggings that stopped right below the knee. Where the legging stopped, there was smocked lace. After I changed, I put in black earrings and hairclip and went downstairs.
Woody and Max were working on the menus. I peered over their shoulders to see what they had so far.
“Okay, so we have lentils and tomatoes and stuff, so I could make a vegetable soup. Mom would like that.” Max was saying. “And I remember this recipe for onion bread that I could use.”
“What do you have with the calligraphy pens so far?” I asked. Woody showed me examples of thin and thick MS’s made of swirls on a napkin.
“How’d you do that?” I exclaimed.
“Lots of practice,” Woody answered. “Hey, Mollie, what else do you think we should put in the menus?”
“I don’t know. I thought your idea for putting in fake dishes was a good one.” I replied timidly. “What do you have down for desserts?”
“So far, just grilled fruit, stuffed apples, and ice-cream.” Max said. “And for beverages, wine, tea, iced tea, water, and crystal light.”
“I think a computer would be much easier, not to mention quicker.” Said Woody.
“Yeah, and you can do cooler designs.” I agreed, and looked at Max.
“Okay. Woody can do that while you help me with the bread.” Max said.
We finished everything about ten minutes before my parents were due home. After what seemed like forever, I heard a car pull up in front of my house. I looked out the window, and there, as I knew it would be, was my parent’s car. When they came inside, MS’s maitre d’ greeted them.
“Good evening, Monsieur and Madame. Would you be kind enough to sit in the waiting room while your table is prepared?” Woody said suavely. They sat in their own living room. Earlier, Max had made the dining room table look like that of an expensive fancy restaurant or hotel than our own home’s. With a pad of paper and pencil, I led them to their table.
“Hello. My name is Mollie and I will be your waitress tonight. Here are your menus and call me when you need me.” I said.
After about two minutes my dad signaled me.
“I think we’re ready.” He said.
“Yes?” I asked.
“May I have the white wine and some water?” he asked.
“No problem.” I said.
“And may I have the same?” my mom asked. I nodded and wrote it down. I came back a second later with my arms filled with glasses of wine and water.
“Have you made up your minds?” I questioned.
“We’d like everything, of course.” My mom said promptly, looking at me as if I were crazy.
“Well, we’re out of cow intestine with tongue and horse hooves with apples.” I said matter of factly.
“Aaaw, that’s two bad!” Mom said with a pout.
“We’ve had a very busy day.” I said.
“Well, everything except that then.” Said Dad. I went to the kitchen and told Max and Woody.
“But we only have enough salmon for Dad!” he said, starting to panic.
“I’ll tell them,” said Woody. He walked into the dining room. “Monsieur and Mademoiselle, I am afraid that we only have enough of the salmon left for one person.”
“Okay then, you can serve it to him,” mom said. I went into the kitchen and told Max. When I brought out the soups with Woody, Mom and Dad invited us to get a bowl of soup and sit with them. Around that time, we stopped playing the formal host. We sat down and ate the rest of the meal with them, only stopping to bring in the next course. The meal was better than I had had in any other restaurant, and only made better by the fact of eating it with my family.
Eventually, Max joined us for dessert. We had grilled fruit and apples stuffed with cinnamon, sugar and a sweet fruit sauce.
As so often happens, my family was around the table: my stylish, energetic brother Max, my quiet, correcting, sleepy brother Woody, my beloved Mom and Dad, and me. Even though I know it can’t always be this way--What with my brothers going to college and parting ways-- I’m sure all of us will always have cherished memories of sitting around our faded wood dining room table together eating dinner.