December 20th, 1998
Seeing her doofus brother standing in her parent’s bedroom in front of their mom’s full length mirror without a shirt on – ew, boys were really gross, she noted – her face scrunched up like she smelled something bad.
She couldn’t actually smell him from where she was standing, but she was sure nonetheless that he was probably stinky.
Holding his arms up with his elbows bent and his fists clenched in a still pose, not unlike the Macho Man Randy Savage Bash N’ Brawl doll she’d just taken from his room – her Barbie’s new club needed a bouncer – seeing it reminded her to hide it behind her back before she let her presence be known by asking him, “Whatcha doin’?”
Forgetting all about admiring his newly formed muscular physique, Eric wrapped his arms around his bare chest to hide his nipples from his baby sister and yelled, “Jesus, Pammy! You’re supposed to knock!”
“Is that a curse?” she asked and seemed to think it over for a second before declaring, “I think that’s a curse. You just cursed the baby Jesus. I’m tellin’ mommy when she gets home.”
“I didn’t curse,” Eric grumbled. “I was cursed by getting you for a baby sister!”
Rotten little tattle tale.
“You take that back or I’m tellin’ mommy!” she shrieked, using his Macho Man Randy Savage figure to point at him threateningly.
“Hey!” he yelled back, marching forward and ripping the doll from her hand, with his naked nipples long forgotten. “That’s mine!”
And because she didn’t look distraught enough for his liking, he tauntingly mocked, “I’m tellin’ mommy!”
“Eeerrrriiiiiiiicc…” she whined, with her desperation taking over her want to get her brother in trouble for having a potty mouth. And then forming the pleading outstretched arms pose only a six year old can, with her freshly painted Create A Color Nail Salon nails prominently displayed, she explained, “I need him for Barbie’s new club!”
And so he would know just how dire her need was, she added, “The Spice Girls are comin’ to put on a show.”
She knew because she’d already asked Santa for the entire set, which came with all five Spice Girls and five mini collectible dolls.
“The crowd will be huge!” she added with huge eyes at his blank stare.
“That’s stupid,” he huffed, while inspecting Randy’s torso for the glitter that always seemed to be attached to his baby sister.
The Macho Man wouldn’t be so macho covered in glitter.
“Your face is stupid,” she mocked back.
Because boys were seriously stupid faces.
Deciding then and there she would never have anything to do with any boys, she knew she was stuck with that one for life – mommy had been very clear about that – so Pam tried a different tactic and said, “What if I tell you what Santa told me when I went to see him at the mall?”
Rolling his eyes, Eric bit his tongue to keep himself from telling her there was no Santa. She was just a stupid baby, so of course she still believed in him.
But she was his stupid baby sister, and while he would have no problem popping the heads off of all of her Barbie dolls just to hear her screech, he wasn’t about to spoil the magic of Santa for her.
But Eric was a man now, so he knew better.
About the ‘there being a no Santa Claus’ thing.
Not about the ‘popping the heads off of her dolls’ thing.
He was always game for that.
But at nearly twelve years old, he was so grown up now he was even pretty sure he saw the makings of a whisker growing in on his chin.
Take that Dawn Green!
She had been his girlfriend over the summer, but when it had been time for him to go away to his new boarding school, she had broken up with him.
Something about them growing in different directions.
What in the hell was that supposed to mean, anyway?
She’d probably heard it on an episode of Oprah.
But now he was growing muscles and whiskers, so Dawn Green and Oprah could both just suck it.
He’d only just come home for Christmas break the day before, so he hadn’t seen her yet.
Not that he wanted to.
But he’d be sure to flex his muscles and jut his chin out if he happened to see her around.
Not that he would anytime soon, since he was stuck watching Pam. Their mom and her dad, Tom, both had to work that day, so he was in charge until one of them got home.
Because he was a man now and old enough to take care of bratty baby sisters named Pam.
“Oh no!” said bratty sister gasped, covering her mouth in horror, with her every color of the rainbow nails making her face look like a polka dotted Easter egg.
But while Eric might be newly home, he wasn’t newly born, so he knew better than to play into that trap. So he ignored her as he made his way back to his room to put Randy Savage back into his rightful place alongside Hulk Hogan and to see what else she may have stolen from him.
Pam’s sticky fingers had nothing to do with her stupid rainbow painted nails.
Trailing behind him in a stealth-like silence that was, quite frankly, unnatural for a six year old to possess, she was so stricken she didn’t even get any satisfaction seeing him jump like a big ole scaredy cat, when she came to a stop right behind him and demanded, “You have to take me to the mall!”
“No I don’t!” he shouted back, more so from not hearing the Bride of Chucky coming up behind him, while inadvertently slamming Randy over one of his bare nipples in fright, with the smack of his palm covering the other echoing through the room.
He only winced a little.
Because he was a man now.
Eric had been away at school when the movie had come out around Halloween, so he hadn’t been able to see it yet.
And he liked to imagine his mom would’ve let him see it, even if maybe his imagination was way off from reality.
“Yes you do!” Pam shot back.
“No I don’t!”
“Yes. You. DOOOOO!” she screamed, so mad she stomped both feet by hopping in place.
Knowing from experience this could last all day long, Eric decided to shut it down now by asking, “Why do you want to go to the mall?”
And quickly realizing his mistake, he held Randy Savage up in front of her face to halt what could potentially be an all-day/all-night affair, to clarify, “What do you need from the mall?”
His lips pulled into a grimace, knowing even that approach could have Pam listing everything from Auntie Anne’s pretzels to trinkets from Zales, so he braced himself for whatever would come out of her mouth.
Sounding the exact opposite of when she’d nearly caused the windows to rattle from their frames, her meek voice wobbled as she said, “I need to talk to Santa.”
“No you don’t,” he automatically replied.
Because little did she know, that guy at the mall was nothing more than a lie.
But it was a truth he wasn’t about to tell her, even if he hoped telling his mom he really wanted the new Pokemon Red game for his Nintendo Gameboy would work as well as telling Santa.
Hearing the flippancy in his tone, Pam didn’t know that was the word for it. But she did know hearing it that he would never take her if she told him the truth.
The truth being that she’d forgotten to tell Santa about the almost-as-important-as-getting-all-five-Spice-Girls-and-five-mini-collectible-dolls she wanted for Christmas.
But she only found out the night before that she needed the Barbie Porsche Boxster she’d seen on a TV commercial.
The Spice Girls couldn’t go to the club unless it was in style.
It might be only a two-seater, but they could share.
She wasn’t a complete brat.
But she was bratty enough to use whatever she could to get her way and she knew of one way to get him to agree.
“You know,” she began, trying her best to sound casual. “Maybe you’re right.”
Seeing his head snap her way – because Pam admitting he was right about anything was surely either a Christmas miracle or a sign the apocalypse was on the horizon – she stared down at her bare feet – silently noting she needed to freshen the polish on her toes – and said, “I just figured you would want to go since I know Dawn Green hangs out there now.”
Pam thought she was kinda trashy – even if she didn’t know that was the word for it – but she wasn’t above using said trash to get her brother to agree to take her to the mall.
“What do you know about Dawn Green and where she hangs out now?” he asked with narrowed eyes, feeling equal parts skeptical and incensed.
While he had chosen to follow in his fallen hero father’s footsteps towards a life in the military, she was hanging out at the mall?
That was them growing in different directions?
Eric didn’t really care.
But he kind of did.
And that feeling only increased a thousand-fold hearing Pam say, “I overheard her telling Dylan Mason she would meet him there in the food court today, when I was at the park a few days ago.”
It was all lies, of course.
Something Eric would have realized – because Pam didn’t do outdoors if she could help it – had his mind not automatically become clouded in a red haze of rage.
Dylan Mason was his archenemy.
Ever since the Playground Incident of 1992.
A fact Pam was well aware of and was taking full advantage of.
Taking a deep breath, he dropped Randy Savage onto the top of his bed after feeling the Macho Man’s arm digging into his sternum, and sighed out, “Even if we wanted to go to the mall, it’s too far away to walk.”
It was two towns over, with an interstate in between, from where their house was and there were no city buses in suburbia.
“So…you can drive us,” Pam suggested, with wide-you’re-my-big-brother-hero eyes.
But seeing the denial forming in his are-you-nuts eyes, before the words could form in his mouth, she quickly added, “You’re a man now. Isn’t that what you said?”
Because he had said it.
Like a frillion times, by Pam’s count, since he’d gotten home the night before.
Clearly not wanting to contradict himself on his manliness state of being, he tried to figure out a way to put her off, without admitting he wasn’t man enough to drive them anywhere.
Not because he couldn’t.
Because he could.
If he wanted to.
Which he kinda sorta did.
But he shouldn’t.
Shouldn’t get caught.
Looking down at her, still in her Beauty and the Beast Belle pajamas, he reached for a shirt from his closet, only saying, “You can’t go out like that, so go change.”
If Pam’s responding squeal made dogs three blocks over start barking in surprise, Eric would never know.
His hearing didn’t fully return for another ten minutes.
“WHERE IS THE KEY FOR THE CAR?”
“Quit yelling at me!” Pam shouted back, having put down the armful of dolls she would be taking with her to see Santa to hold one hand over the ear closest to her shouty brother, while using the other to dig in the junk drawer she was sure her parents had dropped the key into.
The car they had at their disposal was definitely a piece of junk and should have been disposed of a long time ago.
Or so her mommy had said.
The car belonged to her daddy back when he was still in college.
Her mommy told him he didn’t get his money’s worth since he wasn’t smart enough to unload that hunk of junk.
Pam agreed with her mommy that the 1988 Pontiac Fiero would never reach ‘classic’ status, whatever that meant.
She knew enough to know that it was ugly.
But while it might have been more rust than red in color now, she knew it still worked because her daddy took it out for a spin every once in a while.
Those were the times Pam and her mommy would laugh the loudest before closing the curtains, so no one would know they were related to him.
Finally spotting the Bon Jovi key chain with the words ‘Slippery When Wet’ engraved on the front, she snatched it from the depths of the drawer, filled with an odd assortment of shoestrings, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and macaroni art, holding it up in triumph and saying, “I found it!”
“YOU FOUND IT!” Eric grinned, wondering why Pam cringed, but not caring enough to ask her about it.
Knowing they only had a few hours before someone would be home, they both ran out to the car and got in.
Finding he only needed to move the seat forward just a little, in order to reach the pedals, Eric knew he’d been right.
He was a man now.
Glancing over to make sure Pam had buckled herself in – safety first was his motto – he buckled himself in and then turned the key in the ignition, grinning wide when it started on the first try.
But that grin faltered a bit, seeing the car was a stick shift.
He’d never driven a stick shift before.
Then again, he’d never driven anything that wasn’t an RC car or in Gran Turismo on his PS1.
But how hard could it be?
The guys in NASCAR made it look pretty easy.
Eric soon found out otherwise.
It was very hard.
And he may have lost it a little, after hearing Pam voicing her complaints on the umpteen jarring starts and stalls and grinding of gears, using her dolls as her puppets to yell at him for doing it wrong, when he turned to face her and yelled, “I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND!”
“You haven’t even gotten out of the driveway,” a disgruntled yellow bodied My Little Pony doll, with a pink and purple mane held inches from his face, informed him in Pam’s voice.
Eventually they made it out of the neighborhood and were soon merging onto the interstate. Eric hadn’t known quite what to expect, but heavy traffic in the middle of the day wasn’t it.
He’d been pretty good – read: paranoid – about keeping his eye on the speedometer.
The last thing they needed was to draw any attention from the cops.
Pam was lost in her own little world, using her dolls to perform a six year old’s musical rendition of ‘Wannabe’ – which mostly consisted of singing the same two lyrics over and over again – so she only knew all was not right on the highway when she felt the engine gunning and the car swerving, just as she heard her brother yell out, “ASSHOLE!”
Pam had no doubt that was a curse word.
But Pam also had no doubt pointing that fact out to her now crazed looking brother would be a very bad idea.
Eric was pissed.
It hadn’t taken him long to figure out that he had to go a little above the speed limit in order to keep up with the flow of traffic.
It also hadn’t taken him very long to figure out that some people were just assholes.
One asshole in particular had just nearly sideswiped them in an attempt to cut them off, as their truck was merging onto the interstate.
Eric had seen him coming, but there was a line of cars a mile long to his left, so he’d had nowhere to go other than forward.
The dick should’ve waited.
But now the dick was stuck behind him, blaring on his horn and likely giving them rude hand gestures.
Eric had no way of knowing since all he could see in the rearview mirror was the top of the truck’s hood.
It was that close.
So Eric let off the gas a little in retribution.
Getting nervous at not only the psychotic look in her brother’s eyes, but at the car horn blaring right behind them, Pam dared to turn and look out the rear window. What she saw had her facing forward again and bracing her arms and legs as much as she could, silently praying to the baby Jesus her brother had cursed, not even noticing the massacre of My Little Ponies and Polly Pockets taking place on the floorboard just below where her feet had once dangled.
Seeing in the Fiero’s side view mirror a wildly gesticulating fist waving through the driver’s side window behind him, Eric slowed down so much he needed to downshift.
By the time they finally reached the exit for the mall some ten miles later, the Fiero had been reduced to a crawl of no more than thirty miles per hour and hadn’t been out of second gear in the last twenty minutes.
Pam felt like her short life had flashed before her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief, up until that moment, certain she would never see her seventh birthday.
Hearing the continuous blare of the truck’s horn as he was finally able to speed on by, Eric felt nothing but satisfaction.
Pulling into the mall’s filled to the brim parking lot was yet another unexpected surprise. But really, it shouldn’t have been.
It was Christmas time.
Finding an empty parking spot was a two-man operation, with Pam taking off her seatbelt so she could sit up on her knees, with her head sticking out of the open car window and her eyes glued to every shopper that exited the mall.
“There!” she yelled, pointing at the frazzled woman stepping off of the sidewalk in front of the mall. But seeing the minivan pull up to her in the next second, she added, “Never mind.”
Eric minded very much, but not over that.
He couldn’t see that, since the upper half of Pam’s body was sticking up above the roof of the car.
And, therefore, out of his line of sight.
What Eric minded was not seeing Dawn Green or Dylan Mason walking through the parking lot, either on their way into or out of the mall.
Because he really wanted them to see him driving.
Finding a parking space would just be a bonus.
Losing untold minutes of her preciously short life, Pam eventually spotted a parking spot that Eric may or may not have stolen out from under an old woman.
He would feel ashamed of himself, if he wasn’t feeling so satisfied.
Hopping out of the car, Pam used the front bottom half of her shirt to make a basket to hold all of her ponies and Polly Pocket dolls, with the two of them finally heading into the mall.
There were people everywhere, but that didn’t stop them from moving forward on their mission.
One – to make Dawn Green regret her life choices. Which was why Eric was allowing the car key to artfully – but casually – dangle from his fingertips.
The other – to make sure Santa knew the Spice Girls had conditions to performing their Christmas concert. One of them being, arriving at the venue located on Pam’s bedroom floor in a Barbie Porsche Boxster.
Since their two missions happened to coincide – Santa’s Workshop was smack dab in the middle of the food court – the two siblings maintained their proximity to one another.
So they both came to a standstill at the exact same moment.
In front of their unbelieving eyes was not Dawn Green or Dylan Mason. Nor did they take notice of the mile long line to climb up on Santa’s lap.
Standing directly in their path – and caught in their sights – was their mother and Pam’s father.
With wide disbelieving eyes of their own, the couple moved toward them in seemingly slow motion.
The Slippery When Wet key chain slipped from Eric’s fingertips, catching their eye on its way down, and only making their eyes wider in the knowledge of how the brother sister duo had gotten to the mall.
Being subjected to a rerun of her very short life flashing before her eyes yet again, Pam did the only thing she could do.
Throw her brother under the bus in order to save herself.
Dropping to her knees, with the now scattered ponies and Polly Pockets getting kicked in all directions from the feet of random passersby, she broke down into hysterical sobs and pointed at her still in shock brother, exclaiming, “He made me come with him!”
“Did not!” he yelled back.
Coming to a stop directly in front of her miscreant son and daughter, their mom just shook her head in disgust before shaking the plastic shopping bag in her hand directly in their faces.
Through the tears and plastic, Pam was able to make out the box for a Barbie Porsche Boxster in the bag, while Eric’s eyes zeroed in on the Nintendo Gameboy Pokemon Red game.
But they knew enough to know they shouldn’t be feeling any joy over that fact.
Their mom proved there wouldn’t be a joyous Christmas for either one of them, when she walked over and tossed the bag into the Toys for Tots bin before dragging them both out of the mall.