Memoirs of a Phat Chick

Bras and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

 I would have seen it coming if I hadn’t been so preoccupied by the voicemail Monsignor Spit-vac had left. I heard him leave it. It wasn’t his first call to Fran. In fact, it may not have been his first call that week. I could have easily erased it but why bother. I couldn’t get in more trouble than I was already in. I was grounded from all of my activities, even the lame ones. Any belongings that mattered to me were confiscated. Even worse, I was a daily line item on the old ladies prayer list. No one envied that. Nothing was worse than knowing all the old ladies were praying for you to be someone you were sure you could never be. It took an act of congress or the second coming of Christ Himself to get off that list.

I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere besides Edward’s house, which was fine by me. None of that other stuff mattered if I could escape my own house. I could have been rehabilitated from all of my behavioral issues with relative ease if my parents could have tolerated my company for longer than an hour. A lucky break for me, depending on how you define luck, I guess.

Beep. This is Monsignor Spevak. I’m sure you know why I’m calling. Erin is just not adjusting to Catholic life. I doubt she possesses the intellect. Sister says she seems impervious to Christian doctrine, a well-documented indicator of demonic possession and something that should cause you grave concern. Regardless of how amusing your daughter finds our faith to be, this is no laughing matter. Sister says Erin is intentionally trying to drive her insane and that the only friend she’s made is a seventy-eight year old Jesuit. I don’t know what is wrong with her but…beep.”

Cut the windbag off, mid-bitch. He was right. I was trying to drive Sister crazy, even if she was already well on her way. I had extraordinary, nearly telepathic, button pushing skills, especially with the Catholics. And, so what, if I did have a 78 year-old Jesuit friend? It was one more friend than old Spit-vac ever had. Whatever. I knew Fran wouldn’t call him back. He already knew what was wrong with me. Most likely, something similar to what was wrong with him. It could be some sort of demonic possession. I’m no expert, although I didn’t think a fat girl would be a likely candidate. Seemed like overkill if you ask me. I thought being fat was about as bad as it could get. That was how the nuns had explained it. Sloth. Envy. Pride. Greed. Vanity. Wrath. Gluttony. I figured I was covered. I couldn’t spin my head around. That I knew. I tried it the second I saw Linda Blair do it in the Exorcist.

Days passed and no one mentioned the voice mail. Just as my false sense of security began to settle in, my brother burst into my room.

“I think you’re in trouble, again.”

I don’t know why he always felt the need to add “again.”

We assumed our usual positions next to the heating vent just as the grandmother was telling Fran that something was “overdue” and “settled” for Saturday. Maybe they were going to have me exorcized after all, as a precautionary measure. It may be terrible to admit but my heart leapt, for a second, in that rift that exists between hope and reality. I was ready for a change, just not the kind I got.

I wondered if it would be painful, the exorcism, like having a tooth pulled or getting hit with a line drive. They could check my head for sixes if they wanted. I didn’t see any when I looked. Peanut said they would dump me in water to see if I could float. He said that was how they tested witches. Floaters were doomed. He figured it had to be the same kind of criteria and suggested I prepare for the worst. He said his grandmother always said I was “full of the devil.”

I was relieved when Saturday finally arrived. I had lost sleep thinking of all the ways I could be exorcised. It didn’t help that Peanut added new potential tortures hourly.

“They’ll make you drink holy water to see if you explode. Maybe put bamboo under your fingernails, or poke you in the eyes with needles. At least until you talk.”

“Talk? Talk about what?”

“Until you tell them how you got possessed!”

“I’m not possessed!”

“If you say so but I’ve seen you float.”

I came downstairs dressed and ready to make a break for it the second cartoons ended. My heart pounded in my ears so loudly I could barely hear. I was on the brink of vomiting the entire time and barely touched my Honey Combs.

The grandmother stopped me just as I hit the front porch.

“You’re not going anywhere. Say goodbye to your friends and go do something with that hair.”

Wally, Edward, Sal and Peanut stood on my front porch, looking like pallbearers, white as sheets, as the grandmother closed the door in their troubled faces.

I said goodbye to my brother with a rather convicted sentiment. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. It was evident that he would make a rapid recovery. He never even looked away from the television. He’d miss me in a month or two. Maybe. I’m sure he was relieved by the prospect of a less volatile household. I couldn’t blame him.

The grandmother and Fran were already in the car when I got in. I was confused that none of my things were packed but figured there would be a uniform involved. Special ordered, no doubt.

We drove in silence.

I closed my eyes and prayed. I was notorious for praying only under duress, a deal maker from day one. They never worked. God didn’t listen to me. I understood why. He was disappointed in me. We were even. I was disappointed in Him too.

I opened my eyes when the car stopped. We were in front of the mall. I was perplexed. The grandmother hopped out before we came to a complete stop. I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to get out until Fran looked over his shoulder and grimly wished me “good luck.” Good luck? Why did I need luck?

I struggled to keep the grandmother’s pace. She was quick and clearly on a mission, a deadly combination, one that required me to be lucky. I had narrowly escaped complete humiliation during our most recent shopping trip when the grandmother discovered I could no longer fit into the conveniently paired Garanimals. I was grateful. I hated the potentially combustible, poly-fiber attire more than I hated my school uniform. At least with the uniform everyone looked equally ridiculous. The Garanimals craze was an attempt to get me to conform on a core level. I was having none of it. As it was, I mixed my monkeys’ with my lions’. It drove the grandmother bat shit.

We walked for what seemed an eternity. Finally we entered a section of the store I had never been in before. It was as far from the beaten path as a department could be while still housed in the same building. I could feel the shame before its contents offered an explanation.

“You need to start wearing a bra.”


This could not be happening. The concept had never occurred to me. I mean, I knew what they were and I assumed I’d be forced to wear one. Eventually. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would wear one voluntarily. Maybe the government regulated them or the church. Probably the church. It certainly could have been based on a medical need. Some of the women I’d seen obviously had a condition that would warrant one. Like Lisa’s Aunt Shirley, she could take you out with one boob from a hundred paces, clear the dinner table with an abrupt grab for the salt, suffocate the life out of you if you stood under four feet tall. Those kind of boobs should be monitored, for everyone’s safety.

A bra was the last thing I needed. Something like this was sure to broaden the separation between my peers and me, a quickly expanding rift as it was. That, and it would be discussed in the same way everything was discussed. Loudly. Publicly. Relentlessly.

I was due, I suppose. Edward had just gotten special glasses to correct his wandering eye. We had pretty much milked all of the eye material anyway, even though Wally and I secretly thought it was kind of cool. We wondered if Edward could see in two directions simultaneously. We tested him a few times by giving him the finger in his peripheral vision. Eventually Wally got caught. Edward pinned him on the ground and dangled spit in his face. They were disgusting.

He was getting off easy if you ask me. The eye was getting fixed. There was no fixing the bra issue. I’d much rather sport a magic spy-eye.

 Wally would still be Wally. That was some consolation.

I waited in the fitting room, horrified, wishing I were somewhere getting an exorcism, even if it required potentially exploding from holy water. The grandmother threw back the curtain and handed me what looked like a parachute without a canopy. I strapped it on with no instruction. I didn’t see the point of wearing one. I mean, who cared besides the grandmother? I looked at myself in the mirror. The bra felt tight and cut me in half, like a rubber band on a burrito. I could barely breathe. I was unaware that adjustments were possible I just knew they were necessary.

Once I put on a shirt no one would notice.

I arrived home to find Edward and Wally sitting on the curb waiting. Wally sprinted to the car the second we pulled in.

           “Thank God you’re home! We found a dead raccoon by the park. Peanut ran over it with his bike by accident. He’s home throwing up. You missed it.”

“I was trapped with the grandmother.”

“Did you have an exorcism?”

“I’m not possessed, Wall.”

“That’s not what Edward said. Right, Eddie? He said when you say the rosary you get hives. He’s seen them.”

I smacked Edward.

          “What? Sometimes if I sit behind you in church I swear I can see smoke.”


Sarcasm never found its way to Wally.

“I’m not possessed, jackass. Stop listening to Edward. Do you remember when he told you KISS was staying at Brian Kopeck’s house?”


“He told you to peek in the window to see them. What happened? Did you see KISS?”


“What did you see?”

“Old man Kopeck playing with his weenie.”

“So what does that say about Edward?”

“That he has no idea what Gene Simmons looks like?”

“God, you are an idiot.”

“Maybe. So, how come you’re wearing a back brace?”

In the weeks of bra torture that followed, I had never seen Edward so full of joy. He broke two bras in the first week.  You can only ask so much from fabric, even the elastic-y kind. My back was covered with welts. Peanut was so deft at strap snapping that he could do it while we were on our bikes riding at full speed. He nearly killed us both more than once.

This was only the beginning, the inception, coming attractions…

Crime and Punishment

The ability to keep me in class for an entire day proved impossible for the Sisters of Perpetual Humiliation. Since I had intentionally, and with some finality, burned my bridge at the rectory, the nuns needed to be clever if they were going to punish me.

Their first attempt was to lock me in the library. The only flaw in their master plan was that the library only stayed locked from the outside. I could come and go as I pleased and as long as I left a piece of tape over the lock no one was the wiser. One day, I walked to McDonald’s and had lunch. It was a whole other world during the day. I had no idea.

By the end of the second week I would boldly roam the school, ducking our janitor, Mr. Senko. It wasn’t difficult, he was a million years old and had a lift in his shoe, plus he was always humming Amazing Grace. It wasn’t such a sweet sound but a dead giveaway, that and the dragging foot. He must have been saved from something. He should have been praying about that foot if you ask me.

Lisa was the one who realized I had to be escaping.

“There is no way you are sitting in there all day. You would have called the Pope by now. Fess up.”

She knew me too well. I told her of all the adventures I had had so far. How I had been in the basement and that it housed shelves of all kinds of broken Jesus paraphernalia; headless statues with missing limbs and worn faces, each creepier than the next, none worthy of repair. It must be sacrilegious to toss them out. I tried to put a Mary back together once. I felt sorry for her. She always had the saddest expression on her face. I felt like helping repair her would buy me a few points. It was an unsuccessful attempt and I’m still waiting to see if there is any return on my intention.

I told Lisa how I had been spying on the penguins while they ate lunch. It was always strange to observe them in a pack like that. They rarely spoke to each other. They seemed joyless and lonely, exactly as I had suspected. Maybe they would make a few friends, even among the other penguins, if they weren’t so mean.

She shook her head and warned that it was only a matter of time. We both knew that I would push my luck. It seemed to be a reoccurring theme. I was on a good run and if it ain’t broke…but, like all good things, this too would come to an end.

I had just finished my rounds, checking out the basement, making faces at my classmates through the window, spying on the nuns. I was making my way back to the library when I saw the door was wide open. I could see Sister and her pet, Mary Alice Stasko, searching the room for me.

“I knew she was up to no good! She is an awful child!”

“I don’t think she really says her rosary after confession either, Sister.”

How did she know?

There was no way of avoiding trouble, so I didn’t.

“You looking for me?”

Sister was apoplectic and nearly purple. I burst out laughing. Although I did enjoy pushing her to the brink of madness, the laugh was involuntary though I doubt Sister would have believed that. She grabbed me by my arm and dragged me in the direction of the rectory. I turned to see Mary Alice, smug, satisfied. I gave her the finger. Why not? How much worse could it get? And, fuck her.

We arrived at the rectory just as Father Smotzer was walking back from old lady mass.

“Ah, Sister! You must have read my mind! I was just thinking of my friend and then, poof, she magically appeared!”

“Not so magical, Father. I’d be here everyday still if I didn’t get banned from the rectory.”

“Banned? Hardly. Well, Sister, unhand the child. I’ll see to it that she has a stern talking to.”

Father winked at me, right in front of Sister. She sucked her teeth.

“You should not encourage her to be so disobedient, Father. You’ll ruin her.”

“Ruin her? For what? A life in the convent? I think it’s evident she is no competition for your place at the table, Sister. Now, don’t you have a classroom to attend to?”

I looked to the window of our classroom. My classmates were plastered to the glass, not wanting to miss any of the action. I made eye contact with Lisa. She had her usual look of disgust. I was used to it. I waved. She didn’t wave back but I could tell she wanted to laugh.

Sister waddled off. I hated her. I tried not to. I didn’t want to end up in hell because of it. She wasn’t worth it.

It was a warm day for March. Father and I walked around the neighborhood. We went to the market on the corner. Father spoke to them in Polish and they gave us each a piece of freshly made keibalsi. We sat on the curb. As we ate, I told him of my two weeks in the library. He roared with laughter. I wasn’t sure what was so funny. I thought maybe it sounded funnier in his head with his accent. It cracked me up all the time.  He did say that all the praying in the world wasn’t going to fix Mr. Senko’s foot and that not all nuns were mean but he understood why I might think so. Father said he was glad I recognized the tune of Amazing Grace that it meant I was paying attention in church some of the time.

I should have told him that I paid attention to him; that I hung on every word of his sermons. I should have told him he was the only hope I had had for months, maybe years. I should have told him he saved me.

Should is an awful word.

By Monday, Sister was ready with plan B. My new punishment consisted of being sent to sit on the concrete wall that housed a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus. It wasn’t so bad and it was outside. I would spend several hours planted in the middle of the schoolyard. Mother Mary and baby Jesus were sculpted with white marble and on warm days I would lean my cheek against the feet of the aforementioned virgin. Sometimes I would fall asleep on the retaining wall with the cool comfort of the Madonna’s toes pressed to my face. 

Then April’s rain arrived. One afternoon, as I sat with Mary and Jesus, Lisa’s mom ran by. Her umbrella pulled tight to her head.

“What are you doing out here?”

“Punished. I’m not allowed in the rectory anymore or the library.”

“Why can’t you go to the rectory?”

“Eh, conflict of interest. Being out here is better.”

“What could you possibly be getting punished for?”

“You’d be surprised. All different stuff, sometimes I laugh too loud or ask too many questions. Some days I look fatter than others. Sometimes I’m shanty. I still don’t even know what that means. Today my desk was messy. Sister dumped it and sent me out here. I’m only missing religion. Sister says she can’t stand to look at my blasphemous face during religion anyway. Whatever. I feel the same way about her all the time.”

Lisa’s mother looked at me, confused. I could see her eyes fill with tears. Guilt washed over me.

“It’s okay. Honest.”

“Have you told your parents?”

“Nope, separation of church and state. There’s a lot going on at my house.”

She knew that better than most. I slept at her house most nights and only went home when absolutely necessary. Even then, I always brought Lisa with me.

“This is very wrong, Erin.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

I smiled but I could tell she was staying mad. She stormed into the church.

Within seconds Father Smotzer opened the church door.

“Shouldn’t you be atoning for your sins in here, my child?”

“Is it raining in there?”

“Ah! The choosy beggar!”

I ran inside. Father Smotzer hugged me.

“Erin, we need to fix this. I can’t have my best friend standing out there like a vagabond! What would the neighbors think?”

“Thank you, Father. I’m sorry for all the trouble.”

“You are no trouble my friend, no trouble.”

I sat in the farthest back pew and quietly cried as I listened to his Slovak mass in the background, with the old ladies chanting in the first pew.

After mass, Father Smotzer walked me back to school and called Sister out into the hall. The class was silent as we listened to Father Smotzer ream Sister out in Slovak. No one had ever heard Father Smotzer raise his voice or ever speak with the smallest hint of anger. We were shocked.

Alex was the only boy in my class who spoke Slovak. He was one of my best friends and equally prone to mischief but with immigrant parents he received preferential treatment. I didn’t begrudge him. It was difficult enough for him to have immigrant parents.

“Holy shit, he’s pissed! He says he will no longer condone her abuse of a helpless child. Helpless!” He snorted.

“He said you’re gifted and she is too stupid to see it. Yeah, a gifted ball-buster!”

All very true, I was hardly helpless and had made it my life’s work to undermine the penguins; it kept my skills sharp for the grandmother, or vice versa, it hardly mattered. Six of one, as they say.


Saturday was the best day of our week. Charlie’s Chips delivered his giant cans of cheese balls and potato chips to Wally’s house, cartoons started bright and early, and adventure waited just outside our front doors.

Every Saturday began the same and varied little in the eternity that followed its inception. By eight o’clock, Wally and Edward would burst through my front door, breakfast in hand, to find my brother well into his second hour of cartoons and third bowl of Fruit Loops.

My brother’s Saturday started at the crack of dawn. He watched every cartoon and he watched them religiously. I think he was an addict. I tried to get my parents to do an intervention once. I suggested it was for his own good but in reality I was just sick to death of watching Scooby Doo and The Flintstones after school everyday. When the mere mention of amending our viewing habits came up, my brother lost his mind; a valuable lesson in choosing my battles more judiciously.

Eventually, Fran usurped us both and kept us on a steady diet of Red Sox games and M.A.S.H. reruns.

To this day I still hate Scooby Doo and I’m completely certain my brother is a closet cartoon junkie.

We all have our demons.

The early morning cartoon fare was weak and never lured me from my bed a second before I had to get up. It was still dark when New Zoo Review started. I have no idea what those people were thinking. I made the mistake once and quickly realized it was hardly worth getting out of bed for at six in the morning. Davey and Goliath followed, with its creepy pious Claymation and dogma-ridden dialogue that would seep into my dreams early, planting seeds, just before consciousness would take its full grasp. Long enough for Davy to remind me I had things to feel guilty about when my feet hit the eventual floor. Then, Tom and Jerry, where at least I could drift carelessly, uninterested in who caught who: mindless, endless chasing was not my idea of a cartoon. I had standards after all.

Ultimately, I’d hear the three of them scheming, devising devilish tactics to rouse me. I’m not sure who they were kidding we all knew none of them would muster the courage to execute them.

“If we put her hand in warm water she’ll pee herself!”

 “We could crawl into her room with pots and pans and on the count of three just bang the shit out of them! It’ll scare her half to death!”

They’d roar with laughter. They were always Edward’s inspirations and immediately shot down by Wally.

Evil geniuses they were not. I would have shared their hesitation if I were plotting; retaliation was real and swift. I guess the planning had to be enough or at least that is what we told ourselves; I can’t say for sure but I know I never once woke up with anyone’s ass cheek pressed to my forehead or sporting a magic marker mustache.

Eventually, Peanut and Sal would arrive. Peanut was always half asleep. Sal would drag him across the yard to make sure they were there by nine. The best cartoons started at nine. I was always last. I would bolt from bed as soon as the first Bugs Bunny overture began. After the usual “it lives” “nice hair” comments, we’d all sit, silent, in our pajamas, eat cereal, and watch Bugs Bunny. Consume Bugs Bunny. By ten-thirty we would disperse, dress and be on our bikes, ready for escapade. My brother, in an effort to avoid trouble, and, because there were still several hours of cartoons left to watch, rarely left the house on Saturdays, at least before noon.

Sometimes we were already in trouble and punished by noon. Fran used to say that my brother was too scared to be stupid and I was too stupid to be scared. I guess there is some truth to that. It didn’t matter. I waited all week for Saturdays and I didn’t waste a minute of them. Especially since Sundays were hit or miss, depending on how church went.

We rode our bikes aimlessly hoping to come across a Whiffle ball game or a freshly paved sidewalk, ripe for initial carving, or a fight. We weren’t picky. We’d stop for candy and to investigate new road kill. One Saturday my mother came home from the grocery store crying. She said she had just hit a squirrel. We bolted from the house like it was on fire. We couldn’t get to the squished rodent quick enough. We never touched them, just marveled at the pure disgustingness of it all.

Just when we thought Saturday’s couldn’t possibly get better, so began haircut day in Wally’s garage. It was unbelievable, a rare divine gift. Other than Edward’s basement there wasn’t a better place to be, ever. Wally and I would set up milk crates close enough to be part of the action but far enough away to remain under the radar.

Mr. Janesky had five brothers. I have no idea who was the oldest or youngest. They all looked exactly the same. They would arrive at Wally’s early Saturday morning, each carrying his own case of beer. By mid-afternoon the beer was gone and the haircuts would begin. None of them were barbers and whomever had the misfortune of going last always got the worst haircut. More than once Mr. Janesky ended up with a buzz cut just to repair what Uncle Vic or Uncle Henry had done. Sometimes they would sport their unfortunate quaffs for the week and try their luck again the following Saturday. Wally and I would laugh for days about what each uncle must have looked like at work or bowling or whatever they did. I knew nothing of them beyond Saturday haircuts. They all knew me, Wally’s best friend; the one who did all the talking.

Once Mr. Janesky cut Uncle Russell’s ear, and while the others laughed, Uncle Russell chased Mr. Janesky around the yard until they were both too winded to continue. It was a few weeks, maybe longer, before haircut Saturdays resumed. Wally and I were heartbroken until we spotted Uncle Vic, beer in hand and looking like a vagrant, pull into Wally’s driveway. I nearly cried with joy. I loved Wally’s uncles, even if I couldn’t always tell them apart.

When then weren’t doling out haircuts, they partied. Every Janesky family gatherings took place at Wally’s house. I attended every one. The uncles would be inebriated upon arrival. During a picnic for Wally’s birthday, Uncle Henry ran over the Brown’s cat, Tootsie, while barreling into the driveway. Squished it dead. Wally and I barely got a good look at it before Mr. Janesky and Uncle Vic buried it in the back yard and swore us to secrecy.

We ran and told Edward immediately. A dead cat was too good to keep. By the time we returned Mr. Janesky was hosing Tootsie’s guts into the sewer drain. I bet Edward’s still mad he missed it.

Uncle Vic said it was better to let the Browns think Tootsie ran away than met his fate via El Camino.

It made me wonder if Wally’s dog really ran away. I don’t think Wally gave it a second thought though. I wondered if Wally ever wondered anything.  He certainly didn’t seem too.

The Page Twins

Wally, Edward, Peanut and I laid in wait outside of Mrs. Page’s home. We had been stealthily stalking her all summer as she waddled through our neighborhood on her daily walks. It was hard to believe someone could get so fat, so quickly, even if they were pregnant. We were careful not to be discovered. Last time we spied on someone we got caught. I still don’t know why we got in trouble. How were we supposed to know Hoppy’s parents would be naked? Shouldn’t they be the one’s who got in trouble? Who walks around the house naked in broad daylight? It had to be illegal. If not, it should be. It did explain why all of their furniture was covered in plastic

It was my mother’s turn, that day, to dole out the punishment and accompanying disquisition. Fran wouldn’t have been able to get through it with a straight face. It didn’t matter who drew the short straw. They shared the same opening question.

“What’s wrong with you?”

 I often wondered that myself. 

Fran started to snigger. My mother shot him a look.

“Don’t start!”

 “I know, but Christ almighty can you imagine what her ass looks like spread out on plastic? That couch must be like a slip and slide in August. I can never go there again.”

Fran had a point. We never wanted to see Hoppy’s parents naked ever again. To this day Wally can’t make eye contact with Hoppy’s mother.

We knew quitting the spy business was out of the question. We were gifted in the ways of espionage. We just needed to hone our skills. We trained like Navy Seals, perfecting a vast array of ninja-like dexterities. Even Wally was able to fabricate a working slingshot with some credibility, although he did shoot himself in the face, twice. We primed until we were virtually undetectable, moving silently through the underground of the heavily hedged yards, confident in our abilities to remain camouflaged at all times.

When we noticed Mrs. Page suspiciously lapping the block every afternoon, our curiosity was piqued. We decided we owed it to our community to make sure she wasn’t up to something. It was the perfect opportunity for us to put our newly acquired skills to good use. We owed it to our fellow man.

We followed her everyday. We wondered why she spent most of her walk laughing to herself. Peanut said that fat people were jolly and that maybe she got jollier the fatter she got. He knew lots of facts like that. It sounded reasonable enough to us, even though Fat Pat from the candy store was far from jolly. Every rule has its exception, I suppose.

Sal threw himself into our bush.

“Did she come out yet?”


“Well, my mother told me there were two of them in there!”

“Two babies? Is that even possible?”


“Twins? Creepy. Do you think she’ll give them to the circus?”

“Don’t be stupid, Peanut. You can’t just give babies to the circus. If you could, Wally would be somewhere being shot out of a cannon?”

Wally hit me with a stick.

“I’d rather be one of those clowns that gets to drive the little cars.”

I threw the stick back at him.

“What? I would?” he responded.

“How can she keep them? I bet she donates them to science. They’ll put them in jars, like pickles. I saw it on television, Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Disgusting.”

Finally the garage door slowly creaked open. We took deep cover and waited to see who or what would emerge.  Mrs. Page pushed a two-seated stroller out into her driveway and placed an identical baby in each seat.

We were in awe.  

Peanut was so overcome he waltzed right out of hiding, like he was in some kind of trance. Maybe that’s what happened when you got too close to twins. How would we know? We never even heard of twins before. I understand why he wanted a closer look. From what I could see the babies were red and shriveled, like newborn puppies, with loose skin and old man faces.

Mrs. Page didn’t look surprised to see Peanut crawl out from under the privet. Maybe having twins gave her special powers or maybe she already had powers and that’s how she got twins.  

“Hi Peanut.”

Peanut stared, transfixed, for a long time.

“Peanut? You okay?”

Finally unable to keep himself from imploding, Peanut erupted.

“What the heck is wrong with them? Are they supposed to look like baby hamsters? Are they aliens? Were you abducted by aliens? I bet that’s why you got fat so quick? Why did they make you take two of them? Isn’t one bad enough? Do you remember being on the alien ship? Are you going to donate them to the circus or to science? They’ll keep them in jars. Not the circus people, the scientists, like pickles.”

“Whoa, Peanut, take a breath little man. How do you talk so fast? This is Sara and this is Noah.  I just had them Friday. Pretty cute, don’t you think?”

“No. The one in the hat looks like Sal’s grandfather.”

Peanut was always deadly serious. Mrs. Page laughed anyway.

“So, you’re gonna keep them?”

“Of course! Haven’t you ever seen a newborn baby?”

“No. Do you think we could borrow them? I’m thinking we could set up a freak show right in Erin’s basement. Her mom let us do a haunted house. It was pretty scary even without the eyeballs. We peeled grapes for two days to make eyeballs. Erin ate them, so, they scared no one!” Peanut yelled in the direction of the bushes.

“Anyway, this would be better. We would make a fortune! With those two, and Wally’s deformed Aunt Julie? It could be great. His Aunt Julie has a goiter so big we named it Captain Stubbing, cause it kinda looks like him, except it has more hair, you know, from The Love Boat? She tries to cover him up with a scarf but he’s as big as her head. I don’t know who she thinks she’s fooling. Fran says she should draw a face on it and pretend she has a boyfriend. Ooh, and Mrs. Taft has that three-legged cat, Tripod! Edward has webbed pinky toes! He was gonna get them fixed but kept them in case his real mom is a mermaid and it’s the only way she’ll be able to identify him, kinda like Cinderella and the slipper but with webbed toes, plus he likes winning all the toe cheese contests. Webbed toes collect a lot of gunk.” 

Mrs. Page’s jaw hung. She looked at Peanut speechless.

“We’d pay you, of course, but you’d have to feed them and stuff. No one else is gonna want to touch them. I dared Wally to lick Captain Stubbing once. He didn’t do it. Instead he had to eat a spider and pee on Mrs. Olderman’s Cadillac for welching on a double dog dare.”

“Peanut, do your parent’s know any of this?”

“Yeah, that’s why I have to go to church every Sunday. My mom says it’s my only hope. I don’t know why she sends me. It’s the easiest place to get in trouble. I’m already not allowed to sit next to Erin, well, neither is Wally. She gets the worst church giggles I’ve ever seen. We think something’s wrong with her. She can’t help it and it makes us laugh. Wally says getting church giggles makes him gas-y. Things go bad quick when Wally starts blowing breezers. It’s really Edward’s fault. He’s up there in his alter-boy dress pretending to drink the wine or fall asleep and Erin loses it. So now we have to be separated and each stay in our own corner of the church. I can still hear her though. She snorts when she holds it in too long. She says it feels like her eye is going to pop out if she doesn’t let it out. I believe it. It sounds like that is exactly what is happening.”

Mrs. Page shook her head as she started to push her stroller down the driveway.

“Your parent’s have their hands full with the lot of you. Being a parent is going to be a tough job.”

Peanut yelled after her.

“It will be much harder for you, Mrs. Page, with them being freaks and all. Let me know if you change your mind about Erin’s basement. Her mom really will let us and we won’t put them in jars unless you say its ok.” 

As soon as Mrs. Page was out of sight we bombarded Peanut with rocks, sticks, acorns, anything we could find.

“What?” he shrieked as he tried to protect his vital organs.

“You got caught. She’s going to tell on you and then we are all going to get in trouble. Again!”

“I couldn’t help it! Did you see those things?”

Sal nodded.

“The one with the hat did look like my Grampa.”

I was panicked. I couldn’t afford to get into trouble. I had just gotten my bike back that day from my last punishment for the aforementioned church snort. 

“We have to split up. Pretend we didn’t see each other all day. Make people think we aren’t friends anymore.”

“Aw, c’mon! That means I’ll get in trouble alone! No fair.”

Edward reminded him that he did just saunter right out from hiding and that he did get us caught last time too. We could have gotten away from Hoppy’s house without incident if Peanut hadn’t started screaming like he’d just seen the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

“Fine. I’m never going to be able to quit church, am I?”

“Nope. None of you are. My soul is saved. I’m an alter boy.”

Mrs. Page never told Peanut’s mother about his offer to make stars out of her infants. It was a good thing too. Our plan to pretend to not be friends lasted exactly forty-two minutes. It was a long forty-two minutes.