It is the Sunday before Halloween and we’re at my brother’s house to watch the Chargers commit seppuku yet again. The game hasn’t even started, but that’s what we say to each other: “Hi. How are you? Come in. Watch the Chargers kill themselves.” We are very positive in our negativity, which is nice, don’t you think? Positive people make the world a better place.
Within 2.79 seconds of our arrival, The Banshee Sisters — Original 6, Baby nearly 3 — insist I jump on the trampoline with them. No problem. I love the trampoline. I could jump on it for hours and hours but I worry that my boobs would bounce off my body or prematurely stretch themselves into irreparable “knee shooters” as MB respectfully calls old lady boobs. Of course, I share none of this with The Banshee Sisters because it’s not their problem now, is it? Although if they take after Tee Tee, it will be some day.
So we climb through the net onto the trampoline. It’s crisp and cloudy. The air is moody grey, my favorite kind of day. I start jumping, but by my second jump, Original Banshee is channeling her inner despot, barking her critiques.
“Tee Tee! You’re going too high! You’re too close to me! Don’t chase me! Or tickle me! Don’t be scary! No smoking on the trampoline! Recycle your bottles and cans! Bring your seat backs and tray tables to their upright positions!”
I mean, when one is a 3-and-a-half foot dictator, one must be very thorough, because that is all one has.
I smile down at her, keep jumping.
“Uh, Banshee, next time, do you think you could you post these rules on the trampoline net? Tee Tee can’t remember all 653 of them.”
“Tee Tee! I am serious!”
“So am I.”
Smile. Smile. Jump. Jump.
Finally, I jump too close to her on purpose, bouncing her in the air about 6 inches. You know, just to jar the tyrant out of her.
Oh. Oops. If one can say oops for something one did on purpose.
But suddenly she’s up and jumping and laughing like a kid instead of barking like a despot, for a few minutes anyway. Until the unfortunate return of The Little Dictator. I love her to bits, but the kid is a Shirley Temple movie on steroids.
“Tee Tee, you need to be a zombie.”
“Yeah. Doesn’t she need to be a zombie, Baby?”
“Yesh,” breathes Baby Banshee.
Baby is sitting on the perimeter of the trampoline, little fingers smushed in her mouth, little legs folded under in that rubbery inhuman way that only a toddler can do. Her big moon eyes go up down up down as she watches me jump. These days, Baby Banshee is a shy and whispery girl, even around family. Outside of her parents and Baby Banshee, she will hug only Younger Nephew and me and we had to really work for it, had to earn the reluctant hug privilege.
Still, for such a reticent child, she has an opinion on the zombie thing.
“Yesh. Tee Tee needs to be a zombie.”
I assume a zombie stance. Stare down at Original Banshee. Start to slowly make my moaning way towards her. Baby Banshee giggles.
Original Banshee does not.
“NO, Tee Tee! That’s not how you do it!”
I moan out my words.
“Suuure, it isssss.”
“NO. NO, Tee Tee! First, you need to suddenly look sick. Then you need to fall down and die but make it look good. Then you need to get up real slow and realize that you’re a zombie. Thennnn you need to make me a zombie so I can do all that stuff and make Baby a zombie. Oh, and you can’t chase me.”
“I can’t chase you?”
“Have you met me?”
“I’m Tee Tee. I chase you.”
You know, I can’t work this way. I mean, who does she think she is? Fritz Lang?
“Okay. GO, Tee Tee!”
But I don’t go. I question.
“So, Banshee, how will I make you a zombie if I don’t move towards you in some way?”
“Well,” replies little Fritz, “you can get me, you just can’t chase me.”
“But zombies are pretty slow. What if you’re faster and I have to speed up and it looks like I’m chasing you?”
“Well, I’ll go really slow.”
“Gee, thanks, Banshee.”
Her eyes glow with a mania beyond her years.
“Then I’ll be a zombie, Tee Tee! And I’ll make Baby Banshee a zombie! Okay, Baby?”
“Yesh,” nods Baby Banshee with a small smile.
Just then, Uncle Beloved crawls through the net onto the trampoline.
“So, what about your uncle?” I ask.
“No. He can’t be a zombie. He has to stay there. You can bite him if you want.”
I brighten. “I can?”
MB interjects. “No, you can’t.”
“Hm. Too bad. Your niece said I could. I’m starting to like this game.”
“I’m not,” says MB, rolling his eyes.
But the dreaded Fritz will have none of our playful banter and cracks her whip again.
“Okay! Tee Tee! Do the zombie thing!”
I try to remember her directions. I do my best to “look suddenly sick.” I do my best to “die and make it look good.” Then I do my best to “realize” I’m a zombie — an astonishing act of self-awareness that you wouldn’t think zombies capable of — and begin to make my lumbering zombie way towards Original Banshee.
“NO, Tee Tee! NO! You didn’t die right! You fell too fast!”
“I fell too fast?”
“Well, I don’t know how I can fall any slower, Banshee.”
“You can! You have to do it again!”
“Can’t I just bite Uncle Beloved?”
“Can’t I just bite you?”
I sigh, quietly. I don’t want Bossy von Blondenstein to hear me.
But at that moment, a blessed reprieve. The Banshees’ mother calls to us from the window.
MB bolts from the trampoline, but even the promise of greasy cheesy sustenance can’t deter Little Fritz from her artistic vision.
“Okay, Tee Tee. When we’re done with pizza, we can come back out here and do the zombie thing again. Okay?”
“Uh, sure, Banshee.”
“Uh-huh,” I say and basically sprint towards the salvation of pepperoni pizza, the Banshee ever on my heels, rattling off more scene notes to the back of my head.
You know, I really need to call my agent.