22 comments

Fiction Funny

“Lo, I told you, I don’t want any salsa. The cilantro tastes like-”

“Soap. I know. I just thought maybe you’d have grown out of that weird phase by now. I don’t know anyone who thinks it tastes like soap.”

My step-mom reminding me that my weird affliction for cilantro is a phase tells me that she’s not paying that much attention to details. 

“Lo, let Holly be. It’s okay if she doesn’t like it. Means more salsa for me!”

My dad winks at me while shoveling the cantina style chips loaded with salsa into his moustached mouth.  The crunching dad made with his mouth drowned out the chatter of The Ricki Lake  talk show. 

Summers at my dad’s house were part of the divorce deal. Seeing as I see his only child my dad saw to it that he give me a stepbrother and new mom immediately after the divorce

 Laura  was a  young blonde, short-term girlfriend turned step-mom. Execution of “cool mom status” was her main premise when I visited for the summers. Picking me up from the airport in her cinnamon hot red convertible sealed her place in my memory as, “I’m here to have fun. Rules and children do not mix.” My stepbrother Jay sat in the back seat with me on these drives. He loved the way the wind whipped across his freckled cheeks begging Lo to drive just a little bit faster along the country roads. I would smile and silently beg for the skies to part, for the rain to pour down on us so that I could avoid being belted by mother nature’s hairdryer. 

Jay was fine as far as stepbrothers go. Our differences in appearance made it vehemently clear that we were in no way biological siblings. The freckles along the ridge of his cheeks and the bridge of his nose were peppered in tiny pointillistic dots. The  dots of golden oak made Jay’s eyes even bluer than they actually were. Jay loved Lo’s salsa; he had zero qualms with cilantro tasting like soap. Jay was technically my older brother by two years, and he reminded me every time we came together. Jay came home during the summer too, but not in a custodial way. More in a, “I’m not gonna get a summer job between college semesters sort of way.”

“Holly, when you get to my age. Your pallet will be refined, it’ll know good cheese when it’s put in front of you. Literally everything about you disliking cilantro is illegal.”

“Dammit Jay. You have your entire life to be a dick to me. Do you think you could take the day off?”

    This was the way of our banter. Never mean or cruel, but never any deeper in the way that siblings could have silly secrets between themselves. Jay didn’t know if I had any crushes at school- Henry Collins, Lacrosse player, tall, one dimpled cheek and a love for poetry. He also didn’t know that I wrote an entire musical based off of the music of The White Stripes. Jack and Meg aren’t married in the musical. True members of The Seven Nation Army know that Jack and Meg were more like brother and sister and not a couple that bumped uglies. As little as Jay knew about me, I couldn’t tell you if he wore socks to bed or if he was the kind of savage that dogeared the pages in his books.

    Daily talk shows were the bare minimum of things that Jay and I had in common. The cheesy stage with its pop colored pastels and poor stage lighting kept our attention five days a week. Jay and I were especially fond of the episodes where women in disguise hid their bi-sexualness and the mini sagas of the Player got Played cheating episodes. Nothing ever regarded me more than the long lost relative episodes. I’d daydream about a rich uncle or a long lost sibling, preferably a sister with my squared hips and love of peanut butter m&m’s mixed with popcorn. 

“Holly, get in here! When they get back from break Ricki is going to bring out this woman’s long lost brother. Apparently they lived down the street from one another. Wild right?!” 

Jay was the most excited, like a dog welcoming his owner home from a long day of work when he got to watch long lost relatives reunite.

“Damn, wouldn't it be crazy Jay if one of us had a long lost brother or sister? Like, wouldn’t you just crap your pants? What if they were criminals or the kind of people who only leave 5% tips at restaurants?” 

Jay chuckled, “Totally. I’m more of an 8% guy myself.” 

Lo shouted from the kitchen, “Hey Glen, you’ve got a long lost kid don’t you? How old would she be, say 21 or so?”

    Have you ever had a moment in life that felt so unreal and out of body that you feel like you’ve drifted into outer space looking down onto the tiny ball that is Earth? Despite my inability to walk on the moon without a spacesuit this news rocked my world.  Lo announcing that I could just as easily sit on the stage with Judy and Carl, siblings separated at birth, was an out of body moment for me. 

Dad was a carefree guy without much need to move through life with any sort of tension. He had a proclivity for the devils lettuce morning and night, leaving him in a permastoned haze of smiley eyes and an appetite for Lo’s salsa. Lo’s announcement caught him unaware. I was certain his jaw was clenched as the can of seltzer water in his hand crimped under the sudden pressure of his fingers. 

“Glen! You sly dog you. Another kid huh?” This was Jay’s dream come true to find out that his stepfather, my dad, was not an entirely chill dude like we all thought. 

Judy and Carl were no longer of interest to me. I didn’t care if they went to the same school or if they had the same pediatrician. Ricki could’ve been trying to trick Judy by planting Carl in the studio audience waiting to ask Judy a question and I’d still be floating in space without a lifesaving suit. I was untethered. Instead my eyes bore down my dad demanding that he tell me Lo was just kidding and that of course I was his only child! 

“It’s a long but short story, really Holly. There’s not much to tell, other than I had a sweet, hot romantic night with a gal named Dina. I didn’t even know the kid was mine until, well until my mom showed me a picture of a baby that looked just like me.” Dad’s smile grew by an inch as he remembered a night almost twenty one years ago that produced him a child he had never even met. All my life I'd been the sole child of Glen and Lilah Stevens, but now, now I was someone's sister.

I wondered if my mom knew. If Lo knew, my mom had to know right? I could have asked my dad if mom knew, but something about the whole “Surprise, you have a long lost brother!” incident left me speechless. The days of summer passed by slower than they ever had. Bedtime suddenly became the time where I could imagine what my sibling was like. In my imaginings she was taller in a way that my head would hit her shoulder just so when she’d pull me in for  a side hug. I could only assume she would be funny and could carry on an entire text conversation with meme’s. The secret language of sisters was something I had always longed for, and now I had no idea that I was missing it all along. 

The divorce agreement sent me back to the airport in Lo’s ritzy car at summer's end. Jay always tagged along for the rush of the wind on his face.  I don’t think  he’d ever admit to missing me until the next custodial holiday belonging to my dad, but I knew some part of him enjoyed our witty banter together. 

******

    Mom picked me up in our comfortable and respectable minivan. I was her only child but the minivan suited our inclination to forced air conditioning.  Classic reunification between me and mom consisted of a giant bear hug and a quick recap of all the cul de sac gossip I missed while I was gone for 3 months. Nancy on the corner was running an underground casino in the basement of her house according to mom. Then I’d go on to  tell her all about  how Lo still tried to get me to eat her homemade salsa and the epic Ricki Lake show watching.  This is the way it was between mom and me, light and jovial. I’d thought it over on the plane ride home to ask her about my sibling.

    “Hey mom, so funny story….”

    Her silence confirmed what my dad confessed to. The chipper demeanor mom had when she picked me was now brushed over with a sadness I’d never seen before. It was a long time ago, she told me. Her and dad were only married a year when the news that a baby that might be his rolled around. This news sealed my fate as a shoe-in guest on Ricki’s show. A long lost sibling and a philandering father? That was primetime television with a guilty pleasure rating of 100 in my experience. 

    It was obvious to me that neither my mom or my  dad were going to give  any details about this mystery family member of mine. I allowed myself to grieve the idea that I’d have a sister as  a best friend. Scanning faces in the crowds of new cities I’d visit looking for a complete stranger that looked like me. I texted Jay for solace. 

Jay, there’s a person out there that is part of me. 

Holly, you know what’s funny? You didn’t crap your pants when you found out.

Thanks a lot Jay. What should I do? 

******

    Standing outside of a bungalow with tiny palms out front, I stood before Lennon Holman’s house. 

This was Jay’s fault. Jay answered the call to my question of what to do by sending me one of those spit in a tube type DNA tests. For months my inbox held answers filled with genotypes and centimeters of connected DNA. 

First and third cousins were aplenty. Until there was Lennon. Not a sister like I had thought up. A brother that grew up two states away.  He had my square hips and was taller than me by 5 or 6 inches, and with our dad’s smile too. Lennon, my brother, a stranger, opened the door when I knocked and invited me in. His warm arm drew me into a side hug where my head hit his shoulder. 

“I hope you don’t mind. I set out some snacks Holly.” Lennon was already ten times more thoughtful than Jay. I eyed the chips and salsa on the table. It’s tacky to show up to a stranger's house and turn down snacks.

“Oh you didn’t have to do that Lennon. I typically don’t eat salsa because of the cilantro.”

“You know what? I hate cilantro. It tastes-”

“Like soap!”

August 15, 2021 06:07

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

22 comments

H L Mc Quaid
12:36 Aug 22, 2021

Sweet story, well told. :) One small thing that confused me was this sentence: "Lo announcing that I could just as easily sit on the stage with Judy and Carl, siblings separated at birth, was an out of body moment for me." I didn't know who Judy and Carl were....but I finally mapped them back to the Ricki Lake show...maybe consider introducing their names when you mention that episode, or just leave the names out and talk about a brother and sister being reunited, or even say "on stage with Ricki..." so the readers know that the narrator is...

Reply

Shea West
14:47 Aug 22, 2021

Good point! Thank you Heather thank you.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Shea West
14:47 Aug 22, 2021

Good point! Thank you Heather thank you.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Moon Fox
01:12 Aug 27, 2021

:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
K. Antonio
19:12 Aug 22, 2021

UGH, I LOVE CILANTRO. I honestly never understood how people detect the taste of soap in it. 🤣😂 I just really enjoyed how this was a light-hearted story with a charming tone that had an authentic family dynamic. It can be difficult to make "happy/charming" families and have the interactions play on a different spectrum. It's generally a lot easier to make families chaotic and sad, so this story's a feat in my eyes.

Reply

Shea West
19:50 Aug 22, 2021

Hear me out, I like it in salsa and other things...but fresh lobbed on top of my food NOPE. Tastes like SOAP!!!! Thank you K., that was my goal to bring some normalcy to a family dynamic!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Beth Connor
00:40 Aug 20, 2021

This was great! It kinda had a laid back airy feel, yet still profound. I love the cilantro theme, I'm in the same boat as you (not my fav fresh, but it is fine cooked in other food) It makes me think of the asparagus gene...

Reply

Shea West
02:32 Aug 20, 2021

The asparagus gene, I am deceased! LOL. But I have both these genes, so I wonder....does that make me extra cool or extra weird?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
A.Dot Ram
20:25 Aug 18, 2021

Two funny moments in here, in my experience as a reader. When I read "the devil's lettuce," my first thought was cilantro. Yes, I've heard the expression before, but it eluded me in the moment, so strong was my association with cilantro. I did know that a disinclination toward cilantro was a genetic trait, and so was not surprised when a long lost sibling came into the picture (still a good moment, though). What a subtle lead-in! Being a genetic trait in common with the half-brother that came from her dad, wouldn't he have to have the same d...

Reply

Shea West
20:40 Aug 18, 2021

I'm not sure! I hate the taste of fresh cilantro, I can eat it in salsa no issues. No one else in my family thinks it tastes like soap. So maybe I'm the weirdo. I need to look up the science on this now, because I didn't even think about it!

Reply

A.Dot Ram
20:47 Aug 18, 2021

It must be recessive! Haha, the dad has a "type" (genotype?) if both Dina and Lilah have the cilantro gene. I wonder what chromosome that gene is on? What else is connected with it? I'm a bit of a nerd like that. And sometimes genes have different expressions than their substance (epigenetics) like I think I have genes for blue eyes and curly hair, but express neither of those things. Haha, my husband got me one of those spit kits for our anniversary one year. My family was a little horrified (is he screening her before breeding???) but I th...

Reply

Shea West
21:00 Aug 18, 2021

"You better screen that one before making it legal!" "Here, spit into this!"

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Sheehan
16:16 Aug 18, 2021

Your characters are always so vivid Shea! I do love a neat ending too. This was a very satisfying story.

Reply

Shea West
20:37 Aug 18, 2021

Thank you Mary for reading and commenting. Y'all keep me going!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Keya Jadav
14:54 Aug 15, 2021

What a sweet little story Shea! I loved the ending. The jumping humour elements in between were just perfect. Great Work!

Reply

Shea West
16:15 Aug 15, 2021

Hey thanks Keya! I grew up with step-siblings, so I may have some point of reference LOL

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jon R. Miller
10:52 Aug 15, 2021

I really liked this! Being in a sort of similar familial situation, I relate with Holly a lot. I'm so glad she gets to meet Lennon, with the added cute surprise in the end. :> I also love the banter and the relationship between Holly and Jay.

Reply

Shea West
16:16 Aug 15, 2021

Jon, yea I feel you. This is almost completely true to my family situation. Except I haven't met the missing half-sibling, or found him rather. The back story is far more complicated and messy, but I wanted to write about it in a lighthearted way. Thanks for your feedback and comment, it's appreciated.

Reply

Jon R. Miller
07:42 Aug 16, 2021

I enjoyed the lighthearted tone a lot! :> It's lighthearted, but it doesn't trivialize the subject matter in any way. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Shea West
06:09 Aug 15, 2021

Very light piece, not a ton of punch at the end. I'd actually written this for an entirely different prompt a few months ago that I missed the deadline on..

Reply

A.Dot Ram
20:27 Aug 18, 2021

Light tone, but strong feelings. Not fluffy at all.

Reply

Shea West
20:40 Aug 18, 2021

Thanks Anne! Suppose we are our own worst critics after all.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply