I throw the penguin plushie in her face and laugh. “There you go, Poopyhead!”
Her tiny, delicate four-year-old features squeeze up into a mask of anger. I laugh again. She raises her fist to hit me. I scramble up and run. I can run faster and hit harder, of course I can; there are ten years between us. But playing the game is fun. I like annoying her. Sometimes it’s probably on the verge of bullying… but I ignore that. I never hurt her.
I’m a good sister most of the time anyway. I teach her the violin; I jump on the trampoline with her; I read books to her; I fill up her plate for her at mealtimes when she can't reach the trays of food; I tell her her drawings are pretty, even though they are nothing more than scribbles. The only reason why I like annoying her is because I’m jealous. Because she will turn out better than me when she grows up. I was, am still, the test dummy; all she has to do is steer clear of the muddy puddles I sink in and follow me where I've tested the ground and declared it safe. I know I should be happy for her, happy that she gets to use the experience I’ve gathered first-hand. But the bigger part of me is jealous. And I want to vent.
I look behind me. She is still chasing me, penguin plushie in one hand, the other a raised fist. Something is wrong. Normally, all she does is squeeze her face into her ugly mask and pretend to hit me to make me go away. Sometimes she slaps me, but never hard. But today?
I am standing on the trampoline. I pick up the penguin plushie she dropped and hold it up over the trampoline net. “Come and get it! He’s going to fall to his death!”
Fear flashes across her face. “No! Give me! Give me!”
I hold it out further and laugh. She slaps my elbow, the highest part of me she can reach. I give in and drop the toy onto her upturned face. “Ha! Scared you!”
She humphs in angrily and jumps as hard as she can, right at my feet. But I don’t budge. She’s too small. She can’t bounce me. I jump in front of her and she falls right over. I laugh again. The feeling of power is great.
It’s breakfast time. We are eating coco pops with milk. Coco pops are like grains of rice, but chocolate-flavoured. Her bowl doesn’t have any coco pops in it yet.
“Big sister, get coco pops for me please.” She holds out her bowl expectantly.
I pick up the container of coco pops without a word and shake out a single grain into her milk. She stares at it for a moment in disbelief. Then her features squeeze up into her annoyed face. The sight of it makes me laugh. It’s so ugly and funny.
In the end, I still give her her breakfast.
She and I are playing Aeroplane Chess. This is how the game works. Your aeroplane starts off in home base. To get it onto the board, you have to roll a five or six with the die. Once your aeroplane is on the board, the number you roll on the die is the number of squares you move forward. The goal of the game is for your aeroplane to travel all the way around the board and get back to home base. If another player rolls a number and their aeroplane lands on the same square as your aeroplane, your aeroplane has to go back to home base and start its journey all over again.
Her aeroplane is four squares in front of mine. Lo and behold, I roll a four. I laugh triumphantly. “Hahaaa little poop, back to home base your aeroplane goes!”
She picks up the dice and throws it in rage. It vanishes over the top of the sofa. “I’m not playing anymore! You've kicked mine two times already!" She kicks the board, as if to emphasise her point. The planes on it fall over and scatter. "This isn’t fair! You’re older than me!"
“It’s a game of chance, poophead.” I get up and poke her head on my way back to my room. “Can you imagine playing chess with me? Geez, you don’t even know how to play that.”
We come back inside from playing with the guinea pigs in the backyard.
“Go wash your hands,” Mum says.
“Ok!” We dash off together, racing to get to the bathroom. We get stuck in the doorway, but I get through first. I’m stronger, after all. She says “Hey!” angrily, and I laugh.
I don’t dry my hands after washing them. Instead, I stand there with arms raised in front of me, like a zombie, as she hauls a stool over to the sink so she can reach the tap. I move closer and the water on my hands drips onto her forehead.
“Hey!” She swipes at the water angrily and slaps me until I retreat, laughing, out of the bathroom.
I have a bunch of poop related names for her. They originate all the way back to when she was no more than a week old, when my granddad came to visit her and Mum in the hospital and said her chubby cheeks looked like butt cheeks. Poop, Poopyhead, Poophead, Little Poo, you name it.
“You're a little poo,” I say cheerily.
“You’re a big poo,” she says calmly, not looking up from her penguin’s tea party.
I try to hide my surprise. She never retaliates like that. I walk over, snatch the penguin plushie from her hands and throw it to the other side of the room. “Ha ha!” I always need to leave with the winning hand.
She gets up with a huff to retrieve her toy. I laugh and head off to my room.
As all these scenes flash across my mind, I realise for the first time the cruelty in that laughter. I realise, for the first time, that I went too far. I'm a downright bully.
I make a sharp U-turn at the end of the hallway and narrowly avoid her swinging fist. Her face doesn’t have a trace of laughter or playfulness in it; it’s angrier than I’ve ever seen it. An incessant roar escapes her mouth. From the study, Dad calls out in vexation, “I think you’ve teased her enough!”
I stop when I get to the kitchen. I lean against the counter, heart pounding. She veers around the corner and continues to come after me. She drops the penguin plushie and raises both fists. Yes, Dad, I’ve gone too far. She really means to hit me this time.