Little Sister Sally

When little Janie woke up, she noticed her little sister Sally wasn’t breathing. “Huh. That’s weird,” thought Janie. Sally had been perfectly healthy since she had moved in with Janie’s family just after Christmas. Even now, it looked like there was nothing wrong with her; her cheeks were still rosy, her eyes were peacefully closed, and her mouth was frozen sweetly in the slightest of smiles. But there was no denying that Sally was definitely not breathing.

Janie stared at her, almost fascinated. But as she reached out to touch Sally, it suddenly came over her like a tide pool – “She’s dead.” Janie’s eyes went wide, her own breath shaking in her chest. A flash crossed her mind, and she remembered from one of her cartoons how to check if a princess was actually dead or just fallen under a sleeping spell. Janie pressed her ear against little Sally’s chest and listened long, hard. But all she heard was the twittering of some pesky bluebird outside.

Janie’s horrified screams echoed throughout the house and lightly pierced the otherwise tranquil air of the kitchen, where her mother Norma sat spooning mush into the mouth of little baby Kelly while her father Jason stirred his coffee. Norma and Jason each slowed their respective activities to share an alarmed look before Jason dropped his cup and made a mad rush to Janie’s room—

Almost running over his little daughter, herself making a mad dash toward the kitchen and her parents, tears streaking down her face, Sally’s limp, lifeless body hanging between her forearms.

“She’s dead!”

Janie’s declaration did not remove the alarm from Jason’s face. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

Janie wheezed, “She’s dead! She’s dead!”

Jason looked over her shoulder. “Who’s dead, sweetie?”

Norma was already halfway across the expansive kitchen, the spoon firmly buried in the orange baby food mush, when Janie directed her cries to her mother: “Sally’s dead! She’s not breathing! And her heart stopped!”

Jason blinked, but Norma bypassed his confused look as she knelt down to her daughter. “How do you know, pumpkin?” Norma reached for Sally, but Janie yanked the body back. “Her heart. It isn’t beating.”

Jason sucked in his breath, eyed his coffee still sitting on the counter. Norma kept her eyes locked on Janie.

“Can I listen?”

Janie slowly weighed the pros and cons of this proposition, but ultimately figured that, for her mother to believe her, the only way was for her to listen herself. So Sally’s body was extended slowly from daughter to mother, and Norma, ever so gently, pressed her ear to Sally’s chest. “No, I hear it. It’s there. Listen.” Janie looked incredulously at her mother, then took another listen for herself…

And quickly erupted back into tears. “You’re lying! It’s not there! She’s dead! She’s dead, like in my dream! She died in her sleep!” Jason walked back to his coffee; this was Norma’s problem. His decision was not lost on Janie. “You don’t even care! You’re a horrible daddy!” Jason froze in his tracks, looked between his distraught daughter and pleading wife.

“Of course I care, honey. Your, uh… Sally?” he asked of Norma, who gave the most surreptitious of nods.

“Sally,” he continued, “is just sick. That’s why you can’t hear her heart. But she’ll get better.”

Janie sniffled. “She’s sick?”

Norma enthusiastically picked up the party line. “Yes, pumpkin, she’s just sick. But she’ll be better soon.

“How soon?”

Norma wasn’t immediately sure of the answer; after all, Jason had started them down this route, shouldn’t he be the one to answer that? So she looked at him, a look that Janie saw as a very bad sign. She started bawling again. “We need to take him to Dr. Royce!”

That was enough for Jason, who turned back to his coffee. Now it was all on Norma. “It’s Saturday, pumpin. Dr. Royce isn’t available today.” Considering this meant certain doom for Sally, Janie wailed as she had never before, screeching that her little sister would never get better. Kelly, previously marveling at the contours of her orange baby food, finally picked up on the troubling vibes in the room, which proved too overwhelming for her. She raised her tiny voice in a crying concert with her older sister, perfectly harmonizing her screams with Janie’s wails.

Jason felt he could do nothing but sigh over his coffee as his morning swiftly devolved into chaos. Norma glared at him, then, directing with her eyes, said, “Would you please calm her down?” Jason tightened his lips, keeping back what he really wanted to say, as he put down his coffee and picked Kelly out of her high chair, bouncing her in his cradling arms. The bouncing created a sort of vibrato to her screams, which in turn had a somewhat hypnotic effect on Janie, calming her down just enough to give Norma her in. “Tell you what, pumpkin. Why don’t we take Sally to the little sister hospital, and they’ll make her all better.”

Janie looked back to her mom, her sobs quickly simmering into sniffles. “The one at the Courtyard?” Norma nodded, reached out to caress her daughter’s wet cheek. Janie clutched Sally’s body closer to her chest. “Go get dressed, and we’ll leave as soon as you’re ready.” This adequately satisfied Janie, and she bolted back to her room.

Norma released a heavy breath, and looked up to Jason with not a small amount of contempt. “Alright, I better go get dressed.”

Jason glanced from his wife, to the wailing baby in his arms, then back to his wife. “You’re not gonna, like, shower, or anything?”

“She’s going to be ready in five minutes, Jason. What do you want me to do?”

He directed his attention back to his youngest daughter. Norma finally rose to her full height, and looked down at the red-faced, squinty-eyed Kelly. “She’s your responsibility today.

~~here ends part 1~~

Published on May 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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