The next day, Fay was taken out of school before lunch to go to a mental hospital. In her cooking class, she had held her right hand over the gas flame until the flesh blistered. She had not made any sound while doing it; the teacher’s slave had been the first to notice, and spent the rest of the day apologizing for her slow response.
Unharry picked me up from school as soon as it let out, instead of letting me take the trolley home as usual. Both Dad and Michelle were waiting for me in the car. As I rode home, the three of them grilled me. Was Fay having any new problems in school? Any sudden changes in her relationships with other kids? Did she seem less interested in her other activities? Had she talked to me about hurting herself? No, I said, no, no, no.
Then Michelle asked, “Does this have anything to do with Uncesar?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
Unharry and Michelle looked at each other. Somehow, I had betrayed my twin sister.
The hospital couldn’t hold Fay for more than three days. On the evening of the last day, I waited for her on the porch swing; when I heard our car pull up, I ran to the screen door. Fay mounted the steps casually, kissed me on the cheek and whispered, “Hi, Good Twin.” A thick Ace bandage was wrapped around her right hand.
“Hi, Evil Twin,” I replied, before Unharry was close enough to hear, and kissed her back.
Unharry was wearing his butler’s uniform. He and Fay ate dinner as if she had never been to the hospital. In bed, she wore her favorite pajamas: a white flannel jumpsuit with black triangles printed on it. We sat on her bunk, dangling our legs over the sie.
“Why did you do it?” I whispered, pointing to the bandage.
She studied her unburned hand while she opened it, closed it, wiggled her fingers. “To be free.”
“It’s like…” she waved the bandaged hand in a circle around her head. “Teachers, Dad, Unharry, the girls at school, they all treat me like a baby. They say, concentrate hardr in Home Ec, why aren’t your grades as high as your twin brother’s, that floor isn’t polished enough, blah, blah, blah. So I decided to do something that nobody wanted me to do. And I did it. For thirty secons, I was totally free.”
The next day, at gym and recess, I saw how often other kids edged away from her. The ones who usually picked on her were silent; so were the ones who acted friendly. I was proud of her.
“You’re making eyes at my father.” Fay sneered.
Rachael Goldman, daugher of Federal Judge Amos Goldman, looked from Dad to Fay to the uncarved turkey.
The woman’s ears turned pink. Her thick makeup kept the rest of her face from changing color.
Unleon, one of the Judge’s paralegals, put a hand on Rachel’s shoulder. He wore a jacket and tie, like me and all the boys at dinner. It was the first time we had dressed so formally at Thanksgiving, and the first time that one of Dad’s girlfriends had come.
Unlouise watched the others, as if she were an anthropologist learning about a mysterious tribe. She wore a strapless black dress. (Her chest was almost as flat as mine. How on earth did that thing stay up?”)
Rachel had been engaged to Dad for a week. Of course she was making eyes at him. Maybe Fay would get over it in a few months.
Personally, I had hoped that Dad would marry Michelle, but as Michelle and Dad and all his slaves kept telling me, they were Just Friends. Anyway, I knew how to be polite.
Dad put down the carving knife. Without looking up from the turkey he said, “Fay, go to your room until you can behave yourself.”
Fay did not move. She sat up in the cane-bottom seat and glared at Rachael.
“Fay,” Rachael said. She cleared her throat. Her eyes flicked between Dad, Unleon, and Judge Goldman. “Abram, you don’t have to –”
“Fay, you heard me.” Dad held his pose, bent over the turkey. The glow of the Tiffany lamp reflected off his bald spot.
My sister pushed the chair away so hard that it fell over and skidded across the floor. “Yes, sir!” she shouted hoarsely. “Seig Heil!” She stomped past the other diners and up the spiral staircase.
Rachael looked at me. “I’m sorry to be such a nuisance. I don’t want to…” She drummed her fingernails on the table.
Judge Goldman slapped her on the back. “Don’t be embarrassed, baby! Fay will get used to you.” He turned to me. “Rachael will take good care of your family. Ever since her mother went to the hospital, she’s run the household without any slaves to help.”
Rachel looked down at her plate.
“She’s very good with children,” the Judge went on. “Especially — ”
“You don’t have to convince me,” I said. “I’m not mad at Rachael.”
Dad served the turkey. We spent the next five minutes eating without saying a word.
I asked the Judge. “You don’t have any slaves?”
“We have one.” He sighed. “But she has to spend all her time all her time taking care of her mother. You’re lucky to have so many slaves in your family. Do you think you might be next?”
Dad and his slaves smiled politely. Dad has told us many times that he has enough slaves, and that if I went into puberty, he would still love me just as much.
“I hope so,” I said.
Dad set his marriage with Rachael for the middle of June. Fay showed me her will in April.
When she entered my room to show me the will, she held a sheet of paper in her left hand; the right was closed into a fist. She wore a rubber band around her right forearm. I heard, but couldn’t see, cellophane in her right hand. She dropped the sheet of paper onto my desk, covering my geometry homework. The will was in her good cursive handwriting, with her signature at the bottom.
I, Faith Mary Berkman, being of sound mind, do hereby declare that I absolutely and positively do not wish my body to be enslaved to any person.
I do hereby authorize my dizygotic twin brother, William Harris Berkman, to terminate my body at such a time that said body has clearly been enslaved or has entered pre-slavery coma.
She was staring at a poster above my desk, the one with Einstein sticking his tongue out. I fought back the temptation to say You’re crazy.
She opened her first and revealed a ball of white plastic and a rubber band. She held the plastic by two fingers and shook; it expanded into a grocery bag. “I’m going to leave these in my desk. If I get enslaved, I want you to put the bag over my head and put the rubber band around my neck, to hold the bag in place. Then I’ll suffocate.”
“But that would be murder.”
“No, it wouldnt’.” Fay tapped her chest with her left hand. “This is my body. I don’t want any goddamn Rachael Unfay or Abram Unfay or any other Unfay controlling it. I would kill it first.”
“But Unfay would be happy.”
“There are more important things than being happy.” Her voice was getting louder and louder. I was afraid that Unharry, clearing rooms nearby, would overhear. “Do you promise to do this for me?” She squeezed my arm with a sweaty hand and looked me in the eye. “Promise?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Cross your heart?”
I made an X over my heart and chanted, “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”
Fay whispered, “This has to be our secret.”
She kissed me on my cheek. Her breath smelled of nacho cheese. She had forgotten to brush her teeth again. “You’re a good brother, Will. The best.”
I couldn’t concentrate on my homework for the rest of the day.
(continued in two weeks.)
2 Responses to “Very Truly Yours, by Seth Gordon, Part II”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.