Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up on a tobacco farm in Rougemont, North Carolina. As soon as I turned eighteen I did what everybody else who gets tired of the work and the dirt and the tobacco worms do and I packed up my things and walked away. I spent eighteen years in six different cities. One Midwest winter was enough to make me miss the sticky heat of summers back home. So I did what everybody else who runs off after high school did and I came back. This time, I intend to stay.
The Crunchy Kind
My little sister inhaled a fruit fly and puked up Cheetos once when I was almost six and she was barely four. It got all over my brand new Keds. Lots of kids had Keds then, I think. Or else they had knock-offs of those Nikes that everybody wanted that nobody could afford. Well, they couldn’t afford them in Rougemont, anyway.
My sister had a big mouth and dimpled, hard little hands with pink polish peeling off of her dirty nails. I can still remember what her hands looked like because I can still picture them balled up and coming at my face. She was bigger and stronger than I was but I was taller and faster than she was so our fights usually ended in a draw. She walked away with scratches. I was left with the bruises.
My sister loved the crunchy Cheetos. I hated them. They were the only thing she seemed to eat though so Mama always bought them and always packed them for lunch too. I’d find them at the bottom of my lunchbox and scowl, frowning even more if there was a vanilla-crème-chocolate-sandwich cookie (2 for $1.99 at Winn-Dixie) and not Oreos alongside them. I’d spend my lunchtime drinking lukewarm milk out of my thermos and thinking hateful thoughts about my sister.
I got off of the bus one afternoon and my sister was in the yard holding a big bag of Cheetos in her grubby little hands.
“Where’s Mama?” I asked.
She shrugged and sucked cheese-flavored residue off of her thumb.
I shifted my pink plastic Rainbow Brite backpack off of my shoulders and onto the ground and took a neglected baggie of Cheetos out of the pocket.
Her eyes widened. “Gimme.”
She grabbed the baggie, opened her mouth as wide as she could, and shoveled the contents inside. That’s when I saw the fly. I didn’t say anything. I just watched it fly towards her cavernous mouth, towards the lips that were covered in simulated cheese product flecks, towards her gnashing snaggleteeth. That’ll teach her to let the dog drink out of my Kool-Aid, I thought.
Two seconds later I had bright orange puke on my shoes.
My sister looked like she was about to cry (little kids always cry when they throw up, I think), then looked at my sneakers and cackled. She coughed, spat, and wiped her face with her shirtsleeve. She crammed another handful of Cheetos into her mouth and walked towards the house.
I stood stunned, gawking at the vomit on my new shoes. The splatter rolled down Rainbow Brite’s pretty pink cheeks.