The war between Kelly and I continued. Mom did some laundry but didn’t say anything about Kelly’s clothes being on the litter box. She just took them off the litter box and threw them in the laundry basket. Matthew played in his room and watched TV in the master bedroom while I played on the computer reading more diaper stories and chatting to my friends. Dad just stayed in the living room looking at his work.
Mom cooked dinner and she set four spots again. Kelly wasn’t home so it didn’t matter. Matthew had to ask for the key from Mom again so he could use the bathroom.
Mom called us to dinner. I came downstairs. Dad came in and sat down in his spot.
We ate and Matthew took a while to come down so Mom had to drag him downstairs, not literally.
“Natalie, while I was cooking, I was wondering why the fridge was smelling and I discovered your food had kitty litter in your sandwich,” said Mom.
“You dropped your food in the cat box and stuck it in the fridge?” Dad asked.
“It had her sister’s name on it and she had it inside the sandwich,” said Mom.
“Natalie, that was very unsanitary and you were trying to trick your sister to eat dirty litter and you had it in the fridge with other food? Great, we really need to buy more food. I am not eating anything that has been near kitty litter,” said Dad.
Matthew was laughing.
“Now the fridge needs to be cleaned out and sanitized,” said Dad. “Just great, more work now. Natalie, that will be your chore. After supper, you clean it. Take out all the food and use dish soap and a wet sponge and scrub in there and toss out all the food.”
I felt stressed inside about all this.
“Why?” I asked. “It didn’t get on other food or touch it.”
“Germs Natalie, bacteria,” said Dad. “Would you want to eat your food near the toilet? That is what you did with the food, the litter is the toilet for the cats and you stuck it near food. Now you have to clean it as part of the consequence. Maybe that will make you think next time.”
“How long will it take for me to clean it?” I asked.
“Mmmm fifteen minutes,” said Dad. “It won’t kill you to give up that much of your time to do it unless you want to throw a fit, then it will take you longer to get it done.”
I rocked in my seat. I don’t know why I do it. It’s just something that seems to relax me. I also felt like I was on another planet all of a sudden.
“I should have kept my mouth shut,” said Mom.
“No, you did good. I’m glad you said something about it,” said Dad.
“I’ll do the fridge,” said Mom.
“No, she made the mess, she needs to clean it up,” said Dad. “Besides she needs to learn to be more flexible or what is going to happen when she goes out in the real world like when she has a job? The boss will fire her if she throws a fit over being told to do something that isn’t in her routine so it’s best she learns now than struggling in her adulthood with employment and with this.”
Mom and Dad started to bicker again over the fridge and me. Matthew and I had to sit there and listen to them fight over it. Then Mom brought up Dad’s “mistake” again.
“How is that even relevant to what we’re talking about?” Dad yelled. “I made the mistake and I have to pay for it now, Natalie makes a mistake, she should pay for it too. At least she isn’t facing possible jail time or any other fines and charges and all she has to face is a change in her routine, big deal.”
“I just hope the judge goes soft on you,” said Mom. “Put in mind you were arrested once as a teenager and have a history of a drinking problem.”
“And the charges were dropped,” said Dad. “That was way back at home before we came here and I never got in trouble with the law for my drinking so I doubt it will show up on my record.”
“You were lucky every time,” said Mom. “Not this time.”
I finished my food. I had just learned something new about Dad. He had been arrested once before. Why?
I cleared my spot and put the plate in the sink. The dishwasher was full so I left it in the sink. I went back to my seat and sat down. I tapped my foot and looked around the room.
Then Dad finally left the room. Now it was just Mom and us alone. “Can I be excused?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Mom. “Take your pill.”
“Can I?” Matthew asked.
“Clear your spot first and then you are,” said Mom.
Matthew cleared his spot one dish at a time while I took my pill.
He came upstairs too after me. “I guess they’re not done fighting,” he said.
“They always fight,” I said.
I was glad to be back to what I was doing without any interruptions when Dad called me down again. “What?” I screamed.
“Clean the fridge,” he called. “The sooner you get it done, the quicker you get it out of the way and don’t have to do it later.”
I kept on reading a story online when Dad called me again. “Natalia, now,” Dad shouted.
“Okay,” I screamed.
I kept on reading and then Dad was back upstairs in my room.
“When are you going to do it?”
“Soon,” I said.
“How soon? Mum is out going grocery shopping and I want it done before she gets back so we can put the food away or do you want to do it when she is back? Up to you. But it better be done tonight and when she gets home and if it’s still not done, I am taking away the computer and video games and TV until you do it and your mum can argue with me all she wants, I won’t back down this time,” said Dad.
He walked out of my bedroom. I knew I was trapped. I had to either clean the fridge or get my stuff taken and be bored and depressed and get all tense and anxious.
I kept thinking about the fridge as I read the story. I regretted putting the kitty litter in the sandwich and then sticking it in the fridge. Now Dad was being tough.
Soon Mom came home and Dad came upstairs and got me. I was going to try and make this quick. Mom was bringing in the food. I saw the table had been cleared and all the dishes were neatly stacked next to the sink and the kitchen had been cleaned with leftovers still out in containers.
“Not too crowded was it?” Dad asked.
“No,” said Mom.
“Good. I was hoping you would be okay on your own. Natalie has decided to clean the fridge.”
I looked at the fridge and didn’t know what to do. I got frustrated and started kicking at the kitchen island. “How do I clean it?” I yelled.
“Hey, don’t kick,” Dad yelled. “Take all the food out of the fridge first and put it on the counter for now.”
He opened the fridge and started taking out all the food. I helped.
After all of it was out, Dad went to the sink got a sponge and got it wet and squirted some dish soap on it. He brought it back to the fridge and started to wipe the inside of it. “You clean the shelves and the walls and don’t forget to do the top and the bottom.” Dad showed me the steps and handed me the sponge. I started to scrub making it quick. It wasn’t so bad after all. Then I was done. “I’m done,” I said.
“Let me look first before you leave,” said Dad.
He inspected the fridge and then he asked me if I washed inside the drawers.
“No,” I said.
I did it and then I was done.
“Did you keep getting the sponge wet?”
“Get it wet and do it again,” said Dad. “Whenever it gets too dry, get it wet again with more soap and then when you are through, get a rag and get it wet with plain water and wipe it out. Man I can’t believe I have to give you steps.”
I had to do it all over. I did it fast and kept getting it wet after one shelf. Then I grabbed a rag and got it wet and started to wipe it all down. Then I was done. Dad inspected it again and asked me if I kept getting the rag wet to rinse out the soap and then wiped it down again and then used a dry towel to wipe it down to dry it.
“No,” I said.
“Do it,” said Dad.
“You keep adding to it,” I whined. “What’s next?”
“I have to tell you everything because you don’t do it when you’re not told to do it,” said Dad. “You can’t always read between the lines. Next time I tell you to do it, you will remember next time without me telling you all these steps and I won’t have to even show you either. I’m not giving you a hard time. I just didn’t tell you all the concrete steps and then realized I had to inform you and make you do it because you didn’t do it.”
Do people automatically know what people want them to do without being told to do it when they are told to do something? Why couldn’t Dad just tell me everything then telling me after I was through? It felt like Cinderella where she has all these chores and then her evil step sisters and stepmother give her all these endless chores just to keep her busy despite that she did what they wanted her to do and they decided to add to it. I felt that is what Dad was doing to me. He was being an evil Dad.
I did it with frustration and this had better be the end or I will quack, not literally. It’s a phrase I heard on Rugrats.
Then I was done. “Done,” I said. “Got anymore to add to keep me down here?”
“Just go upstairs,” said Dad.
I ran upstairs. I was so glad to be done with the torture. I also think it took me more than fifteen minutes, that liar. I went in my room and opened Kelly’s drawer and took out all her underwear and threw them on my bed. I took out my diapers and put them in her drawer and put her panties in Brian’s room in the dresser Mom and Dad put in there. They also stuck a spare bed in there too because Brian took all his bedroom furniture and all his stuff. Only thing left is the wallpaper.
Kelly came home between six and seven and we all carved pumpkins. Mom and Dad had the music playing on a station. All the food was put away and the old food was out in the yard debris according to Dad. Mom said the food was fine but Dad is just picky so she had to repurchase everything that goes in there. Matthew was talking about dinosaurs again and space. Kelly was talking about her babysitting job. I said nothing. I didn’t want to talk about James Bond because I was proving to Kelly that was not all I talked about.
I wore some rubber gloves as I pulled out the guts and the seeds. My skin always itches when I get guts all over my hands and arms so Mom bought us some rubber gloves for us to wear but Kelly didn’t wear any.
Top 40 music was playing. We were listening to Z100, a popular radio station that comes out of Portland. “Dancing Queen” was playing.
“You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, ooo see that girl, watch that scene, diggin the dancing queen.”
“You kids know this is an old song,” Mom said.
“It is?” Matthew asked. “I thought it was new.”
“This is a remake of an old one,” said Mom.
I wondered what the old one sounded like.
“ABBA did this song and this song sounds pretty much the same as the original,” said Mom. “I had just gotten out of high school when this came out.”
Soon the song ended. A few more songs played then the advertisements were playing. Then the next song came on. “Who let the dogs out woof woof woof woof woof. Who let the dogs out.”
Kelly groaned. “Ugh, I hate this song. I hear it too much at school.”
“Do they play the radio or what?” I said. Then I remembered I was giving her the silent treatment.
“No, one of my teachers plays it,” she said. “He plays this song a lot on his CD and he has pictures of dogs all over the classroom. I bet he’s obsessed with them.”
“Cool,” I said.
“Not cool. He has so many posters of them on the wall, you can’t even see the damn thing because they’re all covered with dogs.”
“Whoa,” said Matthew.
“Are you exaggerating or are you serious?” said Dad.
“Well you can still see some of the wall but he has them all over the place. I think he collects posters of them. On early release, you should have seen what movies he brought in for us to watch and they were all about dogs. Air Bud, 101 Dalmatians, Fox and the Hound, Milo and Otis, Lady and the Tramp, Lassie, Homeward Bound, and we watched it.”
“Watched what?” Dad asked.
Then she started talking again. “I bet he is going to take his whole family to see 102 Dalmatians when it comes out and he is going to be talking about it when we get back from Thanksgiving break.”
“That must be his special interest,” said dad.
“He is a very weird teacher,” said Kelly. “He is always alone, eats alone, he seems to have odd body mannerisms, his voice is off, he seems to not ever sit or stand still, he has messy handwriting so he always does everything on the computer when he writes and he has the overhead on the board for everyone to see what he is typing, he always dresses the same, he is very strict with school work and he is so rude to us, he likes to keep the lights dimmed, he goes on and on and never calls on us when we raise our hands.”
“In what way is he rude?” Dad asked.
“He ignores us and seems to get upset if we don’t understand an assignment and he doesn’t look at us often when we speak to him or when he speaks to us.”
“I am sure he is still a very good teacher,” said Dad. “Maybe his brain just works differently and he isn’t typical like everyone else so you need to be accepting and understanding. Does he give everyone a lecture about dogs?”
“No,” said Kelly.
“That’s good. At least he doesn’t bore you with his interests.”
“He does with assignments,” said Kelly. “He goes bla bla bla and we’re bored so we all goof off in our seats and pass notes and he gets mad at us and he is always handing out detention or taking things away. We just note pass instead and throw trash around and if he takes those away, so what.”
“What class does he teach?”
“Math,” said Kelly.
“And he has a bunch of posters about dogs and what about books?”
“It must really be his interest.”
“At least Natalie doesn’t have our room filled with James Bond and has other books instead and games,” said Kelly.
A new idea popped in my head. I should get James Bond stuff and fill our room with it but I didn’t have any money for it and where would I find James Bond stuff anyway.
I don’t think I remembered the teacher Kelly has. I can remember all my teachers in seventh grade but not that teacher Kelly was describing. He must be new.
I had to hold back the urge from saying anything. Her teacher sounded cool and I wished I had him as my teacher. Weird people interest me. I always wonder why they are so different.
“No one even likes him,” said Kelly. “Even I don’t like him.”
“After living in this family for twelve years, I would expect you to be more tolerant and accepting and understanding,” said Dad.
“And I’m not happy in this family. All of you are weird.”
Dad laughed. “Weird is good, life would be boring if there were no weird people in the world. This family would be boring too, just think about it.”
Mom also did good not saying a word and Matthew. We both kept gutting our pumpkins and putting the guts on the newspaper we had spread out on the kitchen table.
Then Matthew tried to cut a face in the pumpkin but Mom helped him because she didn’t want him to cut himself.
Then Dad told Mom he needed her help again so Mom cleaned up and Dad cleaned up too and they both went upstairs. Kelly left the room and Matthew was looking at me. “Natalie,” he whispered.
“What?” I said.
Matthew didn’t say anything.
“What?” I asked again.
He averted his eyes.
“What?” I asked.
He averted his eyes again. I looked at the direction he was looking at. “What is it?” I asked.
He pointed to the guts and then to Kelly’s pumpkin.
“What?” I asked again.
Matthew sighed and he picked up the guts and stuck it in the pumpkin. Now I knew what he was trying to tell me. Why didn’t he just say so with words than playing the guessing game?
I picked the guts up and started putting them in the pumpkin, Matthew did too. We were both giggling. I put the top back on and we rushed back to our spots and continued our business. Mom and Dad came back down. None of them said anything about the missing guts.
Mom finished helping Matthew cutting the face in. I worked on mine. Then Kelly came back and she took the top off and yelled “Guys.”
I ignored her.
“What is the problem now?” Dad asked.
“Look what they did,” Kelly pointed in her pumpkin.
“So, take them out, it should be easy this time.”
“Aren’t you going to yell at them or something or punish them?” Kelly asked.
“All they did was put the guts back in there, they didn’t ruin anything,” said Dad.
“You’re siding with them, just because they’re disabled or whatsoever you’re siding with them just like Mom does,” Kelly yelled and walked out of the room.
“Kids, maybe this wasn’t a good time for a practical joke,” said Dad. “She is very sensitive right now so back off okay?”
“I’m not disabled,” said Matthew.
“She means disability,” said Dad.
“I don’t have a disability.”
“There are invisible ones,” said Dad. “Dyslexia is one of them. So back off okay.”
“Fine,” said Matthew.
“Okay,” I said.
“We were carving pumpkins having great family time until you did this and she got very upset and now she has left family time,” said Dad.
“So get her,” I said.
“I am letting her calm down first,” said Dad.
I wondered what ours was exactly. I assume mine is learning disability but what is Matthew’s? I feel I have problems outside of learning because of how people treat me. Maybe if I get treated like everyone else, I will be normal. At home I feel normal because no one here treats me any different but I still feel different somehow besides being incontinent. I’ve always felt different and I always figured if I try harder, I will be normal and I still fail because of other kids. I feel I have something on me that tells people to treat me different. Why did it have to be me instead of Kelly or Brian or someone else? I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me. I used to say I wish I could get a different brain but I realize I will just be in another body and I will still be different. The only difference is I wouldn’t be incontinent and I would have a different name and a different life. I don’t think I would want to go to another family because of different rules they may have and what if their siblings are mean and annoying and worse than mine? I think I am more comfortable with mine despite how different we all are and even if Kelly doesn’t like me and wishes me dead and thinks I’m retarded.
We finished carving our pumpkins and we set them outside on the back porch to protect them from pumpkin smashers. They won’t come to our backyard because they won’t know we keep them back here. They will just think we have none until Halloween.
Kelly’s was still left in the kitchen.
Then we heard shouting again. “Where is all my underwear?”
Dad looked at me. “Natalie, what did you do with your sister’s knickers?”
“Nothing,” I said.
Dad headed upstairs. Knickers is one of his British terms he calls underwear.
Mom just stayed seated in the family room chair.
I was wondering what Dad was going to do up there with Kelly.
“Mom, I have to poo,” said Matthew.
Mom reached inside her for the key and gave it to him. He took it and went to the powder room to unlock it and he went inside. I liked how he said poo because I pictured Pooh Bear. This reminds me of a joke I learned in sixth grade. Why did Tigger look in the toilet? He wanted to look for Pooh.
I looked at the time and saw it was nine twenty. Yipes, it was past my shower time. I headed upstairs to shower. Dad and Kelly were looking in our bedroom for her panties.
“Natalie, what did you do with them?” Dad asked again.
“Ask Matthew,” I said.
Dad and Kelly left.
I grabbed two clean diapers and pajamas and then I remembered the kid’s bathroom was locked so I had to go back downstairs.
“Matthew, where are Kelly’s knickers?” Dad asked.
“In her room?” he said.
“In her drawer.”
“They aren’t there.”
“I don’t know.”
“I need to shower,” I said.
“You’re gonna have to wait when your brother comes out,” said Mom. “He has the key.”
“Natalie, one more time, where are your sister’s knickers?” Dad asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Last time I saw them, they were in her drawer.”
“I will take away the Nintendo and the computer if you don’t tell us where they are,” said Dad.
“Okay they are in Brian’s room,” I said.
Kelly rushed back upstairs.
Dad was shaking his head. “I have never seen you do this sibling rivalry,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“Her paper,” I said.
“You mean the one she wrote for school?”
“I took care of it. We were all upset about it but do you think playing practical jokes on her is going to solve anything?”
“She hates me and thinks I don’t care about others,” I said.
“She doesn’t hate you, how is this going to make it any better?”
Then Matthew came out. “I need the key,” I told him.
“I need to give it back to Mom first,” he said.
“Tell her I took it to shower,” I said.
Matthew ignored me and handed it to Mom anyway. I just went after him and said, “I want to shower.”
Mom gave me the key and I took it upstairs. I gave Matthew a look before heading upstairs. “Where is my underwear?” Kelly said again in Brian’s room.
I ignored her and went in the bathroom with my stuff. I removed all my clothes and my very wet diaper. I turned on the shower and waited for it to warm up and I got in.
After I was done, I dried off and wrapped a towel around my head. I tore a slit in my diaper and put it on and then I put the next one on. I put my pajamas on and hung the towel up and left the bathroom locking it. I handed the key back to Mom. I took my medicine and went back upstairs. I saw all my diapers were lied out on my bed I put in Kelly’s drawer. I just put them all away. Kelly was on the computer playing cards. I still ignored her. I wondered if she ever found her underwear. I got out of bed and looked and saw they were all there. I wondered how long this was going to last between us. I was still pretty mad at her and at Dad but yet I was talking to him but not to her.
Then I heard Mom and Dad fighting again downstairs. It was about me still. I didn’t hear all of it. I mostly heard what Dad was saying.
“I know change is hard for you too but you must not not have her do things because it’s not in her routine or because it’s a surprise and you don’t want to give her the same distress it gives you but you’re doing her a disservice,” he said. “It doesn’t teach her.”
Mom was saying something else and then Dad said again, “Look how hard your life is now and how hard it was having a job. Do you want your daughter to have the same trouble? Don’t pass your problems on down to her.”
“You aren’t ever that tough with me,” Mom shouted.
“Because you’re an adult and she is a child. We’re the parents, we’re supposed to be teaching her about the real world and how to live it and deal with it and getting her prepared for it. Jesus you can’t keep holding her back or else she will never learn. Would you rather have her live at home for the rest of our lives or be unemployed?” Dad shouted.
“Maybe she will find the right guy,” said Mom.
“Oh great,” Dad grumbled. “Sometimes I wonder why I even picked you. I wish I had a normal wife.”
There was silence and then I heard Dad saying again. “Oh Anita I’m sorry. Anita?”
I heard a door slam.
“I’m sorry Anita. I just get so frustrated sometimes I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean it like that.”
Then I heard a kitchen cupboard slam.
I think that was the end of the fight. “Normal wife?” How could Dad say that about Mom?
Kelly was snickering. I hope she was snickering about something else and not at the fight and what Dad said. If he wanted a normal wife, does that mean he will divorce Mom soon?
Then I remembered I sometimes wish I had normal parents but I don’t mean I don’t want them as my parents, I just wished they were like everyone else. Maybe that is what Dad meant about Mom. He wishes she was like other women but he picked her. Kids don’t pick their parents and parents don’t pick their kids unless they adopt, then they are picking what kid they want. At least if you aren’t happy with your husband or wife and you want someone better, you divorce them and find someone better. I hope a guy will want me and not ever want to divorce me because I am not normal. It sounded all horrible again what Dad said. He came upstairs sighing and I just gave him a dirty look and stormed back in my room but when I was about to crawl into bed, I saw Kelly had poured pumpkin guts all over my bed under the covers. I was mad. Kelly laughed and told me, “I told you I would get you for it.”
The war was still on.