by Sheri Zeck
I hurried down the steps, my bare feet on the heels of my brother’s as we raced to the tree. “Santa came!” I squealed, spotting several neatly-wrapped presents tucked under the branches. We plopped to our knees and began inspecting every package.
“This one’s for you.” Steve propelled a red and green present across the carpet toward me. “And this one’s for me.” He smiled, placing it on top of his growing stack of gifts.
I studied Steve’s pile, and marveled at how he always managed to make Santa’s list. He wasn’t a horrible brother. Sometimes he was my best friend. But other times, his naughty outweighed his nice. Especially when it came to his little sister. He particularly liked destroying my toys. Like the year Santa gave me a Mrs. Beasley doll.
I remembered Mrs. Beasley’s big blue eyes greeting me as I slid her out of the box. I’d never owned a doll that could talk before, and I was eager to hear her speak. I positioned her onto my lap, straightened the blue, polka-dotted apron around her waist and pulled the string.
“I do think you’re the nicest little friend I ever had.”
Mrs. Beasley and I did become good friends. We spent hours playing together. Through good times and bad, she always greeted me with a warm smile and pleasant conversation.
Until that tragic day when she stopped talking.
I’m not sure I’ll ever know my brother’s motive for such a heinous crime. Maybe it was curiosity, attempting to see what makes a doll speak. Maybe it was payback to an annoying little sister that snooped through his room. Or maybe he was just having a bad day. Whatever the reason, poor Mrs. Beasley endured an awful fate the day Steve ripped out her voice box. She never spoke another word again.
Looking back, I’ll admit I wasn’t the perfect sister. Steve probably got tired of me following him around and badgering him to play. I suppose he didn’t appreciate me snooping through his room, or tattling to Mom when he beheaded my Barbies. But through all our fights I had a sneaking suspicion. He would never admit it, but I suspected that somewhere, deep down in his heart, Steve had a soft spot for his little sister.
However, my brother wasn’t into mushy stuff. Even when he did something nice, he’d shrug it off in his “no big deal” kind of way. Like the time he came home from school with a bag full of Christmas candy.
I took one look at that candy and wished I could go to school. Why did I have to stay home with Mom? I wanted a Christmas party!
“Go ahead. Take it,” he said, tossing me the bag.
I studied his innocent expression. Is he serious? Why would he give it to me? Maybe he dropped it on the bus floor. I finally decided to trust him.
“Thanks!” I dug my hand deep into the bag.
“Whatever,” he said, making a face.
It’s been thirty-five years since my brother and I raced down the stairs on Christmas morning. Eventually, we grew up and forgot our petty sibling rivalries. Now our yearly tradition is to gather at Mom’s, now referred to as “Grandma’s house,” every Christmas Eve. We no longer dig through the presents under Mom’s tree. Only the kids get presents at Grandma’s. Except one year when a surprise waited for me.
“Hey Mom, there’s a present with your name on it.” My oldest daughter held up a shiny red box.
A present for me? “Who’s it from?” I glanced around the room. No one else seemed particularly interested.
“Doesn’t say.” She handed me the gift. My girls circled around me.
I ripped back the paper and immediately spotted the words “Collectible Doll” printed across the box.
“How about that,” I said, pulling the doll out of the box. Her warm, familiar smile greeted me, and I propped her onto my lap. “I’ve got a brand-new Mrs. Beasley doll.” She was perfect. Apron neatly pressed. Miniature glasses centered squarely on her nose. Blonde hair curled in place.
A puzzled look settled across my daughters’ faces as if to say, what’s so special about a blue, polka-dotted doll? But I knew why she was special. Mrs. Beasley confirmed the suspicions I’d had all along. After all these years, my big brother still had a soft spot for his little sis.
Across the room, Steve glanced up from his pie … and shrugged.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just Mrs. Beasley that suffered at the hands of my brother. Stretch Armstrong also fell victim to Steve’s antics.
With his burly build, Stretch Armstrong looked like a Ken doll on steroids. His limbs could be pulled or twisted four times their regular size. Steve tied his arms and legs into knots, but that didn’t even bother Stretch Armstrong. He always returned to his normal size without one stretch mark.
But when my inquisitive brother wanted to see what made Stretch so flexible, he hacked into his tough, rubbery hide with a pocket knife. Thick jelly-like slime oozed from Stretch’s pitiful body – and he was never the same again.
Steve didn’t always ruin my toys. Sometimes he just hurt me with them. Like the time we got a joy buzzer. A joy buzzer was a windup toy that fit onto your finger like a ring. With one firm handshake the toy delivered an abrupt zap to the unsuspecting handshake victim.
One day Steve thought it would be fun to shock me on the top of my head. As he whacked me with the buzzer, I felt a quick “zap,” then the uncomfortable sting of hair pulling. When the coiled spring inside the disc released, the buzzer wrapped a generous clump of hair inside the disc.
Mom spent several minutes attempting to free my hair from the metal buzzer’s grip. Finally, she stomped across the kitchen linoleum, glared again in Steve’s direction and grabbed the scissors from the junk drawer.
At least the next day wasn’t picture day.