"I think I see what your problem is," I said, popping up over the bathroom counter with my adjustable wrench in one hand and a wet wad in the other. "You can't flush a paper towel, Angela, it's too heavy. These modern low-flow toilets can't handle anything that doesn't dissolve in water."
My sister nodded her head and shuffled her feet. "I guess I knew that," she admitted, smiling, "if I'd been thinking. You might want to get rid of that thing, though, Neil."
I looked at the mushy wad of paper I'd just pulled out of the gooseneck trap of her john. "Why? What is it?"
"A wrapped-up cat turd."
"Yah!" I tossed the wad across the bathroom and it went into the trash can without touching the sides, like a Michael Jordan classic. "You have to warn a guy about things like that!"
Angela giggled and blushed bright red. She ducked her head to keep me from seeing she was blushing, like she always does. I think she believes it makes her look too childish and girly, but I have to admit, I like it when my sister blushes. The luminous crimson on her fair skin made her look like a modern-day Caravaggio painting standing right in front of me. "Listen, thanks for coming over," she said. "Plumbers will rob you blind if they can, and Shawn doesn't usually get home on Thursdays until nearly eight."
"Yeah, Shawn," I agreed. "Right." I didn't want to admit what I was thinking, which was that my brother-in-law is pretty much useless around the house. This blockage was too thick to dislodge with a plunger, and when that failed he would have just called in a plumber anyway. Or me. "Listen, Angela, I need to get home and get back to work, but I'd like to get together for coffee some time this week. How about that new place on Thirty-Third?"
The blush faded from Angela's cheeks and she looked up into my eyes. "It's not another goddamn Starbuck's, is it?"
"Nope. One hundred percent locally owned. Good lattes, too," I assured her.
"Actually, what time is it," Angela asked, checking her watch. "One o'clock? Are you sure you can't stay for just a little bit?"
"No, I have work to get done."
"Oh, are you sure, Neil?" My sister flashed me her best pouty little-girl face and batted her eyelashes at me. "Please please please? I get so lonely in this big house by myself."
"I'm on a deadline..." I admit it, my protests sounded weak even in my own ears. I'm a full-time writer, and I work from a converted spare bedroom in my own house. I make my own schedule, which is how Angela reached me in the middle of a weekday, and that's why I was able to spend time playing Roto-Rooter Man in the middle of the day. "Yeah, what the hell," I finally concede. "I guess work can wait."
Angela smiled again. "I'll put some coffee on. I think I'd like a shot of brandy in mine, how about you?"
"Why don't you pick some music out while I'm doing that." She strode out of the master bathroom, bouncing a little with each stride, her swirly blonde ponytail springing up and down with each step she took. I admit to thinking my sister has the best hair in America, and I'd like to grab a fistful and breathe it in like a drug. But she's three years older than me, and married, and I let her get a few steps ahead of me, just to keep a safe distance.
When I moved back to my hometown after college, Angela lined me up a nice duplex three blocks from her and her husband, and I've been living there for two years now. I'm twenty-four and she's twenty-seven. We were good friends growing up, since both of us had social difficulties. I was a book nerd whose idea of a Saturday well spent was a patch of grass at the park, two cold sandwiches, and a paperback Shakespeare.
Angela wasn't a geeky type like me, but she was kind of an outcast too. She was unusually good-looking, and girls will do whatever it takes to humiliate any other girl they know is prettier than them, so she never got along with the girls in her class. And the guys would act friendly and civil, but it didn't take long with each one before she found out they were only trying to get into her pants. So every day at school she just drifted through the crowd of kids like some aloof goddess, and when we got home at the end of the day each of us was the best friend the other had.
One of my earliest sexual memories was when I was twelve. Angela gave me a three-by-five of her high school portrait. She was fifteen, tall and green-eyed, with creamy skin and cherry lips. The picture had her body turned at a slight angle to the camera, her hair billowing down around her shoulders like the surf at Waimea, a wide genuine smile on her face, and just a hint of cleavage at the bottom of the photo. At eleven-thirty that evening I took her picture into the bathroom and beat off for the first time in my life. I still have that picture in a drawer in my desk, and although the corners are getting dog-eared, I still sometimes stroke myself while studying my sister's butter-colored face.
What's more, she knows I find her attractive. Not long after she gave me that picture she caught me studying her body, and it wasn't the first time or the last time. We've never discussed it out loud, but it's an open secret between us. That pouty face she used to make me stay is the same one that she uses to do whatever she wants, from minor household repairs to accompanying her to the doctor the last time she needed a physical. I've never touched her body more than to give her a friendly pat on the shoulder, but she knows I'd like to, and she uses that fact.
She's even learned what clothes to wear to make me do certain tasks. A dress with a narrow waist that highlights her hips and a skirt that stops mid-thigh, and I'll mow the lawn. A muslin peasant blouse with a cinch tie under her breasts will make me help her cook dinner for her useless husband. And a white cotton scoop-neck t-shirt will inspire me to run down to the drug store to buy her tampons and Midol. All this just for a chance to look at my beautiful sister's body.
I selected a Robert Johnson CD from her collection and plopped on the couch. The Terraplane Blues was on the sound system and I was bopping along in my seat when Angela came in with two steaming mugs. She handed me one that read "World's Best Husband," and in her own hand she cradled a mug emblazoned "Kiss Me I'm Irish." She settled onto the couch next to me, wiggled a little to make a soft nest for her butt, and leaned back against the overstuffed cushions.
"So what are you working on?" she asked me.
"Come on, you know I don't like to talk about my work until I have a complete draft done."
"Oh, you won't even tell me one little plot point? Just for me?"
"Sorry," I said. "If the Virgin Mary Herself came down and asked me about my writing I'd stay mum until I had something to show her."
Angela sighed, long, slow, and pretty. She lay her head on my shoulder and whispered in my ear: "I've been learning to knit."
"Knit?" I repeated. "Not many people do that these days."
"I have a big house, no kids, and no job," she said. "I just wanted something to do with my hands, and I wanted it to be something useful." She poked me lightly on the arm. "I bet I'd be hot in an Irish fisherman sweater."
"I bet you would," I agreed, and turned my head to smile into her hair.
Angela set her coffee on a TV tray, and then she surprised me by turning her body a little and nestling into my side. Her breast was pressed into my ribs, and she put the palm of her hand on my chest, right over my nipple. This was a lover's position, and I was a little uncomfortable, especially when I started to get hard. It was no secret I lusted after my sister, but I was a good guy, and I wanted to do the right thing. Cuddling my older, married sister on her couch struck me as the opposite of the right thing.
She rubbed her cheek against my shoulder, with her eyes closed like a kitten getting its ears scratched. I started to feel awkward with my arms hanging at my sides like a paralytic, so I set my coffee aside and draped one arm around Angela's shoulder. "I get so lonely," she whispered into my shirt. "Talk to me."
"Talk to you about what?"
I fished through my brain, suddenly muddled by lust and moral objection, for any subject I could come up with. "So," I muttered lamely, "have you spoken to Mom lately?" It's always kind of pathetic when a writer can't come up words.
"Not as much as I should," she whispered. "Don't talk about family."
She took a deep breath, and I felt her breast move against my body. "I don't want you to be my brother right now. I want you to be my friend."
"Can't I be both?"
"No. Not today. Drink your coffee."
I scooped up my mug with my free hand and put it to my lips. The coffee had gone cool, and I drank it down in two swallows. It was black, but I noticed it tasted a little sweet. "Drink mine too," Angela urged me.
"Absolutely, go on. I'd like you to."
Hers was a little warmer, but cool enough to drink. My neuromuscular system was more interested in my sudden lust than in swallowing a beverage, and it took a little effort to get the coffee to go down. Only after I'd finished it off and set the mug aside that I realized I knew exactly why the coffee tasted sweet: she'd put more than just a shot of brandy into each mug.
"Talk to me some more," she whispered into my shirt. "I need a trusty human voice."
.... There is more of this story ...