THE DEAD SISTER HANDBOOK: A GUIDE FOR SENSITIVE BOYS
VOLUME FIVE (LACONIC METHOD TO NEAR MISSES)
LACONIC METHOD: Developed by dead sisters in the early 1900s, this method of self-preservation consists of internally processing thoughts and feelings and distilling their essence to one, two, or, at most, three words, which are then made audible. It has since gained immense popularity amongst all adolescents, but is still most expertly practiced by the dead sister. You find your sister in your room one afternoon. She is curled up in the fetal position on the floor. You ask her if she is okay and she is silent, her eyes closed. Finally, she answers, "I don't know." You ask if you can stay with her. "Whatever," she says. You lie silently beside her until dinner. When you sit down to eat, your mother asks what the two of you have been up to. You are about to tell a complicated, easily uncovered lie, when you hear your sister's voice. "Nothing," she says. "Nothing," you then say, and your sister smiles and nods her approval.
LACROSSE: All dead sisters play sports that require sticks—field hockey, ice hockey, etc. (see also SPORTS AND LEISURE). Dead sisters are aggressive on the field to the point that it is troublesome to sensitive boys. Come game time, the day-to-day boredom of the dead sister, heavy-lidded, gives way to punishing checks, angry shouts after every goal, cups of Gatorade thrown to the ground and stomped on. When you remember your sister, she is red-faced and angry, racing down the field, eager to cause a commotion.
LAST MEAL, PREPARATION OF: The last meal of the dead sister is always burnt (see also ARSON, MINOR AND MAJOR CASES OF). The dead sister puts something in the oven, goes to watch TV, falls asleep, and awakens to the fire alarm and smoking, charred food. This action provides the sensitive boy with a sensory-triggered memory with which to alter his subsequent life experiences. Smoke precedes the death of something. A girlfriend (see also LOOK-ALIKES) burns a slice of cinnamon toast and the smell reminds you of that night, when you ran downstairs to investigate the reason for the insistent beeping of the fire alarm. Your sister is staring into the oven, smoke spilling around her, and she retrieves, with her oven-mitted hand, a single slice of cinnamon toast, burnt to black. When she sees you in the doorway of the kitchen, she smiles, takes a bite of the toast, and forces it down. She smiles again and this time her teeth are flecked with black bits of ash and bread. This is one of the last memories you will have of your sister and when your girlfriend reacts disapprovingly to your insistence on eating the burnt cinnamon toast after she has thrown it in the garbage, you know she will not be your girlfriend for much longer.
LEGACIES (also known as The Dead Sistory): The family tree of the dead sister is filled with unbranching limbs, categorized by several unusual, untimely deaths occurring exclusively to females. Your great aunt broke her neck diving into a shallow pond and drowned. Your great-great grandmother was sleepwalking through the woods beyond her house only seventeen days after the birth of your great-grandfather and was attacked and killed by a bear. Your aunt was smothered in her crib by the family cat before she was a month old. The generational duration of the Dead Sistory is unknown and, by most accounts, unceasing.
LIGHTNING, NEARLY STRUCK BY: In the days before death occurs, the heavy deposits of fate inside the dead sister's body serves as a conduit for the discharge of atmospheric electricity. In 27 percent of cases, the dead sister is actually struck by lightning, though never resulting in death. It is raining and your sister was supposed to be home hours ago (see also MIDNIGHT EQUATION). You hear the sound of rocks tapping the window and when you look out, there is your sister, soaking wet, her index finger held against her lips. You are to unlock the bathroom window upstairs, which is near the wooden trellis that runs up the wall. You sneak over to the bathroom, unlock the window, and wait. There is a flash of lightning and then a clap of thunder that follows almost instantly. You still cannot see your sister. You think you should go outside, but it is raining and you are afraid to wake your parents. Fifteen minutes later, your sister climbs into the bathroom. She smells of burnt sugar. When you ask what happened, she says nothing, walks into her room, and shuts the door. The next morning, you go out to the yard and there is the imprint of her shoes burned into the grass under your window. It will stay there for several weeks after her death, and it will surprise you every time you look out your window.
LOCATION OF DIARY: Diary of dead sister (see also PAPERS AND CORRESPONDENCE) is always located in the empty shoebox of her favorite pair of shoes, covered by old quizzes from junior high (see also ABOVE-AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE BUT COULD HAVE DONE SO MUCH BETTER IF SHE'D REALLY APPLIED HERSELF). This must be found before parents discover its presence. The best time to recover the diary is during the reception that follows the funeral. You will ask to be alone for a little while and everyone will allow this, considering all you've been through. Go into dead sister's room and retrieve diary. Scan quickly for mention of your name, which is rare and, with few exceptions, without incident (see also MAKE HANDS ). Learn things you had always assumed but had hoped were not true (see also BELIEF THAT NO ONE UNDERSTANDS HER AND SHE WISHES SHE COULD GO FAR AWAY AND LIVER HER OWN LIFE; DRUGS AND ALCOHOL, ABUSE OF; SEXUAL CONTACT WITH BOYS; SEXUAL CONTACT WITH GIRLS; SUICIDE, POETRY ABOUT). Dispose of diary so no one else can read it.
LOOK-ALIKES: Sensitive boys will encounter no less than four and no more than eleven women who resemble the dead sister. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to talk to these women, follow them down crowded city streets, or pay them money in exchange for sexual favors. Nothing good can come from this.
LOSS OF BLOOD: Dead sisters are obsessed with the creation and preservation of slight, imperceptible wounds. This can be attained by several highly effective methods including: a needle and a composition book; a razor blade and tissue paper; a syringe and glass vials; and a penknife and cotton balls. One night, while your sister is sleeping over at a friend's house (see also SEXUAL CONTACT WITH GIRLS), you rummage through her closet. You find a box filled with daily calendars for the past six years. You pick up the oldest of the calendars, and when you look at January 1st, you see a rusty, reddish smudge of what could be blood inside the square for that date. The entire month of January is marked off the same way. The drops of blood in June of that year are slightly darker in such an imperceptible way that you must flip back and forth between the pages of the calendar to be sure. In the most recent calendar, you look at the day's date and see a dark red, almost purple, drop of your sister's blood. You stare so closely at every page, every drop of blood, that even after you have returned the box to its hiding place and gone back to your room, even after you close your eyes for sleep, you can only see dot after dot of red swimming in front of your face. After her death, you will continue to fill the days of the calendar with your own blood but your fingers begin to ache after three weeks and you have to give up.
LOSS OF CHILD: The sensitive boy secretly believes that his parents, if given the choice, would rather he had died instead of the dead sister. In 80 percent of cases, this is true.
LOVE APPLES: Food/drink invented by dead sister, derived from soaking peeled tomatoes in a jar of vodka for weeks at a time. Highly toxic and can cause death if consumed in large enough quantities. The alcohol-soaked tomatoes are placed in Ziploc bags and taken to school to be consumed during lunch, which allows dead sister to endure the last half of the school day. After news of sister's death is received, discover the jar of tomatoes and take them to your room. Hide in closet and eat every tomato. This will cause severe illness and an impaired mental state similar to mourning.
MAGIC, LACK OF: In the 1930s, the Wilmington Method of Sibling Resurrection gained popularity throughout the Deep South and in small pockets of the Midwest. This practice consisted of placing pennies over the entire body of the deceased. The living siblings then would place their hands on the body, warming the coins with their own heat which transferred to the dead body, causing reanimation. This method only worked when there were eleven or more living siblings participating in the procedure. No living witnesses to the successful practice of this method have ever been located or interviewed. The Tennessee Valley Brother-Sister Exchange and the Thirty-seven Day Lazarus Program have been scientifically discredited and outlawed in all fifty states.
MAKE HANDS: Term referring to practice performed by siblings, usually a younger brother and older sister less than four years apart, which involves kissing when no one is looking. Originates from when you and your sister, on a camping trip where you shared your own tent, began to kiss each other's hands to practice what you had seen on TV, moving lips softly against the palm of each other's hands. Soon, this becomes actual kissing and, afterwards, when you want to do more of it, you will ask your sister if she wants to go and "make hands." This practice continues until sister determines that this is weird and should be stopped and never mentioned again. Due to unknown chemical reactions in the body, this practice causes at least one of the two parties to die within ten years of initial event.
MIDNIGHT EQUATION: Mathematical theorem developed in 1975 by feminist mathematician Deborah O'Nan. The age of the dead sister, the established parental curfew, and the exact time of death are plugged into the equation to reveal the exact moment when the dead sister could no longer safely return home, also known as the Clock-Strike Point. The equation generally reveals a difference between the Clock-Strike Point and the time of death to be less than fifteen minutes.
MODES OF TRANSPORTATION: Death always occurs in relation to a train, airplane, motorcycle, sled, or, most commonly, automobile. In some cases, such as your own sister, it involves two modes of transportation. The car breaks down on tracks or tries to speed across tracks or is simply parked, waiting, on tracks as train approaches. If boyfriend is present (see also FIRST LOVE; NAME OF BOYFRIEND), he will always survive. In 30 percent of the cases, boyfriend will be responsible for the accident (see also ALTERCATIONS AT FUNERAL).
MUSCLE SPASMS: Instinctual response by dead sister to spur body into maturity (see also APPLICATION OF MAKEUP; FAKE ID). Muscles absorb the body's surplus of sugar, nicotine, and pure grain alcohol, and, through intense spasms, speed up the aging process. Packs of ice must be applied weekly to the arms, legs, and chest to prevent overdevelopment.
NAIL-BITER: The sheaths that protect the upper end of the fingers of the dead sister contain small doses of tricyclic antidepressants (see also ATTEMPTS TO MEDICATE). During stressful situations, the ingestion of the nails potentiates the action of catecholamines and creates a low-level sense of well-being and calm. The body of the dead sister builds up a tolerance to this effect within a few years of development but the instinctual response remains. In particularly bad moments, the dead sister will chew her nails down to the quick and into the flesh, leaving tiny crescents of blood on the papers of tests, the sleeves of her shirts, the skin of those she touches.
NAME OF BOYFRIEND: All boyfriends of dead sisters possess names that can be transposed. Dead sisters date boys named Thomas Alexander or Marcus Benjamin or James Maxwell. Years later, when you try to remember the boyfriend's name, you will switch the order each time. Thomas Alexander. Alexander Thomas. This characteristic makes searching for them on the Internet incredibly difficult.
NAYSAYING: Act of refusing all evidence supporting the passing of the dead sister. A technique perfected by sensitive boys, this instinctual response is only effective for up to seventy-two hours after the time of death. The most common acts of naysaying include refusal to answer phone, the locking of doors to bar entrance of parents, the ingestion of substances (see also LOVE APPLES ), and the temporary loss of hearing and sight (see also SENSORY DEPRIVATION). The night after her death, you go into your sister's bedroom and take one of her t-shirts from the floor. You place this shirt over one of your pillows and hold it against you as you try to fall back to sleep. The shirt smells faintly of grass and smoke and lavender and everything else that makes up the only remaining elements of your sister. You breathe in the scents and though you cannot sleep, it staves off remembering; it keeps you from crying.
NEAR MISSES: Dead sisters have two to five incidents before actual death occurs when they could have died—overdoses, car accidents, appendicitis, and on and on and on (see also LIGHTNING, NEARLY STRUCK BY). You and your sister are in a Ferris Wheel at the state fair, sharing cotton candy and watching the lights of the fair brighten and dim with each revolution. As you nearly reach the top of the wheel and the machine grinds to a halt to allow the passengers at the bottom to disembark, the gate to your seat creaks, unlatches, and swings open. There is nothing but you and your sister and the distance between the air and the earth. Your sister leans forward and peers over the edge. You hold tight to the seat and watch your sister inch closer and closer to the empty space, and though you want to say something, you are quiet. Just before the wheel resumes its movement, your sister finally sits back in the seat, leans her head against the metal grate and gazes at the sky until you reach the bottom. As the wheel stops, your sister steps out of the seat and runs into the murmuring crowd, leaving you alone, your pants wet, asking her to come back, not to leave, but she is already gone.
My sister, who is not dead, suggested that I wait until she died before I wrote the handbook. After careful consideration, I decided against this.