Tiff Holland ~ Ending Up in the Ditch

All that sum­mer my broth­er, Kevin, padded around the house in the Pink Panther cos­tume my aunt had made him for his birth­day: pink paja­mas for the body and a match­ing tie for the tail. The paja­mas were thick and sort of vel­veteen. Despite the fact he was pre­pu­bes­cent, after about a week, he began to stink. He didn’t care. Our wash­er was bro­ken, and he was unwill­ing to give up the out­fit long enough for a trip to the laun­dro­mat. My moth­er said to leave him alone, a side of her I hadn’t seen before. She said that since he stayed in the house all the time (she cer­tain­ly wasn’t let­ting him go out­side like that!) no one else had to smell him and we would just have to get used to it, which I did, the odor sim­i­lar to over-ripe peach­es. Mom still made him bathe once a week, but since he imme­di­ate­ly got back into char­ac­ter, it didn’t do much good. He most­ly stayed in the den, as she did pro­hib­it him from stretch­ing out on any of the good fur­ni­ture. He sat on the scratchy plaid piece of sec­tion­al on the side of the room where he and my oth­er broth­er had their booger wall, know­ing that if he just aban­doned his per­sona he could return to the new sofa in the liv­ing room, the new nine­teen inch Magnavox in its wal­nut cab­i­net, but Kevin didn’t care. He liked to twirl his tail while he watched car­toons, sip­ping cher­ry pop from a wine glass, anoth­er affec­ta­tion I had trou­ble believ­ing my moth­er would put up with, and while I couldn’t real­ly under­stand how, of all the car­toon characters—he chose the Pink Panther as his alter ego—he, or his out­fit, inspired me. I decid­ed to teach myself to ski. All the cool kids were in ski club in mid­dle school, and I had only the sum­mer to learn. I ham­mered an old pair of my father’s boots onto boards I’d yanked from the falling-down white pick­et fence that shed paint flakes all over the back­yard and I stood at the top of the hill in the far­thest cor­ner of the yard so my moth­er couldn’t see me from the kitchen win­dow where she always seemed to be stand­ing, her hands in the sink. I used two umbrel­las as poles and pushed off, huff­ing as if it were real­ly cold, as if my breath could pro­pel me.

~

Tiff Holland’s novel­la-in-flash Betty Superman was pub­lished by Rose Metal Press. Her work has recent­ly appeared in Corium, Elm Leaves Journal, and Frigg.