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.