It happened in the same week: the hyena, the hurricane, and Elise having sex for the first time. It was late summer, too hot even for the beach—I was too hot to move. The only option was to find a pool and sit in it. Except a storm was headed straight for Myrtle Beach.
Over dinner on Thursday, Mom told us about Betsy, a tropical storm for now, which was strengthening in the Atlantic.
“She could really be dangerous,” Mom said. “The wind shear and humidity make it ripe for conflict.” She followed the local weatherman on Facebook and used bits of his language in ways that didn’t totally make sense. We could never prove her wrong, though, so we took her as the family expert on weather.
My sister Elise said, “I’m trying out for first chair next week.” She took a sip of water, leaving a line of crumbs along the rim of the glass. Elise had Down syndrome. Mostly it was like having any other annoying sibling, except she was a messy eater for her age.
“That’s great, honey,” Mom said. “Just don’t be disappointed if Betsy closes everything down. They’re saying she could be a real doozy.”
Through the kitchen window, I watched a blue jay kick a sparrow off the bird feeder, wondering if my parents knew that Elise’s crush, Kevin, also played the trumpet, which could be the reason she’d been practicing more often recently.
Like Mom—who didn’t get dressed in the mornings until she’d checked all her radar apps—Elise had obsessions. Lately she’d been through Harry Potter and the Backstreet Boys, even though, being in their forties, they were ancient history. Dad had gotten her third-row seats when they played in Charleston and was appalled that a middle-aged woman beside him had pulled a pair of thong underwear from her pocket and thrown it toward the stage. When he told us the story afterward, Elise giggled, shaking as she hid her mouth with her hand. She loved raunchy stories and jokes. A poster of a young AJ McLean hung on her wall. She used to blow it a theatrical kiss every time she left her room.