At the town baseball fields in Sharon, Connecticut: My little brother Bobby has a baseball game. My older brother Michael and I take him. Michael’s yellow-haired fiance comes along.
My little brother, pitching for Pine Plains, strikes out Sharon’s chubby first baseman. As he returns to the dugout, the chubby first baseman hurls his bat in frustration.
“When did Sharon switch to neon orange jerseys?” Michael asks. “In my day, they wore blue jerseys with pin-striped pants.”
He points to the field where he pitched a no-hitter one Summer evening when he was fourteen.
In the top of the third inning, Bobby gets himself into a pickle – caught between two bases and chased down by the opponents. He manages to make it safely to third, but we’re laughing too hard at his panic to cheer.
In the raspberry fields of my grandmother’s farm in Millerton, New York: I’m here with Michael to weed a row of raspberry plants. Upon meeting the fourteen-year-old girl who is our fellow weeder, I say, “Nice braids, you do them yourself?” Apparently I say this in an aggressive tone and so Michael labels me a “poor worker.” I really do think her pigtails are nice though.
While we weed my aunt and grandmother chat about the stress of assigning seats at Michael’s upcoming nuptials.
“I can just picture your wedding, Julie,” my aunt says. “There will be no organization at all. People will just sit wherever and throw frisbees and horseshoes.”
“You steal that pink sunhat from your mother?” my grandmother asks me with an accusatory glint in her eye. I deny such charges, but she doesn’t believe me.
As soon as my grandmother and my aunt and the weeder with the braids leave for a lunch break, I lie facedown in the discarded weeds.
“Get up!” Michael shrieks.
On the lake: We’re fishing. My brothers Andrew and Bobby and my cousin James are keeping careful score in the contest of who can catch the most bass. I’m trailing for a while, but then I catch three big fish all in a row and take the lead. I have the touch.
The boys immediately stop counting.
I hook my last fish right through the eye.
At lunch in Millerton, New York: Michael takes a picture of me and my sandwich so he can text it to the rest of our family. He then tells me I need to be extra nice to his yellow-haired fiance as the wedding approaches and stressful situations accumulate.
“I am nice to her,” I say.
“Yes,” he admits. “You are an ally.”
Michael has a habit of dividing our family into alliances. Or maybe our family has a habit of creating alliances.
“But you need to be even nicer,” he says. “Only make sure she doesn’t suspect you’re being nice just because I told you to. So be nice but not so nice that it arouses suspicion.”
He takes a bite of his sandwich and considers me across the table.
“See if your supposed charm can pull that off,” he says.
I can’t recall ever saying that I had charm.
In the kitchen: I tell my mother and Michael that I don’t think my brother Andrew is a feminist.
“Well,” Michael says. “We can’t really determine right now if he’s actually anti-feminist or if he just puts on an act of anti-feminism.”
We are so used to Michael being the voice of reason that we never bother to check his logic anymore.
“If he says anything blatantly anti-feminist in front of me, he’s going to get it,” Michael’s yellow-haired fiance says.
Michael sighs and gazes out the window.
“I just don’t think he understands women like Dad and I do,” Michael says.
In the backyard grilling: Michael and his yellow-haired fiance have friends over. One of them lectures us all on lactose-intolerance for over twenty minutes.
He only stops because my mom brings out a salad, and my little brother starts screaming because it has feta cheese and he hates feta cheese. This is the first any of us are hearing about it.
“Maybe he’s become lactose-intolerant,” I say.
On the patio: Michael makes me a cocktail. He claims he’s very good at making them because he used to be a waiter.
“I made you this even though you’ve done nothing to deserve it,” he says.
I think he’s talking about my supposed charm, or lack thereof.
“Thanks,” I say.
And the drink really is quite good.
About the author:
Julie Doar is a student from Pine Plains, New York.