Blood is thicker than water
Rain splatters the pavement when I set out. My sister, Teresa, doesn’t live far, but then the moon isn’t that far, and I don’t particularly want to go there either.
I take my shoes off at the front door, leave them under the inshot where there’s a telephone table, all sparkling glass and no telephone. Carpets are plush underfoot. The rooms smell like a tropical potpourri. I hang my jacket on the handle of the cupboard in the hall. But it’s a stifling and I’m tempted to strip down to my boxers.
Teresa’s waiting for me in the living room. Her hair is the colour of trodden snow. She’s wearing a black jumper, a colour that she believes makes her thin. Converse trainers on her feet because she’s always on the run, but she doesn’t get up. I bend over and give her pudgy shoulder an awkward hug.
‘I’ve been worried about that Paris thing,’ she says.
I nod, a sounding board without sound, and slide into a seat across from her.
‘It’s really depressing.’ She leans forward and speaks quietly and intensely. ‘We were thinking of going there for Christmas.’ She looks at me expectantly.
I blink. ‘Where you?’ I ask. ‘You, Robert and the kids?’
A huffing noise, before she answers. ‘Yeh,’ she says. ‘Now I need to stay here and defeat the terrorists on my own turf.’
I’m not sure what she means, but that’s normal. I listen to her wittering on about how we should invade Syria and the rest of Africa. She stops suddenly, mouth hanging open, to check if I’m getting her arguments about world domination and a shoot to kill policy of all people wearing headscarves.
‘What about the Queen? She sometimes wears headscarves. Catholic nuns?’ but she talks through me.
She reminds me of Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still. ‘I don’t like people that shoot you,’ she says finally. Then lobs into the conversation that she doesn’t like people that blow you either. She stifles a sob she’s been, not doubt, been working on in front of the mirror and takes a sip of green tea.
‘You want tea?’ She makes a move to get up from the couch.
‘Nah, I’ve been drinking tea all morning. Just water.’
‘What kind?’ she asks.
‘Highland Spring or Life Water?’ She’s hovering at my shoulder, waiting for me to make a decision.
‘What’s Life Water?’
‘Oh, it’s—’ she purses her lips, ‘It’s full of H20 and is isotonic’.
‘Just ordinary water is fine.’
‘Tap water!’ she spits it out. I’ve made her say it.
‘Not in this house.’ I recognise the tone. She sinks down again on the leather couch that is not leather. It’s that serious. She’s older than me and knows better. She is better. I’m just a little brother that is fat and baldy and an alcoholic because I like to go to pubs and drink more than two pints of beer. We’ve had this argument before over gluten.
Glutens she had told me was Greek for glue. Would I stick glue into my body? I’d said I would if it nice doughy bread and was tasty enough. We’d agreed to disagree on the understanding that it was a game of tig and I’d been well and truly caught.
Her mood shifts with the slide of her shoulder, and we move into our roles. ‘I don’t want to tell you what to do,’ she says, with a decisive flick of her long hair.
‘Look,’ I say, ‘I’ve nothing against bottled water. Other than it’s 1000 times more expensive than tap water, and it takes up thousands of road mile to ship it. And it takes thousands of years for the bottles it’s shipped in to biodegrade.’ As usual, I try making a joke out of it. ‘Coke tried selling bottled water straight from the tap, but people started complaining that it didn’t taste much of coca cola.’
She’s shaking her head, butting in, before I’m finished. ‘You should watch the video on YouTube. Tap water is chock full of wee things and fish pee in it.’ She squirms at the thought of it and adds the knockout blow, ‘Tap water makes your child stupid. It’s a well-known fact.’
‘Some kids don’t need help with that. And that’s the lead in pipes, not the water. That was old houses. That no longer applies.’
She’s flush with success and throws me a titbit in consolation. ‘Hitler drank tap water.’
I go through the stages of loss; grieving the sister I never had; the sister I should have had; the sister I did have. ‘Shit, I’ve drunk a glass of the stuff. And now I feel a real need to invade Poland.’
‘You’re just being facetious.’
‘I’m not.’ I sulk. ‘Do you use bottled water to flush your toilets? Perhaps we should rip all the pipes out and like Palaeolithic man go back to eating great mammoths and snacking on berries.’
She doesn’t need to say anything.
‘You know what I think is stupid. People that buy bottled water. They’ve been sold fear of thinking for themselves, fear, fear, fear and they drink it up. Jesus Christ, Highland Spring isn’t even in the Highlands it’s in Fife, and Lake Katrine is just up the road, a marvel of Victorian engineering and you’d rather give your money to some rich bastard because it’s supposedly good for you.’
I’m raging and leave. After Paris we’re back to the mundane tit for tat. My sister is, as she’s always is, always right. Now the link has been uncovered, by my sister of all people, I’ve moved on with my plans to invade Poland.