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Going to Visit Mom’s Sister, Two States Over

by Meg Tuite

Sister pinches me in the leg and I turn to punch her, but she shows me two Pall Mall cigarettes she stole from mom’s purse before we left, and clamps my mouth with her hand. We are in the back-back of the station wagon lying on our stomachs and the three brothers are sitting in the back seat, mom and dad ragging in the front about Aunt Velma.

“Velma is taking care of things now.”

“That woman can’t tell her ass from her face!” Dad looks back at his boys and elongates his fat red cheeks, raises his eyebrows into a monkey face, and adds, “Not that that would be an easy task.”

John, Bill, and George look up from their Yahtzee game, start chuckling, nudge each other.

“Randall, please.” Mom sighs. “She’s my sister. She needs our help.”

“What the hell? Just because she finally got some ‘rocket without a launchpad’ to rack her? She should be thankful she got it at all.” He raised his eyebrows and snorted.

Mom hit dad on the chest. “You know what happened to that girl was a crime. Now I’m going to be with my baby sister through this next horrible ordeal.” Mom started rummaging through her purse for some Kleenex, wiped her eyes, and bit her lip.

Dad shakes his head. “Yeah, so now Velma can have some doctor vacuum out some John, Bill, or George as though he’s trash. Well, it’s a goddamn sin,” he growls and starts hacking.

The boys all look up again. Once they know mom and dad aren’t expecting an answer, the three of them drop their heads back to their cut-throat match, screeching that one or the other has to do a re-throw of the die because of the rocking car. Dad drives about 20 miles per hour on the highway. Everyone passes giving us dirty looks.

Sister pinches my arm this time when dad lights up a cigarette. I smack her anyway as she snaps her wonder woman lighter in my face. My cheeks form two balloons as I puff away on the third cigarette I have ever sucked on in my thirteen years of life. Sister is sixteen and has stolen clothes, albums, jewelry, candy, liquor, cigarettes, and boyfriends. Her world is vast and rotates around a planet. I am a clinging satellite.

I have one friend at school, Jody, who is a lot like sister. She is always explaining why everything is the way I pretend it isn’t.

“Flatsy Patsy, where the hell are your boobs?”

“Kick the asshole in the nuts if he drools on you.”

“Get in that store and pocket a fucking candy bar for chrissake. Something!” She’d shake her head and push me in the door.

John and George look back at us as sister and I blow smoke out the side windows. John rolls his eyes and grabs the cigarette out of my hand, sucks the rest of the butt in one drag. He’s such an asshole.

“How can you call yourself a goddamn Christian,” dad says as he lowers the window and flicks out his cigarette in sync with sister and John.

Mom gives one of her ‘I hate you, pretend to like you’ snorts. “A Christian? So what would you call your friends for starters? Hmmm? The parish altar boys? Clark is giving me the ‘I’d like to bend you over the pew’ smirk every time I see him in church.”

Dad pats another cigarette out of his pack and drips it on his lips.

Sister taps me. I watch as she pulls a cigarette out of her sock. This one isn’t like the Pall Mall we smoked before. It’s wrinkled and twisted on the ends. She snaps her Wonder Woman lighter. She winks at me as her eyes become galaxies.

Meg Tuite‘s writing has appeared in numerous journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, Epiphany, JMWW, One, the Journal, Monkeybicycle, and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated many times for the Pushcart Prize. She is fiction editor of Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press, author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press, Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Bound By Blue and other stories (2013) Sententia Books, and won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale, Bare Bulbs Swinging, (2014).

Lead image: “Portrait #119 – Périne/Mallory – Friendly smoking” (via Flickr user Valentin Ottone),,

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  1. […] mentioned before the idea of “confined space.” In your story, Going to Visit Mom’s Sister, Two States Over, featured in Cease, Cows Magazine (May 2013), we encounter a family stuck together on a long […]

  2. This line is perfect. “Dad pats another cigarette out of his pack and drips it on his lips.” Great stuff. The children are brazen as can be. I know this family. It’s the Bandys or the Dooleys. Big, crazy, Catholic families that I always envied.

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