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The Crazy Sister 

Which one is which?

So, hell no, I did not drag a goddamn safe all the way to Nicaragua like my sister asked. It's not like they don't sell safes in Central America, anyway, "but they're $80 cheaper at Wal-Mart," Cheryl insisted. Ha! It would be cheaper for me to buy her a new one while I'm there than pay for the excess pounds to haul it to her from here, but does that matter to her? No. Believe me, I have learned my lesson, ever since that time I agreed to "ship a few things" for her that she'd left in San Diego after she moved to Colorado way back when.

"Jesus God! Is she crazy!" I said when our family friend Bill opened the storage compartment and showed me the planet-load of crap I was supposed to pack up and ship for her. I had to borrow Bill's dented-ass van to haul the whole load to the airport, which took up an entire cargo compartment and cost me $200 -- that was with the airline-employee discount. "Don't dent my van," Bill griped as he sat there not lifting a damn finger.

So, no, I did not come bearing a safe. I brought something bigger and heavier in the form of Lary. Cheryl, who now owns a bar down there, is crazy about Lary, and Lary is just plain crazy, so they were happy to see each other. "I'm not a safe, but I can stand by your stuff with a stick," Lary promised her when they hugged. Whew. She was so glad to see him, I was totally off the hook about the safe for the time being.

Five years ago, Lary was all set to go to Nicaragua with me when Cher first ventured there, her purpose being to check in on Bill, who up and had a heart attack after he'd moved there to run a hotel. Cheryl had called and implored us to meet her. "C'mon, you fly free, for chrissakes," Cher prodded. As a matter of fact, I could not, at that time, fly to Nica-goddam-ragua for free. I could only get as far as Costa Rica for free, then I'd have to board a dilapidated, rosary-encrusted death bus for a day-and-a-half to get to Nicaragua.

"Sounds fun!" Lary said. "If anyone kidnaps us, we can escape by weaving ropes from our own hair to pull each other out of our spider holes."

I must admit that sounded fun to me, too, so I said OK at first. My daughter was only 1 then and thus motherhood was still too fresh to allow me to immediately resist adventure or Cheryl's historic ability to work the guilt angle regarding that time I stole her stupid bikini.

Yes, 20 years ago, I stole her stupid bikini and ever since I have been paying for it out my ass. Granted, it was a special bikini that somehow magically made us look like underwear models, but then we were both so young and emaciated from our drug-addled pastimes, it was no big feat. Today, neither of us could pull that thing past our own toes, but still I'll forever be expected to repay her for that one indiscretion. Even my other sister, the good one -- as opposed to the crazy one -- occasionally eyes me evenly and says, "Do this for Cher. You did steal her bathing suit, you know." Oh, Jesus Christ, she's my sister -- if you can't steal from family members, then what good are they?

But then my kid came along and eroded the remorse shackles. I was, and will remain, too freaked over my daughter's welfare to deal with sister-guilt anymore. Sure, out of force of habit I said OK to Nicaragua at first, but then when my brain grew back, I immediately back-pedaled. By that time, Lary had bought a guidebook, so in the five years since, he's been right up there with the rest of my family, whipping the horses on the bandwagon to bully me into going down there. "You pussy," he'd bitch. "I bought a guidebook."

So here I am with no excuse anymore since my airline now flies right into Managua, which is just a jostle of a taxi ride from Granada, where Cher lives. On top of it, my good sister, Kim, corralled family from all over the globe to convene for a reunion of sorts, and it fell to me to bring the safe, but I brought Lary instead. Lary can build her a safe, for chrissakes.

"All I need is the bottom half of a bus and a fresh pair of pink underpanties," Lary insisted as he belted back shots of the local rotgut Cher serves at her bar. Cher knows those are Lary's main ingredients for building anything, so she laughed and threw her arms up to introduce us to the sun-puckered cadre of local expatriates who make up her regular clientele. "Everybody, this is Lary and my sister," she hollered. "This is the bitch who stole my bathing suit!"

"We know all about you!" they shouted at me, laughing. "You're the crazy sister!"

"I'm not the crazy sister!" I insisted. "She's the crazy sister!"

"You're the crazy sister!" they all laughed.

"She is," Lary chimed in. I shoved him. "I'm not," I insisted, "am I?" But my mewling was drowned out by the surrounding revelry. What the hell, I thought, and then it hit me: I was happy to be there.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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