My sister Josephine was named after our great uncle Joseph who had crossed The River underwater in the middle of winter, but everyone called her Jo. At least once a week her name would appear in the town newspaper in the sports pages. Sometimes she would even make the front page, that is when there were no scandals at city hall or any natural catastrophes within a two hundred mile radius. She was a local hero. Our family living room was filled with her swimming trophies. She had won over one hundred of them. Sonia and I had spent a whole afternoon once, trying to count them all. Halfway through, Sonia had declared that she was hungry and turned our counting into a cookie game. For every trophy she would count she would eat a cookie. Fortunately we didn’t do this too often.
When Jo turned eighteen, she bought herself a scooter and a shiny black helmet. She had worked all summer at the swimming pool as a lifeguard and had saved up her money. I thought my parents were going to lock her in her room forever.
One night, Jo had gone to the movies with her long-haired friends as my father liked to call them. For some reason she was late coming home. My father was pacing back and forth in the living room, looking out the window ever so often to see if he could see the small yellowish headlight of her scooter coming down the street. Mom was rocking nervously, one eye on my dad one eye on the window. I had one eye on the television set, one eye on my mom and one on my dad. I was dizzy and getting a headache from all this looking.
Jo finally walked through the door, her shiny helmet tucked under her arm.
« Sorry I’m late. I promised I’d take Sue home after the movies. Her brother wanted to see my scooter, so I let him go for a ride. »
My father looked at Jo angrily, grabbed one of her trophies off the livingroom shelf with his thick hand, opened the door that led to the basement where her room was and swung his arm like a baseball pitcher.
The trophy flew into a thousand golden pieces of confetti at the bottom of the stairs.
My dad was an electrician with a short fuse. My sister was a long-distance swimmer.