Martha was the second eldest of the family. She was my idol. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I knew it would never happen but it didn’t stop me from thinking that it might. I mean we did have the same knees. She traveled the world. When she was gone on one of her trips across the ocean I would receive postcards of old buildings with lots of statues and pigeons with beautiful stamps. J.P. and Sonia were impressed. They had never seen so many pigeons in one picture and I was proud to have such a special sister. I was worth writing to.
Once , between two of her trips, Martha was staying at home with us. It was during the same summer that J.P. burned a hole through his pants with his firecrackers and his broken swing. My job was to take care of the garden, which meant watering the lawn and mowing it when it became too long. That day, my sister was at home with me. I hated turning the water on and off because the water faucet was in our rotten basement under the kitchen floor. To get to the faucet you had to crawl on your hands and knees in the dirt for a few thousand feet in the deep and the dark. The ground was cold and dirty. My father usually did this part but he had gone fishing for the day with his brother, Uncle Bob.
« Stop being afraid of everything! You want to travel , don’t you? » Martha said looking at me sternly.
« Yeah…but sometimes Dad finds rats in the basement… »
« Nonsense. When was the last time you saw one? » she asked.
She was right. I had never actually seen one. So I got on my hands and knees on the dirt floor and started to crawl towards the faucet. It was getting darker and darker and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears.
« Are you almost there? » asked an impatient Martha.
« Almost… », I quivered.
And then I heard the loudest shriek in my whole entire nine years of living. Bad news travels fast but never quite as fast as my sister that day.