Dana Hammer is the author of The Taxidermist and Rosemary's Baby Daddy. Her short story, "The Unpleasantness in Room 27A" is featured in the SCWA Anthology, set to be released in October of 2017. She lives in Anaheim, the home of Disneyland. Sometimes she drinks.
ali and amy
Ali focused intently on her crossword puzzle, chewing her Bic pen to aid her failing memory as she grasped for an eight letter word for "loose, in a manner of speaking." Ali always did a crossword puzzle in bed to prepare herself for the serious business of sleeping. She found that tiring out her mind helped her to sleep easier, with fewer nightmares and fewer midnight wake-ups. Ali's right shoulder shrugged up by her ears, clenched up and tense, as if bracing herself for a facial slap. Her long red hair was pulled back into a severe bun to keep it out of her face _ the tickle of her hair on her cheeks and neck annoyed her and only made sleeping more difficult.
Ali noticed a spider on the wall; a common little black spider _ the kind you see everywhere _ but for some reason, this particular spider struck Ali as hilarious, and she laughed as she watched the little fellow on his creepy-crawly journey. She wondered what it was like to be a spider. She wondered if the spider would dance if she closed her eyes.
Ali closed her eyes. She opened them again quickly, hoping to catch the spider in a frenetic spider dance _ preferably a rumba dance. The spider stayed depressingly still, just sitting on the wall as if painted there. Ali realized how ridiculous it was to expect that the spider would dance just because she closed her eyes, and the thought of her ridiculousness made her start giggling all over again.
Spider was a weird word. Spiiiiiiider. Spiderrrrrrrr. Spy-dur. Ali wondered if spiders did a lot of spying and if that was how they got their name. Spy-dur.
Ali grabbed a hold of the privacy sheet that dangled from the ceiling down the center of their queen-sized bed, ripped the sheet aside and looked her sister, Amy, right in the eye.
"You're eating pot brownies again, aren't you?" she snapped.
Amy tried to put on a mask of surprise, but utterly failed. "No...." she said slowly, drawing the word out like pulled taffy. "Why would you think that?"
"Because I'm freaking well stoned, that's why, and you know it!"
Amy busted up laughing. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. But you know we have a big day tomorrow and I can't sleep without weed."
"Yes you can! You do it all the time," snapped Ali.
"Not on big nights like tonight, you know that. Besides, it helps you relax too, you know it does."
"But it's illegal, Amy! And it's not good for us either! You know what this stuff does to your brain?"
"It's not making us brain dead, it's making us relaxed. There's a big difference," explained Amy. "Only you would think that being calm and happy and being stupid are the same thing."
"I have too much to think about right now to waste my energy arguing with you," snapped Ali. "We'll deal with this another time. For now, no more pot brownies."
"Ok," said Amy, sulking.
Ali pulled the privacy sheet closed again, and tried to focus on her crossword. She couldn't believe that Amy had managed to sneak weed into the house again. Last time, she had arranged for a friend to loan her a "book." The book was hollowed out, and filled with pot brownies. Since then, Ali was suspicious of any book Amy touched and inspected them accordingly, but Amy was surprisingly sneaky. Ali wondered vaguely if she should confiscate Amy's phone and read her messages; she had every right to do so _ after all, the pot affected her body too.
As she pondered this, she heard something _ little sounds coming from the other side of the sheet.
Ali ripped the sheet back again, and this time caught Amy in the act - a big bite of brownie sticking out of her mouth, a little smear of chocolate on her cheek.
Ali grabbed the brownie out of her mouth and threw it on the floor.
"Hey, don't waste it!" shrieked Amy. "You know it's a sin to waste food when children are starving and weed-less in Africa."
"Shut up," snapped Ali. "I've had enough of your crap. You know it's about time you started acting like a freaking grown up. This whole irresponsible pot-head thing was cute when we were in high school, but now it's just sad and pathetic. You know, it's not like tomorrow is just about me; it should be a big deal for you, too! But it's like you don't even care! It's like you're perfectly happy to just sit back and get stoned and be poor. Is that what you want out of life? Is that all you want to do?"
"Oh lay off Ali," said Amy with a roll of her eyes. "It's not like we're still gonna be stoned tomorrow morning. And maybe if you take that stick out of your ass, we'll have a better chance of passing this time."
"Stick out of my ass? You know how ridiculous you sound? You know _ you KNOW _ that I am not the reason we didn't pass last time. It was your fault. YOUR. FAULT. And you know it. And after all the work I put in, too! You know what? I can't even talk to you right now. I need sleep. SOME of us actually care about our lives and our futures."
"Whatever," muttered Amy.
Ali pulled the curtain closed again and settled back down on her pillow, hoping to fallasleep at last.
Then she felt it....Amy's hand. Between their legs. Rubbing, insistent.
"Not tonight, Amy. I'm not in the mood."
"Well, I need to get to sleep somehow. And her royal highness won't allow me to consume any more weed tonight, and the tiny bit I've already had won't do the trick."
"What is wrong with you? Why can't you just go to sleep, like a human being?"
"Look, do you want me to pass the test tomorrow or not? In order to pass the test, I need to get a full night's sleep, and I need to relax. And in order to do that I need to either eat a shit ton of pot brownies or I need to fucking masturbate, ok? So pick your poison."
Ali sighed. "Fine. Go ahead".
"Thank you," replied Amy, primly.
Ali closed her eyes and clenched them tight, concentrating on the driving test, on doing a perfect parallel park, smooth and uncomplicated. She glanced at the vision board hanging on the closet door, where a picture of a lovely girl driving a cherry red sports car smiled back at her.
Amy tensed next to her, her breathing a little faster than usual. Ali rolled her eyes. It's not that there was anything wrong with masturbation, morally speaking. It's just that it never did much for her; she was never really able to relax and enjoy it. It was the curse of being the tightly-wound killjoy twin.
Amy enjoyed masturbating, just like she enjoyed pot and vodka and trashy movies about bros on road trips. Things were easy for Amy to enjoy in a way they never would be for Ali.
Ali couldn't just indulge in decadence, or laziness or pleasure for pleasure's sake. Ali had to prove herself, constantly, over and over again, prove that her life was worth it, that she was more than what she had been born. More than a parasite.
When the doctors told their mother that, due to the twins' anatomical structure, they could not be separated without killing Ali, she had actually considered it.
"If the separation were completed, Amy would go on to live a normal life, albeit with some scarring on her right side. Ali would not be able to survive alone, without her sister's organs," the doctor had explained in grim tones, as a doctor should when delivering such grim news.
And their mother had, just for a moment, considered it. In the end, however, she made the decision to keep them whole, and together. For as long as they lived.
Amy's rubbing intensified as Ali looked away, waiting for her sister to finish her business. When at last she clenched and released, a long exhale whooshing out of her, Ali allowed herself to exhale as well, glad that portion of the evening was over.
"Thanks," murmured Amy.
"You're welcome," said Ali.
"You know, I do care about tomorrow. It's important to me too."
"I know. I'm sorry I freaked out on you."