Thursday, December 23, 2010

How I Got My Nickname

I suppose there isn't only one incident that earned me the name "Madman" from my brothers. They never did understand me, or what made me do the things that they, in their shallowness, labeled insane. I did occasionally bite them when we were little, but plenty of kids are biters. We all grow out of it.

When I was a teenager my brothers deemed my hormones a cause of madness, though I'd like to point out that they sketched nipples on every woman in their comic books until they were about eighteen, and they never saw that as an oddity, or a suggestion of hormonal imbalance. Granted, I did my share of crying and screaming and slamming doors at the appropriately dramatic times. But that, too, is normal, is it not? Not mad. Not behavior that would get me locked in Mr. Rochester's attic.

If you talk to Gerhard, which you shouldn't, he will tell you that I once followed my science teacher home. Gerhard thought I was stalking him, when in fact I simply wanted to see where he lived because he had often mentioned the beauty of his neighborhood. I like to think this was the reporter in me, emerging even at the age of sixteen. But then my car stalled outside my science teacher's house; not wanting to be seen, I crouched down in the passenger footwell and called Gerhard on my mother's cell phone, begging him to come and get me, and I was still there twenty minutes later when my brother peered through the window, his face a study in disbelief. I would have defended myself more thoroughly at the time, except that my legs were entirely asleep, and I lay in the back seat, crying gently, embarrassed and in pain. Naturally my older brother chose to interpret this whole affair, what I call the "Mr. Bentley Affair," in the worst possible light.

If you talk to Fritz he will tell you that I sing to myself, or that I used to make paper dolls of people I knew and hang them up in my room. Fritz calls them voodoo dolls, but no pins were involved. My mother insists that this was an early blossoming of a highly creative mind, and I'm obliged to agree. I have a highly creative mind, not a mad one.

The fact is, my brothers get upset because my job, every now and then, has a wee element of danger, and they don't think that I can handle danger--or anything--very well. And about that they are, of course, wrong. Sooner or later they'll come around, but I can't worry about what Fritz and Gerhard think. I'm a grown woman. I'm a professional. And I am most certainly not mad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I Don't Call My Brother

My little brother Fritz is a colossal pain on his best day, and I try to avoid any scenario in which I might have to depend on him for something. Fritz is twenty-four, by the way, not seven, but sometimes there's not that huge a distinction. So I don't call Fritz as a rule, not unless I'm asking him to come over and finish my leftovers.

Today, however, I had to break my own rule, because Fritz had a friend that I needed to contact for a story I'm writing about the declining duck population on Lake Ebbes in Webley. Fritz's friend Elaine worked for the EPA, and I wanted to get some info from her off the record. So, with much trepidation, and clutching a stress ball that I could squeeze rhythmically while we talked, I dialed Fritz's number.

Fritz: Hello?
Me: Fritz, it's Madeline. I need to get Elaine Porter's number from you.
Fritz: Hey, did you know that show you like is on this weekend?
Me: What show?
Fritz: The weird British one where everyone talks about flowers, or something.
Me: I have no idea what you're talking about. But I need--
Fritz: Don't even pretend you don't know, Madman. Gerhard said you'd want to tape it, so I'm telling you now.
Me: Uh--okay, thanks. Anyway . . .
Fritz: (burping) Yeah, no problem. We happened to run across the promo while flicking channels, and naturally we couldn't get away from it fast enough.
Me: Fritz, you shouldn't drink beer before work. Don't you work today?
Fritz: I'm not drinking beer, I'm drinking POP. It's the carbonation that makes you burp, not the actual hops or something. But thanks for the tip, MOM.
Me: I'm just telling you not to get fired for being drunk. That doesn't make me Mom.
Fritz: Sure. Maternal One.
Me: Fritz, would you shut up and just give me Elaine's phone number?
Fritz: What? Elaine who?
Me: Do you ever listen to me?
Fritz: (mildly) Do you give me reason to?
Me: (rapidly squeezing the stress ball) I need Elaine Porter's number so that I can call her about my duck article.
Fritz: Sure. (riffling through his phone book). That's some real hot news there, Madman.
Me: The environment is hot news, Fritz.
Fritz: Yeah, sure, that's what I said. Okay, here we go. Elaine Porter. (He reads the number).
Me: Great, thanks. I'll talk to you--
Fritz: Hey, what are you having for dinner tonight?
Me: I don't know. I'll find something in the freezer and--
Fritz: Do you have enough for four? Then your brothers could come over and clean up your leftovers, which is their job.
Me: Okay, this wouldn't be leftovers. My fridge is still nice and empty from your last visit, but sure, why not, I'm sure Jack won't mind seeing you two yet AGAIN during the dinner hour, which is the only chance we get to talk.
Fritz: Great! I'll bring some root beer. I think I have a few cans left. See you then, Old Thing.
Me: (sighing) See you then, Fritz.

When I dialed Elaine Porter's number a few minutes later, I got a "not in service" message, which I took to mean NOT that Elaine had skipped town, but that Fritz had read his own handwriting incorrectly. His fours look like nines and his eights look like zeroes, and I didn't have time to sort it out. Instead I contemplated what I could make for dinner that would be the most disgusting to Fritz.

And this is why I don't call my brother.