Fifteen years ago, at a diner in Hammington, Wisconsin where I grew up, Angie bit the pickle her mother said I could have—Angie hated pickles—and placed it on the Formica-topped table in front of my plate. Angie is my younger half-sister. And even though she was sometimes a brat, I found her amusing, and I guess I loved her. That was the last time I saw her. Her mother Hannah got married to Jerry, a man no one liked, including Hannah, but he was better than nothing, she thought (and later told people she didn’t think she deserved any better). Hannah was in her thirties and lonely, and she could wait forever, after all, so they got married and moved down South and then out West and down South again, while I continued to grow up in Hammington. Angie continued to grow up too, in the stories told to me by Debbie, daughter of Maggie, who was the sister of Jerry, husband of Hannah and stepfather of Angie. So while I grew up gradually, day by day, month by month, and year by year, Angie grew up in five steps, as told to me by Debbie. The first step was the birth of her half-sister, Gina, who came into the world backwards, but turned out all right, looking just like Jerry, her father, and Barry—son of Jerry and Betty(Jerry’s first wife), and also a little like Angie, though I never actually saw a picture. Then when I was twenty-one, Angie dropped out of high school to go to cosmetology school—I never found out if she actually went, but Debbie did say that Angie had continued to live with Hannah and Jerry, caring for Gina, who had gotten big and also a bit spoiled, like Angie (I thought). A couple years later, Angie became pregnant by a military person whose name wasn’t mentioned; he was just passing through. Back in Wisconsin, several of us had a thought that we didn’t speak. Angie had decided to have the baby who was born the following year, shortly before Easter, right side out, and looked, Debbie said, just like Jerry, husband of Hannah, and father of Gina. Three days later, on Easter Day, Jerry, driving home from his mother’s house, tried to beat the train and failed—he was killed instantly. Debbie told me several days later and, though I said very little, I felt relieved, and I must admit, satisfied in an uncomfortable kind of way. Several weeks later, I spoke the unspeakable.
Koss is a queer writer and artist with writing in Diode Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Bending Genres, Best Small Fictions 2020, and many others. She was nominated for BOTN in 2021 by Bending Genres and Kissing Dynamite and won the 2021 Wergle Flomp Humor Award. Keep up with Koss on Twitter @Koss51209969 or at http://koss-works.com.