My beloved little sister was recently published in her high school literary magazine– oh wait, some paper pusher in logistics messed up and her submission didn’t make it to print. To rectify that tragic error, I’ve included her original essay (all of which is completely true, accurate, and not at all exaggerated… sort of):
Sometimes the Holiday Spirit Can Sting
by Carolina Morales
My story begins on Thanksgiving Day.
As my mom mashed potatoes violently in the kitchen, my grandma napped on the couch while a cat napped on her. I pretended to listen to my sister Isabela as she paced around her bedroom, explaining the importance of the free market and space colonization. A typical day. I was secretly looking up various personality disorders on Wikipedia trying to self-diagnose myself.
I was enjoying reading about the common symptoms of schizoid personality disorder, occasionally nodding and saying, “Well that’s interesting,” or “I didn’t know that, Isa”. She seemed so pleased to have an audience that I didn’t want to completely ignore her. But our one-sided conversation was soon interrupted by a lot of commotion—
I started hearing someone shout “evacuate!”
We ran into the kitchen not knowing what to expect. Within seconds, a wave of stinging fumes hit me. Remembering my mom’s Cold War stories, I fell to the floor, shielding my face in an effort to escape the cloud of fumes. I attempted to army-crawl to a safer distance. To my surprise Isabela did not follow my lead, and instead walked calmly back to her room to read Carl Sagan.
Amidst the craziness, confusion, and military training, my other sister Gabriela just stood and sobbed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry,” before realizing that my grandma was still snoring on the couch. My mom stepped into special agent mode.
“Don’t ask any questions, Mom,” she said in a hushed but urgent tone; “Just get out of the room now. It’s too dangerous to stay here”.
Understandably confused, my poor grandma woke up to a scene that was definitely stranger than any dream she may have been experiencing before. One of her granddaughters was crawling on the floor, another frantically opening every window, and her own daughter seemed to want to rescue her from lethal gases. The cat that had been resting peacefully on her back moments before was now vomiting on the carpet. And worst of all, having forgotten to charge her hearing aids the previous night, she completely missed my mom’s very convincing audition for 24.
The fumes seemed to be going away. No one was having uncontrollable coughing fits anymore, and my bloody nose had just stopped.
That’s when my mom made a major tactical error.
She turned on the air conditioner, wanting to clear out the rest of the house to make sure the fumes were all out. Now they were back, this time traveling through the vents, and fast. I ran to Isabela’s room in the back of house, hoping to quarantine myself.
“Cover me,” I said to my sister. “I’m going in.”
Isabela tried to lift me up to the vent, but her efforts were unsuccessful (she probably should have army crawled with me). Climbing the shoe-tree in her closet to gain some height, I battled with the air vent, risking my fingers to get it shut and secured. Meanwhile, Isabela retrieved the knife she hides in her copy of The Return of the King, using it to slice open stuffed animals over a decade old, sealing the crack under the door with their stuffing. She showed no emotion, and I tried not to think of the Wikipedia article on sociopaths.
Eventually the mysterious fumes seemed to thin out; our eyes stopped burning, and we stopped coughing. Covering out mouths and noses, we stepped out of the only safe room to see what was left of the rest of the family.
“I had a cough this morning, but I think it’s cleared up now!” my grandma was saying, oblivious to my mother’s anger. Gabriela was still covering her face, but this time not because the fumes; now it was just embarrassment. “So what exactly happened?” I demanded.
I finally got the whole story—and made Gabriela promise that she would never test out pepper spray in the garbage disposal again. It was only later we learned that she’d done the same thing at school two years before. And as it turns out, in California it is illegal to misuse pepper spray—those who do can be fined up to 1,000 dollars and serve three years behind bars. Gabriela doesn’t have to worry about us pressing charges, but if this happens on any other holiday, or my birthday, I’ll make sure she knows what she’s in for.