Before I turn nineteen one of my McDonald’s managers, who is in his twenties, asks me to go with him to hear a live band. I don’t have any ID saying I am nineteen so I steal Cissy’s Age of Majority card from her wallet. She doesn’t drink or go to clubs so I know that she will not miss it. As we stand in line I confide in Jesse that I have Cissy’s ID.
“Oh. And you really look like your sister,” he says. “You better pray that if the doorman asks to see it he’s drunk or high or both so he doesn’t look at the picture too closely.”
The bouncer asks for my ID. He looks at Cissy’s picture and then studies me. I smile at him and he hands it back to me admitting us. “It’s a good thing you’re good-lookin’,” Jesse says.
I like to work the drive-thru so they put me in there with the younger Crae sister or the younger Wieler sister. Our older sisters work the window or in the lobby as hostesses. On a Friday night we do accents over the drive-thru speaker. One girl, Frida, pretends to be an exchange student and says the most outrageous things to customers over the speaker feigning that she doesn’t speak English. Frida is older than I and she buys me and my friends liquor while we are still underage though I manage to get served in the LLBO by the time I am seventeen if I go in wearing make-up and high heels. If Frida comes into the lobby on her day off while I am working she always gets in my line.
“Hey! Hosebag! Slutface!” she screams at me in front of the customers in my line and I cannot keep a straight face.
Cissy likes to socialize with the McDonald’s crew outside of work, but I normally don’t. I enjoy them when I am on shift but I don’t socialize with them outside of work. I do go camping with all of the McDonald’s crew one weekend much to the chagrin of Cissy who hates it that I even work at McDonald’s. We take our family’s huge tent with the hanging bedrooms in it, and Cissy takes the Coleman stove and a cooler fully stocked with food. I take a two-four of beer and three bags of gingersnap biscuits.
“When you get hungry, don’t come crying to me,” Cissy tells me.
“And when you want a beer and a gingersnap, please look elsewhere,” I say to her.
My sister would never drink a beer. I am not concerned. As it turns out I don’t need to worry about food either. I am fed by the boys we work with who come as prepared as Cissy. During that trip our crew friend, Larry, tells everyone that he is gay. We all suspect that he is but he always has the most gorgeous girlfriends from his high school and he is always handsy on shift so we are never sure. When he tells me that he is gay, he weeps.
“I’ve tried to kill myself twice,” he tells me.
Then I cry. “I don’t care if you’re gay, Larry. I love you and just want you to be happy,” I tell him.
“Do you know what your sister said when I told her?” he asks me. I shake my head ‘no’ leaning on my friend’s shoulder. I can only imagine what her reaction was. “She said, ‘Well. You need to go talk to someone, get therapy and get over it!’” Larry and I look at each other and burst out laughing. We laugh so hard we fall down and cannot get up.
“That sounds about right!” I howl.
“Come on, Cinderella,” he says.
We pull one another to our feet and walk arm in arm to the washrooms. Larry screams and sings to me through the wall that separates the men’s and women’s toilets and I laugh uncontrollably as I pee. Drunk, we stumble along the dark path and find our way back to camp. We sit at a campfire at our site with boys we met earlier. Cissy comes roaring out of the tent dressed in pajamas. “Get to bed!” she hisses. “And you boys go back to your own campsite!” I look at her and marvel over the fact that she actually brought pajamas with her camping. Everyone else will crash in sweats but not Cissy. She is buttoned up, wound too tight. There is black and there is white, there is a line and you don’t cross it. But I dare to cross her lines all the time. You have to be perfect with Cissy and I wasn’t. I start to laugh so hard I fall off the log I am sitting on and she stomps back into the tent.
“Right! Who’s up for a swim?” I ask as I stand and throw my empty beer bottle to the ground. After a dip in the lake, we walk back to camp and I stagger to bed, trying hard not to wake up Cissy again who turned in at ten o’clock.
I join McDonald’s softball team for one reason and one reason only. We can put anything we want on the back of our jerseys so I order mine with the initials KMA beneath my last name. The order sheet hangs in the crew room for weeks until it can be sent in. Many crew members, curious over those seemingly innocuous initials, ask me what KMA stands for but I refuse to say. Jesse, the manager who takes me to hear live music on occasion, guesses what the acronym stands for. He whispers his conjecture in my ear as I stand in the staff room writing down my hours.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I laugh.
On the day of our first game, the shirts are in. CISSY, who refuses to play any sport, watches from the stands as I go up to bat. I smack the ball out of the park and run the bases as everyone cheers. People chant, “KMA! KMA! KMA!” Either they have figured it out or Jesse has told everyone that it stands for Kiss My Ass. GRIFFIN. KISS MT ASS. All the McDonald’s big wigs are in attendance, and I wave to my team-mates and the fans, laughing so hard I can barely run my bases. Cissy is affronted, shaking her head in disgust. I laugh at her expression as she realizes that my shirt delivers a veiled message that everyone can kiss my ass, including and especially her. It’s a pity that Cissy doesn’t permit herself to laugh along with the rest and enjoy me as her sister, but she refuses and we miss out on a lifetime of sisterhood with one another.
The night I turn nineteen, I tear my birthday sweater off Cissy’s back. It is an angora, fuchsia mock turtleneck and has white pearl buttons and delicately crocheted button holes along the left shoulder. There are some grand department stores in downtown London when I attend high school in downtown London and with my McDonald’s money I buy myself an expensive piece of clothing every few weeks. In Eaton’s department store there are beautiful sweaters that are normally two hundred dollars apiece, which is a lot of money for me. I save my money and buy an expensive article of clothing every few weeks. I buy a soft pink angora sweater and then a powder blue one. I love the softness of the angora next to my skin. It is one of the few joys that I have in life at that time. I am all set to wear my newest sweater addition out for my nineteenth birthday. I am on the kitchen phone with Fannie Lurh making birthday plans when I see Cissy come up from my basement bedroom wearing my sweater.
“Take off my sweater. I’m wearing it out for my birthday!” I scream at my sister.
“No!” she shouts back at me.
She avoids eye contact. What can she be thinking wearing my brand new birthday sweater on my birthday?
“Can you hold on a minute, Fannie?” I say to my friend on the phone. I place the receiver on top of the cradle and charge at my sister. I grab her and we start to fight. We fight along the hallway, in the kitchen, down the basement steps and in the basement in front of my bedroom.
“I’ve hated you since the moment you were born and I still hate you. I’ll always hate you!” she screams into my face. Her words sting but I continue to wrestle with her until I tear my beautiful sweater from her back, ripping off the pearl buttons in my efforts. Cissy is four inches shorter than I in height and I likely have ten pounds on her. She is no match for me physically. Once I have the sweater in my hands, I return to my call, breathless.
“Holy Fuck, Griffin!” Fannie says. “What was that?”
“My sister had on my birthday sweater and she refused to take it off so I fucking tore it off of her,” my voice trembles as I hold back my tears.
“Jesus!” Fannie says in disbelief.
Two days later Cissy and I are working together at McDonald’s. We haven’t spoken in those two days.
“I’m so stiff,” she says. “I don’t know why.”
“I’m stiff too. It’s because we kicked the shit out of each other night,” I suggest.
“Oh yeah,” she says.
We laugh together but only slightly. There are more times when we don’t laugh. If we drive to school together she bitches at me constantly until I finally strike out at her in the car. More often than not she leaves me behind to get the bus refusing to give me a lift to CCH. When I date Sé she says to him, “Hi Ugly.” I am not sure why she is like this. I don’t know why she exposes herself to ridicule by openly insulting others in the way she does when she is so homely herself.
When we work at McDonald’s as teenagers she is always a size five and I wear a size seven uniform. When our uniforms are washed together Cissy always makes a point of shouting that hers is the five. “Mine’s the five!” she shouts down the stairs as the dryer tumble comes to a halt. I am always self-conscious of my weight though I am slender and have an enviable figure. Fannie Lurh tells me openly she envies my body. “You have a good size chest for the size of the rest of you,” she says.
I walk or bike to my shifts at McDonald’s and I cross off my staff meal before my shifts so I will not be tempted to eat it. Cissy always has her staff meal and never gains an ounce.
“You can’t live your life counting calories,” she tells me, laughing.
“That’s how I have to live my life or I will end up overweight,” I tell her.
I fear getting fat like my mother and grandmother. As a child I order things from Weight Watchers to encourage me to stay thin. I order an embroidery set that has pink pigs on it and various sayings: “A Moment on the Lips, a Lifetime on the Hips” and “Better Waste than Waist”. I do five hundred sit-ups in my room every night before bed as well as other exercises. I wear support top pantyhose under my clothes in high school though I am thin and have a flat tummy. When Sé and I make out he looks at these nylon contraptions with disdain. I am incapable of seeing myself as thin. I have a distorted body image and fight with food throughout my life. I deprive myself eating only eggs or cabbage for months and then go back to getting all of my favourites. I buy bread and then give it all away. This persists throughout most of my life. I never know how to eat properly to maintain a slim figure because I have a mother who would rather die than make a salad or snack on vegetables.
When Cissy and I work together at McDonald’s as teens there is a lot of conflict on the floor. She is bossy towards everyone and serious about her work. Many people change their shifts to avoid working with her because she is rigid. I couldn’t care less about the job except it is a paycheck. It annoys Cissy that I like to have a laugh on the floor. The managers schedule us together for morning breakfast shifts to make life easier for us. They think since there is only one car a common schedule is beneficial for us. Cissy likes the breakfast shift. She is dating a boy who also works there and the two of them are in bed by eleven o’clock on the weekends ready to serve London breakfast at seven o’clock in the morning. I am always hung-over when I work in the morning. I party on the weekend and come to work looking and feeling ghastly.
“There’s Beauty. She looks like the Beast this morning,” Gilly Crae, a fellow crew member, says to me every Saturday morning.
Cissy is dressed in her bright yellow hostess uniform on a Saturday morning and her picture is usually on the wall as McDonald’s Employee of the Month. I never make EOTM and I never care that I don’t.