"Girls, go rake the yard," comes my dad's voice from his office.
This is basically my dad's way of saying, "Girls, go spend the next few hours of your life piling up sticky and prickly tree cast-offs and don't complain about your scratches or the twigs in your hair and, oh yeah, do the dishes when you get in, will you?"
My sister Erica and I exchange a look of horror. I feel like flinging myself onto the floor and throwing a tantrum, but I'm eight and that makes me a big girl now so I'm too old for those sort of "theatrics," as daddy calls them.
We drag ourselves off the couch (where we had been happily watching a Disney movie) and proceed as in a funeral march to collect the rakes.
Our front yard has twenty-one gigantic sycamore trees, which pretty much means it's the yard from hell—especially now, in the windy fall. Year-round the ground is covered by the dry, scythe-like leaves. On the windier days the bark is ripped from the trunk and scattered across the yard.
We divide the yard in half. I am faster than my sister, and am done sooner. Ready to go back inside and collapse in front of the TV (and get something to snack on, it's getting dark and I'm hungry!), I smugly skip towards the front door.
"Chriss-aaaaa-uh." Erica's voice is high-pitched, higher than mine, and she's very accomplished at whining.
Dread fills me. She's my older sister, and she is very adept at making my life hell if things don't go her way. I almost don't turn around. But I do.
"What." My voice is just as whiny as hers. (She's taught me well.)
I can tell from her expression that if I don't she'll guilt-trip me and berate me and evil-look me for days. At eight, I am not yet able to brush off that sort of treatment.
Sighing, I pick up my rake again. Before I start, however, I sneak up behind her and shove. She lands face-first in a pile of leaves.
Dodging the end of her rake as if flies through the air towards me, I giggle and kick the pile, so leaves explode into the air and flitter back onto the ground. And onto her. She is not amused.
I halt. Not only is she not amused, but she's furious. Ooohh, shoot…
She's on her feet again and her hands enclose around my shirt. With a strength I didn't know she had and that I am definitely not prepared for, she launches me into the leaves.
At my flabbergasted expression, a giggle escapes. She tries to cover it up with an angrier expression.
I'm about to take my revenge (I'm not quite sure how, yet, but I'm working on it) a voice at the door makes us both freeze solid.
"GIRLS!" It is our father. "STOP messin' around!"
Sighing, we brush ourselves off (I need to fish out some leaves from the bottom of my shoe) and get back to work.
"Girls, go rake the yard," came my dad's voice from his office.
NO. He HAD to be kidding. Simba and Nala were just about to find out they were fighting each other! Why did he always stop everything at our favorite part??
I looked at Chrissa, trying to verify the fact that he really just said that and that he wasn't joking. The look of horror on her face assured me that, no, he was serious. Oh, darn it!
Pulling myself from the sofa, I led the way to the garage to collect our rakes and started on the nearest part of the yard, the part that didn't have the tree smack in the middle. I hated to rake around that tree. Trying to be organized, I divide my half into eighths (my fourth-grade class had just learned this fraction) and work on each section. I didn't tell Chrissa, but I was trying to race her.
What had to be like eight hours later I glanced up just in time to catch her skipping jovially back to the house.
No! No no no no! Why did she get to go in before me? Would she seriously consider leaving me out here, by myself?
"Chrissa!" I called to her. She paused and turned around.
"What?" she whined. How childish.
"Help me?" I asked.
Realizing that it was unfair for her to resume the movie without me, she walked back towards me. Smiling, I went back to work. My sister always knew to agree with me, because I was the smarter one.
Suddenly I felt two hands push me, reallyreally hard, and I fell into the leaves. The twigs raked at my face. Leaves found their way underneath my shirt and they crumbled and itched.
Screaming, I picked up my rake and swung it at her. She moved out of the way and leaves covered me again. I might have been inclined to see it as an accident if she was groveling for my forgiveness and hadn't been giggling, but as such I felt retaliation was in order.
"Chrissa!" I warned.
"Big deal!" She laughed again.
That. Was. It. I sprung to my feet and rushed her. She was too shocked to run away from me (and if she had run she would have beaten me), so with all my strength I tossed her into the pile.
She rolled over, staring at me, surprised. I had never seen her look so dumb. I almost laughed at her, and then caught myself. I was sure she didn't notice my slip.
Then her face crunched and crinkled, which meant that she was thinking very hard. I plotted my escape, preferably into Daddy's office where she couldn't get me.
"GIRLS!" Maybe not. Okay, new plan. "STOP messin' around!"
We remained where we were for a moment, then I picked up my rake again while Chrissa dug into her shoe. Well. At least when this was over we could get back to Simba and Nala and Can you feel the love tonight?