The drafting table, which she yearned to
purchase, and the wallaby, which she hoped to adopt, would have to wait. First,
Marybeth Jones, older sister to Albuquerque Quisling Jones, and to Tabitha
Jenny Jazz Jones, that is, one of the three heirs to the fortune of
Sasha and Laila Jones, needed to rehab a computer. She ought not to have let
Jazz manipulate her into breaking it.
During a recent afternoon, when the
Jones oldest and middle daughters had been sitting at their familys
kitchen table, Jazz had been using her PC screen to barricade herself from
Marybeth. Marybeth had reached to see that screen, believing that the words
typed there were vital for her to read. Jazz had resisted. The ensuing tussle
had ended with Jazzs computer getting broken.
Marybeth should have known better. Jazz
had long been stronger, faster, and hipper than her. Jazz bench pressed and ran
cross country. Each and every time that their family visited their
fathers parents, those elders always asked for Jazz since other than the
familys bodyguards, only Jazz could lift them back into their chairs if
they slipped out.
Besides, when the girls at their high
school were wearing their hair tucked into their collars and when the boys were
wearing their underwear tucked out of their jeans, Jazz had already moved on to
a buzz cut and to pushing her shirt completely in, Along with wearing her
panties over her slacks. In the same way, Jazz made cat eye stripes on her
lower, not on her upper, lids and sprinkled glitter along the edges of her hair
long before such choices became trendy.
Moreover, every time the sisters argued,
Marybeth was outnumbered. Albuquerque looked and acted like Jazzs Mini
Even though Albuquerque was challenged
by blindness, which had resulted from a sequence of events surrounding her
birth, which were known only to Sasha and Laila, Albuquerque was the most
geographically facile of the entire Jones family. To wit, Jazz took Albuquerque
to rallies. What's more, the youngest sisters presence guaranteed that
Jazz and her mates would find their way home, whether they were leaving a
demonstration in an orderly fashion or slipping out of jail.
Anyway, when Jazz got into legal
trouble, if she was correspondingly minding Albuquerque and
Albuquerques guide dog, Charlie, customarily, she was acquitted. No law
enforcement officer wanted to be photographed harassing a
handicapped minor, let alone a handicapped minor that was identifiable as the
child of a major industrialist. Only the familys hired help objected that
certain of Jazz and Albuquerques adventures embarrassed their
Unlike her siblings, Marybeth, an honors student:
participated in no interscholastic sports, held no gym membership, could sing,
but not perform magic, could adjust pillows and fill water glasses for their
familys seniors, but lacked the muscle to physically reposition them,
wore her hair in neat braids, stuck to a uniform of long sleeved
shirts, vests, ankle-length skirts, and brief boots, and, until recently,
stayed clear of protests. Actually, if Marybeth hadnt enrolled in a
social movements course, she would never have joined her siblings at marches
and would never have realized that they had failed to return home from the most
Unbeknownst to their oldest girl,
Marybeths parents had made efforts to stop worrying that is, to stop
waltzing in panic, whenever Jazz and Albuquerque vanished. Their younger two
daughters always managed to reappear. Sometimes, that pair even had an
interesting tale about their delay.
The present delay, though, was atypical. Jazz and
had never before been detained so long that they missed breakfast. There were
no sisters present, that morning, with whom Marybeth could board the school bus
or with whom she could quibble.
Worse, Mom and Dad seemed oblivious to the hours that had
passed since her sisters left home. However, whereas they said nothing to
either Marybeth or to their household staff about their misgivings, they had
hired the agents to locate their two youngest. Had the girls been jailed,
they would have merely greeted them with consequences, as per family norm. Had
they not been jailed, but had simply returned home past curfew, then, too, they
would have given out predictable punishments along with hugs.
Mom panted Marybeths head as she refilled her coffee
mug. Dad grunted over his shashuka.
On balance, Marybeth was able to eat her
eggs and toast without indigestion. Had Jazz been at the
table, she would have verbally accosted Marybeth. Lately, Jazz was angry with
her older sister not only because of the busted computer, but, furthermore,
because Marybeth, who was old enough to vote in the coming
election, supported Agudat Yisrael.
Like Mom and Dad, Jazz favored Yesh
Atid. Additionally, there remained Jazzs long-term resentment about
Marybeths skills in Russian, Farsi, and Arabic and her umbrage over
Marybeths affinity for sushi. Jazz had poor mastery of all foreign
languages, including English, and hated all fish, especially undercooked or raw
Jazzs bitterness had recently
increased so much that she no longer only disrupted meals. She had also begun
spreading rumors about Marybeth, at school. She had to carry out that behavior
at school since such talk had no buyers at home.
Cook loved bringing Marybeth to the shuk
to help him bargain in strange tongues. Roi, the chauffer, encouraged Marybeth,
who, like Albuquerque, was proficient with Waze, to help him navigate. There
was no audience for Jazzs rants and gossip at home.
Yet, notwithstanding that her breakfast
lacked attacks from Jazz and from their collaborating youngest sister, it was
polluted by an uncomfortable silence. Neither Mom nor Dad said as much as a
On a trip to the bathroom,
taken between toast and grapefruit, Marybeth deigned to open her siblings
respective bedroom doors. That stealth proved pointless, though, as each of
their rooms was empty.
Marybeth returned to the table and
allowed soundless deliberations to occupy her. No one, except Cook, had ever
openly questioned the objectives of the caucuses that her sisters joined and no
one had ever urged them to embrace alternatives. None of the
grownups in her world had ever posited that joining swarms of bellowing people
might not be the best way for those young Joneses raise questions about the
class with which they were associated. Further, no authority had sat the girls
down to discuss the dangers concomitant to attending protest
Marybeth spooned sugar over her fruit
mindlessly. It made no sense that Mom and Dad failed to object to her
siblings frequent, publicized remonstrations against moneyed, privileged
people. At the same time, it was equally odd that they voiced no disapproval
of, and pointed out no contradiction concerning, Jazz and Albuquerques
habit of frequently dipping into the familys discretionary funds. Those
girls complained about money and privilege, yet were not at all at odds with
using those fortune and fame to their advantage.
Rather than worrying over her
sisters inconsistent behaviors, over their greed, or over their
stupidity, Mom and Dad seemed to focus on the familys heterogeneous
religiosity. More exactly, Mom and Dad balked at Marybeths insisting that
she legally change her name to Miriam and on her insisting on
lighting Sabbath candles weekly.
Disenchanted by her overly sugared
grapefruit, Marybeth reached for her tea. She had had a familial duty to
accompany Jazz and Albuquerque to last nights rally, specifically, and to
assuage Jazzs self-esteem, in general. She and her siblings might be
divided on spiritual practices and on political representatives, but they
agreed on the importance of nullifying terrorists. The demonstration, at which
her sisters had allegedly appeared, the night before, was a demonstration
More to the point, Marybeth had been
foolish to tell Jazz, who was only slightly younger than her, that she had been
offered full merit scholarships to both Ben-Gurion and Bar-Ilan, and had been
foolish to tell her sister that Dad was suddenly busy seeking a marriage
partner for her. Likewise, there had been no reason for Marybeth to tell
Albuquerque that she had to immediately repay Marybeth for Marybeths
smartphone, which Albuquerque had borrowed, but had lost during her impromptu,
unsupervised trip to the Shuk.
Marybeth sighed as she sipped the last
of her tea. If only her priorities had been better aligned, she might still
have sisters with whom to communicate. Breakfast minus haranguing was no meal
at all. She should have given her sisters blessings, not rebuffed
As she cleared her dishes, Marybeth
sighed once more. Except for a few events, which had occurred a long time ago
in a high school chemistry lab, and except for Jazzs more recent
gossipmongering, there was little to hate her. As per Albuquerque, she was
annoying, but ultimately loveable.
As Marybeth filled her backpack, it was
Charlies whine that she heard first. In strange harmony, she heard her
sisters voices overlay the canines whimper. Roi, who had been
leaning against the kitchen island, drinking his third or fourth cup of coffee,
sprang to open the front door.
Charlie ran straight to his water bowl.
Albuquerque, who was leaning on Jazzs arm, limped to the table. Both
sisters were blotched with what looked like spray paint. On top of that, both
had deep circles under their eyes and both were crowned by thin loops of orange
After drinking the glass of water her
mother had provided, Albuquerque emptied her pockets. Watches, rings, and other
valuable bits and bobs spilled onto the table. Noticing their childs
ill-gotten gains, Laila looked meaningfully at Sasha, but said nothing.
Apparently the girls parents knew about their youngest childs
predilection for picking pockets.
The school bus beeped, waited the
requisite two minutes, and then drove away without Marybeth aboard it. The time
for skirmishes among the sisters had passed. Marybeth wanted, no, needed, a
better rapport with her sisters.
No matter how many times that her
parents gurned over her choices on important matters, going forward, she
didnt have to respond. She could just smile and say nothing. Family unity
outweighed retaliation for hurts from her loved ones.
At the same time as Mother shooed Cook aside and insisted on
scrambling the eggs for Albuquerque and Jazz, Marybeth took the marmalade and
butter out of the refrigerator. She refilled the kettle for their tea, to
Sure, her siblings meandered, time and again, into
communities of questionable judgement. All in all, though, Jazz had faced
down the locker room toughs who were pummeling Marybeth, and Albuquerque had
gifted Marybeth with money, albeit from questionable sources, so that Marybeth
could buy the atlas that she had coveted.
Faces washed and breakfast partially
consumed, the girls began to speak. As her sisters talked, Marybeth scanned her
familys faces as if observing a lineup. She shook her head to clear it;
coming home late was irresponsible, not criminal.
While her sisters might be perspicacious
in wanting to witness, to validate, and to aid the bodily challenged, the
learning different, the publicly inexpert, it was tough for Marybeth to put
aside her lingering certainty that they were, concurrently, imprudent in
the ways in which they made their views manifest. On one hand, no life was
supposed to be trod upon, no bullying or other kinds of coercion were supposed
to be tolerated, and all efforts at curtailing social horrors were to be
applauded. On the other hand, curfews needed to be obeyed and parents
wishes needed to be abided.
A piece of buttered toast, which had
been lobbed at her head, pulled Marybeth from her musings. Her eyes glinting,
she poured the rest of the mostly full marmalade jar over the offending
Maybe disturbing instances of human
behavior should be objected to, en masse, with as much media attention as
possible. Nonetheless, disturbing instances of sibling behavior too, had to be
objected to if the balance within a family system was to be