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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Rattled by the Rush

One summer when I was thirteen, my aunt and her two girls came to live with us. It seems that my aunt was getting through a messy divorce, and needed a place to stay in the meantime. She had no job, no money, no qualifications, and no real prospects. My mom (her sister) invited her to stay with us over the summer so my sister and I would have someone to look out for us, and my aunt would have a place to stay for awhile.

To her credit, she tried to make it a nice summer for us. She would think of various things for us to do when we got bored--trips to the mall, swimming, the park, the zoo. Even at the age of thirteen though, I could tell that she was coming from a very different place than my mom and dad were--she didn't seem to understand that I could do things myself, that I didn't need to be followed everywhere I went. I could make my own sandwiches, for God's sake.

I was getting frustrated with the situation, and I finally reached my limit after one eventful trip to the mall. My aunt took me, my best friend, and my two cousins to look and walk around the air-condition center--and nothing more. No lunch, no small purchases, no leaving the group. Finally at one point, my friend asked her what the point was.

"Wait--no one's even going to buy anything? What are we even doing here?"

In response, my flustered aunt took us to Taco Bell and bought one cup of refried beans and cheese for fifty cents--for all of us. Not only was I annoyed, I was embarrassed.

"Fucking beans and cheese!" I seethed to my friend. "What the fuck!"

I was sick of the whole thing--the trips, having to kind of look after my two other-worldly cousins that I didn't seem to have anything in common with, my aunt's doting--so I hatched a plan.

Having recently seen the Simpsons episode "Bart the Lover", where Bart sends the fake love letter to Mrs. Krabappel in response to a personal ad, I decided to do the same thing for my thirteen-year-old cousin. A brilliant plan, I figured, and one that would result in mystery and wonder as I watched them anticipate the next letter from "Andrew", the guy who had an eye on my cousin and thought that she was "very beautiful" if I remember my phrasing correctly. It wasn't out of dislike or hatred towards my cousin--it was really just a prank that I figured I would enjoy watching play out.

It all went horribly awry. Instead of being charmed and curious, she was confused, and immediately went to her mother for help.

"Who would do this?" my aunt asked. It seems like the work of a pervert."

They speculated about who it could be, and decided that it must have been the coach of our neighborhood swim team, which I was a part of. Jeff was probably the nicest and most Christian guy I knew at the time, and in retrospect I'm at a loss as to why they wouldn't just immediately recognize it as a fake. It was written in my own handwriting, first of all. I mean, I wrote it in cursive on paper from our computer--they couldn't see that this was just a poorly-written letter by a dumb kid who was a little bored and looking for a laugh? Second, for the photo attachment, I included a picture I cut out of an advertisement from the phone book--the president of an exterminating company if I remember correctly. I addressed it to my cousin with our own stationary, and put it in the mailbox. Without postage.

Just as she was about to call the police, I admitted, in tears, that it was me who sent the letter. I apologized, and I watched her try to piece it together. Why would he do this? Did he really do this? Are you sure it wasn't a pervert? My aunt gave me a hug and accepted my apology.

"You're a good kid, Chris. You're a good kid."

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