A prairie January nighttime drive was not what Chicken Bones wanted to be a part of. She was squashed in the back seat of the icy car. The plastic frost shields on the passenger windows were cracked and useless. She could see nothing. It was after supper, so it was pitch black out anyway. She pouted and whined because she had to go all the way to Teulon to watch her biggest sister, Thora give a speech in an oratorical contest. (Chicken Bones thought it should be called an ora-Thora-cal contest.) It felt like a drive to eternity, but Chicken Bones and her family finally made it to the school gym where the contest was being held. (The trip took forty-five minutes.) Chicken Bones squirmed on the slippery metal chair while Thora gave a talk about something very grown up. Chicken Bones didn’t really understand what Thora was talking about but she was impressed with Thora’s brave voice and stylish sling-back shoes. She tried to listen and behave herself. And in the end, Thora won the oratorical contest. (She almost always won everything.) Chicken Bones was excited about Thora’s trophy because it was shiny and gold with a heavy marble base and it looked very important. Chicken Bones wondered if she would ever get up on a stage and give a speech and win a trophy like her biggest sister. Chicken Bones was in awe of Thora.
A hot dry Saskatchewan evening offered Chicken Bones a little forbidden excitement. She was visiting her cousins at their cabin. There were six cousins, but Chicken Bones just played with the youngest two, Charles and Bobby. The older cousins had better things to do. The older cousins had a teen dance to go to at the recreation hall. They took Thora to the dance because she was a new girl and many of the boys thought she was pretty cute. (Chicken Bones thought she was beautiful.) After the teenagers left for the dance, Charles and Bobby told Chicken Bones that they could all sneak out and watch the dance through a crack in the door. Little kids were not allowed at the dance, so away they snuck. Bobby, Charles and Chicken Bones giggled and pushed and stubbed their toes as they ran through the dark on the dusty gravel road. They saw the lights from the hall and could hear music. The closer they got, the sillier they acted. When Chicken Bones finally got to peer through the crack, she saw Thora dancing in a different kind of way. As “Louis Louis” and “Hanky Panky” and “Red Rubber Ball” blasted from the speakers, Thora held her arms straight out from her sides, tilted her head a little, shuffled her feet, and shrugged her shoulders up and down to the beat. (Chicken Bones was mesmerized.) All the cousins and their friends danced with Thora. As Chicken Bones nervously scurried home with Bobby and Charles, she felt proud to have such a popular and coordinated sister. She wondered if she could ever be admired the way that Thora was.
Chicken Bones was much much younger than Thora. So when Chicken Bones was drawing stick people on the chalkboard in the basement, Thora was already learning to sew in Home. Ec. classes. She made a perfect black and white checked gingham apron for herself. There was a tiny bit of fabric left so she created a little gingham fish for Chicken Bones. It was stuffed with bits of old sponge and had two black buttons for eyes. Chicken Bones liked it a lot and usually slept with it at night. This was important because Chicken Bones was often scared at night and had nightmares about lions under the stairs and dead soldiers under the bed. (A little cuddly toy usually helped Chicken Bones feel better.) One night, Chicken Bones was VERY SCARED. She was crying a lot. Her dad came into her room and told her that the little fish was a magic fish and that it would always keep her safe. Chicken Bones was so happy to hear this news. From then on, she clutched her magic fish in her hand and she was always safe. Chicken Bones didn’t know how Thora sewed a magic fish, but it worked. Chicken Bones hoped that she could create magic like Thora one day. Chicken Bones was very grateful to have Thora as her biggest sister.
Chicken Bones and Thora grew up. Chicken Bones became a college instructor and she was happy that she had learned how to stand up in front of people and talk and not be nervous. She learned this from Thora. (But she never got a trophy.) Thora became a landscape architect and she makes magic still, with plants and flowers and trees. (Sometimes they help protect people with shelter and shade.) For several years, Chicken Bones took many kinds of dancing lessons such as ballet and jazz and contemporary and highland but she never quite displayed Thora’s coordination (or popularity).
Chicken Bones loved Thora anyways.
She loves her to this day.
(Happy Birthday today, Thora!)
©Conni Cartlidge, 2010