All my life I have been trying doing the right thing. Living life as I was taught to. Following the rules and guidelines set forth for me by my father, “Sargent Jack Ass” of the United States Army. OK so maybe he isn’t in the army or a Sargent for that matter – but he was and remains a Jack Ass to this day.

“You do as I say, boy, and not as I do.” He would tell me in a strange southern drawl even though he never left the five boroughs of New York City in his life. All the while my mother would be sipping at her “Water”, which smelled suspiciously like vodka, smile and say,

“Listen to your father, dear, he knows what he is talking about.” She would then lay on the couch and fall asleep.

Annie, my sister,  was adopted into our family when she was 5. She was what my parents spoke in confidence about (loud enough for me to hear from my room) a chance for the child they wanted. Apparently they preferred to have a girl as opposed to me and the boy that I was. I think the first time I saw her smile was when she was braiding Annie’s hair that first week or so.  I was 6 when she came into our home and was quickly cast aside. Quickly the attention given to Annie began to diminish as the excitement of the “New kid in town” began to wane. It was several months after Annie walked in the door that my mother realized she was pregnant.

Once the glow had eased and the darkness from my mother enveloped the house – Annie and I began to bond and as we grew older we became confidants and each other’s caretaker in a house without a home.

My mother gave birth to Cindy and within a year after that, Harry came into the world. “Irish twins,” She would say, “They even look alike.” Which they did not. Cindy was dark skinned with deep dark eyes, while Harry was blonde with blue eyes which seemed ice cold.

At the age of 12 Annie came into my room and lay next to me. She was crying from a nightmare and asked me to hold her. I did. It was that night when I began to feel protective over her. She continued to visit my bed nightly, I didn’t object at first because she seemed like she needed someone and my parents were not exactly a haven of love. But as the nights passed and her wardrobe diminished I began to feel a sense of unease.

Cathy comes over

When I was 15 years old, Annie’s friend Cathy, came into my bed with me. She lay there with Annie on one side of me and her on the other, speaking and giggling. When Annie walked into her room to get something, Cathy looked into my eyes, licked her lips and kissed mine.

“I just wanted to feel what its like…” She said.
“OK…me too.” I said, highly aroused and confused.
She kissed me again but this time she opened her mouth and I opened mine. Annie came back in the room and lay down with us.
“Did you kiss him?” She asked Cathy.
“Yeah now its your turn.” With that they both smiled and then Cathy kissed Annie. Annie pulled me towards them and we all shared each other. When we heard my father stumbling up the stairs it was over.

At least for that night.

Cindy and Harry were in the same grade, in the same classes and had the same friends. Cindy was often mistaken as a black girl while Harry was nicknamed “The Aryan Boy.” Those nicknames were given to them by Grandpa Henderson. More on him later on.

Close that Door…Please?

When she was 14 years old, Annie began to sprout in all the womanly places. When she was 16 she became known as “Always Available Annie” and her name was written on every boys bathroom in Midwood, Brooklyn.

I was graduating from Midwood High School and was tired of hearing about my sister being the “best this and the best that.”

I was jealous instead of angry and I would find myself peeking and prodding where I had no right to.

She seemed to sense it because she would often leave her door open when she was getting dressed or bend down in front of me while she wore a loose fitting top with no bra.
It would get me crazy.
“Put on some clothes Annie and try not to give it all away all the time.”
“What’s it to you, Jack Ass Junior?” She would call me that because of the uncanny way I looked and acted like my dear old dad by being all fatherly to her while wanting her more than anyone else.” Do as I say not as I do.
“As your older brother I think I have a right to-”
“What get in on the action?” She moved in closer to me and I stood my ground. She pressed her breasts against my chest and moved her lips close to my ear.
I could feel her breath on me as she said, “Come on JJ, we aren’t blood you know we can fool around. Siblings with benefits.” I would feel the hot air from her mouth with a slight moisture from her tongue and I left the room quickly as she laughed and bid her goodbyes to the inhabitants of Chez Henderson.

A sample of an evening at Chez Henderson.

Our home was what seemed to be psych ward for the Henderson’s and the Cohen’s.
My mother’s parents, Irving and Mary Cohen lived on the first floor in the back room, which had its own kitchen, bathroom and entrance.

My father’s parents, Ezekiel and Fiona Henderson lived on the top floor, the third floor and had the same self-contained accommodations.

The Cohen’s were the elder of the two couples and it was quite obvious by the way they stumbled around the house. They would “Kvetch” as Grandma Cohen would say and “Kvetch” about one thing or another.

“Annie you valk around the neighborhood like that? Its a shanda bubele. Put on some clothes.” My Grandmother would say.
“Or at least start charging for each look, touch and kiss – this way we could move out of this dump and get a real home.” Grandpa Cohen always ending it with his loud chuckle. “Heh!”                “Irv, Irv? This is the way they dress these days, if da mother don’t say anything vhy should vee?”
“She looks like the girls who used to greet us when the ship would dock in different places during the war. Ah those were women…remember Bobby?”
“Stop it Irv, Bobby isn’t here and we don’t want to hear about it.”

Bobby was Grandpa’s friend who was shot in the head as they sat next to each other during World War 2. They were eating together and Bobby had taken off his helmet for a split second before Grandpa knew it there was Bobby’s brains in his rations. Bobby resurfaced several years ago when Grandpa was watching a documentary on the war; apparently Bobby was sitting on the chair next to him, drinking a beer. Another adoption this family didn’t really need.
“Here we go again with these fucking kikes taking up the space in the living room.” Yup that was Grandpa Henderson or “Hendy” as he preferred to be referred to as. The local bigot and rascal of Chez Henderson.
“Stop it Hendy, we don’t want to upset the children they are all watching us and every move we take. I swear I think that slutty one is hitting on you and I heard her parents talking about throwing us out.”
“Right Fi and the wine they give us is really the blood from that dog they shipped off to the country.”
Apparently he was convinced that we had a dog that we needed to ship to the country. My mother said it was curious because she had a dog growing up they had sent to a cousin in upstate New York so it could have more space and clean air.
“OK everyone – dinner is served.” My father with his famous dinner of (fried spare ribs?) something we never did figure out what. My mother would be happy to have the night off from cooking and would simply take a gulp of “water” and lean to fall onto the rest of the couch to pass out.

“OK, I am out.” Annie announces.

“Where are you going I just served dinner?”

“Johnny is outside we are going to see ‘Back to the Future,’ at the Oceana.”

“Put on a sweater or a shirt at least.” Grandma Cohen said.

“If you take him to the balcony get paid first.” Grandpa Irv. “Heh! Bobby you heard that?”

“Pass the dog shit you made Jack – don’t let the Jews eat it I am sure its not kosher. Aint no priest putting blessings on it.” He laughed. Grandma looked around as if she was being surrounded and from the couch in the den we heard a laugh. The problem was no one was there.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“That was Bobby! This tastes like that shit that came out of his head when he went to scratch the lice out of his hair.” Heh!