Virtue & Mischief: What are they up to?


There can be no doubt that Amigo No. 1 and Amigo No. 3 (Abby, 16 years old, and Luke, almost 14 years old, respectively) are up to something. They are gaslighting me, setting me up for some nefarious purpose. But what, exactly, is their end-game?

A little background: As young children, Abby and Luke were quite tight. Abby, the elder by nearly three years, was the ringleader and Luke her happy, devoted minion. If she wanted him to do something, she snapped her fingers and he did it. I still recall those relatively halcyon days when we would ask Luke his opinion about something – what clothes he wanted to wear, for instance, or what cereal he wanted for breakfast – and his stock response was to turn to his sister and ask with utmost sincerity, “What you think, Ab??!?” To employ a spot-on cliché, if Abby told Luke to jump, before leaping he’d ask “How high, your majesty?” She even persuaded Luke to wear princess outfits and wigs. I have photographic proof.

I recall thinking that it would be a happy day, indeed, when Luke developed some independence from Frau Domybidding, but I’ve had several years of rather loud and rancorous conflict to stimulate a reassessment. It began when Luke was about 7. Something in his brain clicked. You could almost see the gears turning, hear the internal message echoing inside his cranium: “Waitaminute, chumly! Why are you following her orders all the time? Why on earth do you care what she thinks?! It’s time for some changes ’round here, comrade. A revolution. From now on, we’ll be giving some orders!”

And that was that. From 2012 until approximately mid-June of this year the forces of Abbystan and Lukealia have been at war, battling over such profound matters as who insulted whom first and most egregiously, who sits where in the van, who spent more time in the shower (complete with ridiculous – and lengthy – disquisitions on why it mattered), who stole what food item from whose plate, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Abby, to her credit, quickly discerned the changes in Luke and stopped ordering him around. Luke also sensed the shift in the power structure and, not content with being a mere equal to his older sibling, attempted to establish a new dictatorship. This, Abby would not abide. And thus began our lengthy domestic siege.

Yet something seems to have changed last month, and it’s unsettling, worrisome, like the very first moments in a horror movie when you know things are taking an ominous turn. Something odd and unexplainable happens, the background music signals “creepiness is afoot!” and the hair on the back of your neck stands at attention. I came home from work and heard joint laughter from our back room where there is a combination PS4 gaming console/smart TV.

“What is that?!?” I wondered. Part of the laughter had a female tone to it, but it couldn’t possibly be Abby’s. She wouldn’t be laughing with Luke. “Does Luke have a girlfriend???” I asked myself silently. Both propositions – Abby laughing with Luke and his having a girlfriend – seemed as plausible as encountering Unicorns grazing on our lawn.

I walked down the hallway to investigate, opened the double doors to the room, and there they were: Abby and Luke, sitting side-by-side on a couch, watching a video together and laughing in harmony. My God. The only thing missing from this impossible tableau was Rod Serling’s voice intoning, “For your consideration: two warring siblings, Abby and Luke, decide to freak out their weak and aging father. In tandem they take his hands and escort him into the Twilight Zone….”

“Ummm. What’s going on here?!” I demanded.

They shot me innocent glances. “What do you mean?” Abby asked.

“Yeah, what’s the matter dad? Did you have a bad day at work or something?” Luke added, bizarrely agreeable. “We’re just watching a movie together. Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

I looked at them both, utterly dumbfounded. “Seriously? Well, no. No. I guess not.”

I backed out of the room, dizzy. And so it has gone for nearly 30 consecutive days, only a couple of minor and short-lived skirmishes to sully their new-found goodwill and solidarity. They have gone on a bike ride together, pulled weeds together (mon dieu!!), giggled over videos together, conversed at dinner together. A few nights ago I caught them chatting away in Abby’s room. I stood at her door, trying to overhear what simply had to be a plot against me (there’s no other explanation).

“Yeah, isn’t that hilarious?!” Abby chortled.

“I know, right!?” Luke replied.

I lost my balance and a floor board creaked.

“Dad? Is that you?! Are you spying on us??”

“No,” I fibbed. “Just enjoying your camaraderie!”

I walked away, simultaneously frustrated and terrified. They sure know how to turn the screw, I thought. And a father can take only so much sibling rapport.

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

No posts to display