My Aunt Annie was way too young to be an aunt. She was just a kid on a tricycle when my sister, Deanna, was born. I have no memories of the little girl Aunt Annie, but I do remember the teenager Aunt Annie. She was fourteen years younger than Mom. She was nothing at all like Mom. Aunt Annie and Mom didn’t even look like sisters.
Aunt Annie had a turned up nose because she pinched it between her fingers when she sucked her thumb back when she was my age. Least that’s what Grandma said.
Aunt Annie had a D.A. haircut and she giggled.
“See,” she said, and turned around so I could see the back of her head. “See how the hair comes together in the back. It looks like a duck’s ass.” She combed back through her hair on both sides and started singing “Kookie Lend Me Your Comb,” using her rat-tail comb for a microphone.
“Maybe I see it,” I said, tipping my head to one side. I studied the back of Aunt Annie’s head. “We just have chickens.”
Aunt Annie giggled behind her hand, mischief danced around in her eyes. Dad had dancing eyes, and mischief, but Dad’s mischief was the kind that made everybody laugh loud. Aunt Annie’s mischief was the kind that made Grandma say, “You little stinker.” Everybody knows being a stinker is a bad thing. Being a stinker won’t send you to hell or anything, but it will make people stay away from you. Well, maybe not all people. Aunt Annie had lots of teenage friends.
I got to be in backseat when Aunt Annie learned to drive. That’s because in summer I got to stay one whole week at Grandma’s all by myself, with no brothers or sisters soaking up the limelight. Of course I had to help pick raspberries, and help Grandpa out in his shop making inventions like rototillers that could work on both sides of the beans, and putting together movie credits for his home movies, and building secret things like boomerangs. Helping Grandma and Grandpa was more like fun than work. Anyways, Drivers’ Training happened in summertime, and that’s how I got to see Aunt Annie learning to drive.
“Put both hands on the steering wheel,” Grandma said.
Aunt Annie, cocked one of her eyebrows at Grandma. Aunt Annie’s plucked her eyebrows into thin arches, so she always looked surprised.
“Mr. Mann said to keep the left hand at nine o’clock and the right hand relaxed on my lap.” She smoothed her fluffy skirts. Her can can slip rustled underneath.
“I don’t care what Mr. Mann says,” Grandma squinched her bottom lids up. Everybody knows that’s the signal for I’m getting mad.
“He’s the teacher,” Aunt Annie said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”
“I’m your mother,” Grandma said. The skin on her jaws rippled and her lips just about disappear. Aunt Annie kept on driving with one hand on the wheel and the other in her lap.
Aunt Annie looked over at Grandma and arched the right eyebrow up, and pulled her mouth into a crooked smile.
“See,” she said. “Nobody’s dying here.”
The little curl at the base of her neck wagged at me as Aunt Annie shook her head back and forth and clicked her tongue in the back of her mouth.
“I see it,” I clapped my hands down on the front seat. “I see it.”
“What do you see?” Grandma said. Her eyes darted all around and her hands flew over in front of nobody in the middle seat. Mom always did that when she had to stop fast, so baby Frankie wouldn’t fly into the dashboard or onto the floor. Aunt Annie grabbed the steering wheel with both hands.
“The D.A,” I said pointing to the back of Aunt Annie’s head. “It looks just like a duck waddling.”
Grandma and Aunt Annie sucked in their breath. Grandma threw her head back and laughed that same kind of laugh Mom did. The kind that made the whole world seem happy.
“That’s a Duck’s Ass, alright,” Grandma said.
Aunt Annie gave me the one-eye-brow-up look through the rear-view mirror.
“You little stinker,” she said. Her eyes danced.
Being a little sticker is sorta fun.