My parents went on a lunch cruise without my brother and me. My brother was scheduled to parasail later, but the employee working at the kiosk called my brother on his cell phone and told him they had a couple of openings sooner, and the weather might not hold later at his scheduled time. My dad had filled out the required form and signed it at the time my brother went to schedule his apppointment, and my dad was going to pay for my brother's parasailing adventure, but Dad was on the lunch cruise with my mom, so my brother asked me for the money. That's what I am to my family --one giant cash cow.
Anyway, if I was going to pay for my brother's parasailing excursion -- I knew I was taking my chances on getting my money back because my parents probably wanted to be there when brother took off to ensure that conditions were safe -- I fully intended to have the parasailing experience as well. There was the pesky matter of signed parental consent, or lack thereof, in my way, but I have overcome much bigger obstacles than not having one of my parents' signatures on a flimsy piece of paper. I headed to the kiosk, cash and ID in pocket, with my brother, to get him and myself up into the air. I grabbed a form and pen when no one was looking and filled it out. I would have preferred to sign my mother's name, but since my father had signed my brother's form, I thought it might arouse mild suspicion if mine were signed by a different parent.
I waited until my brother was already being pulled by the boat before handing my form and money to the cashier. The cashier was mildly irritated that I hadn't paid earlier and gotten on the boat with my brother, because they like to take two or three customers out on each trip. I just played dumb and said, "Sorry." The employee had to give me the full version of the obligatory "You're really fifteen?" routine. I showed him my ID and told him that my brother and I are twins. He looked carefully at my ID, which is still a learner's permit but technically acceptable for identification purposes according to the parasailing company's sign. He then looked at my brother's form. He had to say "You're fifteen?" at least three additional times, with the stress on a different syllable each time he said it, before taking my money. Then he remembered the weight requirement, which the company decreases on low wind days. Today, however, was not a low-wind day. According to the kiosk employee, I needed to weigh at least ninety pounds. Even with overindulging on pizza for Pathological Liar Day and eating a reasonably big Thanksgiving dinner on the beach last night, I would have been lucky to tip the scales at eighty, much less ninety. I asked the guy if arm or leg weights were available because I had heard that those are sometimes used when just a bit of extra weight is needed. He produced two five-pound weights, which I secured to my upper arms. I would have preferred to put them on my legs, but I was concerned that they might slip off and fall into the ocean, and then I'd have to pay for them, never mind the idea that if the extra weight was actually necessary for a safe flight, I would be without it once the weights fell off. Then I stepped on the scale. It stopped midway between eight-nine and ninety. I took a deep breath, hoping that the air I took in would be just heavy enough to propel the needle up to the magic number of ninety; it didn't, but the guy said, "Close enough." The only remaining challenge was to get on the boat without my brother blurting out something stupid like "You didn't ask Mom and Dad."
I waited patiently as my brother soared across the sky for almost twenty minutes. The sign said the parasailing ride was for fifteen minutes, but since the driver of the boat, or captain, or whatever he's called, thought my brother was his last fare for the day, he left him up there a little longer.
As the boat finally pulled up to the pier, the driver was mildly irritated when the other employee hollered out to him that he had one more to go. My brother wasn't really paying any attention, so I slipped onto the boat, and we sped away from the pier. Soon it was time for me to parasail. It was a tad scary as I went up into the sky, but once I reached soaring height and stabilized there, it was an amazing experience. It was like being Tinkerbell. I would imagine that the total effect was similar to an LSD trip without any of the negative aspects. It made many things I have endured in the past year seem small by comparison, at least I until my descent.
My brother was waiting for me when I got off the boat. I paused to hand the weights back to the cashier. "What in the hell were you doing?" he demanded. (We don't ordinarily curse around our parents, but no word is off-limits just between the two of us, and certainly not hell. Anyway, that's nothing compared to my father's vocabulary once he's had two beers.)
"I was parasailing," I answered him. "Duh!"
"You didn't have a parent signature," he said accusingly.
"Parent signature, schmarent signature," I dismissed the whole idea. "There's more than one way to get a parent's name on a piece of paper."
"Oh, my God! You didn't forge it on the paper, did you?" he asked.
"Of course I did," I replied. "What's the big deal? We've both been forging their names for years?"
"Yeah, but that was just for health forms or homework or test papers that we had A's on," he countered. "This is different."
"How's it different?" I asked him.
"It's different because they're gonna kill you," my brother answered in his typically doomsday-predicting way. The sky is always falling as far as my brother is concerned. He paused. "I'm not lying for you," he added.
"Don't be such a goody-two-shoes," I chided him. "Besides, I'm not asking you to lie for me. Just don't volunteer anything. If you just be cool about it, they'll never even think to ask."
They thought and they asked, and my brother didn't lie for me.
I was on my parents' bed in our hotel suite, peacefully watching "16 and Pregnant" on TV and minding my own business, when my father walked in. I didn't pay any particular attention to him until he whacked me. Hard.
"Ouch! That hurt!" I exclaimed as I jumped up. "What were you doing?"
"Do you want more?" he demanded.
"No!" I answered as I backed away from him.
"I know about the parasailing," he said.
"Oh," I replied. ( I'm known for being profound and articulate in times of crisis.) Things were suddenly clear.
"You know there are parasailing accidents every year," he told me.
I wish I had looked up this particular statistic in advance so I could have told him instead of just telling you, Matt, Becca, my school counselor, three friends who shall remain anonymous to preserve my relative anonymity here, my relatives, and the occasional reader who stumbles across this blog, that according to data maintained by the U. S. Coast Guard, the average number of parasailing accidents occuring in U. S. waters is a grand total of [get ready; here comes the drum roll: /././././././././././] 3.2!!! Yes, folks, you read correctly. Of the millions of occurences of parasailing each year, 3.2 injury-producing accidents take place! I would have had a better chance of being impregnated by an extraterrestrial being at high noon on the Golden Gate Bridge on Valentine's Day than of being injured in a parasailing accident.
"How did you get on without one of our signatures?" my mom asked.
"Oh, she had one of our signatures, all right. Take a look." He showed the pink copy bearing my impression of his signature to my mom.
"Did you do this?' my mom asked. I nodded. (Note to younger and less experienced readers: if you're caught red-handed, don't bother lying. You'll only ruin your credibility and destroy the chance that you'll ever sucessfully get out of any trouble by twisting the truth ever so slightly.)
"That's really good. I'd say you've had a lot of practice. Can you do my signature that well?" my mom asked.
"Better!" my imbecilic brother chimed in. "Yours is a lot easier. She does your signature even better than you do it." If my brother were ever a soldier or spy captured by the enemy, no one would need to waterboard him or torture him in any other way. He would offer the information up before it was even requested. He's that stupid!
My parents wanted to know to what I had signed their names in the past. I could honestly tell them that it was just a field trip request, a couple of tests, and that sort of thing. They stared at me, employing their best lie-detection methods that they think are so fool-proof but that don't actually work at all. I didn't tell them this, but the main reason I've never signed anything more significant than a test (on which I had received an "A") or a field trip permission slip is that my mom works for our school district and would know if we had anything really significant for her or my dad to sign. We wouldn't dare skip a class, because she checks on her computer every day to see that we attended all of our classes and were on time.
Then my dad went on a rant for about five minutes about how today it was just a parasailing form I forged, but how was he to know that I wouldn't move on to writing prescriptions and signing his name to them, then selling the Adderall or narcotics to my classmates or taking the illicit drugs myself. My father has turned the non sequitur conclusion into an art form. He was moving at a rapid pace to a place so far into the exosphere that I didn't really know how to respond. . . but only for a moment, as I am seldom at a loss for words for any length of time.
"Dad, I've already been admitted to a mental health facility," I explained calmly. "If you just tell the doctors there about any additional problems I have, I'm sure they can take care of those just like they're going to fix everything else that's wrong with me."
My mom looked at both of us for just a moment, and then began laughing. "What's so funny about this?" he demanded, glaring at her.
Not even waiting for her answer, he stormed toward the door, muttering, "I'm going to get a beer."
My brother, the rat, looked up at him from the chair where he was seated, then sang in his best high-pitched and rapid Alvin (of chipmunk fame) voice, "We are-a hap-py fam-il-y!" It's an inside joke based on a totally asinine Mormon children's song that my Aunt Marthaleen's and Uncle Mahonri's family sings at the talent portion of every family reunion because not one of them possesses anything remotely resembling actual talent. My father stopped, gave my brother the ugliest look he could come up with on the spur of the moment, then picked up a hotel pillow and started bashing my brother with it.
My brother yelled, "What are you hitting me for? I didn't do anything!"Then he hollered, "Alexis, you have to help me!" My brother is always boasting of his amazing body and great physical prowess, but he can't even go one-on-one in a pillow fight with his rapidly aging forty-seven-year-old father without calling on his runt-sized older sister to bail him out.
"Why should I help you after you ratted me out?" I asked in response to his pleas for help.
"He didn't rat you out. I saw you up in the air from our boat," my dad said between pillow blows. "Next time you're trying to be incognito, don't wear your hot pink diving team sweats."
Since my brother didn't tell on me, I went to his aid in the pillow fight. My dad said two against one wasn't fair. We told him that was how we always pillow-fought. He said, "That was when you were little. You're too big now."
I left my brother to fight the pillow war on his own momentarily while I did what I do best, which is to complain and to digress. "You're always trying to make me eat more because I'm too small. Now you say I'm too big! Would you please make up your mind?"
"Jeez, Alexis!" my dad said in his most exasperated out-of-breath voice, "Can you ever listen to a conversation just once without taking something totally out of context?"
"No," I answered him, picking up a pillow and rejoining the fight.
Resigned to fighting off both my brother and me, my dad called out to my mother, "It's two against one. Would you join us?"
My mother picked up a pillow and cautiously walked across the room to where we were pounding each other with pillows. Then she started hitting my dad with her pillow. "What in the hell are you doing?" my dad asked her.
"If I'm going to join this fight, I'll join the winning team," my mom answered him. "I don't want to break a nail or mess up my hair." My brother delivered a blow to the back of Dad's knees with his pillow as my mom hit him over the head with hers. My dad fell to the floor and we all sat on him until he gave up.
Then I had to listen to my dad describe how 60% of the 3.2 injury-producing parasailing accidents that happen in U. S. waters each year are high ankle fractures. A high ankle fracture would be only 1.5 inches from my last fracture. If I were to suffer the a high ankle fracture with my leg's present precarious state, my leg might not ever heal properly. (Translated for the math-impaired: My chances were were 1.92 out of approximately six million that I would have suffered the dreaded high ankle fracture; my chances of incurring the same fracture while crossing a street in my present location are roughly three times as great. When I shared this with my father, he said not only was parasailing a forbidden activity for me; I was not to cross any streets on this trip, either.) My parents refused to let me out of the room until I promised not to forge their names again, at least not on paragliding consent forms or prescription pads. Then we went to dinner.
Is it any mystery from where I inherited my unbalanced mental state?