Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
"Poppy Is My Half-Sister But That’s Not the Whole Story", by Zach Murphy
Poppy is my half-sister and she has a whole lot of nerve. When I was twelve, Poppy tried to poison me by baking me a cake that had laundry detergent in the frosting. It took me hours to get the taste out of my mouth. Poppy offered up an apology by baking me a new cake. I threw it in her face. It was half-baked anyway. My dad said I should be more forgiving, but people usually say that to excuse their own mistakes. Poppy and I have the same dad, but we don’t have the same mom. My mom’s spirit died when she found out about Poppy. Poppy’s mom died during childbirth.
Poppy is my half-sister and she doesn’t use her whole brain, but I’ve been told that no one does. When I broke my leg climbing a tree during my freshman year of high school, Poppy brought a hibiscus plant to my hospital room. After she placed it by my bedside, she turned around and her backpack knocked it over. The bulky plant fell directly onto my bad leg. I had to stay in the hospital for an extra week because of it. I could’ve sworn Poppy knocked it over on purpose. She probably enjoyed having the house to herself. My mom salvaged the hibiscus plant. She’s more forgiving than I am. Or maybe she just really likes plants. After I left the hospital, we brought the hibiscus home. It’s actually quite beautiful when it blooms.
Poppy is my half-sister and she’s full of surprises. When I attended my junior prom, my date ditched me midway through the dance. While I was hiding out in the hallway, wiping my mascara onto my turquoise dress, wondering if it was possible to die from humiliation, Poppy was puncturing the tires of my date’s car. The entire incident was caught on the school parking lot’s security camera. I asked Poppy why she did it, and the only thing she said was, “I was feeling spicy.” That night, Poppy was expelled from school but accepted into my heart.
Poppy is my half-sister and I miss her a whole bunch. When I left for college, Poppy decided to help me move into my dorm, but only after I promised to bring the hibiscus plant with me. She even helped me decorate the drab walls. My mom and dad come to visit me at college, but Poppy never makes the trip. My dad always says Poppy isn’t feeling well. When I came home for the holidays, Poppy wasn’t around. My dad says she’s staying at a friend’s house now. But I think friend is a generous term. The late nights of studying feel extra lonely when I’m worrying about Poppy. I take good care of the hibiscus plant. It’s dormant right now. But just when it seems like it’s done growing, it always seems to bud again.
Zach Keali’i Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, Maudlin House, The Coachella Review, Raritan Quarterly, Another Chicago Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and more. He has published the chapbooks Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press) and If We Keep Moving (Ghost City Press). He lives with his wonderful wife, Kelly, in St. Paul, Minnesota.