We’re at Marie’s Crisis and Joy gets a text from her older sister, Shelly. Shelly is watching Joy and Diego’s new Pomeranian, Tallulah. Joy has been anxious all evening about how the dog is faring, so Shelly’s text is a lifeline between mother and puppy. However:
I had to go out, Shelly writes. And Tallulah wouldn’t calm down, so I just shut her in the bathroom. I put her in the tub with the curtain closed. I hope that’s okay! Anyway, I left her toy monkey with her. Joy panics and yanks me out of Marie’s as I’m mid-“Honeybun.” She hails a cab on the corner of Grove and 7th Avenue. She’s fuming.
“Joy,” says Diego. “You’re overreacting. There’s no way Shelly would ever shut Tallulah in the bathroom. She’s just teasing you!”
“No, Diego,” says Joy. “She would do this. She did it. I’m going to kill her.”
“Joy,” says Diego. “She didn’t do it. Look at my poor sister. She was in the middle of singing South Pacific and we pulled her out of there. I’m telling you, your sister is joking.”
Joy ignores him and stabs her fingers into the keys of her Blackberry. Shelly answers the phone.
“I’m going to kill you!” shouts Joy. We can hear Shelly’s laughter through the Blackberry. Diego takes the device from his girlfriend.
“Good joke,” he says. “You’ve worked Joy up. Yes. She fell for it. Good job. Thanks for that.”
We get to Joy’s apartment and there is Tallulah, safe and snuggled in her crate. Joy opens the door and the puppy prances out, tiptoeing her way to the piddle paper and raising her front paws in glee.
I’m working from home this morning, meeting an article deadline and finishing a fellowship application. Since I will be in Diego’s apartment all day, it is my turn to watch Tallulah. My brother wakes me by dumping the dog on the bed. The dog slathers my face with delicate licks. Diego shows me where the treats are and how to change the puppy paper. Since it is Diego, the latter is of paramount importance.
As he gets ready for work and the puppy eyes me hopefully, I ask him: “Why did Joy fall for Shelly’s joke?”
Diego says: “Beats me. They’re sisters. Shelly knows what buttons to push, I guess.”
He leaves. Tallulah is fluffy and soft and has tiny little feet like a squirrel. She chills next to me as I’m typing, and sometimes climbs into my lap. I think about Shelly and Joy. I think about siblings – the power we hold over each other, the lifetime spent learning all the tricks to play. I think about my brother, who I miss terribly when I’m away from New York. I think about how when he left the apartment this morning his parting words to me were: “I saw you drop that hair on the floor.”
I e-mail him:
“Hey,” I write. “Where do you keep the matches? Tallulah just crapped all over the rug and it smells like a slaughterhouse in here.”
I sit at my desk, rubbing my hands together in glee. Because my brother is a neatnik, get it?! Because I know exactly what buttons to push! Because even though we’re adults, this shizz never gets old! I tweet: Have played a brilliant joke on Diego. Waiting for his response. I pat myself on the back. I imagine telling the story to my parents, who will also laugh themselves silly. Hee hee. Brilliant me.
The phone rings. It’s Diego.
“I bet you’re proud of yourself,” he says.