| My Sister, the Martian
by Stephanie Wyndance
Mrs. Pendergast's peppermint carnations magnetically drew
my sister Marsha and me into Mz. P.'s backyard. Steam shot
from the taut silver buns old Mrs. Pendergast wore above each
ear; she snorted and charged at us with her broom, yelling
profanities in German, the day we picked her prize carnations.
We ran home at near light-speed!
So when it came time for the annual Girl Scout cookie sales,
my sister and I debated whether or not to stop at the Pendergasts'
house. We got brave but didn't stray from the front entry,
and we made sure that we walked far from the flowers. Mr.
& Mrs. Pendergast were both hard of hearing and slow to
respond to the doorbell and our shouts. After some fussing,
Mz. P. bought five boxes of cookies!
A few weeks earlier Marsha broke her right wrist playing
basketball at a neighbor boy's house. I was her four-year-old
sidekick, sporting Shirley Temple curls; I tagged along to
help my sister carry the carton of cookies that weighed about
as much as I did. It took both of us to tote the cookies from
house-to-house and lug them up and down the neighbors' front
steps. In 1961, Girl Scouts delivered the goods on the spot
as they sold cookies door-to-door for fifty cents a box. Mz.
P. and all the neighbors took pity on Marsha, who was nine
years old and a fourth-grader at Henderson Elementary School.
They all said that she seemed to manage so well-broken wrist
and all. The neighbors bought extra boxes out of sympathy.
In fact, people bought so many more boxes that year that Marsha
won the award for top sales out of the entire Girl Scout troop-and
we didn't tell anybody that she was left-handed! My silence
was bought with a box of mint cookies.
We moved from the house in 1964. I was seven years old and
Marsha had just turned thirteen. In our new house, we each
had our own bedroom. My sister traded her bobby socks for
pantyhose. We didn't do much together anymore. Secretly, I
wondered if Marsha hailed from a distant galaxy. She was so
different with her blonde hair (mine's brown) and amber-colored
eyes (mine are blue), and Marsha's behavior seemed light-years
away from the sister who used to parachute off housetops holding
mom's clean bedsheets.
Marsha made a new friend named Susan, and Susan hung out
at our house all the time. They fancied their hair, applied
buckets of makeup, sang Beatles' songs and talked to boys
on the phone. When I pestered them, they shooed me away.
"Old Mz. P. was nicer to me than you are!" I stuck
my tongue out. "I'm gonna tell Mom."
Marsha grabbed my chin with both hands. "Be careful
what you tell Momma."
"You're weird." I retorted.
"That's because I'm really not your sister. I'm an alien
from Mars. That's why I'm called Marsha. If you tattle, I'll
just have to telephone my spaceship and then I'll go back
to Mars and you'll never see me again!"
"That's right!" Susan chimed in. "You just
better be quiet, kid. Scram."
I ran to my room sobbing. Several weeks passed. Marsha and
Susan kept up the tales of aliens and space travel. I was
baited into believing the whole charade. Finally, I couldn't
hold the secret inside any longer. I told Mom. "If your
sister is an alien, then I'm an alien, and you're an alien.
Let's all go to Mars!" she belly-laughed.
"But I don't wanna leave. I like my new school!"
I cried. I was a gullible kind-of-kid, and Mom realized I
was duped into believing the whole Martian story. Mom made
Marsha apologize for leading me on. Marsha admitted that she
fabricated the story so I'd leave her alone. "I'm sorry
I laughed, Stephanie." Momma said. "You shouldn't
play games with secrets, Marsha. Confidences are for keeping."
she reprimanded. My sister wasn't sorry that she tricked me,
but she was sorry that I had taken it so hard.
When Marsha turned fifteen, she got her learner's permit.
Mom and Dad left a spare set of keys to the old Chevy Nova
station wagon hanging on a hook in the cupboard.
Marsha said, "It won't hurt if we just drive around
the block before they get home."
"I'm not going
I don't want to get in trouble."
"You have to go. I can't leave you home alone. Get in
the backseat." she commanded. We didn't make it out the
driveway. Marsha backed straight into the ditch.
"Where's your spaceship now?" I asked sarcastically.
"What are you gonna tell Dad?"
"He won't find out unless you tell him. Promise me you
"I won't tell."
We pooled our piggy-bank money to pay a tow truck when all
our efforts using old boards to leverage the car out of the
mud failed. Mom arrived home from work just as the tow truck
left our driveway. My sister confessed to driving without
"Wait until your father gets home. You have to tell
him!" Mom said sharply. Mom, Marsha, and I waited anxiously
for Dad to return home. "You'll wish you lived on Mars
when Daddy gets through with you!" I ribbed.
Instead of being angry, Daddy laughed when he saw the ruts
in the ditch. "Temptation, too strong, huh? You're grounded,
my little Martian. Next time you try to take off on an adventure
around the block, make sure you leave the driveway with a
parent in the car. " Marsha was humiliated. I did my
best to console her after I finished teasing her. Marsha was
too embarrassed to go inside right away. Two weeks of grounding
seemed like an eternity. We sat on the porch swing until dark,
counted the stars and talked.
In time, I grew into a teenager and depended upon my sister's
advice concerning foreign matters like grammar and boys. I
would call her at college, and we'd talk for hours. Sharing
secrets was the best part of sisterhood.
Thirty years passed. The Martian story had long been forgotten
and replaced by stories of our own children. I smiled as I
wrapped my sister's Christmas gift in preparation for mailing
it to her home a thousand miles away. It was an electronic
flying saucer with an enclosed card that read "I still
think that, as a sister, you're out of this world!"
Stephanie Wyndance is a pen name used by freelance writer
Sharla Taylor. This story was included in Chicken Soup for
the Sister's Soul published by Health Communications, Inc.