"But they don't have moose in Nicaragua," Cheryl whined.
"They don't have moose in Dayton goddamn Ohio, either," I reminded her, as Dayton is where Cheryl is staying for her visit this time, with our other sister, Kim. They also don't have moose in San Diego, come to think of it, which is where we're from. "In fact, I don't think you've ever even seen a moose," I told Cheryl. "Why the hell do you want a moose head?"
"Because it's a mechanical talking moose head," she hollered excitedly. Cheryl is always hollering; she'd probably been hollering since she'd discovered the robot moose head on eBay that afternoon. "It'll be great! C'mon, Hollis. It only weighs 60 pounds."
"Jesus, Cher, just move home, for God's sake," I said. "It's a hell of a lot cheaper to ship moose heads domestically, for one."
"I told you they don't have moose heads in Nicaragua," she answered me, and it took me a second before I realized that, by hearing me tell her to move home, Cher thought I'd told her to return to Granada, as that's where she now considered home. I was a little stunned. "I mean here home," I said. The United States is her home -- isn't it? -- even though she has no actual address here. Cheryl didn't answer me; she was busy recounting the many attributes of a robot moose head and how certain she was it would increase the patronage at the bar she owns with her husband in Granada. Cheryl has lived in Nicaragua more than five years now, which, come to think of it, surprises the hell out of me, seeing as how the man she moved there to be near died more than a year ago.
I'm not talking about the man she married. No, that man is still alive, to my mixed sentiment. The particular man I am talking about is a crusty old conspiracy theorist named Bill, who happened to be my mother's best friend at the time she herself was dying. After she passed, Bill promptly moved to Central America as he always promised he would as soon as my mother didn't need him anymore, then he promptly had a heart attack and found himself in the rare position of needing someone himself, so Cheryl dispatched herself and her new husband to go down there and be of assistance.
Cheryl had met Wayne about eight years prior, in a bar in Las Vegas, where she worked as a casino cocktail waitress and he worked "in distribution," whatever that means. When Cheryl first introduced me to Wayne, he had a hairdo that was popular among many second-rate stage magicians at the time: a blond mullet that cascaded down his back and could touch the belt looped through the waist of his acid-washed denim parachute pants. By the time they married, the mullet was gone, thankfully, but it wouldn't be long before Wayne would move to Nicaragua with my sister and make other questionable decisions, such as his decision to get hammered every day, and his decision to, after getting exceptionally hammered one day in particular, pass out on top of (or at least near) a European backpacker on the pull-out sofa in the loft above the bar he owns with my sister.
Cheryl discovered the two of them the morning before she was due to board a flight to visit me in Atlanta, the ticket for which I'd provided her. "Can you change my reservation?" she e-mailed. "I found Wayne in bed with another woman, so now instead of being on a bus to the airport I have to find a lawyer. It shouldn't take but two days. So see you Wednesday!"
I do have to say my sister Cheryl is a strong-willed woman, and it can't be easy to live with her in a Third World country. I once lived with her in Claremont, Calif., and ended up with a concussion and a black eye after she'd broken a potted palm tree over my head because I'd inquired, though not nicely, as to why she'd worn my new boots without permission. So I can't imagine living with her in a country where the police will step over your bleeding body to take a bribe from the neighborhood whoremonger. Regarding Wayne and the backpacker, the consensus is that nothing happened. They'd been fully clothed when discovered, and in the Nicaraguan bar culture people commonly pass out on or around each other all the time, evidently, without lewd consequence. That is the story, anyway, and they stick to it.
"A moose head can't be that hard to ship to Nicaragua," Cheryl kept insisting, and I realized my sister has a history of insisting things are easy when they're not really, but that never stops her. She drove her truck to Nicaragua, for example. Just pointed it south and hit the gas until she arrived. It was easy, she said, though I know it couldn't have been. "C'mon," she continued, "60 pounds can't be that heavy."
"Believe me, Cheryl," I said, "that head is heavy."
Hollis Gillespie is founder of the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy. For more information go to www.hollisgillespie.com.