Today when I got home Deirdre ran over and gave me a hug. If I were a nice, normal older brother I would have hugged her back and that would have been that.

Instead I brushed her off and went upstairs and changed out of my work clothes. Then I went back downstairs and stood behind her and said “Dumplings.” And smiled.

That’s all I did. I stood behind her and smiled and occasionally said “Dumplings” wherever she went and whatever she did. I didn’t follow heel-stepping close. I didn’t do scary noisy feet or sneaky quiet feet. I didn’t breathe down her neck but stayed out of her way, behind and off to the side a bit, smiling and watching. I watched her set the table. I watched her stir the juice. I said nothing except, once in a while, “Dumplings.”

I didn’t answer her when she asked me why. I didn’t stop smiling when she slapped my face. How she fidgeted and squirmed!

When I sat down to eat, I ate just like normal and I didn’t say anything about dumplings or make any silly faces at Deirdre or anything. I didn’t follow her after supper. But when she wasn’t looking I snuck behind a corner and waited for her to come around and see me there, just looking.

Then when I was lounging innocently doing nothing she came by and announced she was going to kill me by blowing me up, and proceeded to harass me with pinches, pokes, explosives, and plastic toys.