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Philadelphia, PA // New Fiction by Cady Vishniac

The last time my sister hurts me, we have been arguing. She says that Batman only fights well because he’s rich, and I say that Batman fights well because he’s been trained by a demon in Nanda Parbat. She says that only rich people can go to Nanda Parbat. I say that middle-class kids backpack all over the world on a shoestring budget all the time, that if Nanda Parbat had an organic farm, he could have volunteered to work on it, and that anyway his underworld associates almost certainly paid his fare.

     My sister says I’m stupid, I do not get to have an opinion about this or anything else because I’m stupid, and if I were not stupid I would have graduated college already. My two-year-old daughter shifts in her carseat and seems to wonder why the air has just been sucked out of the van. My parents yell, “Cady! Stop!” and I realize I’ve called her fat. She is, but I regret it anyway. Her pudginess is less germane to this conversation than her rotten character.

     “You’re so immature.” She rolls her eyes. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” My parents do not tell her to cut it out. She chats with Dad until the car rolls into the train station parking lot, something about where he and Mom lived during grad school. Her voice is lilting, her smile genuine. My parents are both professors still.

     Time to unpack. I sit in the front right passenger seat and wait for her to leave before I do, but my daughter starts to whine and my parents are looking at me like I’ve lost my marbles. My fiance is stuck in the back right passenger seat, and he’s frowning because he doesn’t understand why I won’t budge. Later he will tell me I’ve made a fool of myself.

     I get up and walk around to the back of the van, which has shuttled us back and forth between the retirement home and hotel all weekend as we celebrate Grandma’s eighty-fifth birthday. My sister grabs a blanket and tries to hand it to me, so she can reach her suitcase, but it’s a trap. She’s just trying to make me hold things for her. Fuck her, I say. I hope she is tortured to death on broadcast television so I can watch with a daiquiri in each hand.

     “In front of your child!” she scolds, while she shoves me. My parents scream at me to stop. Stop what?

     “But she pushed me!” I yell, and they tell me I must step away and leave her alone. “No, you don’t understand,” I say. “She’s the one who pushed.” They don’t care.

     I gather up my child and my fiance, who is now ashamed of me. It’s the worst day of my life, I think, but is it? There was also Mexico, when we were teenagers, when she ripped off my swimsuit in front of the hooting men. The time she demanded to use the shower while I was in it and Dad broke down the door for her, and I never figured out what she said to make him do that. In middle school when I finished masturbating only to look up and notice she’d snuck into my room to spy. The first occasions when she threatened to kill me in my sleep, and I, being eight, did not know how to react. The other kindergarteners never spoke in her earnest and lustful tone.

     My phone vibrates in the train station when she texts to tell me we aren’t kids anymore. I don’t text her back because I agree, we aren’t kids anymore. My fiance asks what got into me. Dad shoots me an email to ask why I’m always picking fights, and my phone vibrates again. I turn it off.

     I try to meditate, although that rarely works. I want to go deep. The world narrows to exclude my family, the confused young man who sits on a bench next to me talking about what he calls my depression, the stares of my fellow passengers who see me clutching my daughter close, sobbing.

     Soon I’m able to tune everything out but this: the sour toddler smell of a little girl who will never see her aunt again, and the hiss of our train as it pulls up to the platform.

Cady Vishniac is a former human statue and current copy editor living in Boston. She has work out or forthcoming in The Legendary, Crack the Spine, Oblong Magazine, and n + 1.