The oil jar

The terrorists shot a hole in our oil pipe. They killed eleven people and they made our oil go spurting into the ocean. Hey, that was our special oil! It’s not our fault for wanting it, we have to get to the pharmacy and swim meet and visit Grampa Gary. But it’s their fault that it’s broken now, like black food coloring in the water, getting way too much product in the hairdos of the aquatic life. America threat freedom security attack avenge, says the news. Mandy, I ask, do they hate us?

The terrorists won’t get away with this. So now we’re occupying London and showing the UK a thing or two. Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Also, the army is trying to understand the culture there, win hearts and minds. They choke down clotted cream and talk with civilians, spraying them with dry scone crumbs, pretending their guns are walking sticks. But they don’t get the comedy, no matter how hard they try.

Dad says not to tell anyone that we used to be British, before our relatives came over on a boat. The police keep stopping him because of his teeth, and he pretends he’s German-American instead. It makes him late for work and the boss is making little tally marks in Dad’s folder and that’s not good.

Mandy is acting really strange. She’s using candles instead of lights at night, because she says electricity comes from oil. She thinks we’re punishing the wrong people, that we shouldn’t be punishing people at all, even though they spawn terrorists over there. She won’t go to the Zip Trip to bring me red vines anymore. She won’t go there at all. She says she never wants to get on a plane again, or even in a car. So she has to go grocery shopping three times a week, she takes the old bicycle and a big backpack, and comes home with wet spots on her back where the milk carton leaves condensation stains, like it’s crying. I try to help her unpack but I drop a jar of oil and it smashes on the floor and leaks, not black but yellow, into all the corners of all the tiles, and I get to crying too. Mandy knows what I am thinking. You’re not a terrorist, she says. Nobody’s a terrorist. We’re all terrorists. Now help me mop this up.

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