That would be my mom. We’re a little unconventional in my family. For starters, there was that total blowup when Owen arrived and… I’d best start at the start.
This is me.
I’m Jenny. What it’s short for is totally weird so I’m not about to tell you. I’m fourteen. My mom and dad are Juliet and Paul Bellan and I’ve got three little brothers and sisters: Zacharey, Maximus, and Elisabeth, who are ten, six, and four. And that was the easy part.
In addition, there’s my Auntie Zielonya Prince,who’s Dad’s half-sister; Michael and Bernice Murphy, who she used to live with when her mom went into rehab when she was twelve – Bernie is Mom’s sister; and Owen Glyndwr, who’s Murph’s second cousin and got adopted by Murph’s parents when his own died. It’s okay if you don’t get it right off. Even I get confused when Opa – that’s Mom’s dad Henryk Vos – asks who exactly somebody is around here. Basically everybody is related somehow.
We’re… I feel weird saying this sitting here in our shabby office wearing my jeans and Owen’s old flannel shirt, but… we’re rich. Not like, money for the kids’ college funds and some to spare rich. Not like, no debt rich. Like, a million bucks a year after tax rich. And it’s all Opa’s doing, really. ‘Cause he built the Foundry, and said that when he was seventy he’d hand over control to the husband of one of his daughters. Well, he doesn’t like Dad much, but he likes Murph less; Murph’s a cartoonist and Opa reckons anything that needs pictures is obviously not a great story. So Dad got the Foundry and all the profits except for Opa’s half-mill a year, but he splits it with Murph anyway, because it’s not Murph’s fault he’s one of the best cartoon artists in the country and can’t in seriousness stop.
We all live less than a block apart from each other, in Foundry City, Minnesota, except of course Opa Henryk and Oma Maartje, who are on the other side of town. Zach, Max and I are homeschooled, but not Beth yet. We go to the little white Lutheran church on the corner of the block, and have a reputation for being a bit strange.
Trust me, it’s deserved. Let me tell you about a typical day in our household – I’ll take yesterday, Tuesday, because that was pretty typical. I rolled out of bed just after noon, and sneaked out of my room, tiptoeing down the corridor so as not to wake the kids. My room doubles as the home office, the boys share the next one over, and Beth sleeps in Auntie Zie’s room on the other side of the hall. All sereno so far? Usually Mom and Auntie Zie are already up. Pretty often Murph and Bernie are there as well – I got used to people seeing me in my pajamas a long time ago.
So we have breakfast all together, and Dad and the kids come in halfway and man you can’t imagine the chaos of Max and Beth fighting over Cream of Wheat. Sometimes Zach and I get banished off to the office sharply after doing the dishes, because he’s forgotten his report for the night before – yet again – and we’re all, “I can type. Can you type?” from Black Hawk Down, yakking it up being silly until Owen hammers on the wall, tells us to keep it down in there.
So maybe by two in the afternoon everybody’s conscious and fed and we can settle down for the day. Auntie Zie has a part-time job downtown, so she goes there, Dad goes out to the Foundry to do major businessman stuff and Mom either goes out to run errands, leaving me in charge again, or stays put and tears her hair out over Zach’s spelling and my essays. Which is fun – in a way. On a normal day we have to pretty well race through the work to get it all done. By six in the evening we’re cleared up and all the kids go back to bed because we seriously need the hours.
Dad gets home at eight, and everybody’s up again, major whirl of activity every single evening getting ready to go. Strange things get worn and nobody bats an eyelid, like the time Auntie Zie was in mouse-patterned silk pajama bottoms and this old black tee of Murph’s with Stupidman written on front and a picture of Superman hitting a wall headfirst. Bernie gave it to him. And once Zachie came into the kitchen in his undershorts, dripping wet, because he’d been in the shower when Mom called him for dinner.
Usually Owen comes over for a bite to eat, so he helps out with finding stuff and cleanup, and sometimes sasses Mom, but he always regrets that straightaway. And then Mom and Dad and Auntie Zie and Owen and Zach all head downstairs – oh, it’s just one story of house, I mean they go underneath – and I make for the office to wake the computer up for the night.
It can get a little nuts when it’s busy out there. I’ll be looking up locations of people for Owen, and fielding calls from Zach about absolutely nothing except maybe gosh-darned war movies, and asking Mom is she okay when she’s been silent for an hour, and usually trying to stop Max from tearing something over in the background. On a good night Bernie comes over to babysit. On a normal night I’m on my own, Pythia in full swing.
I totally missed something there, didn’t I? Night-work is hero-work. We’re a family of superheroes. You know, like in the comics. I don’t work, not really, I just handle the backroom stuff, making sure the cops know who the good guys are – I have a personal hotline to the Foundry City Police Commissioner – that my family know where each other are – trickier than it sounds – and that everybody gets all the information they need.
Like I say, it kind of all works. Mostly. Sometimes. Als de wind waait in de goede richting, when the wind blows in the right direction, as Opa says. I totally had to get Google Translate onto that. I don’t speak Dutch, even though Oma’s always wanting me to.
Well. That’s me, that’s an overview of the family, so you’re set for next time. I’m planning to publish some – judiciously edited – accounts of nights in Foundry City, as told by those that lived them. Outside. In the cool night breeze with adrenalin to spare. Not stuck in a fusty office with two screaming kids. Not that I’m bitter.