It’s a good thing that girl likes fish, he thought. I wish we could have picked some berries. I know where I can always get some, though. He started back up the hill slope toward their camp. The sun was down behind the hill and the weather was good. He looked out across the swamp and up in the sky, above where the arm of the lake would be, he saw a fish hawk flying.
He came up to the lean-to very quietly and his sister did not hear him. She was lying on her side, reading. Seeing her, he spoke softly not to startle her.
“What did you do, you monkey?”
She turned and looked at him and smiled and shook her head.
“I cut it off,” she said.
“With a scissors. How did you think?
“How did you see to do it?”
“I just held it out and cut it. It’s easy. Do I look like a boy?”
“Like a wild boy of Borneo.”
“I couldn’t cut it like a Sunday-school boy. Does it look too wild?”
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “Now I’m your sister but I’m a boy, too. Do you think it will change me into a boy?”
“I wish it would.”
“You’re crazy, Littless.”
“Maybe I am. Do I look like an idiot boy?”
“You can make it neater. You can see to cut it with a comb.”
“I’ll have to make it a little better but not much. Are you hungry, idiot brother?”
“Can’t I just be an un-idiot brother?”
“I don’t want to trade you for a brother.”
“You have to now, Nickie, don’t you see? It was something we had to do. I should have asked you but I knew it was something we had to do so I did it for a surprise.”
“I like it,” Nick said. “The hell with everything. I like it very much.”
“Thank you, Nickie, so much. I was laying trying to rest like you said. But all I could do was imagine things to do for you. I was going to get you a chewing tobacco can full of knockout drops from some big saloon in some place like Sheboygan.”
“Who did you get them from?”
Nick was sitting down now and his sister sat on his lap and held her arms around his neck and rubbed her cropped head against his cheek.
“I got them from the Queen of the Whores,” she said. “And you know the name of the saloon?”
“The Royal Ten Dollar Gold Piece inn and Emporium.”
“What did you do there?”
“I was a whore’s assistant.”
“What’s a whore’s assistant do?”
“Oh she carries the whore’s train when she walks and opens her carriage door and shows her to the right room, it’s like a lady in waiting I guess.”
“What’s she say to the whore?”
“She’ll say anything that comes into her mind as long as it’s polite.”
“Like what, brother?”
“Like, ‘Well ma’am, it must be pretty tiring on a hot day like today to be just a bird in a gilded cage.’ Things like that.”
“What’s the whore say?”
“She says, ‘Yes, indeedy. It sure is sweetness.’ Because this whore I was whore’s assistant to is of humble origin.”
“What kind of origin are you?”
“I’m the sister or the brother of a morbid writer and I’m delicately brought up. This makes me intensely desirable to the main whore and to all of her circle.”
“Did you get the knockout drops?”
“Of course. She said, ‘Hon, take these little old drops.’ ‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘Give my regards to your morbid brother and ask him to stop by the Emporium anytime he is at Sheboygan.’ ”
“Get off my lap,” Nick said.
“That’s just the way they talk in the Emporium,” Littless said.
“I have to get supper. Aren’t you hungry?”
“I’ll get supper.”
“No,” Nick said. “You keep on talking.”
“Don’t you think we’re going to have fun, Nickie?”
“We’re having fun now.”
“Do you want me to tell you about the other thing I did for you?”
“You mean before you decided to do something practical and cut off your hair?”