If he hadn’t deserved it, Jeandarc would never have cut her brother in half. But he did, so she did— no regrets. She might’ve responded differently at another time, but an eight-year-old mind is a reactionary thing. Hannibal, her fourteen-year-old brother, had been winning gymnastics medals and awards since he was six. Jeandarc was desperate— she’d never won anything in her little life.
Immediately following the snow closing report, Jeandarc bundled up and shot out the door. Every year, the school board in her upstate New York town sponsored a snowman competition for grades one through eight. The winner received a scholarship to a six-week arts camp in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Winning would prove she was special; it would also mean six weeks without Hannibal— the best prize of all.
She spent the morning rolling three massive snowballs and needed to bring the stepstool outside to mount them on top of each other. All entries needed to be built without assistance; she’d have to prove it with a note from her parents. It was hard work. Her fingers went numb, but a tomato soup lunch and another pair of gloves fortified her.
Jeandarc’s art teacher said Michelangelo didn’t carve his David; he removed what wasn’t David from the marble, so Jeandarc imagined the finished snowman while she brushed away the unneeded snow. The end result wasn’t a Michelangelo, but it did resemble the Tin Man from the tip of his funnel snow hat to the ax she made by covering a plastic bat with foil. Her mom would be furious. But it wouldn’t matter if she won.
Jeandarc applauded her magnificent creation standing at the edge of the front lawn, then ran inside to beg Hannibal to take a photo.
“No time,” he said, on his way out the door. “Gotta shovel before Mom gets home or no video games after dinner.”
“It’ll only take two seconds. You’re already outside.”
“No.” Hannibal plugged in earphones and cranked his iTunes loud enough for the neighbors to hear Twenty One Pilots.
Jeandarc wanted to slug him, but opted for the cleansing breath her dad always encouraged and tramped back inside. She stripped off the wet outerwear and planted herself on the window seat at the front of the house. She’d ask her mom or dad to photograph the Tin Man as soon as one of them got home. The photo and the note needed to be in the contest box by the end of school tomorrow.
After Hannibal finished the driveway, he switched from the scoop-lift-toss method to pushing the shovel through the snow like a plow to clear the sidewalk between the main lawn and the parkway by the street. The first two passes were fun to watch, but when he started the third Jeandarc yelled and banged on the window. “Stop.” If he didn’t, the shovel would collide with the bottom of her snowman. She rushed outside slipping on the icy porch steps. By the time her butt landed in the snow, Hannibal had completed the third pass— the Tin Man was busted.
An angry heat surged. Jeandarc ran full speed into Hannibal. “You smashed him on purpose.”
He checked her with his hip. Tugged out his earphones. “What?”
Her fists pummeled his torso as tears sparked against her cold cheeks. “My Tin Man.”
Jeandarc punched harder, cried louder. Hannibal laughed and shoved her into the chunks of the broken Tin Man. She came at him again. A car pulled into the drive. The tragic-comedy swelled until their mom got out of the car and demanded an explanation.
The siblings swatted their individual versions of the incident, complete with insults, back and forth like a tennis match. Once they fell silent, Marion Henschel turned to her daughter.
Her attention gave Jeandarc hope.
“I understand why you’re upset. But it was an accident. Stop acting like a baby. Get inside and into warm clothes.” She clomped over snow to the car, then tossed back, “Hannibal, finish clearing the sidewalk.”
At dinner, Jeandarc pushed her food around with the fork, then asked to be excused because she was tired. No lie. She was tired of Hannibal and of how their mom always took his side. She got into her pajamas, then snuck around the house and snatched all the family photos. Under the covers with a flashlight propped against crossed legs, she cut every picture of Hannibal in half. The repetitive process a painful delight.
A knock on the door. She killed the light and pretended to sleep.
“Jeandarc?” Her dad’s voice was soft and rich like the saxophone he played. “You awake?” She popped her head out of the covers.
Tim Henschel closed the door and sat on the bed where he was illuminated by the moonlight through the window. The weight of his body tilted the mattress just enough for the flashlight and several mutilated photos to fall to the floor. He picked up a half-picture, looked at his daughter, then turned on the desk lamp.
“I hate him. He ruined everything, and Mom doesn’t care.”
Her dad took a cleansing breath. “I know.”
Jeandarc sat up and hoped whatever her dad said next wouldn’t begin with, “But…”
“Anger and disappointment can lead to behavior we regret or it can grow into life-long misery.” He placed the flashlight and severed pictures on the desk. Waited. Jeandarc pulled the rest of the half pictures out from under the covers. Her dad grabbed the sketchpad from the desk and selected one of the half pictures of Hannibal’s face. A smiley photo taken after his son won an award. Jeandarc slumped against the pillow, pout in full bloom.
Tim taped the half-face in the center of the page and started to draw. “Or, you can take your anger and disappointment and channel it into something productive.”
A wicked laugh brewed in Jeandarc’s belly as her dad’s drawing became more detailed. Once he was done she felt her evil brother had finally received some punishment. Her brother’s photo was on the left. On the right was a face out of a horror-fantasy— that was the real Hannibal.
Her dad handed Jeandarc the sketchpad. “It’s a choice. That’s all I’m saying.” He kissed her forehead. “Promise to give it some thought while I’m gone.”
Jeandarc pitched forward. “You’re leaving already? You just got back.”
He squeezed her nose between the first two knuckles of his right hand. “I miss you too. But this is what I do. Music lets me be who I am the way art helps you be you.”
Jeandarc was tired of that explanation. “How long this time?”
“Six weeks with Springsteen. Remember, these extra gigs will give us the cash for you to attend that summer art camp.”
“Really?” Joy tingled inside her. “Okay. I promise.”
“That’s my girl.” He opened his arms. “Now, give me the whopper hug. I’ll be gone before you get up tomorrow.”
Her dad’s drawing was the last thing she looked at before she slept and the first thing she reached for when she woke up the next morning. The demented features of Hannibal’s new face would frighten her classmates, but the revolting face tickled Jeandarc so much she made three two-faced version of her own before breakfast.
She looked forward to sitting across from Hannibal’s smug mug while she pictured his head split in two like her drawings as she munched Captain Crunch.
But her joy squashed as soon as her mom dumped the empty picture frames and Hannibal’s mutilated photos on the kitchen table. “This is unacceptable.”
Jeandarc set the cereal box on the counter, took a deep breath and silently cursed her dad. Sometimes she thought her dad planned his tour dates, so he wouldn’t be around when her mother went all ballistic on her. Of course, he really didn’t need to plan, Jeandarc was always in trouble with her mom— unlike Hannibal, the golden boy.
“Your father believes this— ” Her mother waved her hands over the frames and photos on the table. “This is some desperate cry for attention. But I know better because unlike him, I’m with you twenty-four-seven.”
“And you wish you weren’t.”
The slap came hard and fast. No surprise; Jeandarc had never been so careless.
From his place at the table behind their mom, Hannibal snickered. Jeandarc wanted to stab him with the scissors she used to cut up his pictures. Instead, she bit the inside of her cheeks and stared at her mom
“No television, no play-dates, no phone for six weeks.” Her mom thrust out a hand. “I’ll take the phone now.”
Jeandarc slammed the cereal box back into the cabinet and banged the door shut.
Her mom grabbed her arm. “Without the attitude.”
Jeandarc pasted on a smile and went to her room. All the time thinking about the scissors stabbing into her mom’s chest— a real Psycho moment. After loading up her backpack, she texted her dad.
Mom’s taking my phone until you get back. If you really love me, you won’t leave me with her anymore.
She sent the text then shut down the phone and handed it to her mom before she ran out to catch the school bus.
Jeandarc stared out the bus window. She could beg her brother and mother for forgiveness, but what she said was true. Hannibal was the favorite because it was only a matter of time before he made the Olympic Gymnastics team just like their mom did back in her day. But her mom wasn’t a medal winner. That’s why it was so important for Hannibal to win. That’s what her dad said the night she asked why her mom was always coming up with money for Hannibal’s gymnastics training, while Jeandarc never got to go to art camp.
Jeandarc pulled the sketchpad out of her backpack and turned to the demonic caricature she’d drawn of Hannibal. A flutter of nasty swelled in the pit of her stomach. She let it grow. Her dad was right. Her sketchpad was the best way to channel her anger— for now.
She stabbed the drawing pencil into the right side of Hannibal’s face to layer in more details and plot her revenge.