My twin brother Clem had a club foot but could climb like you wouldn’t believe. He’d swoop up trees like we were on the moon and if a ball went on the roof, any roof, he’d bound up the side of the building like a soccer field and next thing you know an entire galaxy of balls, one or two of them the superball kind, and he’d holler scrambles! which I was already doing like a cartoon.
We were born before we were done if you know what I mean.
I was the opposite of Clem and could fold myself into nothing and get completely flattened by gravity like I had a double helping and sideways bones. Clem would unfurl me sometimes and take me with him and off we’d go decades before parkour and about the same time as the Superman comics came out which our sister Sketchy Sam collected let’s just say, although Denny down the street who was in love with her in a desperate kind of way would later, when he came out of it, swear she stole from him.
Sam liked to draw. She’d start by drawing a magic marker frame on the page, cells she called them, and she’d fill them with sketches of me and Clem mostly. She used cheap Woolworth’sscrapbooks at first until all the babysitting money, when she insisted my mother take her to the mall in the city, the proper art store, where she bought thick white paper pads and superior pencils, pale erasers that didn’t leave a wake, metal sharpeners with two holes, all of which she carefully placed into a new pencil case with a roll-up lid like the desk in the den and she started drawing for real then, mostly me and Clem like I said, Clem scraping the ceiling and me flat except for two eyes on the floor is how she drew us and I don’t know how she did it but those squiggles were portraits, true as life, exactly us.
We called her Sketch and she was the most sought-after babysitter ever. Parents booked her months in advance, gigs for which she asked double pay at first until she rounded it all the way up to twenty dollars a night when her friends were making three dollars fifty cents with tip. She got pizza out of the deal, too, and called me and Clem when it arrived so we’d fly over for a piece which the parents knew about and the kids seemed to like.
There was a no-piggy-backing policy in effect so the kids would have to stand on Clem’s shoulders for the tree-climb and keep it secret.
At the end of the night Sketch would leave cells on the refrigerator, one for each kid, beautiful things indeed, the children transformed into superheroes with names like Mary Muscle, Suzy Smartly, Danny Divine, Mighty Mike, and the kids could hardly wait for a sequel which parents were known to cough up big money for as birthday presents and high-mark incentives.
Sketch ended up going to art school in the city and me and Clem moved into a government-funded housing project when our parents had enough of us which we totally understood and were mutual about.
In her third year Sketch got so much money for her work she was able to buy a beautiful old three-storey apartment building on Gladstone Avenue in downtown Toronto. She rented most of it out but me and Clem helped her turn the entire upstairs into a big studio apartment just for her. We opened the whole thing up except for two rooms side by side along the back wall and the next time we came to visit, on one of the doors was a cell with my weird portrait, and on the second door was a cell with Clem, or at least his flying essence.
Inside it was just one room so the doors were a sort of trick and there were two matching beds side by side, two dressers, two desks and a big leather couch in front of a TV on the wall. The rest of the walls, all of them, were covered in cells Sketch had done from when we were all little to now, eyeballs and squiggles mostly but not all, and that was when it started me and Clem every Saturday morning we’d hop on the train to meet Sketch at Union Station, a four-hour ride.
I used to wonder what we looked like to the cars stopped at the crossings, our excited faces through the window just like Sketch drew us.