"You want a what?"
"An orange dirndl."
"Yes, Gina, for Halloween."
Gina was at the sewing table in the basement, working on her costume; she was going as Wonder Woman.
At least she thought she was. She might not be going anywhere but to her room when the folks saw what she would be wearing.
It was not slutty, just revealing, and she was the little girl I looked like. She had no right growing those breasts over the summer. I'd been in the Boob Fairy's queue since 1970.
She wasn't buxom by any stretch, but she had B-cups at least, and the way she was padding up that bustier, I just knew there would be trouble.
"Are you going as the Great Pumpkin?"
"No," I told her, holding out a swath of fabric, "Heidi."
"Heidi in orange?"
"I like orange. People notice it."
"I don't think you'll get much trick-or-treat candy, dressed like a traffic` cone."
She stuck herself with a pin and yelped.
"Look at that! You're distracting me, big sissy. Next I'll be cutting my thumb off."
"I'm sorry, but you said you'd do this for me."
"I said," she pulled a pin out of her work and put it in her mouth, "tha' I'd al'er a dreth for you." Her speech got progressively worse as she made her way down the seam. "I d'n't s'y I'd m'ke y'a wh'le n'w dr'th."
Finally, she reached a point where she couldn't speak at all for the pins. If she sneezed now, we'd both be killed.
"I know, but I gotta have it. I'm not going trick-or-treating this year."
She grabbed the patch and tucked it under the foot of the sewing machine. She grabbed my hand, turned it over, and spat her pins into it.
"Wait, you have to have a Halloween costume because you're not going trick-or-treating?"
"No, I'm going to a Halloween party with Topher."
"Do Mom and Dad know that?"
"Good, because if they find out you're going to a party with him, they'll ground you till you're twenty-one."
"Great," I told her and looked at my palm. The pins were covered in spittle. "We can entertain each other."
"What do you mean?"
She wasn't even pretending to sew now.
"If they see you in that costume, they'll fly Dr. Epstein up here in a New York minute with needle and thread to sew you up in a Rarebit-suit."
"My God, they would, wouldn't they?"
"Oh yes. So why don't we work together?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"You cover for me...I'll cover for you."
"Well, Mother will let us go trick-or-treating by ourselves this year. Robbie is doing some lock-in thing with is school, so it'll be just us. We could stash your costume somewhere and you could change after we left. You can go trick-or-treating as Titty Woman, and I get to go to my party. capice?"
"Wow, Dani, I didn't know you had a devious streak."
"You have no idea."
"Okay, but what do I get out of it?"
"You get your way."
"Well, yeah, but I'm covering for you too. Those two cancel each other out. I mean about the dress; what'll you give me in trade?"
"What do you want?"
Gina could sew like mad when she set her mind to it, and a dirndl is a pretty simple dress.
Once we got the cloth, she was done in two hours.
"There you go," she held it in front of me before the full-length mirror. It fit like a glove.
"It's perfect Gina, I owe you big for this."
"Yes you do, and don't forget it."
I'd negotiated with her from a bad position; I needed a costume quick; she didn't need me to have one. We settled on me doing her chores until I graduated and a favor to be named later. That was a wild-card I didn't want coming back to bite me on the ass.
"I won't. And if I do, I'm sure you'll remind me."
"Count on it."
"Gina, I do have one more thing you could help me with."
"No way," she said, opening up the box marked 'Christmas Ornimints' we'd hidden her costume in, "I have to get this done. These stars take forever."
She was sewing every one of them on by hand.
"No, not sewing. I need consolidarity, little sis."
"Since I decided to win la Luchador de Derechos de la Personas sin Sexo."
"You should make a flag out of that, with Che Guevera's face on it."
"I thought so. What do you want me to do, Comrade Dani?"
"I just want you to start using a few new words."
"What? Why? How will that help you?"
"I've invented a new set of words—borrowed them from Old English really—with which one can use to refer to genderless people."
She snapped her skirt out and laid it on the table. She took a jar of white cloth stars out of the box and set it beside the skirt.
"I like to think of them as the right words. You know how we have 'it' in English and it refers to a thing, but not a person?"
"Well, English used to have other words for 'it' only more of them. I borrowed one and made up a couple, but they do the trick.
"Whenever you are referring to any genderless person, like me or Topher, say 'hit': Who does hit think hit is?"
"Okay, that sounds really dorky."
"It's not so bad. You'll get used to it. Then there is 'hits', which is like 'its' without the apostrophe. Use it for the possessive: What does hit want for hits birthday?"
"That's not any better."
"Try it, please?"
"What does hit want for hits birthday?"
"Good. The last one is 'hir' and is used for the object of a sentence, like 'him' or 'her'. Give that to either me or hir."
"Do I have to do this?"
"No you don't. But I sure would like you to."
"Okay, what else?"
"That's it? All you want me to do is use those three little words? And you'll be grateful?"
"Eternity is a long time—I can work with that. I'll do it, if I remember."
"No sweat." I handed her an index card. "I wrote it all down."
It only had the three words on it, not the trans-pronouns. I'd get to that.
"Of course you did."
"And I'm giving them to everyone I know. I'm going to ask Daddy to get it printed on business cards."
"I'll do it, Dani, if you think it'll help. I know how important this is to you."
I was touched.
"Thanks Gina," I said, holding back tears. I reached out to her but she held up a pin.
"If you hug me," she said with a grin, "I swear I'll stick you."