The Circle of Life
by Aline Carriere
My older sister, Carol, is selfish. When we were little she'd always make everyone late, hog the bathroom, and take the biggest piece of cake. This time she took the whole selfish cake, announcing she's pregnant. She didn't even ask first or discuss it with us, and we had to decide who in our family her baby would replace after the fact.
We were in the kitchen finishing dinner. It was just me, Carol, and Ma; what was left of us. Because Carol's a coward as well as selfish she had blurted it out while Ma's back was turned. Ma stood silent at the sink. She has a way of holding a moment, making it linger, and squeezing every last Planck second out of it so that you almost forget to breathe. "Who's it gonna be, then?" she asked Carol in the voice she uses when she's trying to control her anger. "Someone from his family?"
"He doesn't have anyone left."
Ma gripped the edge of the sink. "What were you thinking?" She turned around, her outrage focused like a laser on Carol.
Carol shrugged--she actually shrugged. I told you she doesn't care. Selfish; everything always done for her, expecting the world to curtsy to her whims.
"How could you?" Ma bit her lip. I could see tears welling in her eyes. She turned back and stared out the window. "Well, it's not going to be your sister." Ma declared shaking her head. "It's not going to be Maggie, she's only thirteen."
"I already called The Circle of Life office to set up the interviews," Carol said. "They'll decide if we don't." The interviews are mandatory, just in case a family can't or won't choose.
"It's not going to be Maggie," Ma repeated. Of course, Carol had ruled herself out and her newest good-for-nothing boyfriend, so that left Ma to be the Hero.
"I'm sorry, Ma," Carol said. "But Granny and Grandpa were Heroes for me and Maggie. I didn't think it was a big deal. You must have known this would happen someday."