1   +   8   =  

Jules, my kid sister, is a million miles away in Bavaria nursing her father figure complex. She lives in snow with Otto, a widower who drives a vintage BMW to Lion’s Club meetings in Munich and Kempten. Jules is playing the cool Euro Babe but she’s really hiding out while trying to force a marriage. She’s always felt bad never finding Mister Right while all her girlhood pals got married and had children. My sister aches for Otto’s proposal. He must realize Jules is trying to buy love after she buttered him up with a roundtrip ticket to Boston and a weeklong stay at a swanky Old Harbor hotel. I realized there was something wrong after she made June Spoon, our mother, cough up $500 for a love spell. Lordy. Then, as if to seal the deal, she slipped The Lovers tarot card under her mattress. She pays her German $1,000/month for a room that once served as a nursery. If they were intimate, wouldn’t Jules be sharing his room? In pictures, Otto seems uneasy as she leans toward him trying to make contact. It’s strange seeing a 40-something blonde posing with what looks like Andy Warhol’s father. I know he’s counting on her as both a nurse and a purse in his twilight years. Otto has to be Dark Ages ancient because he loves Elvis, especially “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Fool’s Fall in Love.” I wonder what he thinks when Jules rocks out to her bands from the Eighties, such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, and David Bowie.

My sister brags about cooking goose with squash in a gas oven. Her goal is to make apple strudel, Otto’s holiday favorite. She imagines a big Munich wedding and a reception filled with international guests speaking every language under the sun. Next comes a Hawaiian honeymoon, followed by a baby giggling on a bearskin rug. Maybe, back at SDSU, Jules should have birthed that Iggy Pop look-alike’s child instead of having me drive to the clinic. Now I think her biological clock’s kaput. But I can’t tell Jules anything because she’s a Taurus and bull-headed. She believes dressing young keeps her body young, as if her eggs will always be fresh if she wears stiletto-heeled boots, mini-skirts, and fishnet stockings.

I’m not allowed to speak to Otto. Jules thinks I might spit some truth she’s slaved months to hide. She made me and June Spoon swear to never reveal her age. It’s verboten to visit. All I can do is send cheerful holiday cards and call her cell on birthdays. The house phone number’s a secret.

At dawn I check Munich’s weather. I subtract five degrees because Jules lives close to the Alps. Sometimes I use Google Earth to find Otto’s home on a country road. I max zoom—the roof has a slight pitch and its rectangular tiles are dusted white. The tiles remind me of strudel. I picture my sister under this strudel roof. She is cooking to please an old man, as snow the texture of powdered sugar sprinkles the township of Weitnau-Rechtis.