On the morning of the Annual Santos Sibling Karaoke Contest, Boyboy told the police he was Justin Timberlake. Previously, he’d been other famous, white, American men: Bill Clinton, George Clooney, and, for one inexplicable weekend, Batman. He never dressed the part, not that it would’ve mattered; of my nine brothers, Boyboy was the shortest and the darkest and owned the flattest face. No amount of makeup or costuming could make him pass as a white man. In fact, he looked so Filipino that random strangers automatically spoke to him in Tagalog, as though he’d just arrived from Manila and hadn’t yet adopted his new American skin.
Or maybe it was his name.
The genesis of Boyboy’s name is one of contention. According to Junior, Dad’s nickname was “boy” growing up, so he named him “Boy’s Boy” though Mom, the stickler that she was, thought apostrophes didn’t belong in people’s names. Thus, Boyboy. Robert says that, since Boyboy was the youngest and the smallest, Dad thought calling him “boy” twice might someday make him a man. I, however, know the truth. When Boyboy was born, our family was months away from moving to the States. Dad and Mom, worried their youngest would have no ties to his Filipino roots, gave him the most absurd Filipino name they could think of. With that name, they said, there’s no way he will ever become one of them.
I found Boyboy on the corner of Calvine and Mack dressed in a plaid shirt and jean shorts. He held a comb to his mouth as a microphone. He danced, too, though most people wouldn’t call it dancing. The cops had arrived before me. They stood against their cars with their arms folded across their chests, laughing their white faces off. Boyboy smiled at the audience as he pumped his fist and spun on his toes. I stayed in my car and watched. It would be better for him to be arrested again, I thought. I drove off. Boyboy waved as I sped by.
None of us expected Boyboy at the Contest, but after we had already sung, he arrived. He didn’t look at any of us as he strutted through the house, stopped at the microphone stand, picked up the remote, and selected his song. For five minutes, he sung without his usual accent. In fact, he sung so perfectly, all of us closed our eyes. When he finished, we opened our eyes to find our brother standing in the middle of the room, though he was tall and blonde and his skin was the color of ivory. Robert jumped off the couch and tackled him while Junior called 911, but all I could think about was that he finally did what Dad and Mom said he’d never do.
Elison’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Portland Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and other publications. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Sacramento State and once won a short story contest in sixth grade. To learn more, please visit www.elisonalcovendaz.com.