Any Friday Night – 1987

I read the question again. “Who married Charles Lindbergh?”

Melissa, my always cranky sister, grabbed a handful of popcorn and shrugged. “Who cares?”

My stepmother took a breath. A small sip of wine. I sat at the table, staring at the orange squares on the board—the sports squares—hoping for something I was capable of answering. Finally, Melissa rolled her eyes. “Madonna.”

My stepmother took stock of the players. A grounded teenage girl who answered in a series of eye rolls and gusty sighs. An over joyous neighbor, eager to be anywhere near said eye-rolling girl. Max, the half-blind, aging family mutt. Then there was me, with nothing better to do than munch on all the snacks and guess away.

The phone rang and my sister instinctively lunged for the cordless. My stepmother snatched it away at the last second. “No phone, remember?”

Melissa threw herself back into the chair. I snorted and she swatted my arm. “Ouch.” I looked around for witnesses. Max was sniffing a pretzel under the table and Karen-the-neighbor had seen but she wouldn’t testify against my sister even if her own life depended on it.

My stepmother nodded into the phone. “Uh, huh, uh huh. Okay, well, be careful, hon.”

“Is that Dad, can I talk to him? Can I? Can I?”

“You’re such a dork.”

My stepmother shushed us. She set the cordless down and said my father was working and he’d see me in the morning. The microwave dinged. “Anne Morrow,” she said to herself, standing up.

I turned the card over again to double check, amazed at how she knew every stinking answer to every stinking question on every stinking card. I nodded at my sister. “Well, she said Madonna.”

“I was joking.”

The dice hit the table. My sister moved the pie to the blue just as my stepmother dumped a bag of steaming popcorn into the bowl. When she went to rinse a glass out in the sink, I had my chance. Blue—Geography. My sister couldn’t locate her pinky finger, and so with thick wafts of delicious butter in the air, I whispered out the question. “What’s the easternmost U.S. state capital?”

Melissa shot me a look. “What?”

Karen-the-Neighbor squirmed. My stepmom started to turn around but then picked up another dish. I smiled real big, Without the brain of the house spitting out the answers, Melissa was toast.

I leaned in. “Eastern most state capital.” Then I flipped the card over and checked the answer, Augusta, Maine. I nodded like I knew it all along, which had the desired effect. My sister rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh, whatever. Florida.”

I pounced. “Nope, Augusta, MAINE. As in mainly you suck.”

A jolt of pain in my knee. Whatever her geography limitations, my sister could always locate me with a well placed kick. “Hey!”

My stepmom toweled off her hands. “Would you two please stop? What’s the question?”

“Oh, Melissa got it wrong.” Then, for good measure, I added, “And she kicked me. Our turn.”

I snatched the dice. “Showtime.” I shook them up in my fist and let fly. Boom, three spots and I was on the orange. “YES!”

My stepmother set the bowl down and Karen-the-neighbor dug in. My sister read the card and grinned, the mean grin with the squinty eyes and curled lip. “Okay, Mike. What do spelunkers explore?”

“Spe-what? That is NOT a sports question.” I protested.

My stepmother shrugged. “It’s sports AND leisure.”

“More like seizure, you spaz.” My sister flipped the card over, raising her eyebrow. I stared at the peeling laminate on the table, determined to spelunk the recesses of my brain.

“Give up, doofus?”

I shook my head. “No.” Then I turned to my teammate, Karen-the-Neighbor, who started to speak through a mouthful of popcorn until my sister cut her eyes across the table.

“Ten seconds,” my stepmom announced. I think she was still sore about Augusta. And wasn’t this just my luck, the only answer I’d gotten right was that Star Wars question in Arts and Literature. Stupid Trivial Pursuit, written for people who sat around and read Britannica or watched that boring all-day news network.

“Time.”

My sister tossed the card to the board. “Caves, you imbecile. It might help you to know where you’re going to live one day.”

“At least I can leave the house.”

Melissa’s eyes widened. I knew I’d scored a direct hit. Karen-the-Neighbor dug in the bowl. My stepmother scooped up the dice and attempted to get things back on track. She rolled a five and hit the yellow. History.

Karen-the-Neighbor read the question. “What did it become illegal to burn in 1965.”

“Your sister’s hair,” I said.

“You’re brother’s feet.”

My stepmom took a big swig of wine. “Children.”

Karen-the-Neighbor frowned. “It says draft card.”

We all looked around. It was the first question my stepmother had ever missed.

 

 

–PeteFanning/2018

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