EXCERPT: 'The Kids Are All Right'

DAN Myrtle Beach was like a carnival, with all these rides along the boardwalk in town. After standing in line forever to ride a roller- coaster, I stood on my tippy- toes to pass the height requirement. I was so excited until I got in the seat and realized I was going to fall out for sure. As the ride started, I held on for dear life, and when it turned upside down, I closed my eyes and fought hard not to cry. When it was over, I felt sick, like I was going to puke. I had eaten an ice cream right before and told Mom I had a stomachache from that, but really I just didn't want to go on any more rides.

So Mom took me to the Ripley's Believe It . . . Or Not! museum. I loved that kind of stuff: my favorite TV show was In Search Of . . . with Leonard Nimoy. I loved seeing all these photographs of impossible- to believe things that actually existed in the world, like those African tribes that wore rings to elongate their necks. I also liked all the gory stuff, but it scared Mom. She couldn't even look at it. But she did like this grain of rice that someone had written a poem on so tiny you had to use a magnifying glass to read it. And her favorite thing was a matchbook that a man had taken and cut into a long, one- hundred- foot strip without breaking it.

We stayed at a condo right on the beach, and Dad taught me how to throw a perfect spiral football there on the sand. He told me to use my left hand to point to the sky in the direction I wanted to throw the ball. With my right hand, I was to keep my fingertips on the laces at all times, breaking my wrist just as the ball passed my face and then letting go. I tried really hard, but I couldn't do it. My hands were too small. Dad didn't make me feel bad about it, but I never wanted to disappoint him. I wanted to grow up to be his carbon copy.

The next day we all got into the Jeep to go to this sculpture garden. As we pulled up to the entrance to the parking lot, there were these two giant statues of fighting stallions. They were up on their hind legs, lashing at one another with their front hooves and biting each other's necks. I was the only one in the family who didn't like horses. I'd been terrified of them ever since Rascal, my Shetland pony, rolled over with me on top of him when I was eight. He nearly crushed me to death. It was awful, but Dad made me get back on him right away. I did what he asked because I wanted to please him. Still, I've hated those beasts ever since. As we drove beneath the statues, I looked up and saw their huge marble testicles, and I just knew: This was not going to be fun.

LIZ After spending four hours looking at boring statues, I was desperate to get back to the beach to work on my tan. We got back into the car— Mom in the passenger seat, Dan and I in back with Diana strapped in the middle. Auntie Eve had stayed at the condo, claiming statues were "not her thing." Dad started the ignition without any cause for concern, but as soon as he put the car into drive, it lurched forward, then groaned, and then we all heard a gigantic thud. Then the car let out a big sigh and went completely silent.

Dad quickly got out of the car and down on his knees to look beneath it. We heard him mutter, "God damn it."

"What is it, Bob?" Mom called from the passenger seat.

"It's the drive shaft," he shouted back, still under the car.

Mom turned in her seat and looked at us quizzically, "The what?" she asked, unsnapping her seat belt and opening the door.

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