“It’s the week before your prom so it won’t get in the way and there’s enough time for you to get off work–”
I grab Meredith’s fingers where she’s counting off her points. “It doesn’t matter if we’re free, the concert’s gonna sell out in like two seconds.”
Meredith opens up her computer pad and reads. “‘As a thank you to their local fans for this special show, Bolts of Fire have made tickets available for purchase to any fan’” – she looks up at us –
“‘between the ages of eight and twelve living in the 98— zip code.’” She closes the pad. “You just have to be one of the first to register.”
“Let me guess,” I say.
“Done and dusted,” Meredith says, copying a phrase from our dad. “They let fan-club members in there first.”
“Now all you have to do is talk her into letting you go,” Mel says.
“I will,” Meredith says, “with your help. But you know she won’t take me, so you guys have to be ready.”
Our mom started avoiding large public gatherings she couldn’t leave several years ago because they just turned into abuse-fests by people who hated politicians in general and politicians who supported a non-lethal speed limit in particular. Thirty minutes anywhere, even church, is her maximum, and on this one, I have to say I can kind of see her point.
“I’m in,” Mel says. “Even though I hate country music. I’m the best sister in the world.”
“I’m in, too,” I say, “though as your brother, I’m probably only the second-best sister.”
“But,” Mel says and raises her eyebrows. She doesn’t need to explain further.
Mom’s aversion to public events aside, Bolts of Fire have toured near us twice before, both times in the even bigger city that’s an hour away from the city that’s an hour away from us. Meredith tried to beg, bribe, tantrum, reason, sweet-talk, extort, demand, and panic my mother into letting her go.
But after Mel’s rough time and my thing with the loops, Mom isn’t taking any chances on her last remaining possibly non-messed-up child. Meredith was too young for the “atmosphere” of a rock concert (which is stretching it, as far as Bolts of Fire are concerned; they’re so meticulously clean and goody-goody, the bars at the venues only serve orange Kool-Aid) and she was too young to stay up that late anyway. So no, no, end of discussion, no, don’t make me take away your internet privileges.
“But I’m ten now,” Meredith says. “Double digits. And it’s like five minutes away. And I’ll be home before my bedtime because they’re having the concert early so the cancer girl can have her treatment the next morning.”
Mel shrugs. “Not up to us.”
“I’ll die if I can’t go. I’ll just die. For real.”
“You could tell them you have cancer, too?” Mel suggests. “That’d get you in with or without Mom.”
Meredith’s eyes go wide, first in shock, then with a glorious, glorious plan–
“No way, Merde Breath,” I say. “For so many reasons.”
A door on the upstairs landing opens. Our father comes out in his underwear. Meredith looks away.
He stares down at us like he’s not sure we’re there. He scratches the hairy potbelly sticking out over the elastic of his briefs and smacks his lips like he just woke up. It’s six o’clock in the evening, so that’s a possibility.
“You guys seen that shirt of mine?” he asks, his tongue lazy with drink. “The one with the eels?”
I turn to Mel. “The eels?” I mouth.
“I think Mom’s washing it,” Mel lies to him. “Why don’t you wear that red one with the double cuffs?”
He waits for a minute, like he didn’t hear her, then farts loudly and turns without a word back into his office.