Home > The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(7)

The Theory Of Second Best (Cake #2)(7)
Author: J. Bengtsson

But dignity had never been high on my list of must-haves. It made no difference to me how I got the gig; it only mattered that I got it. And I jumped at the offer. It’s not like I had much else to do. I mean, technically I was ‘working,’ but it wasn’t like the tour couldn’t go on without me. I was hardly an integral part of the team. The only one who would miss me was Jake… and even he probably wouldn’t miss me all that much.


“So I gotta know – whose bright idea was it to rent a car and drive to Arizona for the wedding?” I asked, while shoving a piece of bread in my mouth. Mom had been doing an excellent job of fattening me up. I tore into my plate of steak and potatoes as I awaited the answer.

“Yeah, that’s what I want to know too,” my older brother, Keith, pitched in.

“I thought it would be fun,” Mom answered, shrugging.

“You thought it would be fun?”

“Yes, Kyle, like old times.”

I gaped at my mother. “Clearly you don’t remember old times.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Um… the motorhome trip?”

Keith laughed. “Oh, god, not the motorhome trip.”

“What? I haven’t heard this one,” Keith’s girlfriend, Sam, perked up as she asked.

“It’s nothing,” Mom said, dismissively waving her hand in front of her. “Kyle’s just being dramatic.”

“Dramatic? Mom, come on. Dad took the whole side of the house off!”

“It wasn’t the whole side of the house,” Dad said, in an attempt to downplay the story. “It was just some paneling… and the water spigot.”

“Okay, what?” Sam laughed.

“Dad borrowed a neighbor’s old motorhome one summer, and we went on a road trip,” Keith explained. “But before we even left on the trip, the neighbor was showing Dad how to fill the water tank. So they took a hose, attached it to the spigot in the front of the house, and then forgot about it. Anyway, a few minutes later, the neighbor left, and Dad invited us all in to go on a test run.”

“Oh no,” Sam gasped. “He didn’t take out the hose?”

“Not only did he forget to take the hose out, but he drove off and the spigot and part of the house was trailing behind us for a couple of blocks before someone flagged us down. When we got back to the house, there was water shooting straight up into the air like a geyser.”

“Yeah, that was pretty bad,” Mom conceded.

“The whole trip was like that. The right blinker didn’t work, so at night Dad would make one of us sit in the front seat holding Grace’s blinking princess wand out the window when he wanted to change lanes,” I recalled.

“Or when the air conditioning stopped working. It was 108 degrees outside, and we were beyond miserable. We complained so much that Dad got pissed, pulled into a 7-11, and bought us all ice blocks,” Keith added.

A confused looking Sam asked, “What did you do with the ice blocks?”

“I don’t know. We played with them, I guess, stayed cool. Was it you or Jake that got their tongue stuck to the block?”

“Jake,” Mom laughed. “I had to pour water over it to unstick him.”

“Oh, man. See how fun those trips were?” Dad smiled, reminiscing. Poor guy. He was already in his fifties. What else did he have to look forward to in life?

“No, they weren’t fun at all,” I teased, although, in reality, I found our family travels pretty hysterical. “It’s only funny now because we’re not currently living through it. That’s why I don’t understand the whole road trip to Arizona thing. Why can’t we just fly?”

“Because I have gifts for your brother’s wedding that I don’t want to put in luggage. You will survive, Kyle.”

“Geez, you’re so whiny,” said Dad. “All that luxury has spoiled you, boy.”

“I know,” Keith agreed. “He’s such a pansy-ass.”

“Whatever,” I huffed. “But the car better have air conditioning and a working blinker.”

“I think we can manage that.”


The following day, as I climbed into the SUV with my siblings, I considered my father’s less than flattering assessment of my spoiled, surly behavior. I had noticed a change in myself lately as well, although I’d been reluctant to acknowledge it. Blaming it all on Jake and his seesawing behavioral swings was the easy way out, but now I was wondering if some of my jaded attitude was actually wearing off on him. Jake had always counted on my upbeat personality to lift him up. Maybe this time away from each other would be good for both of us.

After an argument amongst the five of us over who got to sit where, Keith and Emma pulled rank, choosing the best two seats for themselves. My choice was no legroom in the far back, sitting next to Keith who got the coveted spot closest to the power outlet, or plenty of legroom in the middle seats but having to squeeze in three to a row with my sisters. In the end I picked the middle row since Grace didn’t take up much space. I watched in amusement as she crawled right into the crappiest seat without even the slightest protest, as if she’d learned long ago to accept her lot in life as the lowest McKallister on the totem pole.

As I buckled in, I again silently bemoaned the current travel arrangements. I’d become accustomed to a certain standard of travel, and this definitely wasn’t it. As Jake’s platonic free-loading plus one, I was used to being waited on and catered to right alongside him. If he stayed in nice hotels or flew first class, so did I. We didn’t even discuss it. Jake just always bought two of everything, one for him and one for me. Realization dawned on me. Holy crap. I was a kept woman. No, worse – I was a skin tag, stuck to my brother like a fleshy little growth! Suddenly this road trip seemed like an exceedingly good idea. I mean, I needed to man up, and quickly. In only a week’s time I was going to be wiping my ass with palm fronds.


As it turned out, the trip wasn’t as bad as expected. In fact, the first two hours were spent joking around, and I was feeling pretty good about my new found self-awareness. If I could survive a car ride in exceedingly close quarters with my siblings so effortlessly, certainly I could endure over a month without deodorant and toothpaste.

However, four hours in, mind-numbing boredom turned my mood sour. As a way to pass the time, I started rating my siblings’ grating behaviors. Grace, the youngest at fifteen years old, was on her phone most of the time. Her fingers flew over the keyboard at lightening speed, and aside from the many times she turned the camera for a selfie or a Snapchat, Grace only occasionally looked up from the screen. Clearly she was the least irritating of the bunch, and on a scale from one to annoying, she rested nicely at a one.

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