Today's Reading

After dropping off Clarissa, Mel, and then Audrey (because I always pick her up first and drop her off last, even though she lives the furthest away), I go home, take a shower, and start packing my lunch for the next day.

"How was your gig?" Mom asks, walking into the kitchen.

"Great! Every show gets a little better."

"I was going to do that for you," she says, pointing to the sandwich I'm making.

"I know." Mom works two jobs, both of which suck, so I'm always happy to make my own lunch. Plus I'm very specific about the spread of my peanut butter. It should be as close to the edge of the bread as possible without spilling over, and the thickness should be consistent. Generally, I'm a pretty casual guy, but not when it comes to peanut butter application. We all have our quirks.

"I've got news," she says.

"Dad got out of prison?"

Dad isn't really in prison. He left us two years ago. We joke about him being in prison as a coping mechanism.

"No."

"I'm finally going to get a baby sister?"

"Ha. You wish."

"You got a raise?"

Mom shakes her head. "I did get a five-dollar tip on an eighteen-dollar meal though. That was nice."

"Wild panthers have run amok in our neighborhood, gobbling up people left and right?"

"Maybe you should stop guessing."

"Maybe I should. So is this good news or bad news?" I ask.

"Well..."

I set down the butter knife. "That doesn't sound like a good well..."

"I wouldn't necessarily call it 'bad' news," Mom says. "It's definitely not the worst news ever. Nobody died or anything."

"Tell me."

"You know your aunt Mary and uncle Clark?"

"Of course." I don't think I've seen Uncle Clark since I was six. We live in Florida, and they live in California. He and Dad never got along, so every couple of years, Aunt Mary would visit us by herself. With Dad out of the picture, I assumed we'd see more of our extended family, but it never really happened.

"Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are going on a cruise."

"That's cool." I consider that for a moment and then get very excited. "Are they taking us with them?"

"No."

"Oh."

"It's one of those around-the-world cruises. Three whole months. Doesn't that sound fun?"

Did I mention that Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are rich? You probably picked up on that when Mom said they were going on a three-month-long world cruise.

"Is Blake going with them?" I ask.

"No. He's not."

Suddenly, I have an idea where this conversation is headed. It doesn't make me happy. "Maybe you should spell this out for me," I say.

"Your cousin Blake is going to live with us for three months. Isn't that exciting?"

I stare at her for a few hours.

(Possibly, I'm exaggerating.)

"Starting when?" I ask.

"Next week."

"You mean before the school year ends?"

"Yes. He's going to transfer to your school."

"That's messed up!"

Mom shrugs. "They got a good deal on the cruise."
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