THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Pradeep looked even greener than Frankie’s zombie goldfish eyes as we sat in the back of my dad’s car. And every time Dad screeched round another bend, Pradeep turned a deeper shade of green. We were on our way to the vacation place that Dad had booked. Usually only Dad, my Evil Scientist big brother Mark, Pradeep’s dad and his evil computer-genius big brother Sanj went on the Big Summer Weekend. But this year Sanj was at computer camp, and for the first time Dad said me and Pradeep were old enough to come. Nothing was going to wreck this weekend!
Not Pradeep, who was just about to hurl for the fifth time in four hours (I could tell because he had that surprised look on his face again). Not Sami, Pradeep’s three-year-old sister, who had to come with us because as soon as our moms heard Pradeep and I were going away too, they booked themselves on a Massage and Mud Pack weekend. (Which I didn’t understand at all. Moms hate mud on your shoes. They really hate mud on the living room carpet. But apparently they love it on their faces. Who knew?) This weekend wouldn’t even be ruined by Mark not saying a word to me since he found out that Pradeep, Sami, and I were coming. If only he wouldn’t thump me too, then it would be perfect.
“Bag,” Pradeep mumbled as we went over a bump in the road.
“Bag,” I said to Sami as she bounced in her car seat next to me. She passed me one of the stack of airplane sick bags that Pradeep’s mom had packed for him for the journey. I unfolded it and passed it to Pradeep. Pradeep’s mom gets these super-strong sick bags off the Internet because they can hold loads without breaking. They make the best splat bombs ever ’cause they never burst until they hit their target. It seemed a shame to waste them on actual car sickness. But a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.
“Bleeech!” Pradeep filled the sick bag and then stared out the window.
“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Sami sang from her seat.
Dad looked straight ahead at the winding road. “About twenty minutes maybe,” he said.
Pradeep’s dad was looking at his smartphone. “It’s 13.2 miles exactly to the destination.” Pradeep’s dad could get a job as one of those GPS things in cars. He’s got the perfect voice for it. You would totally believe that he knew where he was going, even if he didn’t. I don’t think he would fit on the dashboard though.
“If you look toward the sea, you can see the lighthouse from here,” Dad said.
Pradeep, Sami, and I all craned our necks to look. The lighthouse was tall and white like a swirly whipped vanilla ice-cream cone sticking up out of the sea. That is, if swirly whipped vanilla ice-cream cones had giant lights at the top of them. It jutted out into the bay so the water lapped against it.
Mark sat slumped in the back of the car behind us, flicking through Evil Scientist magazine. This month’s cover feature was called “How to Take Over the World in Ten Easy Steps.” He had his earbuds in and didn’t even look up when Dad spoke.
“It’s awesome, Mark. An actual lighthouse,” I said to him.
Mark shot me an evil glare. “There is nothing awesome about this moron-fest vacation.” He pulled his hood up over his head. “You losers have made this the lamest trip ever.”
The cooler that was under Sami’s feet started shaking. I lifted the lid to investigate. The eyes of Frankie, my zombie goldfish, glowed green as he batted cans of Coke against the sides of the cooler with his fins. He must have heard Mark’s voice and gone all zombie mega-thrash fish. He still held a grudge against my brother for trying to murder him with his Evil Scientist toxic gunk. Luckily, Pradeep and I shocked Frankie back to life with a battery, and ever since, he’s been our friend and fishy bodyguard. I hoped Frankie would calm down soon.
“Swishy fish!” Sami shouted.
I put my finger to my lips and turned to Sami. “Shhhhhh!”
“What was that, precious?” asked Pradeep’s dad.
“Uh, I think she’s just excited about seeing fish in the sea,” I said, covering for her.
Sami giggled and I carefully closed the lid of the cooler. Safe for now.
As Pradeep and I looked out the window, we saw a thick layer of fog hanging over the lighthouse, wrapping itself around a barely visible sign. I squinted to read it. WELCOME TO EEL BAY, it said in big letters, and then in smaller print that looked like it was painted on just yesterday, DON’T FEED THE EELS! ESPECIALLY THE EVIL ONE!
Text copyright © 2013 by Mo O’Hara
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Marek Jagucki