My truck that has windows as steamed as that car in Titanic.
Carter takes one side and I take the other. As I bang on the windows shouting, “Police! Open up!”, he wrenches open the door.
Then he sings, “I see London, I see France, I see Marshall with no underpants!”
We laugh like hyenas as my little brother hops out in unbuttoned jeans and his hat, cursing the day we were born. A pink-faced blonde follows close behind, and much to Marshall’s disappointment, disappears into a group of her friends.
“Y’all suck!” Marshall scowls.
A bit later, we’re sitting around the bonfire—me, Carter, Marshall, Jenny, and JD. Carter takes a drag on a joint, then offers it to me. I shake my head. Sofia declines too. Jenny, however, readily accepts and hits it like a pro.
“I thought you said you weren’t as fun as you used to be?” I tease.
She blows out a cloud of smoke. “At twenty-eight, I smoke for completely different reasons than I did at sixteen.”
JD also takes a few hits.
“Alright, listen up, children—I got somethin’ to say,” Carter announces, and all eyes turn to him. “When Jenny and JD get married on Saturday, we’ll all be one family.”
Nope, not really.
I open my mouth, but he goes on. “Like the buzzin’ bees of a hive, we all must live in harmony for the colony to flourish. And I am sensin’ tension between Stanton and JD.”
JD’s shiny eyes squint. “There’s no tension. Stanton and I get along great.”
Sure. And as far as I’m concerned, we’d get along even better if he moved to China, tried climbing Mount Everest . . . died.
Jenny raises her hand like we’re back in school. “I agree, Carter. There’s tension.” She pats JD’s leg. “You’re just too sweet to see it, baby.”
“We have to purge the negativity,” Carter explains. “I have a foolproof plan to reestablish the natural order and reinforce a functioning hierarchy we can all be happy with.”
JD scratches his head. “That’s a lot of words, man. You wanna run that by me again?”
It might just be the whiskey . . . but that sounds like a damn good idea.
• • •
It was definitely the whiskey.
“This is a terrible fuckin’ idea!”
Life’s funny. One day you’re wearing a suit that costs more than most people bring home in a month, impressing the boss with your skill and expertise. And a week later, you’re in the middle of a cattle pasture at two o’clock in the morning, too drunk to see straight, getting ready to race a tractor.
Yes, a tractor.
That was Carter’s grand idea. Healthy competition, may the best man win, and all that crap. Now my father’s tractors are spitting diesel smoke, rumbling like thunder—me in one, JD in the other. Carter’s got the song “Holding Out for a Hero” blasting from my truck speakers and Jenny’s standing in front of us. “Ready, set, go!”
She throws JD’s hat in the air and we take off. It’s a quarter of a mile to the tree, then we have to circle around and back. I push the pedal to the floor, shifting into high gear.
I hear Jenny scream, “Kick his ass, JD!”
And Carter, “That’s the way, boys! Feel the balance comin’ back—it’s all about the balance!”
Sofia cups her hands around her mouth and yells, “Go Stanton! Drive that fucking tractor!”
And I laugh, loud and hard. I glance over at JD and he’s laughing too. Because it’s all so goddamn ridiculous . . . but in the best kind of way. As I start to turn around the tree, that’s when I decide I want to win. It’d be a great way to end a good night. With a victory.
But there’s a reason you’re not supposed to operate heavy machinery under the influence of drugs and alcohol. That reason becomes clear when JD and I don’t leave enough clearance as we both try to make tight U-turns and end up scraping the machines against one another. I move my leg just in time to not get pinned, but the tractors get hung up, caught on one another.
“Back it up!” I tell him, jerking the wheel.
“You back it up!” he retorts.
And just when I consider punching him out and backing up the fucking thing for him, a gunshot rings out, echoing across the field.
I instinctively flinch down. With my ears still ringing from the sound, I look over . . . and see my daddy, dressed in a blue robe and black boots, holding his shotgun.
The party’s definitely over.