I USUALLY AWAKE to the extremely annoying sound of my digital alarm clock. When I hear it this morning, I am so sleep-deprived I pick it up and simply throw it at the wall, smashing it into pieces.
“That’s what you get, you darned clock!” I yell. I talk to inanimate objects when I get less than 5 hours of sleep. “You’ll never wake me up again! Ha!”
“Honey, what was that loud noise?” My mother walks in. “You woke your brothers up.”
“Nothing, I just kind of…fell,” I lie. “Yeah, I fell and hit my dresser.”
“I can see the broken clock right there, Celia.”
“No-no you can’t…” I casually throw a discarded blanket atop the poor, innocent, and totaled clock.
“Just come down for breakfast, please,” Mother sighs. “We made pancakes for your brother’s birthday.”
“What?” I don’t recall any of my brothers being born today. “I mean---Happy Birthday Austin?”
“Come on, honey, don’t act like you remember.” Lying, you probably realize, gets you nowhere in this house and neither does a real yet suspicious truth. My mother has some kind of lie detector in her brain somewhere. “Peter is turning 18. It’s very special to him, so please act like you remembered the whole time.” Not Austin, Peter. I was close…
I agree and throw on some clothes I found sitting in my area 51 of a bedroom floor. I don’t bother to brush my not-too-matted hair and stomp downstairs exhaustedly. Mother, Father, Brandon and Austin are already singing as Peter beams down at his candle covered in maple syrup from the (miraculously) perfectly cooked pancake.
“Happy Birthday dear Peter,” I try to join in but I’m too late. Peter blows out his candle and smiles. He notices me, smiling for him, trying to think about what he wished for.
“I ain’t telling you anything, Celia.” He chuckles, taking out the sticky, smoking candle from the pancake and digging in like he hadn’t eaten in weeks.
I take a seat in between Peter and Brandon.
“So, Peter, what are you going to do for your birthday?” I ask curiously.
“Not sure. I think I am going to take my money down to the mall and spend it on a bunch of crap I don’t actually need.”
“So, basically a normal day, just with more money?” teases Austin. Mother gives him a “shut up, Austin, before I take that pancake and slap you with it” look that none of us are strangers to. Brandon, Austin’s twin brother, giggles and is rewarded with an elbow to the stomach.
“Boys!” hisses Mother. Ignoring Mother’s hint to shut the crap up, Brandon whispers to me,
“So, what’s it feel like to be the youngest kid here, six years behind Peter?”
“So help me-!”
“You runt,” he smiles. He always calls me that. You’re only three years older than me! I could take you down in a fight and I don’t even know how to punch!
“Peter, now that you’re eighteen, you’re going to have to be more responsible,” Father begins a lecture. I’m pretty sure Peter is the only one who heard a single word, and I’m not even sure he heard more than one. I try to pay attention, though. In six years, this could be me.
“Responsibility…blah…pay attention in class… to get job…”
It has completely slipped my mind that at age eighteen, we have to have a job before three months have passed. I don’t know for sure what happens if you don’t. Luckily for my reckless brother, it says nothing about keeping it for three months. I pay attention to every word my Father says after that. Nothing about what happens if we don’t, just if we do, and how, and blah, blah, and blah, until he notices Peter’s blank stare.
“Peter, are you even listening?”
“Yes, dad,” he lies. Mother doesn’t say a word, though. She wasn’t paying attention either. “And I do plan to get a job, but tomorrow. I would like to enjoy my eighteenth birthday.”
“Okay, but you have to go tomorrow, no matter what the case.”
“What if Godzilla comes and smashes every place I could possibly work in ever, but not anything else?”
“Peter, Godzilla is not coming to smash Stone City’s workplaces. It would take him forever!” Brandon says.
“Brandon! Is that really what you took from that?” scolds Mother. “This will be you and Austin next year.”
“We just turned seventeen, Mom,” says Austin. “Let us breathe!”
“Celia, at least tell me you understood a word of what your father has just said,” sighs Mother.
“Yes,” I say truthfully. “And I think I know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“Really?” she smiles. I’m probably the most responsible kid she has, and I haven’t worn clean clothes in a week. “What is it, honey?”
“I want to get a doctorate and be a surgeon.”
Brandon and Austin look like they’re holding in a gigantic laugh. They fail. Austin falls out of his chair.
“You,” says Brandon, “a doctor?”
“Both of you stop!” yells Father.
“Shut up, you!” I yell.
“Who would let you be a doctor?” laughs Austin. Peter’s face is straight—at least he doesn’t find this funny.
“Stop,” I start feel hot tears of rage fall down my cheeks. I stomp up the stairs with my pancakes and slam my bedroom door shut.
After a while, I hear a knock on my door.
“Celia, honey?” says my Mother, welcoming herself into the room. “Brandon and Austin were sent to their room. They’re grounded, if that makes you feel better.”
“I know they’re in their room,” I sigh. “I heard them joking through the wall.”
“I’m sorry about that, honey. I think you’ll make a great doctor one day.”
“Thanks, mom,” I say, and she leaves.