My sister danced around the kitchen in her lion costume, with black whiskers stuck on her face.
“Come on!” I hollered at her. “You’re supposed to help me set the table.”
“I’m practicing,” she said, spinning around perfectly on the linoleum floor. “My stomach is too wiggly to eat, anyhow.”
“It’s only a skating show,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”
“It’s the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Laura declared, “and I’m going to be the lion. Come and see me.”
“I have plans,” I told her. I knew that the guys were going bowling, and there was no way that I was going to sit and freeze just to watch a bunch of seven-year-old kids skate. I finished setting the table by myself, and everybody sat down to eat.
“What’s for supper,” I asked Mom as she set a pot on the table.
“Mystery casserole,” she replied with a wink.
“Oh, great,” I mumbled. Mystery casserole was what Mom made when she was in a hurry and threw leftovers into a dish and baked it.
“We have to hurry tonight,” Dad said. “Laura has to be at the ice show in an hour. Are you coming with us, Son?”
“No,” I answered. “I already have other plans.”
“Fine,” Mom said. “You do what you think is important.”
I hate it when my mom says stuff like that. She makes me feel like I’m doing the wrong thing at the same time that she says to go ahead and do what I want. Besides, I’ve already spent the best years of my life watching Laura.
It all started when Mom began working part-time and I had to begin baby-sitting full-time. I gave Laura her snacks when I got home from school and her breakfast early Saturday morning, a real sacrifice on my part. I helped her put on her clothes and carted her around on my bicycle to baseball games. I even took her to one of my Boy Scout meetings. Then there had been that summer when Roger had invited me to go camping at the lake with his family for two whole weeks! Did I get to go? No! I had to watch Laura because Mom couldn’t find anyone else to do it. I had to stay home and build baby puzzles with Laura and help her tie her shoes. I had definitely gone above and beyond the call of duty as far as Laura was concerned.
Of course, I had been reimbursed for baby-sitting, and I liked Laura—most of the time. She was OK for a sister, but enough was enough.
The first game I bowled was lousy; I didn’t even break one hundred. The guys razzed me and asked me if I needed a handicap. I blamed it on the bowling ball and went to pick out a different one. I didn’t do much better the next game. I couldn’t seem to concentrate. Instead, I kept watching the clock. I knew that the skating show would be starting in thirty minutes, and I wondered if Laura would be skating first.
“Come on, Michael,” Roger said. “You’re up.”
I picked up my ball and carefully stood in our lane, mentally counting my steps: One, two, three. I stepped forward and rolled the ball—right into the gutter.
The guys laughed. They thought that it was hilarious, and I knew that I’d be hearing about this game for the next week, at least. I looked up at the clock again. The ice show started in fifteen minutes. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t care and that I was just having an off night bowling. Then I told the guys that I had to leave and go to my sister’s ice show.
They said that I was lucky that I didn’t have to finish my game, because I’d set a new world record for the worst game ever bowled.
The ice arena was cold. I pulled my hat over my ears and stuffed my hands into my pockets. The place was packed, and I gave up looking for Mom and Dad. I found an empty seat by the door where all the skaters stepped out onto the ice.
Laura was easy to pick out in her tawny lion costume. I cheered extra loudly for her and held my breath while she did her loops and one last spin. She had almost finished when her skate tip caught the ice and she went down in a heap. She leaped up quickly and kept going like a real trooper, but I could see that her shoulders were sagging.
I waited by the dressing room door after the show, and she came out with her skates draped over her shoulder and her lion whiskers dangling crookedly.
“Did you see me?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “You did a great job.”
“You got back up,” I told her, “and that’s what counts. Just wait till next year—you’ll be leaping through the air! I can tell.”
“I’m glad that you came,” Laura said, and she grabbed my hand.
“Of course I came,” I told her. “I couldn’t let you skate without your own private cheering section.”