My sister, Emma, is building a robot. She says it will save the world.
Mom just wants her garage back.
“You said it would only be for an afternoon.”
Emma never said that. Mom made that assumption based on past experience. Like the time Emma started a band with Kelly and Kim. Or when Emma tried to learn how to juggle. But this is different. I could tell, but I’ve had more practice. I’ve been staring at Emma my entire life. When we were younger, it was to predict her moods. To know a moment before she did when the fun was over and she was going to insult me, and push me out of her room. Now, she was my guide, the senior to my freshman. She’s already everything I soon will be.
“I never said that.”
“Maybe, you can put your robot in the basement?”
“It’s not a robot, it’s a robotic flight suit, and once it’s finished, there will be no way to get it out of the basement.”
They have this discussion every night at dinner. Nobody has asked me about my history project. I got an A- (good!). Or my math test. C- (less good). I want to talk about the good grade, but not really the bad one, so I can’t bring it up.
“What if I wash the car this weekend?”
Mom considers. “Every weekend, until you’re done.”
“And the dishes.”
“A deal was already struck.”
“I’ll do the dishes.”
They both look at me. I don’t know why I volunteered. Maybe, I wouldn’t do them. Mom could lecture me about responsibility. Standing in my door way, while I reluctantly took off my headphones, and looked at her, surly and bored. I’ve been working on my surly and bored. Mostly just when looking in the mirror. It’s not ready yet. After a few seconds, I break into my I-have-a-secret smile, the one that Emma says makes me look incredibly punchable.
After dinner, I do the dishes. Then I rush to the garage. Emma is working on the thrusters. She downloaded the schematics from the internet. Discusses improvements with other teens on discord. There’s a guy in China who destroyed a meteor heading towards Chengdu. Emma says she knows him. Well, he’s in the forum. Commented positively about her modifications.
“He didn’t even ask for a pic. Guys are always asking for a pic. It’s fucking bullshit patriarchy. Not taking pics. You want to take a pic, take a pic. But nobody should ask you for that. You know what I’m saying?”
I miss Kelly and Kim. When they were in a band, or when they were hanging out coming up with names for their band, they would let me hang out. Kind of like what I do now, but when Emma was on a rant, Kim would make silly faces at me. She always brought what she called, “Mexican Coke, with real cane sugar” and give me my own bottle. I was still in junior high, and when I think back, everything seems more innocent. Back then, meteor showers were just lights in the sky. Nobody thought about them being stones falling from the sky. Back then, my sister wasn’t planning how to launch herself into space.
“Hey dummy, did you ever finish that history project for Mr. Callahan?”
“I already got it back. A-.”
“Not bad, dummy. He’s a tough grader.”
“Yeah… are you really going to save the world?”
Emma stops what she’s doing. She stares at me like I’m volunteering to do the dishes.
“The world can burn. I’m saving you and mom.”
I don’t know what to say to that. Soon after, she turns up the music. Neither of us meets the other’s eyes for the rest of the night.