1 THE FEUD April—Two Years Before
My hands are so cold, I can barely move my fingers. My knuckles crack each time I try. I see Mom under the bright lights, and my heart begins to claw its way up my throat. The butterflies in my stomach are turning into bats, and I think, What am I so nervous about? I’m not the one up there. But logic doesn’t work when your mother is standing next to the game show host, in front of three television cameras and a packed studio audience. Family Feud is very serious business.
“All right, Megan,” says the host to my mom. “Your sister got you one hundred and twenty points—you need eighty to win. Are you up for it?”
Mom smiles politely. “I guess,” she says, and giggles a bit. I can tell she’s just as nervous as I am. No, she must be more nervous. There are beads of sweat all over her forehead,
replacing the ones they blotted off while she waited backstage as Aunt Jackie took her turn giving answers.
Now it was all up to Mom.
Off to the side I can see Grandma Lorraine, Grandpa Wes, Uncle Steve, and Aunt Jackie, all waiting for Mom out of the camera’s view. Why did they have to give Mom the anchor position? That’s the roughest part—I know about that. If she messes up, she’ll feel as if she lost the whole ten thousand. But then again, if she wins, she gets all the glory. I know about that, too.
The host begins his little speech from memory, like a policeman reading someone their rights. “All right, Megan, you’ll have thirty seconds in which to give your answers,” he says. “If you repeat any answers your sister gave, you’ll hear the buzzer, which means try again. Are you ready?”
Mom nods. I can see her wringing her hands, out of the camera’s view, as the host looks down at his question cards.
“A state,” says the host, “that begins with ‘A.’?”
“Arkansas,” she says.
“Children’s favorite holiday.”
Bzzzz! “Try again.”
“A make of foreign car.”
“An animal you find at the zoo.”
Bzzzz! “Try again.”
She shakes her head immediately, knowing she goofed. That one’ll cost us.
“A fruit you eat on cereal.”
“A famous painter.”
She doesn’t answer. She’s taking too long.
“Picasso!” she says.
Bzzzz! “Try again.”
No answer. She’s blanking out!
“Da Vinci,” she says.
Dad, sitting next to me in the audience, shouts with joy. That must have been a good answer. The audience applauds, but it’s not over yet.
“All right,” says the host, “turn around, let’s see how you did.”
Dad stares straight ahead, concentrating on Mom. Like me, he feels like he’s right up there with her under the lights. His hands must be cold, too, his stomach full of bats.
Without looking at me, Dad smiles wide and shakes his head in amazement. “She did it, Preston,” he says to me. “I really think she did it!” He stares at Mom with a mixture of love and awe. Under the bright studio lights, she must look like a movie star to him. She does to me.
And all at once I know that Dad is right—that Mom has done it. Not just because Mom gave mostly good answers, and not just because we beat that other family in each and every round, but because we deserve to win. Because right now, everything is so right, so perfect, that it can’t go wrong. It was simply meant to be—and when something’s meant to be, no one on earth can stop it. Not even the host.
One minute later, we are ten thousand dollars richer. Dad is holding me and my brother, jumping up and down with both of us in his arms. We stumble out of the audience and down to the floor, and all of us hug and kiss Mom. Grandma, Grandpa, and the rest run out from the sides to join us. We all hold each other, jumping up and down in front of the cameras like imbeciles, but we don’t care. This is our family, this is our day, and we can be imbeciles if we want!
Dad hugs Mom, giving her a big kiss, forgetting that my brother and I are between them. We get crunched and bounced around, but I have to laugh. The crowd cheers, and we get swallowed up in all the excitement and all the grown-ups around us. It feels like magic—like another world—and I silently wish that this moment would never end. That Dad would hold Mom like this forever, with my brother and me smushed tightly, tightly, between them—our whole family pressed so close together that my feet barely touch the ground. . . .