Make Me Laugh

A Midsummer Tale ~ Honorable Mention
Catherine Lanser

An Excerpt from “Make Me Laugh”

Poker made the miles fly by. We played it for hours, exchanging real quarters, dimes, and pennies. We were no longer kids held captive by a road trip, but Vegas high rollers. Every hand made you want to play another. We were so embroiled in the game that we didn’t even notice that we had pulled off the road. I held my cards tightly to my chest, making sure my opponents to my left and right couldn’t see them. I glanced up briefly, saw a parking lot, and looked back down at the game.

“Let’s go, we’ve got to make this kind of quick,” said Dad. “That stop earlier put us a little behind schedule.”

We didn’t budge.

“Let’s go,” said Mom, opening her car door and stepping out into the parking lot.

We continued playing.

Dad exited and walked around the front of the car. Mom’s head appeared through the open front car door.

“Let’s go,” she said sternly.

We looked at each other and then at her. We didn’t know where we were and we didn’t care. All that mattered was winning this next hand. We were addicted and that’s why Tommy said what he did next.

“We’re going to skip this one, we’re in the middle of a game here.”

It was brilliant; he had said exactly what we were feeling. Why should we get out and see one more boring tourist trap when we were having a great time here? After all, didn’t Mom just plan these stops to give us a chance to get out of the car and not get on each other’s nerves? Since we were getting along right now, what did she care? She and Dad could enjoy it without our bickering.

“Yeah, we’re having fun back here,” I said.

Pattie nodded. We were all in agreement. This was one monument we would skip.

Mom’s head disappeared through the passenger door and she slammed it behind her. She stepped toward the back seat, where Tommy sat, and pulled on the handle. It was locked.

“Open that door,” she said through the glass.

Tommy reached over and rolled the window down a crack.

“Get out of this car, right now,” she said, her voice low and primal, putting her fingers through the window and doing her best to drag Tommy through it by the ear.

“Open this door!”

He put his cards down on the pillow that we used as a table and opened the car door.

“Let’s go,” she said pulling him out by his arm, leaving a trail of cards and coins behind him.

For a second I wondered if she just meant him, but realized the seriousness of the situation when her face appeared again in the open doorway. Pattie and I put our cards down and had barely exited the car when Mom started down a path. We tried to catch up, hobbling as best we could with our tired legs. About halfway down the path we looked up and saw four humungous, very serious, faces carved in the mountain. I made a mental note to imitate them later if we played another game of Make Me Laugh.

When we arrived at the overlook we turned around, put on our best fake smiles, and posed for a few pictures with Mount Rushmore hovering above us. After that we took a quick spin through the museum and were back in the car, just under a half an hour later.

“I can’t believe you guys wanted to miss that,” said Dad when we were back in the car. “You don’t know how lucky you are to see all the stuff we have.”


Catherine Lanser is a writer who lives in Madison, Wis. She grew up in a small town, the youngest of a big family, and enjoys writing about this time in her life. E-mail: catherinelanser[at]