Highway Karaoke

In honor of their twenty-three year anniversary, my parents planned a road trip from Tucson to Joshua Tree, California. Mom dreamt of seeing the giant sequoias and insisted there was no better way to experience their greatness than as a family. It was Mom, Dad, my sister Meredith and I crammed inside our Honda Civic for almost six hours.

The worst part wasn’t being trapped, but the fact that Meredith was placed in charge of the auxiliary cord. Were she to have handled the GPS or air conditioning, I would’ve been fine. However, as “road trip DJ,” she put us through the Hell that was her Pop Hits mega mix. A carefully curated playlist of songs from Miley Cyrus and NSYNC. With the former being Meredith’s preferred choice, she sometimes skipped over NSYNC altogether, leaving hours of straight country twang blasting from the speakers. Meanwhile the rest of us resorted to crocheting with hairs yanked from our heads.

When the chorus of her favorite song approached, she reminded us by tapping the dashboard as if it wasn’t obvious after the previous hundred times.

“Here goes!” Meredith said. “I got my hands up, they’re playing my song they know I’m gonna be okay!”

Reality check: “Party in the U.S.A” was not my song and I was certainly not okay. Although Meredith’s music taste was atrocious, I couldn’t help but admire her unwavering allegiance. The way she lost herself within the cornucopia of vocal harmonies while I was ready to throw myself out the vehicle at any moment. Risking a possible cracked ribbed or broken femur in hopes of escaping the torment.

From the rearview mirror, Meredith called me out for pouting while Mom and Dad showed minimum effort by swaying to the music.

“Quit being a Debby Downer,” she insisted. “It’s a party in the U.S.A.”

“Sike! Right now it’s a nightmare!”

Dad intervened before things got heated, swerving off the main road as a cloud of clay colored dust engulfed our Civic. Once we parked, Dad turned from the driver’s seat.

“Let your sister have a little fun, Eli. The least you could do is be respectful.”

What the hell about respecting your elders? I thought. Meredith was the youngest one. She should have been respectful to us. I had so much more on my mind but instead I just said, “Okay, fine.”

“Now apologize.”

Before I opened my mouth, Meredith cranked up the radio and drowned out any hope of settling our dispute. The Climb was playing. A song which only then began sinking in even though I heard it countless times before.

 “It’s always an uphill battle and sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.”

While her words were directed at no one in particular, I closed my eyes and imagined she was singing them to me. My head nodded as I lip-synced each lyric, letting Miley know we were no longer enemies, but friends. And when given the choice, it would be her over the NSYNC boys any day.



Nam Hoang Tran writes from a MacBook Pro somewhere in Orlando, FL. His work appears in various places and collectively at www.namhtran.com. He enjoys grapes.

Categories: Fiction

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