By James Christensen
Vaughn was sitting at his desk reading a stimulating mystery novel when his most annoying sister poked her most annoying face through the doorway.
“How dare you invade my right to privacy whilst losing myself in entertaining fiction?” he thundered. It was still an hour before supper, so he was entitled to at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted fiction.
“It’s Wednesday, and like Mom said last week, ‘all bets are off on a Wednesday,’” Gloria retorted. “I dare you to deny those words.” So she has a potential loophole, he thought. Worse, she’s staked it on a dare. If I take it this dare, the case will end up in front of Mom, and since dares are classified as a type of bet, the whole case could be rejected on the technicality of what day it is. An unresolved precedent case like that could undermine his right to uninterrupted fiction until the “all bets are off” statement had expired. Vaughn furled his brow. No, his only recourse now was to play the game and increase the stakes of the bet until Gloria backed down.
“I dare you to fry those worms.” By revealing his strategy, he hoped to give her opportunity back down gracefully, before the stakes of honor rose too high. But apparently the sacrilege of griddled bugs was taken as an affront against her honor as a cook.
She narrowed her eyes and said, “Worms? I dare you to spread a thousand germs.” The implication was clear; he was to cough in the soup pot before dinner. Time to up the stakes again.
“A thousand germs weigh less than a gram; I dare you to feed those worms to Sam.” Sam was their mutual friend. As far as they knew, he was the only person dumb enough to be friends with both of them. Putting the brunt of the dare on Sam might end this, either with Gloria taking the dare, and all the honor that went with it, or she might back out when she calculated how much honor she would lose by tricking Sam into eating worms. Gloria’s loss would be slightly greater than that of Vaughn, who was merely an indirect instigator.
However, Gloria seemed ready to raise the stakes yet again. “Worms are for the birds, I’m sure you’ll agree; I dare you to look out the window and take the first thing you see.”
Vaughn’s thoughtful face immediately melted into a glower. He had been tricked. All along, Gloria had planted something beyond the shades, and had now lured him into a dare war, carefully raising the stakes until he couldn’t afford not to play along. Unless he could safely raise the stakes one more time, he would have to admit defeat.
Vaughn tore away the window cover to observe the consequences of his sister’s trap. He heard Gloria give a sharp gasp. They both gazed in horror at the police car parked in front of the house. “He’s taking Sam’s bike! You were supposed to take it!”
Quite aside from the devious plot Gloria had begun to execute, they were both in trouble now. The stakes had inadvertently increased to a level beyond any honor either of them had. There was no way to back out, and no way to go forward. Their only hope was if someone else would take the dare. Vaughn and Gloria slowly turned to face each other. There was no need for words. Only one name could save them.
“Sam!” the siblings cried out in unison.
“Hi guys,” said Sam. He was playing in the dirt, his recent favorite activity. “You want to play mud pies with me? I’ll bake ‘em and you eat ‘em.”
“We were thinking truth or dare” said Vaughn.
“Oh, yes, that sounds like so much fun!” said Gloria, in her sweetest and most annoying voice.
“Ok, I dare you guys to eat mud pies.”
“Yum,” said Vaughn as he pretended to eat a mud pie. “Wow, it’s pretty good,” said Gloria, actually eating one.
“Now, we dare you-”
“Truth” interrupted Sam.
“You didn’t even hear what the dare was!”
“That’s okay” said Sam “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“But we took the dare- you have to at least hear us out” said Gloria.
“Ok, what is it?”
“We need you to get into that police car-”
“Truth” interrupted Sam again.
“You want the truth? Okay, I’ll give you the truth. That cop has your bike. Taking his car is the only way you can get it back before it gets impounded.” “You see,” explained Gloria, “This is really for your own good.”
“Can’t I just ask for it back?” asked Sam.
“You could be any kid who wants a free bike. No, there’s only one way to prove that you are the true owner.”
Sam frowned. “I’m confused. How is stealing his car going to prove anything?”
A nefarious smile began to creep across Vaughn’s face as he began to explain. “Only the real owner of the bike would care about it so much. This will show such dedication and desperation, he’ll be convinced that you are the owner of the bike. So, are you ready for this dare?”
Vaughn’s smile began to turn downward. “Fine. But if you can’t handle the truth, you have to take the dare. Truth: what is the longest word in the English language?” Sam’s confusion didn’t clear up. “I don’t know.”
“But I told the truth!”
“ ‘I don’t know’ isn’t the right answer, so it’s a lie. Now you have to do the dare.”
Gloria piped up. “It’s okay, Vaughn will be there. You know how good of an explainer he is.” Sam didn’t look convinced, but he finally agreed.
“Well, what do I have to do?”
Vaughn’s gleeful grin returned in full force. “Ok, here’s the plan…”
He sidled up to the police car, keeping an extremely careful eye on the policeman Vaughn was keeping occupied. As soon as he drew even with the car he dropped down to let it shield him.
He crawled along until he reached the passenger door and peeked in. The keys were still in the ignition, though the car wasn’t running.
He pulled the door handle. It was unlocked and the door opened with virtually no sound.
He crawled in, latching the door behind him.
He slid into the drivers seat, cursing his friends to be reprimanded by their mother. He vowed to never play truth and dare again and started the car.