Some people need to get the last word. Todd needed to get the last laugh.
Every summer the incredibly uncool, nerdy Malloy kids would make the annual trip to ValleyFair with super cool Uncle Todd. This excursion involved a lot of planning, especially who would sit with Todd on the rides.
He rounded out the older kids’ foursome, which was supposed to make the experience less awkward and not leave anyone out. But we would fight over who would be stuffed next to the 6-foot-5 guy taking up a ridiculous amount of leg room, arm space and pooled over into the seats.
Despite these quibbles, we had a blast.
The pinnacle of the trip was the pilgrimage to the Wild Thing, which I know I was not the one to convince Mike, who is scared of heights, to ride. That was all smooth-talking Todd.
As we waited in line, I insisted we needed to figure out how we were going to pose for the picture. We needed a strategy. I wanted to see something awesome when we walked out of the tunnel and into the souvenir screen trap.
We had it down to a science, knowing where in the tunnel the lights and cameras were positioned, timing how many seconds we had to do something good. We knew we had one shot to make it perfect.
For some reason, Mike and I thought it would be awesome to get a picture of him pretending to choke me, while I held a gun made out of my hands to his face. That’s the kind of middle school bad-assery that only comes out of Catholic school.
I don’t remember Amanda’s instructions. But I do remember Todd remaining calm and collected, not commenting as we plotted.
My memory still churns up the moments of the dark tunnel and flashes, the anticipation, the carefully planned action, then realizing when you are moving fast and going down, fake choking becomes real choking. Haven’t made that mistake again…
As we returned to daylight, we laughed and screamed, rushing to see our gloriously epic photo.
And then we saw that Todd had bombed it. There he was expressionless, bored and annoyed. Our, “Look!” Became, “Todd! You wrecked it…”
He could not stop laughing. The whole way home, he kept laughing. Years later, we’d pull out the picture, and he would laugh at how he skunked it. Grandma still laughs at it.
Aug. 31 would have been Todd’s 41st birthday. I pulled this out the night before and couldn’t help laughing and still feeling that dammit, he won.
As someone who needs to always get the last word, maybe Todd is trying to teach me something. How different would life be if we went after the last laugh?