"Lyssa, how about you?" Jake ogled my little sister.
"I'm really glad you asked." Lyssa tilted her head and beamed, an old pageant trick to look sincere.
She was pretty successful on the child beauty queen circuit before an ugly baton-twirling injury permanently weakened her rotator cuff.
"I'm most excited about spending time with my family and stuff," she said. "Family's super important, right? And I think it will be great to be on TV ."
She said all that with a slight Southern accent, which would have been fine except for the fact that we're not Southern. We're not even from southern Ohio.
I couldn't take it anymore. My eyes rolled all the way to the back of my head and into the next freaking county.
"Samantha, you seem a bit skeptical about all this Bigfoot hunting. What's your motivation for going on the trip?" Jake asked.
I figured if Sophie was the sweet one and Lyssa the sexy one, I could play the leave-me-the-h ell-alone one, which wasn't much of a stretch.
I slouched back into the cushion. "I offered to stay home and take care of the dog, until my family reminded me that we don't have one," I said, forcing a laugh, and ignoring my mom's flashing eyes.
"Cute," Jake said, with a fake chortle. "The producers tell me that you're going into your senior year of high school and hope to be pre-med in college." He seemed determined to get a real answer from me. "I bet the prize money would help with that."
Prize money? No one had mentioned cash before this. I stared at my dad. He smiled and nodded like a bobble-head doll in a fast-moving vehicle. He knew how much I wanted to go to college full-time, and not just part-time like Sophie, who lived at home and worked two crappy jobs to help pay her tuition bills.
So much for playing it cool. My eyes widened and I leaned forward. "What kind of money are we talking about?"
Jake's grin broadened. I was hooked and he knew it. "Enough to put all three of you through college. So, I'll ask again, Samantha, how excited are you to go deep into the forest in search of the elusive Wood Ape?"
A smile broke out on my face bigger than a Wood Ape's footprint. "I'm thrilled for the opportunity, Jake. If Sasquatch is real and hanging in the wilds of Washington State, he'd better make up the guest room, because we're coming to find him."
"A British guy, named David Thompson, first found a set of Sasquatch footprints in the early 1800s. Since then, countless groups of hunters have set off in search of the hairy guy. Bigfoot, I mean. Not David Thompson. I have no idea if he was hairy or not." —Jake Stone, host of "Myth Gnomers"
It had taken my dad three weeks and six family meetings to get organized and four days for my mom to pack our old beat-up minivan. You would've thought we were going to Antarctica, not to the Pacific Northwest, where I assumed they sold toothbrushes and bug spray.
"Honey, you remembered to pack the compass, right?" my mom asked my dad, who was driving for the fifth day in a row. "How about my battery-operated curling iron?"
My dad patted her hand and gave her an indulgent smile. "Everything is packed perfectly."
I fidgeted in the back seat, crossing and uncrossing my legs. Somehow I ended up in the middle between my two sleeping sisters. Again. The third row of the van was crammed with all our gear.
We hit a bump and a heavy flashlight smacked me in the back of the head. "Ow! What the hell?" I howled, securing the flashlight into a backpack. "We remembered the flashlight, so you can cross that off the list."
Of course we remembered everything. The Berger Family Bigfoot Hunters—or Wood Ape Conservationists as my dad liked to call us—were always prepared for anything. We were so prepared that if a Sasquatch showed up at our camp, we would be one hundred percent ready to welcome him with a five-course meal or a festive block party.
Too bad we couldn't be the Berger Family Holiday Inn Guests or the Berger Family Cruise Ship Passengers. But whenever I voiced my opinion, Mom and Dad would argue that the thrill of adventure was more important than comfort and relaxation. I didn't think they were even capable of enjoying family vacations without damp, dirty clothes and the constant buzz of mosquitoes. Or maybe it was just their way of trying to make us feel better about not being able to afford to stay in a hotel.