Heather McClain looked at her sister Jessica as she got to the house where she’d grown up. “Do you have any idea why Dad called us here?” she asked. Her dad was always calling family meetings, usually so he could show off his newest tech gadget, but this time he hadn’t said why they were all expected to be there. But as usual, he’d ordered, and his girls had obeyed.
“No idea. He’s being closed-mouthed about this. Hopefully he doesn’t just want to show us his newest game he’s programmed for the Atari. I mean, I love video games as much as the next girl, but I don’t need to see another golf simulator and be expected to get excited over it.” Jessica was the second sister in the family of seven McClain daughters.
“I guess we’re about to find out.” Heather was the eldest, and she had a little house she loved right in the middle of Bagley, Texas. She had planned to spend the night curled up in front of the television watching The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Saturday nights were the only nights when she took time away from her busy life to vegetate in front of the TV, and she hated that she’d been stopped. Thankfully she’d just gotten a VCR, and she could tape the shows and watch them later. Who knew how long her father would keep them there?
“How was aerobics this morning?” Jessica asked, looking at her sister out of the side of her eye.
“Ugh. I swear every woman in the world should not don a leotard simply because it’s an aerobics class. Shorts and a T-shirt work just as well.”
“You wear a leotard for aerobics class!”
“I’m the teacher! It’s what I wear when I teach their darling daughters and granddaughters how to dance every day. Why shouldn’t I wear one?”
“Why shouldn’t they?” Jessica shot back with a grin.
Heather sighed. Sometimes talking to her sister was like talking to a brick wall. “I’m taping The Love Boat and Fantasy Island if you want to come over and watch them after whatever Dad has planned for us.” She enjoyed watching the shows alone, but she knew her sister hadn’t yet invested in a VCR.
“Ooh! Count me in! I can’t believe Dad chose a Saturday night. Last time we told him he could never interrupt our Saturday night shows again.”
“We’ll live.” Heather opened the front door and walked inside without knocking, knowing her mother expected it. “Mom! We’re here!”
Her mother emerged from the kitchen, a grin on her face. “I was just microwaving some supper. I love how fast my new gadget works!”
“That’s the next thing I’m buying myself,” Heather said. “I want a microwave.”
“The new ones aren’t nearly as expensive as the radar ranges were in the seventies.”
“I’m glad you’re an eighties lady, Mom.” Heather kissed her mother on the cheek. “Why exactly are we here?”
Her mother sighed. “You know your father. He has some new gadgets you all need to see as soon as possible.”
“Oh, yay! Is Marti here?” Marti, the youngest sister, went to school in Austin, and she rarely made it home on weekends.
“She is. Your father said all seven of you needed to be here tonight.” Mom led them into their father’s study, where all of the sisters were waiting for the miraculous unveiling of something.
Heather went straight to her father, Robert McClain, and kissed his cheek. “Hey, Dad. What is so important?” She knew he wouldn’t answer, but she also knew he loved to be able to hide his secrets. She was showing her love by letting him hide whatever he was doing.
“I can’t say until everyone is here!” Dad said, his eyes still glued to his brand-new Macintosh.
Heather looked around her, quickly counting heads. She wanted to make it for her shows if at all possible. She had fifteen minutes. Maybe they’d all pile on the couch in the living room and watch. She touched her own chest, mouthing the names of her sisters as she went through them all. “Heather, Jessica, Gaylynn, Rebekah, Tracy, Candice, Marti.” She shook her head. “We are all here, Dad. All seven of us, and we’re dying to see whatever it is that you want to show us.”
Dad grinned but shook his head. “We’re doing this my way. You can watch your shows when they repeat.” He looked around at all seven of his daughters, a look of pride on his face. “I have two new gadgets to show you, and there’s another I’ll be getting just as soon as it’s available.”
Heather and Jessica exchanged a look. They’d been right, but it was no surprise to either of them. “Okay, Dad, I’ll bite. What are the new gadgets?” Heather glanced at her watch, saying a quick prayer that he would hurry, but she knew as well as her sisters did that it was not going to work.
“Not until I want to tell you. First, I’m going to tell you about what I don’t have yet, but I will soon.” He leaned back in his office chair, a huge grin on his face. He loved when all of his daughters were surrounding him. How could he not feel pride when they were all so beautiful and smart? “You know back in September, a plane was shot down in Soviet airspace, but it was an accident. You see, the Korean plane had never intended to fly into the USSR. They just went off course. Well, the US military has had a technology called Global Positioning Systems for years, and they’ve just opened it up for non-military use. Can you imagine what it would be like if we could just look at a gadget and know where we are? No man would ever have to stop and ask for directions again!”
“Like any man does!” Heather responded.
Robert glared at his eldest daughter. “I asked for directions when we got lost on the way to Yellowstone. Remember?”
“Dad, that was in 1972. More than ten years ago!”
He shrugged. “I keep a map in the car.” He shook his head. “Stop trying to distract me, Heather! This gadget is going to change our world. I’ve already invested in a company who is working on the first handheld device. I can’t wait!”
“Me neither,” Jessica said, her face full of enthusiasm. Heather had always been impressed by Jessica’s acting skills.
“So . . . the second gadget is even more exciting. With as much as you girls love telephones, I’m sure you’re going to be super excited by this!” He held up an object that barely resembled a telephone. It was white, looked solidly made, and had an antenna sticking out of it. “I paid a pretty penny for this beauty, but it’s a cell phone. I can make calls from my car with this thing!”
Heather looked at her sisters, surprised. “That’s pretty cool!”
“I know! Let me show you how it works!” He punched buttons on the phone, and the house phone rang. Their mother answered.
“I’m talking to you from a cellular phone.”
“That’s really nice, Bob.”
“I want to try!” Marti said, reaching for the phone.
“No way!” Bob put the phone behind his back to hide it from his phone-hungry youngest child. “It’s a buck for every two minutes you talk on it.”
Marti immediately backed away. “I’m a college student. That’s my food budget for a week!”
Everyone laughed, knowing she was exaggerating. “You should come to my place to eat after this,” Heather offered.
Marti shook her head. “Nope. I’m staying here because Mom promised to do my laundry.”
Heather looked at her mother. “You always spoil her. I was doing my own laundry at ten.”
“And I can do my own laundry!” Marti protested. “But I came home for the weekend, and Mom said she would do it.”
Heather rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything else. What was the point? Marti would always be the spoiled sister. When Jessica looked at Heather, she could read her sister’s mind. They’d always thought the youngest sisters had it too easy.
The next thing their dad did had them all gawking. He pushed a few buttons on his computer, and they could hear the sounds of dialing. “What are you doing, Dad?” Gaylynn, the third sister, asked. “That sounds like a phone call. How are you doing that?”
“I’m doing something that is going to change our world! I’m calling into a computer system that will allow me to talk to other people online! Soon, there will be no real mail! It will all be computer mail.”
Heather shook her head. “I don’t believe it. People will never give up writing letters to each other for typing things on a computer. It just won’t happen.”
“You mark my words, Heather. In another twenty years, people are going to be paying their bills online! I bet they will rarely talk to each other, because computers will be the favored way to communicate. Our world is changing, and that’s all there is to it!”
Heather looked at Jessica, and she knew her sister was thinking the same thing she was. “Okay, Dad. Whatever.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, there was a loud clap, sounding like thunder, and the lights went out. Their mother sighed. “It looks like all your gadgets blew a fuse, Bob. I’ll go check the breaker.” She picked up a flashlight they kept on the desk in his office, knowing he would need it. He was constantly making their power go out.
Heather stood there for a moment, feeling tingling throughout her body. “Does anyone else feel as if they got a little of the power that just went out? Like flung into their bodies?”
“Were you electrocuted, Heather? Are you all right?” Bob sounded very concerned.
“I think I’m fine. It wasn’t so much an electrocution as it was a power surge.” She wanted to say that it had the same feeling as when she’d gotten her first kiss, but she knew her dad would not approve. As far as he was concerned, she was thirty-two years old and had never been kissed. She wasn’t going to disillusion him.
It was then that the lights came back on, and Heather saw that each of her sisters looked as shell-shocked as she felt. Maybe she would wait to watch her shows. “I’m not feeling great. I think I’ll go home.” It was then she noticed that her father had a reddish hue to his skin. It had never been there. When Mom walked back into the room, she had a blue hue. As soon as she walked close to their father, both of their hues blended beautifully, causing them to both look a bit violet. How odd.
Her mother hugged her. “Yes, go home.”
Heather looked over at Jessica. “Come over tomorrow night. I’m not up for watching TV tonight.”
Jessica nodded, looking a bit ill herself. “I’ll be there around seven or so.”
“Sounds good.” Heather headed for the door, wondering what was going on. She was miserable all of a sudden. A hot bath and her bed were all she needed.