Note to Readers: A few fans have noticed that each chapter in this story has been told by a different character.
- Chapter One was written from the perspective of Crash, the dad.
- Chapter Two was told by Scarlet, the mom.
- Chapter Three was simpler in language because it was told by Mia, who was then nine years old.
- This portion, Chapter Four, comes to you through the words of Ian, who was then ten years old.
- Chapter Five will be told by a character not yet introduced — someone who is not in the van.
I invite you to go back and scan the chapters, both to appreciate these different characters’ points of view and to refresh your memory about some details that will come into play in the next few chapters before the story wraps up.
A Nerf football hit me in the head as I relaxed at the edge of the pool.
I turned just in time to see Mia and Maddie giggle and duck under water.
It was times like this that I was glad that I grew up in my mom’s house as an only child. Sisters were OK, but on a very limited basis.
I’m usually pretty patient, but yesterday had tested the patience of all of us in the van.
On only our first day on this cross-country drive, we’d dealt with plenty of trouble:
- My dad’s house had been broken into right after we got on the road.
- My stepmom, Scarlet, ran their phones down dealing with the aftermath of that.
- We missed the last exit for gas, just as we were nearing empty.
- My dad took off on foot for gas, and luckily got cell service before heading to us, so roadside assistance knew of our location.
- He saw a huge storm heading straight for him (and us, behind him) so he ran back toward us in the van as a huge storm neared.
- He saw our van get hit by lightning while he was running back to us.
- Roadside assistance showed up and provided gas. The van still wouldn’t start.
- Roadside assistance noted a smoke smear on the hood of the van.
- Then they investigated, with my dad, and also noticed that the battery was completely grounded out — because of the lightning strike.
- After we finally got back to the exit we had missed, we got gas and food and headed toward our pre-booked hotel for the night.
- By the time we got there, the hotel had given our room away because we were so late to check in.
- Dad drove through that entire town, but every motel had a “No Vacancy” sign flashing.
- So we had to drive another half hour to the next town to get a room.
At that point, we were all pretty much on each others’ last nerves. We all fell into bed.
Dad said, “I paid for late checkout. Everyone plan on sleeping in. We’ll get breakfast and hit the pool before we head out again.”
Scarlet worked for a while at getting Liam settled down and quiet.
Dad thought we were all asleep by then, but I heard him whisper loudly to Scarlet, “We picked a helluva time to go cold turkey, huh?”
I hadn’t even noticed, with all of the crazy events of the day. Neither of them had smoked a cigarette all day. Wow.
I nailed Mia on the head with the Nerf football before turning to Scarlet. “You guys quit smoking?”
She laughed. “Yeah. Three days ago. If we can survive this trip, we’ll be good.”
“Are you still glad we’re on this trip?” I asked her.
“Oh yeah… I love having all of you kids together. Making some memories…” she trailed off.
Dad laughed. “Maybe not the memories that we intended to make, but, hey… memories!”
Scarlet grinned. “Right? Well, next time that we stay in Vail, could it be during ski season, not late June?”
Dad gave her a thumbs up as he got up from the poolside lounge chair, apparently having made contact with his dad’s wife.
As he strolled away, I heard him casually beginning the story of our past 24 hours. “Yeah, so we had a delay or two. We’re still on our way, but we might be getting to you a little later than we originally expected…”
The Nerf football nailed me again, and I took off underwater to attack Mia.
Scarlet put her hand on my dad’s arm and pointed to the rearview mirror.
I turned around and saw flashing lights behind us.
My dad cursed, and Scarlet turned the radio off.
He pulled the van onto the shoulder of the road.
Scarlet turned to us.
“The officer is going to talk to Dad. Your job is to be silent. Absolutely silent. Do you understand me?”
We all nodded.
I thought, “Man, no one is ever going to believe this.”
My mom hadn’t even believed me when I talked to her this morning about yesterday. She made me put my dad on the phone to verify everything I had said. I’m pretty sure that she gave him an earful. He didn’t look so happy when he handed the phone back to me before we left the pool to get back in the van.
The officer came to the window.
My dad is a military veteran, so I knew exactly how this conversation was going to go. My dad had practiced this with me before.
“Yes, sir,” was said many times.
The officer seemed a little less threatening after a minute or two. He took my dad’s license and registration back to his squad car.
After a very long time, he returned.
“I’ve got to write you a ticket. You were going 15mph over the limit of 75.”
“I understand,” said my dad.
“You have a carload of kids. I could write this ticket up as much more.”
My dad nodded.
“But I’ll thank you for your service and let you go on your way. Slow down, son.”
My dad glanced in the rearview mirror at me.
I nodded my head. I understood the unspoken words.
I played on my phone for hours, and figured we were going to get close to my grandfather’s house soon.
I fell asleep.
I heard Scarlet yell, “Whoo-hoo! We’re finally in Illinois!”
“So we’ll be at grandpa’s house… when?”
My dad shook his head. “Hours and hours from now. Sorry Buddy.”
Dad woke us all up and told everyone to get their stuff.
“What? Another hotel? I thought we were staying with grandpa.” I protested.
Scarlet laughed. “No, Honey. There are SIX of us. Their house isn’t big enough for all of us. So they got us a room here. We’ll see them tomorrow. C’mon, help me with these bags.”
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Except for the names of the characters, nothing in this story has been altered. The sequence of events is (fairly) accurate.
The next chapter will also be completely true, although it will leave you somewhat incredulous.
As I explained at the top of this post, every chapter has been narrated by a different character.
My friends, I invite you to GUESS at who narrates the next chapter.
- The next chapter will be narrated by a passing trucker.
- The next chapter will be narrated by a member of the hotel staff.
- The next chapter will be narrated by the grandfather or his wife.
- The next chapter will be narrated by a tollbooth operator on the Illinois tollway.
Please use the Comment section to make your guess!
Hint: If you don’t see a place to vote or comment, scroll ALLLLL the way down to the bottom of this page, past other people’s comments. There it is!
Thank you for reading!
Chapter Five will be posted — when I have 20 readers’ guesses!