Frozen in fear, we all waited.
Again came the rap on the windshield.
“What if it’s Dad? I whispered.
“What if it’s not?” Ian whispered back.
“Shhhhh!” Mom hissed. “I’m trying to listen. Dad would say something.”
The wind was howling and the rain was beating down on the van so hard that I didn’t think she’d hear anything. But Liam had stopped crying, miraculously, and he was looking out the front windshield into the blackness.
Suddenly the sky lit up again, and I saw the figure standing by Ian’s window, peering in.
“Holy shit!!!” yelled Ian as he jumped nearly into my lap.
“Mom! It’s Dad!” I screamed.
“What the hell…?” she answered, swinging around to put Liam into Maddie’s lap. “What’s he doing out there, creeping around like that?!?!”
She yanked her door open. “Crash! What are you doing out there? Get in the van!”
He ran behind the van and up to the driver’s side door.
He sloshed into the front seat, and both of their doors slammed shut.
He was breathing hard, and he held his hand up to quiet us long enough for him to catch his breath.
“I got about a mile down the road…” he stopped to breathe.
“And I saw the storm coming right at me…”
“And it was coming so fast…”
“And when I saw the lightning, I knew that I had to get back to you guys.”
Mom took her hand off his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Babe. We’re OK… Scared to death, but OK.”
“So….” drawled Ian. “You didn’t get gas?”
Dad shook his head.
“But…I did get phone reception. So I called for roadside assistance.”
“YAYYY!” we all cheered.
He held up his hand again. “Yeah, it’s good. But they’re going to be here in two or three hours.”
“WHAT?!?!?” yelled my mom.
“So everyone needs to take a bathroom break as soon as the storm passes. And then we’re all going to take a nap.”
He looked sternly at us.
“Your devices aren’t charged. We have a super-long drive still ahead of us tonight AFTER we get gas and food. Our hotel is booked for us in Colorado, so we have to get there tonight. So everyone chills out until roadside assistance gets here. Are we clear?”
We all nodded.
Ian opened his mouth to say something, but Dad shot him a glance. Ian closed his mouth and looked out the window.
“It’s starting to get a little lighter out there. Maybe the storm’s going to end soon.”
Dad smiled at Ian.
“Yep. There’s what we need.”
The storm did clear.
Roadside assistance did come.
Dad got out and shook hands with the guy.
They poured gas into the van from a big red container.
They walked around the van and stopped in front of it. They pointed at the hood and talked some more. Then they lifted the hood.
Dad got into the van and tried to start it. But nothing happened.
He turned to Mom and said, “I thought it was just my imagination…”
“… But I saw the van get hit by lightning.”
“WHAT?!?!? How is that possible? How are we still alive?”
“Well, that’s a good question. But there’s a mark on the hood where it hit. And the battery is completely dead, grounded out.”
“This trip just keeps getting better and better…” my brother muttered.
“Shut up, Ian,” said Maddie. She never talked like that, especially not to him.
Dad glanced backward, and Ian muttered, “Sorry…”
“So the guy is going to give us a jump and follow us back to the exit.”
Mom ran her hands through her hair like she does when she is stressed out.
“OK,” she smiled. “We’ve got a plan.”
The hotel sign was gaudy and neon and gross.
Dad headed inside to check us in at the front desk.
Mom turned to us and said, “OK. you guys gather up the trash and put it in that bin right there by the sliding glass doors. Get yourselves organized so we can get into our room as fast as possible.”
We did as we were told, and Maddie looked up at the sign above us. There was a “No Vacancy” sign flashing that we hadn’t noticed before.
Maddie looked at Mom in the van. She pointed to the sign. Mom shrugged and rolled down the window. “It’s probably because we’re the last guests to check in. Our room was reserved. No problem.”
Ian headed into the lobby, and we followed.
“How is this possible?” my dad was asking the clerk. “We booked this weeks ago!”
The clerk stammered a few things, and Dad looked like he was going to leap over the counter to strangle the guy. Then he looked over and saw us watching, and he ran his hand over his head.
“So. You gave away our room.” He rubbed his face with both hands. “What am I going to do with my family of six?”
The clerk stammered some more and pointed to the road, indicating the direction where there might be other hotels.
Dad smiled the smile that he uses when he really wants to punch someone in the face.
“C’mon kids. Let’s go look for another place to stay.”
Dad shot him a look, so Ian thought for a second before opening his mouth again.
“I really think we’re in a movie or something. Maybe a reality TV show. Right, Dad?”
“Well, if we are, then we better be getting some BIG BUCKS for this,” I chimed in.
Maddie rubbed her hands together. “Right? We’re in it to win it!”
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.
My friends, I invite you to GUESS at the main events in the next chapter. One of these is true.
- There was a motel down the road with a vacancy. Although it was kind of raunchy, the room had two Queen beds and a love seat.
- There were no other places to stay in that town, so they drove another 25 miles to the next town.
- There were no other places to stay in that town, and Crash called ahead to the next town — where there also were no vacancies. So they slept in the van.
- There were no other places to stay in that town, and Crash called ahead to the next town — where there also were no vacancies. So they drove another 100 miles before they found a place to stay.
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 Four will be posted — when I have 20 readers’ guesses!