As I laid on my stomach, drawing various sad faces in the felt of the above cab bed, I couldn’t help but wonder what my friends back home were doing. Were they sitting in the comfort of their home, playing video games until the backs of their eyes felt sore? Were they drinking chocolate milk, devouring Lucky Charms by the box and watching Saturday morning cartoons? Which episode of Dexter’s Laboratory were they on?
Most of all, the thought that encapsulated my mind was What had I done to deserve this? What life had I lived previously that mandated this kind of torture? When we reached the first gas station, my parents let me use a pay phone. They wanted me to call a friend and help pass the time, part of me contemplated phoning Child Services.
“Child Services, this is Bob, how can I help you?”
“Yes, hello. My name is Nick, I’m currently being abused by my parents.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Nick, what kind of abuse are we talking about here?”
“We’ve been driving in an RV for 10 hours, with no source of real entertainment. They’re forcing me to read books and play board games in here.”
The other side of the phone would reply with thunderstruck silence, no doubt ‘Bob’ was contemplating his faith in humanity at hearing such a travesty. He’d be moved to tears, forced to put down the receiver for a moment and regain his composure. After taking a deep breath and successfully holding back a pathetic sob, he’d pick up the phone again.
“Hold tight kid, help is on the way,” he says through gritted teeth, a tear has cascaded down the side of his face.
The police would catch up about thirty minutes from the gas station. Several squad cars would appear on the horizon behind us, their flashing lights nothing but blips in my father’s immaculate rear view mirror. Our 22ft RV would be no match for their supped up 50 cars and they’d catch us in no time.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” my father would ask after they pulled us over. “I was driving 35 mph under the speed limit. The RV starts to shake once you hit 40.”
The officer would ask my father to step out of the car. Our family would eagerly wait in the RV, watching the two men argue 20 ft. away. We can’t hear, but my father is angry. Finally, my father would throw up his arms, and hang his head. Do it, we could see him mouth, as he looked back towards the RV. The officer moves to the squad car, opens up a trunk and produces a brand new, fresh Nintendo 64. Miraculously, it has every game I have at home. There’s four controllers and just for good measure he’s thrown in a new, 22inch TV. Child Services deemed it negligent to force a child to watch anything on a 9 inch screen, even if it does have an attached VHS player. They’re worried about permanent retina damage. The vacation is saved, I no longer resent my parents for impeding on a whole spring break worth of video game playing and they get to go on their little powwow into the mid-west.
“Well?” my mother asks, bringing me back to reality. “Who’s it gonna be?”
Upon realizing I don’t actually know the number for Child Services, I call my childhood friend Jon instead. He’s at home, eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch, watching Dragon Ball Z and still in his PJ’s at 5 o’clock in the evening. He tells me he has to go: Mario 64 isn’t going to play itself.
I hang up the receiver slowly and stare at the payphone as if hoping it’ll somehow teleport me to my friend’s house if I concentrate hard enough.
“Time to go!” my father calls from the driver window of the car, he leans out with his arm hooked over the edge of the door. “Come on, lickety split!”
My mother and sister are leaving the ARCO Am/Pm with a brown paper bag. She turns towards me and reaches out her hand, I hang my head and shuffle towards her. I moved like a man walking towards execution, savoring every moment left on this earth. Savoring every moment away from that boredom. A brisk walk would have brought me to the RV in seconds, I somehow manage to do it in thirty.
“We’re burnin’ daylight here!” my father harangues.
The long walk; I head towards my own trail of tears and enter the RV.
As the RV pulls away from the ARCO, I’ve admitted defeat. I’ve accepted that these trips as a family are some sort of penance for an action I committed early in life. Perhaps it was when I plugged my sister’s nose while she slept. Maybe it was when I tested the theory of cat being able to land on their feet every time, from the second story deck. It could have been that time mom made really bad spaghetti pie, so I fed it to our dog Daisy. Or maybe it was the catastrophic poop Daisy left after eating the pie. I want to tell them to pull over at the next Catholic Church, so that I might confess to my sins and rid myself of this family vacation.
“Chocolate or powdered sugar?” My sister, Alison asks me. She’s holding up two packs of Hostess Donettes and waiting for an answer.
I look at them both in awe. I’ve never seen donuts so small. We only got donuts on Sundays, and those came at a price: I had to attend church the whole morning to get just one donut. And now, here before me, was not just one, but six donuts. They sat neatly in a row, packaged in plastic, each the size of my seven year old palm. I couldn’t answer. My world had been turn upside down. Sweets before dinner? My conditioned brain thought. That’s lunacy! That’s rebellious! A grin swept across my face. That’s amazing!
“Powdered sugar,” I find my words, and she hands the white donuts over. I devoured them eagerly. My fingers and face covered in white powder.
“Did you eat any of that, or did you just smear it all over your face?” my mother asks, eyeing me through the perfectly maintained rear view mirror. But I ignore her. I’ve laid back on the felt couch of the RV and begin to lick my fingers. My stomach was full and my appetite satiated. And for the first time that whole trip, I was content. Happy even. I looked outside the window, at the passing cars and flashing stripes of painted strips of road. The sun was beginning to set, which meant another day was soon to end. I interlaced my fingers over my seven year old donut belly and sighed contentedly. This ain’t half bad, you know. I tell myself.
With the powdered sugar still encapsulating the rims of my mouth, I must have looked like a cocaine addict. While it may not have been cocaine, I had without a doubt become an addict. An addict of Hostess Donettes. My parents had started a still going tradition of sugar filled sweets with every stop to the gas station.
“Hey, shouldn’t we stop for gas?” I ask my parents in the cab of the RV. “I think we definitely need more gas.”
I watched fuel gage from the back portion of the RV with fervent anticipation. Soon after it hit ‘E’, my father would turn on his blinker and pull off at the next exit. I’d silently fist pump to myself and race my sister into the gas station, knowing my half dozen of powdered freedom waited for me.