(If you haven’t read chapter one, yet, this won’t make much sense. If you scroll to the bottom of this page, in the black section you’ll find links to recent posts.)
The entire month of May was devoted to procurement and packing. For a while the Old Man went to work, came home and launched himself into controlled fits of organization and staging lasting long into the night, thumping up and down the stairs with laundry baskets full of crap, pulling tents and water skis, straps and rigging out of the attic and up from the basement, creating huge piles in the living room and on the dining room table, leaning towers of hard and soft luggage and brown paper sacks of dry goods that constantly threatened to collapse on us, possibly fatally.
Our Mom wrote endless lists on legal pads, the backs of envelopes, napkins, her arms. She crossed things off in a fury, her ballpoint trenching through layers of loose leaf. She vanished under a landslide of three ring binders, pencil cases and hole punchers, emerging days later, personalized blank travel journals for each of us clenched to her breast with sections for car games and art work and preaddressed post cards to relatives, teachers, anyone any of us had ever come into contact with during the entire course of our lives. I discovered her late one night in a corner of the basement, betrayed in the darkness by the coal of her cigarette, crouched over a card board box full of mustard, ketchup, relish and ‘Texas Pete’ Hot Sauce, her pale knees up around her ears. At the merest suggestion of inquiry upon my face she shrieked ‘BECAUSE THE CONDIMENTS IN TOURIST TOWNS COST A FUCKING FORTUNE WHICH IS JUST HOW THEY GET YOU!’ and I backed my way up the stairs never taking my eyes off her for fear she might spring upon me and devour me whole.
Mallory entered the terrible dark forest of her closet, pawing through trembling drifts of young adult novels, magazines, melancholy independent graphic novels, CD’s, ancient crumbling cassette mix tapes of unknown origin, anything, anything at all that might during the hellishly long journey be made into a crude barricade between her and us.
Alex passed into some other plane of consciousness entirely, totally aloof, utterly unreachable, his left eye drifting slowly about like a dispirited goldfish in a dirty bowl, the tiniest hint of an inscrutable smile tugging the corner of his upper lip.
And where was the dog? I could hear her at times, whining for food or attention, lost behind hedgerows of road atlases, travel guides, badminton racquets, beach toys, bug spray, sun screen.
“SUNSCREEN!?” My Father, bellowed, more feral each moment, “SUNSCREEN, why the hell would we take up valuable packing space with SUNSCREEN when the world as we know it will long have been over well before any one of us could die of SKIN CANCER, IF THERE EVEN IS SUCH A THING?” He began to break laws of physics appearing simultaneously on the stairs, out in the driveway, half under Matilda, our battle scarred, venerable station wagon, (already starting to list like a clinically depressed drunk under the poorly balanced cargo of all our shit), hurling rust dusty folding lawn chairs out the attic window, cursing almost constantly under his breath like a sailor with Tourette’s. Our Mother, rearing up out of a camouflage of laundry, bent Marlboro jutting rakishly, howling “ARE YOU PACKED?! ARE YOU PACKED?! HAVE ANY OF YOU PACKED A SINGLE GOD DAMNED BAG? I HAVE ASKED YOU SIXTEEN MILLION GOD DAMNED TIMES!” And Mallory, besnarled in the barb wire mass of her indecipherably customized dental headgear hysterically crying, hot tears, liquid mascara and snot shooting out of her head, telling us to go, go, for God’s sake go and leave her behind, just get out, get OUT, GET OUT!!
And suddenly without transition I am slammed into Alex, Mallory slams into me, the car door slams shut pushing a solid bolus of stale car miasma redolent of hair spray, cigarette smoke, fraying vinyl upholstery, gin and capitulation straight through us, We are IN! Fixed like prehistoric bugs in amber up against each other, the back of the front seat even now edging closer as the Old man adjusts it, like the trash crusher on the Death Star, until it chunks into place, the lid of a stone sarcophagus slamming shut,we are buried alive. A moment of silence, broken only by Frodo’s thin desperate whine, crated somewhere like a medieval prisoner somewhere beneath mountains of Gallagher crap, and somewhere under my cramped ass Matilda’s ancient engine sputtering once, twice, catching, alive!
“NOW!” The Old Man Thunders, his voice oddly muffled by the stuffing of our traveling cave, “we pick up Great Aunt Ginny.”