Grand Mound – by Tom Gaffney
“How much longer?”
Uh oh. There it is. He’s finally beginning to come undone.
“Come on. Let’s see. Something for M. Can you do it?”
“No. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care about M.”
“Do you care about apples – green apples?”
“No. I do not care about green apples anymore. I care about water slides. I want to be on a water slide right now. I bet Liam’s on the water slide right now. And I’m not. I’m in this car that is barely moving.”
“Hold on buddy. The traffic is beginning to move. I told you once we got past Olympia, we’d be close. And we are nearly in Olympia, really.”
“This is taking forever Dad. Forever. I wish we were a police car or something. That we could turn on the lights and go fast and everyone would get out of our way.”
“I know Tim, I know it has been slow. But we couldn’t leave any earlier. We left at the same time that so many other folks leave to go home from work.” Darn it Tim, do you think I’m enjoying this?
“Do you think Liam is there? Do you think they’ll still be open? Can we have French fries?”
“I bet Liam and his dad are stuck in the same traffic.” Sure they are. Why couldn’t we go skiing? No, we can’t do that. Instead I get to say I spent my long weekend in Centralia. I took a day off to go on the water slides . . . in Centralia.
“They will still be open. And yes, we can have French fries. Come on Tim, buck up. The hard part is nearly over. Let’s try it again. It helps to pass the time. When I went to Centralia I brought my . . .”
“I told you Dad, Mom said the lodge is in Grand Mound, not Centralia. I’m not going to play if you don’t call it Grand Mound. And I do not really want to play anyway. I’m doing this for you.”
I nearly crash as my eyes roll up into the back of my head. A seizure? Or the notion that he is doing this for me?
“Alright, alright. When I went to Grand Mound I brought my apple, my bathing suit, my cat. Which cat?”
“Jasper. I’d bring Jasper. Not Rusty. Rusty would hide under the bed and we’d never be able to bring him home. And that would be really bad. Jasper would hang out on the bed, sleep next to me, then jump right in his box when it was time to go home.”
“Ok then. Apple, bathing suit, cat (Jasper), Dump truck (obviously), my echidna.”
“You know. You only say echidna when we play this dumb game on long slow car rides. I’m beginning to think if we ever saw one I would run in terror. “
“Fair enough. But stop interrupting me, or I am going to forget. What comes next?”
“Frog, then giggles, and then hippo.”
“Roland, I presume?”
“Yes, Roland. “ Tim gave his stuffed hippo a hug.
“Then an inchworm, and jalopy.”
“Very good, a jalopy.”
“Is our car a jalopy, dad?”
“In order to serve present purposes, and when I think of its potential resale value, I would have to say, yes, yes it is.” At least it is running.
“What came next? Oh yes, krispy kreme donut. Laptop.”
“Can I have another donut?”
“Sorry, there was only one.”
“Oh man, this is terrible. No food. No DVD player like in Liam’s dad’s mini-van. Bad traffic. Jasper is at home. This dumb game and then you have to remind me that we don’t have any more donuts.”
“The donuts were a treat.” A rather disgusting treat. “Remember our deal – do not tell your mom I got you a donut.”
“Whatever dad, this drive has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me.”
“Worse than when you fell off the swing? Than when you got in trouble for hitting Edna? Worse than when you lost Roland?”
“Worser. This has to be the worstest thing ever. All these red lights on the cars and moving so slow, and you talking to me forever, and this game. We’re not even bringing all this stuff. I just can’t take it anymore. I want to be on the water slide!”
“Nearly there bud. Nearly there. Just hold on, can you do it for me?”
“I don’t know. If you keep making me crazy I might just explode.”
“How do you mean explode? Would you, like, explode like a marshmallow and make the inside of the car really sticky and messy?”
“And then we could lick off the inside of the car? Yummy.” He smiled. He still has some hope.
“If you exploded, you wouldn’t be here to lick up the marshmallows.”
“Can we stop and get some marshmallows?”
I have stepped in it again. “No, we can’t stop for marshmallows. This is not a camping trip. But let me ask you a question.”
“Alright. I guess.”
“When you went to Centralia, I mean Grand Mound, would you bring marshmallows, or a monkey?”
“What kind of monkey? Could it be one of those howling ones at the zoo?”
“The ones you saw throwing poop?”
“No, they do not play well with humans. It would be a friendly monkey that is good with its poop.”
“I guess I’d bring the monkey. But we are going to have French fries and ice cream, right?”
“Did you come on this trip to eat or play in the water?”
“I came to do both.”
“Alright. What comes after M?”
“N. Noodles. Always gotta have noodles. Just in case.”
“In case of what?”
“In case I am stuck in a car with my crazy dad and I am going crazy. That’s what.”
“Alright, well, if you are bringing noodles, I am bringing my oboe.”
“Oboes are just like echidnas. You only mention them when you are torturing me in the car.”
“Torture! You want torture. Next time I’ll bring an oboe cd to listen to in the car.”
“Whatever. I’ll have the monkey throw it out the window.”
The kid is tough. Traveling with a monkey would be dangerous. “P is a pretty obvious one, I’d say.”
“No kidding. Popsicles. But I bet we did not bring them either.”
“You are killing me kid. Should we just turn around now? Donuts? French fries? Ice cream? Not a healthy diet at all. What’s the next letter?”
“I don’t know. Have you got anything for Q?”
I can’t think of anything. He paused, smiled. Looked me in the eye – via the rear view.
“You ready?” he asked.
“Ready,” I said.
“Quiet time.” He smiled again. Put his thumb in his mouth, wrapped his arm around Roland, and turned to look out the window.
Quiet time. The dream, the fantasy. You know, someday this ride’s gonna end. And then I’m going to be in Grand Mound. Not Park City. Not Maui. And then, only then, can I go water sliding. Joy.
Traffic was easing and we were beginning to move. We made it to Q. A new record. I’ll remember that.