After we stopped for quesadillas, those crunch cinnamon
swirls and Icees, we loaded back into the truck, and dad got back on 40. I
wondered where we would end up, but didn’t ask. Mom and dad acted like they didn’t
know anyway. Mom acted nervous. She kept glancing back at Anna and me every few
minutes and smiled, although the smile only spread across her lips, and not into her
eyes. Then she intently examined her fingernails, clipped them, and made a pile of fingernails on the center console. Anna sat only a few feet to my left, but stayed in her own world, entranced
with her phone. She was texting someone, Ricky probably, and smiled every so
often as her thumbs slid over the keys. A football game played on the radio and
dad kept turning it up, then minutes later, mom would turn it back down. Hours
passed and no one talked.Suddenly
I felt very very alone. I thought about hanging out with Lauren’s family and
while her parents are kinda dorky, at least they talk with us. Her mom likes to
ask us questions like, “Where is your favorite place in the world?” and “What
would you do with 100 bucks?” Her questions are random and she asks them at
strange times, like before church or as soon as we get in the car when she
picks us up from the movies. I can never answer her questions right away. I dwell
on them, thinking them through, wanting her to like my answers.When I’m ready, I say, “Mrs. East, I
know what I would do with 100 bucks.”
She stops whatever she's doing, and sometimes her brow furrows as she studies me.
“I would put 20 in the bank, give 50 to my parents and spend
30 on a new pair of jeans or a few shirts.” She nods in approval or asks more
questions. It’s sometimes weird, talking to an adult like that, but I love Mrs.
East and the way she looks at me when I answer her. Maybe that’s what normal parents
do, ask random questions and then listen.
Hours passed and we stopped to go to the bathroom and get
milkshakes and coffee at McDonalds, and the sky started streaking itself with
purple and orange, and I rolled down my window and let the wind hit my face.
“We are in Tennessee. Want to stop soon?” dad asked mom. Mom
said yes, and dad said he would start looking for a place to stop. He said
private campgrounds are usually nice, but mom said it didn’t matter since we
were only staying one night. The first campground, Mama Lula’s Hideaway, was
full. I was glad it was full because the campers were all smushed together in tight
lines, like sardines.
The second place we found, Cherokee County campground, had
spaces, and it wasn’t as crowded, which was good because it was getting dark.
at site 6, right by the bathrooms,” the lady at the desk said, peering at us
over her glasses and handing dad a map.
glance, I thought there was no way we were going to fit in site 6. It was too
tight and even dad seemed skeptical to back the camper in.
and I walked to the campsite, while dad drove around the circle and up the small
hill to site 6.
in the campsite, directing dad in with her nervous hand signals. “To the left a
little more, no, to the right, straight back, watch the tree, now watch the
water spigot. Pull up and start over.” The trailer’s hitch creaked and popped,
and dad had to pull forward several times, but then he backed into the site,
not perfectly, but it worked.
at the picnic table, on her phone the whole time. I swear, she is so selfish.
other campers watching us, and I suddenly felt hot.
an older guy at the campsite right across from us, sitting in a lawn chair
beside his fifth wheel, beer in hand.
sweat drip down my back.
parked, and mom and I helped him set up the camper. Anna stayed at the picnic table, phone in hand, oblivious.
minutes later, the beer drinking guy from across the road stumbled over to our
campsite and said something to dad. He slurred his words a bit, and dad and him
talked for a while behind the truck, and I pretended not to pay attention, and
in the act of pretending, I realized I couldn’t hear what they said. Not at