01 02 03 Prone to Wander: Chapter three: Elizabeth (again) 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Chapter three: Elizabeth (again)

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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.

“You are at site 6, right by the bathrooms,” the lady at the desk said, peering at us over her glasses and handing dad a map.

At first 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.

Anna, mom and I walked to the campsite, while dad drove around the circle and up the small hill to site 6.

Mom stood 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.

Anna sat at the picnic table, on her phone the whole time. I swear, she is so selfish.

I noticed other campers watching us, and I suddenly felt hot.

I noticed an older guy at the campsite right across from us, sitting in a lawn chair beside his fifth wheel, beer in hand.

I felt sweat drip down my back.

Dad parked, and mom and I helped him set up the camper. Anna stayed at the picnic table, phone in hand, oblivious.

A few 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 all.


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