“Hurry up,” says the oldest, her hand on the back of her brother’s shoulder. “It’s hot out here.” She guides him in and then motions for her sister to follow, which she does, but not before narrowing her eyes and sticking her tongue out at the older one. After issuing a reminder to buckle up, Mom closes the door and takes her place up front.
“All set?” Dad asks, looking back at the trio. When they nod, he puts the car in drive and pulls away from the gas pumps. As he turns out onto the frontage road that leads to the interstate, he sings a chorus of On the Road Again and his firstborn presses her forehead against the window and rolls her eyes.
“Do we have anything to eat?” the child in the middle asks a few minutes later. “I’m starving.”
Mom opens the cooler that’s wedged between the two front bucket seats, pulls out a box of raisins, and hands it to her daughter. “Raisins? Don’t we have any cookies?”
The oldest uses her foot to grab her backpack that’s tucked down on the floor in front of her seat and pulls out a pad of paper and a box of markers. “Can I have some paper?” her sister asks, her hand already reaching over to grab a few sheets.
“Use your own,” the big one answers, snatching her property back and moving it as far to the right as the limited space allows.
“But mine’s in the way back!” wails the smallest girl, stretching to grab a marker. “Mom! She won’t give me any paper!”
Mom shifts to peer around the edge of her seat and asks for a little cooperation. “Can’t you just share with your sister?” she asks.
“You can use mine,” says their brother, unzipping his pack to retrieve a pad of drawing paper. He hands it to his twin and digs back down into the bag for markers. Unable to locate them, he begins to unload the pack. Sunglasses, a rolled up cotton hat with a likeness of a dolphin stitched on the front, and a sandwich bag with part of an orange still in it are pulled from the pack and laid on his lap and his seatmate’s. A bit of orange juice leaks from the baggie onto his sister’s leg, and she screams.
“What’s going on back there?” Dad asks, his voice tense and a little too loud. Mom shoots him a cautionary look which he pretends not to notice. He puffs his cheeks, exhales noticeably, and keeps his eyes on the road.
“He’s looking at me mean!” whines the child in the middle, and scoots her butt to put some space between her and her brother.
“Move over. You’re in my seat,” the oldest says, leaning into her sister to reclaim her space.
Dad says something that can’t be heard in the back seat and Mom gives him another look, this one stepped up to include a deep furrowing of her eyebrows. He doesn’t bother to feign ignorance this time and raises his eyebrows in a challenge. She shakes her head and laughs.
Two more miles down the road, Dad pulls into the right lane and slows to enter the exit ramp. “Everything okay?” Mom asks, wondering if something’s wrong with the car.
“Just going to that Amoco,” he answers, tipping his head toward the mini-mart’s tall sign just off the interstate.
“We just got gas twenty minutes ago,” Mom says, sounding worried.
“Cigarettes,” he says. Just one word. Sharp.
“But you’re doing so well! You’re past the worst of it, honey. Hang in there.”
Dad pulls into the lot and parks alongside the building. “A pack of cigarettes or I’m gonna kill one of them,” he says, giving her the puppy-dog eyes that have bought his way out of a number of minor irritations.
She smiles. “Well, if those are the only two options...”
He leans over to look at their kids and asks, “Anyone need to use the washroom?” When they all shake their heads, he goes inside alone. Once out of the store, Dad stands in front of the freezer that holds bags of ice and talks to another man as they both take deep drags on their smokes. A few minutes later, he’s buckled up behind the driver’s seat again, his mood markedly calmer. He reaches back and passes out three little packages of cookies, smiles, and says, “All set?”
Dad’s chorus of On the Road Again begins as he pulls into traffic and right after he merges back onto the interstate, he hears a small voice from behind him. “Dad?," the small voice says, "I have to go to the bathroom.”
Written for this week’s prompt over at The Writers’ Post, where Jenn provided the following instruction: I want you To CREATE an atmosphere in your post this week. Use your words to pull your audience in—give them a sense of their surroundings, and create a memorable scene with an atmosphere that they will hopefully not soon forget get by reading your post.
Please note that she didn’t specify that the atmosphere had to be a pleasant one. ;O)