The road to Maine has no rest stops and I need to pee. I’ve been downing juice boxes in the backseat because every time Dad starts yelling at the OnStar lady for shoddy directions, I need a shot of something.
“Mommy, Lena’s drinking all of my juice boxes.”
Sadie is a huge tattletale.
“Lena, those aren’t for you.” Mom flips through the atlas. She thinks we’re lost.
“Well, if Dad hadn’t forgotten to pack water ....”
“Hey now. Listen to your mother.”
Sadie drums her feet against the booster seat—‘hehe haha.’ I open another juice box and mouth the words ‘last one.’ Sadie starts to fake cry.
Mom snaps around and rolls up the atlas like a bat. I flinch and quietly hand the juice box to Sadie who insists that I also put the straw in her mouth. Mom shoots me the glare and snaps back around. I am older, about a decade older, but who said I had to know better? Sure, Sadie’s six but she’s more than her frilly shoes let on. And who sanctioned this family vacation anyway? The last one had an approval rating of 25 percent and that was only because Sadie got her pick of the souvenirs.
“You can exit at 34B.” Mom points to a spot on her atlas and looks at Dad.
“I should have just taken I-95 up.”
“You just passed 33A.”
“I bet there’s none of this traffic crap on I-95.”
“34B is two miles ahead.”
“I-95 would have been faster. We would have made our reservation.”
Mom slams the atlas shut and chucks it to the backseat. It brushes past my braids and lands between me and Sadie in a mess of pages.
“Well you didn’t take I-95. So stop complaining about it.”
Dad turns to Mom. “What’s the problem?”
“No really. What’s the problem?” Dad is looking at Mom, not the road, but he keeps a steady hand.
Mom has her arms crossed. Her chest goes up down, up down, like a bike pump. “You’re always complaining. Something’s always better.”
“I-95 is better!”
Sadie drops her juice box. It rolls under Mom’s seat. Mom looks out the window. Dad turns back to the wheel and licks his lips before starting.
“I see. You’re still mad about the job. You’re always mad about the job.”
“I’m not mad about the job.”
“And you’re always saying you’re not mad about the job.”
“I’m saying you didn’t have to quit your job.”
“It was a shitty job!”
“You don’t like your new job.”
“If you didn’t quit, we wouldn’t have had to move here.”
“What’s wrong with here? You said you liked it.” Dad is facing Mom again, his jaw pushed out, his eyes small.
“No tell me. What’s wrong with here?”
“Just drive!” And Mom pushes his face away with one hand.
“Fine,” Dad grips the wheel and the leather squeaks under his thick fingers. “No problem. I’ll drive.”
He steps on the accelerator. He doesn’t stop. The car careens forth and Sadie hits her head on the back of her car seat. She whimpers and I move to the middle seat to hold her hand.
Mom looks unimpressed—“Kill us all. See if I care.”— and so Dad swerves into the fast lane and floors it. The car machines into the triple digits and Sadie won’t stop squeezing my hand.
“Dad.” I sound like an echo, “I need to pee.”
“Dad.” I put a free hand on his shoulder. “I need to pee.”
He sees the hand from the rearview mirror and the car starts to slow. He moves out of the fast lane and we stop at a bank where the trees are dense enough that you can’t see the other side of the highway. Dad gets out and kicks the front tires. Mom stays inside, arms crossed, chest going up down. I take Sadie with me. We run into the trees until we can’t see the car anymore. I find a bush to do my business and Sadie chases after me.
“Hey, that’s my bush.”
And I let her have it.