The Very Last Summer Vacation Ever - Chapter One
by: Max Burbank
This is the latest serialized chapter in the book I am working on. If this is your first time reading "The Very Last Summer Vacation Ever," please go back and start with the Prologue.
The entire month of May was devoted to procurement and packing. For a while the Old Man went to work all day and then launched himself into fits of organization and staging that lasted long into the night, but pretty soon he was home full time, going up and down the stairs with laundry baskets full of crap, pulling tents and water skis and all sorts of straps and rigging out of the attic and up from the basement, making huge piles in the living room and on the dining room table, towers of hard and soft luggage and brown paper sacks of dry goods that constantly threatened to collapse on us, possibly fatally.
Our Mom wrote list after list, on legal pads, on the backs of envelopes, on napkins, on her arms. She crossed things off in a fury, her ballpoint trenching through three layers of loose leaf. She vanished under an igloo of three ring binders and pencil cases and hole punchers, emerging days later, personalized blank travel journals for each of us clenched to her breast with sections for car games and art work and preaddressed post cards to relatives, teachers, anyone any of us had ever come into contact with during the entire course of our lives. I discovered her late one night in a corner of the basement, betrayed in the darkness by the coal of her cigarette, crouched over a card board box full of mustard, ketchup, relish and 'Texas Pete' hot sauce, her pale knees up around her ears. At the merest suggestion of inquiry upon my face she shrieked 'BECAUSE THE CONDIMENTS IN TOURIST TOWNS COST A FUCKING FORTUNE WHICH IS JUST HOW THEY GET YOU!' and I backed my way up the stairs never taking my eyes off her for fear she might spring upon me and devour me whole.
Mallory entered the terrible dark forest of her closet, pawing through trembling drifts of young adult novels, magazines, melancholy graphic novels, CD's, ancient crumbling cassettes, anything, anything at all that might during the hellishly long journey be made into a crude barricade between her and us.
Alex passed into some other plane of consciousness entirely, totally aloof, utterly unreachable, his left eye drifting slowly about like a dispirited goldfish in a dirty bowl, the tiniest hint of an inscrutable smile tugging the corner of his upper lip.
And where was the dog? I could hear her at times, whining disconsolately for food or attention, obscured behind hedgerows of road atlases, travel guides, badminton racquets, beach toys, bug spray, sun screen.
"SUNSCREEN!?" My Father, bellowed, more feral each moment, "SUNSCREEN, why the hell would we take up valuable packing space with SUNSCREEN when the world as we know it will long have been over well before any one of us could die of SKIN CANCER, IF THERE EVEN IS SUCH A THING?" He began to break laws of physics appearing simultaneously on the stairs, out in the driveway, half under Matilda, our battle scarred, venerable station wagon, (already starting to list drunkenly under the poorly balanced load of all our shit), hurling rust dusty folding lawn chairs out the attic window, cursing almost constantly under his breath like a sailor with Tourette's. Our Mother, rearing up out of a camouflage of laundry, her bent Marlboro jutting rakishly, howling "ARE YOU PACKED?! ARE YOU PACKED?! HAVE ANY OF YOU PACKED A SINGLE GOD DAMNED BAG? I HAVE ASKED YOU SIXTEEN MILLION GOD DAMNED TIMES!" And Mallory, hysterically crying, hot tears, liquid mascara and snot shooting out of her head, telling us to go, go, for God's sake go and leave her behind, just get out, get OUT, GET OUT!!
And suddenly without transition I am slammed into Alex, Mallory slams into me, the car door slams shut pushing a solid bolus of stale car miasma redolent of hair spray, cigarette smoke, fraying upholstery, gin and capitulation straight through us. We are IN! Wedged like prehistoric bugs in amber up against each other, the back of the front seat even now edging closer as the Old man adjusts it, like the trash crusher on the Death Star, until it chunks into place, the lid of a stone sarcophagus slamming shut. A moment of silence, broken only by Frodo's thin desperate whine, entombed in her car carrier somewhere beneath mountains of Gallagher crap, and then somewhere under my cramped ass Matilda's ancient engine sputtering once, twice and coughing to life.
"NOW!" The Old Man thunders, his voice oddly muffled by the stuffing of our cave, "we pick up Great Aunt Ginny."
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