“I should just shoot myself!” my father roared as he swerved the family car over to the side of a busy street.
“Richard!” my mother shrieked.
“You told me to take a right?!” my father demanded; “It was supposed to be a left; now we’re completely screwed up!!”
My father jammed his foot on the brake. With no seatbelts, my brother, sister, and I leaned forward and then pounded back hard—- three ticket purchasers to the show that show that was just beginning, “I thought…”
“For chrissakes, Dora, give me the map!” My father grabbed the map away. My mother inhaled as she placed her right hand, on the handle of the car door.
“You’re supposed to be the navigator!” my father growled. He held the 3’ x 2’ paper map with all its fold lines then shoved it against the blue dashboard with a swipe of one of his paw-like hands. It made a crushing sound.
“But, I…” My mother removed her pink hat, the one that matched her pink jacket.
“It’s always the same. We get lost everywhere we go because you can’t read a map!” My father paused for a minute. Cars were speeding past us. “I think since I’ve met you I’ve circumnavigated the earth about five hundred and fifty times because you keep sending me in the friggin’ wrong direction!” He pulled the map forward and studied it. We could smell exhaust from passing cars. Sweat was running down the sides of my father’s face.
My siblings and I held our breath.
“I think at the intersection of Route 7 and Howard Avenue,” whispered my mother; “We should’ve gone left. Now I remember from last year.”
“And from there, it all went to hell!” exclaimed my father, letting out another roar; “Now, we’re completely lost!”
My mother started wiping her eyes.
Across the highway from where we’d pulled over, there was a clown outside of an auto ealership. My siblings and I didn’t dare mention it. The clown was honking his bulbed horn at the cars. A temporary sign urged people to get a great deal on brand new station wagon. The clown had tufts of bright orange hair, oversized red shoes, and big blue buttons on his white jumpsuit.
My father rested his arm on the open window, clenching and unclenching his thick fingers. My father was wearing a T-shirt with sweat stains and a worn-out brown pants. “I’m just waiting for that asshole to come over here.”
“What asshole?” asked my mother.
“The friggin’ clown, who do you think?”
“You’re not very nice,” my mother cried; “He’s just doing his job.’
“Yeah, and if you’d done yours, we wouldn’t be stopped here, goddamit.”
“Hey, maybe the clown knows where Neapolitan Street is,” my sister offered, her ponytail sticking to her back from sweat.
“Yeah, I don’t need that asshole to tell me where Neapolitan Street is,” my father growled, “I read the map; I know where the friggin’ street is.”
“Daddy, why aren’t we going?”
There was a pause; then, my mother spoke up, “I’m scared of these cars and trucks speeding past us here. We shouldn’t be on the side of the road like this,” my mother added, trying to reason with him.
“Well, maybe Dora, you should learn to read a map…”
“Are you going to make us all die because I had trouble with a map?” my mother cried.
“I’m just so friggin’ tired of you screwing up directions!” My father pounded his fist on the dashboard for emphasis.
My mother resumed crying.
“Tell you what I’d like to do…I’d like to grab that asshole clown’s horn and use it to smash every car in their parking lot.”
“Stop,” my mother pleaded.
“The hell I’ll stop!”
“You,” my mother gasped between sobs, “Don’t love me.”
“What, oh, for chrissakes,” my father snarled; “Not this again! Dora…”
“No, you don’t!”
“Oh, for chrissakes, you know I do!”
My siblings and I, in the backseat, turned our heads from one parent to the other. My sister opened a brown bag filled with popcorn. The aroma filled the car.
My father rested his head in his hand in defeat, “If only I had a gun,” he complained.
“There’s a gun back home in the attic,” my sister revealed but was ignored.
“You don’t love my parents!” My mother cried.
“Oh, jeez,” my father said, squirming in his seat; “Of course, I do! Don’t we play cards with them every Wednesday night?!”
“And you don’t care about my aunt and uncle,” my mother continued.
“Uncle Brownie and Aunt Bermuda? For chrissakes, that’s who we’re going to visit, isn’t it?”
“You’re just going to please me; you don’t care about them.”
“Well, I’m spending my entire day-off driving us all up to see those two! Jesus Christ!”
“Only because you like to take his sailboat out on the lake there.”
“I told you so!” My mother started gaining traction, “And you don’t care about my sister Edna and Uncle Salvatore!”
“Well, you’ve got me there…”
My mother started sobbing loudly.
“Hey, I spend every holiday with them, don’t I? Do I ever complain? No! And let me tell you, that sister of yours is friggin’ deranged, and uncle Chum Bucket is a complete idiot!”
“See? See? I knew you didn’t like them!”
“Daddy, why do you call Uncle Salvatore—-Chum Bucket?” my sister asked, but was ignored.
“No, kidding! I can hardly stand them, but I go along, don’t I? I jump through your hoops, don’t I?”
“I go with that idiot to his woodworking shop, and he shows me his latest project. Jeez! He’s a real whiz with birdhouses. If I were a bird, I wouldn’t lay my eggs in Chum Bucket’s screwed up houses. They are not even squared-up!” I asked Chum Bucket once if he had a level and he said yes. The idiot said, YES! So, what’s his f—g excuse?!”
A semi-tractor trailer passed dangerously close to our car, “Just because he isn’t as good as you with woodworking, doesn’t mean you have to call him names!”
“Oh, I know…”
“Come on, Dora, stop crying!”
“Come on, come on, please…”
My brother Garith pulled my sister’s ponytail.
“Ouch, you jerk! Mom, Gar pulled my hair!”
My mother turned away from my father, still sobbing, not acknowledging my sister’s plight.
“What bothers me is…” my mother began.
My father retracted his words and was quiet.
“Cut it out!” yelled my sister.
“What bothers me is that my sister got flowers for Mother’s Day from Uncle Salvatore and you didn’t get me any!”
“Oh, for chrissakes; is that it?”
He ran his fingers through his hair, “Okay, okay, next year, I’ll get you flowers. Would that make you happy? I’ll be just like Chum Bucket.”
“No, because you don’t love me,” my mother wailed.
“Oh, come on now, Dora; you’re upsetting the kids.”
There was a pause.
“Okay, I love you,” whispered my father. My siblings and I sat upright.
“Mom, I ate my popcorn, and I’m still hungry,” complained my sister.
My mother sniffled. My father put one of his thick hands on her shoulders.
“Come on now, Darling, come on…”
Uncharacteristically he took the hanky out of his pants pocket and wiped her eyes. Then, he kissed her on the forehead. She sniffled some more and then said, “Well, okay.”
There was a pause.
“Are we ready to see Uncle Brownie and Aunt Bermuda?” my father asked everyone.
“Yes!” my siblings and I chimed in.
“Okay, now, roll your windows down, kids,” my father instructed. “When we pull out I want all of you to wave to the clown.”
My siblings and I looked at each other, “Why?” my brother Garith asked.
“Don’t ask, just do it.”
The clown was standing by the road, still honking and waving to the passing cars. His cheery face a product of paint. My siblings and I looked at each other again. Then, slowly we rolled down the windows and waved tentatively to the surprised clown. He stared at us with his mouth open.
Then, my father pulled onto the road, and we blended in with the late-morning traffic.
Cyndi Cresswell Cook has been published in The Raven’s Perch Literary Magazine before with her work of short fiction, Birth Control. She’s currently working on a novel.