Dad's New Plan

Submitted into Contest #170 in response to: Start your story with the line “I’ve got a plan”. ... view prompt

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Adventure Fiction Funny

Dad's New Plan

"Are we leaving tomorrow, Dad?" I asked.

"Yep, Cathy, bright and early!" He said.

"You mean dark and early." Mom added, " It's still dark outside at 5:00 A.M."

" Well, I have a new plan for this year," My Dad said. "So in this trip of 1955, if we leave an hour earlier, we'll be sure to beat rush hour in St. Louis."

I was nine years old.

"There aren't any rush hours on Saturday, and that's why we decided to go Saturday this year, remember?" Mom said while carefully layering clothes into her suitcase.

"You never know," Dad replied, "I sometimes work on Saturday, and a lot of people do. Good to be ahead of it."

Mom looked at him and asked, "Do you think I'll need anything dressy? What if somebody dies or gets married while we're there?"

Dad replied, "It's only ten days. Besides, Texas is so hot that people might wear bathing to those events. I'm not taking a suit, that's for sure Are you almost finished there, Lil? I want to pack the car tonight," Dad said, "That's part of the new strategy. No more running back and forth, adding things in, and taking other things out at the last minute. Make sure to get everything sorted tonight." Dad said, "Besides, I know it's a small town, but as I recall, they have a store or two down there. Remember last year?"

I stepped behind my Dad.

"That's true, but they just have a J.C. Penny pick-up and Lenore's Style, which is always so expensive," Mom said, and held up two skirts looking from one to the other, and sighed, saying, "I'll take my black skirt and pink blouse, just in case. Oh, I better pack my black slip too and earrings."

Dad added, "Rember, you'll only need those if someone dies."

 "Or gets married," I added.

"Hmfff." Mom replied.

I followed Dad into the kitchen and proudly announced, "I packed my own suitcase!" 

"Oh boy," he said, "Did your Mother check it?" he asked, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head as he looked down at me.

"Well . . . sort of," I answered, crossing my fingers behind my back.

"Make sure to have her look through it before I load the car. Remember how upset Mom was Last year? When you swapped out clothes for books and Crayons at the last minute?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. I remembered. Yikes.

Then I had a new idea. I'd watched a movie where a bunch of people were running from another bunch of people. The running away people wore all their clothes in layers, so they wouldn't have to carry them and could hold the babies. And the ladies sewed coins and jewelry into the hems of their skirts!  But, no, it was too hot, and I don't have those skirts.

 I went to my bed, where my suitcase lay open, and stared at it for a moment. Then I removed my big doll and the thickest book and added underwear and another top. I tried to fit the doll and the book back in, but the suitcase would not click shut, not even when I sat on it.

Mom walked in and said, "Cathy! Get off that suitcase. You're going to break the hinges!"

I pled my case, saying, "But this is the kind I saw on TV, Mom. See?" I pointed to the logo. "You know? Where the Gorilla jumps on it and throws it around?"

"What have you got in there?" She walked to my open suitcase and started rummaging through the contents. She shook her head, saying. "Let's take these," She said and removed three dolls, their clothes, two hardcover books, three nearly-finished coloring books, and a cookie tin filled with crayons."

I was getting nervous. I thought I'll die without those!

"Mom?" it whined.

Let me finish, "Put these into your school bookbag, and keep them with you in the car?"

"That's a great idea!" I said.

Mom smiled and went back to her own packing and repacking.

 I was half asleep the morning when I brushed my teeth and got dressed. And it was very dark when we got into the car.

Dad began to drive the car backward very slowly.

"Oh! Wait!" Mom said, "Did you make sure all the taps are off?"

"Yes," Dad said.

"And you gave the spare key to Mrs. Malone?"

"I did," Dad answered.

"Wait!" Mom started again and grabbed her door handle.

I was jolted forward as he slammed on the brakes of the Plymouth.

 Dad yelled. "Lillian, please shut that door!"

"But I need . . ... " Then she huffed and closed the door again. "I should have packed my gold earrings with the black skirt.

Dad gasped, then said, "You gave me a start, opening the door with the car moving. Besides, you can get new earrings when we get there. If you really have to, and you know, if someone dies."

I piped up, "Or gets married."

"Right," Dad answered.

I felt the car rolling down the driveway again and drifted back to sleep.

The sun blazed through the open car window and woke me. It was burning my face, "Mom?" I asked and stretched, then stood up behind Dad.

"Yes?"

"Are we almost there?" I asked, and both parents said, "No!" I sat back on the seat. Well, gee, I thought, Mr. and Mrs. Cranky.

The front windows were open, blowing everything around: maps, tissues, our hair. Mom handed me one of Dad's clean handkerchiefs and said, "Here, tie this like a scarf; it will help keep your hair out of your eyes."

 I sat and folded it into a strip instead and wore it like the Indians wore a headband, which worked much better.

I opened my tin of crayons and colored for a while. My tummy grumbled. "I'm hungry," I said and stood on the hump in the middle of the car. "Hey, we didn't have breakfast!"

Dad said, "There are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the cooler, and we can eat them at one of the roadside tables."

Now Mom and I said, "No!"

"But Dad, it's so hot and noisy and dusty out there. I'm going to sit on the floor." I said.

Dad chuckled, saying, "Not for long." He was right; it was even hotter down there. But less windy.

I stood up and said, "Look! Oops!" I accidentally dumped my crayons on the floor while pointing to a large billboard. I read it aloud, trying to sound like a TV Newman, "Howard Johnsons Restaurant! One mile! Next exit! Ice Cream!" I asked, " Can we eat there? Please, Dad?'

Mom reached back and removed my headband, asking, "Yes, Dad please?" Mimicking me.

"But it will take so long." He whined in return and also mimicked me. And Mom and I laughed.

"Oh, all right, but don't order any four-course meals," Dad said.

"Yay!" I shouted.

"Yay," Mom said softly.

It was much cooler in the restaurant. We were seated in a comfy booth, and I said," I feel better already."

Dad looked around and mumbled, "There are a lot of people in here. I hope they've already ordered."

"It is very nice," Mom said as the waiter came to take our order of Macaroni and cheese for me with a glass of lemonade. Dad ordered a grilled cheese and coffee, which I learned years later was the cheapest meal on the menu.

Mom was next, but she looked kind of strange. She stared at something, not the waiter, and pointed to the wall behind him and asked, "Do you really serve that here?" 

He looked over his shoulder, saying, "Yes, we do!"

"What are you talking about?" Dad asked and lit a cigarette.

Mom said, "They have Baked Alaska!"

What? I thought and could only come up with was maybe Polar Bear meat. Ewe.

Mom ordered a Caesar Salad and Baked Alaska, or maybe she said Nebraska. I pondered this as she spoke.

"What?" Dad asked, then started coughing. The waiter placed an ashtray in front of him.

"What?" I echoed.

After the waiter left, Mom said, "It is a very special dessert!"

Uh Oh. I thought about that special fruitcake someone gave us last Christmas. Yuck.

 I asked, "Can I just have ice cream? Chocolate? With a cherry on it?"

Mom retorted, "It's 'May I' Cathy . . . and no.'

She continued, " I read about this in a magazine at the hairdresser." She leaned in closer like she was sharing a secret, "There's cake on the bottom, then an ice cream dome on top of the cake, with meringue covering it."

"Like on the lemon pie?" Ii asked

"Yes!" Mom was getting more and more enthusiastic as she said, '"And then a wee bit of alcohol is poured all over it."

I screwed up my face. That sounded awful.

"Cathy, it's not the kind doctors use. It's more like a wine, maybe brandy. I'm not sure," she said.

Dad hadn't said anything. His cigarette ash was getting very long as he listened to her.

"But the best part is they light it on fire!" and made a gesture with her fingers that said, 'like a bomb."

Dad groaned and said, "Lillian, I'm not so sure about this, with flames and booze." and nodded toward me.

Mom gave him a dismissive wave and said, "It's okay. They probably do all that in the kitchen anyway. And the alcohol burns off. It was all in the article, and I even thought about making one myself. Maybe for Christmas?"

"Hmph," Dad said and tapped his cigarette over the ashtray.

The waiter brought our food and said, "Baked Alaska is made to order, so it might take a few minutes. It's big enough for all of you!"

Dad groaned softly.

"Don't worry, sir. They're working on it now. Enjoy your lunch!" 

 I gobbled my meal, wanting to get to the bomb part. This sounded good!

When we finished, the waiter cleared our empty dishes. He put the napkins, salt, pepper, and sugar dispenser on a nearby table. He turned to a second waiter holding a tray and lifted from it a tiny bowl of liquid that smelled suspiciously like fruitcake. He poured it all over the white mound before us, asking, "Ready?"

He pulled out a lighter and lit the end of a long stick.

We all pushed farther back against our seats as Dad quickly stubbed his cigarette out.

The waiter touched the flaming stick to the white dessert in the center of the table. I heard a small, Poof! Then blue flames engulfed it for only a few seconds, and it was over, just like that. I think we were all relieved.

The few other diners in the restaurant gasped, and a lady at the next table put her hands to her face and let out a little chirp.

Now that the danger was over, I leaned in for a closer look. It smelled so good, like lemon pie and toasted marshmallows.

 The waiter cut it into four pieces and put a wedge on each of the three little plates from the tray.

It tasted so wonderful! With the crunchy topping,

gooey meringue, three flavors of ice cream, and cake! The best dessert ever!

We were all full and happy. Mom picked up the last piece and gave it to the lady who'd chirped as we walked out.

We all stepped back into the blinding blast furnace. I ran to the car at the curb, opened the door, and gasped, "Oh no!" My crayons lay melted in a puddle on the floor.

Then Mom said, "Oh dear!" then ran back inside to retrieve her purse.

Dad looked at the road and exclaimed, "Sonofabitch!" As another Army convoy drove past.

November 02, 2022 20:13

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