Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Unbroken White Line, Chapter 1

This Bedtime story will be several parts long. I may even turn it into book length. Who knows. I'm having fun writing it.


His forehead rested against the window of the car. The sun was shining into the other side where his sister Penny sat, so he didn’t have to squint, as he fixed his eyes on the unbroken white line flowing by.

Jake and Penny were headed to grandma’s house, traveling from Minnesota to Oklahoma. The drive was long – 12 hours to be exact. Their parents had decided to drive straight through, stopping only to grab a bite to eat or a quick bathroom break.

Jake loved bathroom breaks because Mom and Dad hated gas station bathrooms, saying that they were “breeding grounds for new diseases,” whatever that meant, or, as they said, “even worse, the reason the world is overpopulated.”

The last time he had seen the inside of a gas station bathroom, he had stolen a king-size candy bar off the store shelf and snuck into the bathroom, quickly unwrapping the chocolate goodness, taking the biggest bite he could. At the same moment, the door opened and the largest woman he had ever seen tried valiantly to squeeze through the door. She pushed her way forward and saw the boy eating the chocolate.

“Somebody! There’s a boy in here, eating a candy bar,” she wailed, looking over her shoulder.

Frantic to just get out of there, Jake, in one motion, stuck the candy bar into his pants pocket, and raced under the woman’s legs – right into the knees of his father. Looking up, his father’s face was a mix of amusement and irritation.

“Son, what did I tell you about gas station bathrooms?”

His dad paid for the candy bar and they walked out of the store together. Not another word of the incident was ever mentioned, though his dad was muttering a long string of nearly inaudible words under his breath about busybody women who couldn’t fit through bathroom doors and how that was the cause of so much “angst,” whatever that meant, in the world, and if only less people would use gas station bathrooms, his son could enjoy a damn candy bar in peace and how he was bloody good at finding empty wrappers in pockets so he would have paid for it anyway.

But that was years ago. Since then, Jake’s parents made a game of bathroom breaks on road trips. They tried to find the best bathroom they could to go pee in, in peace. Nothing was off limits.

Once, they even walked into a Governor’s mansion and used the private bathroom on the second floor. Jake remembered the whiteness of the towels. They were soft too and smelled like hot cotton, fresh out of a dryer. He remembered burying his face in one of the towels, after washing his hands, and breathing deeply, then holding it there a little longer so he could continue breathing, letting the moistness of his breath wet the towel a bit to enhance the smell of the cloth, forgetting that his parents and Penny were standing right outside the door, waiting. Nobody stopped them.

Getting in and out was an art form. Jake’s dad taught him to always act like he belonged in whatever place he was in. Acting suspicious or whistling like the Three Stooges would inevitably bring a well-intentioned employee or worse, running in their direction, yelling or asking questions, which actually happened a few times.

Jake giggled in his seat, softly bumping his head against the window. His giggle caused his dad to turn around from looking straight ahead and gaze in his direction. His face contorted into a grin, revealing the tooth that got him out of any pickle he ever got into. One smile with that tooth – a crooked ‘I’ tooth – and any detractor was diffused immediately, looking at him as if he was a warm-hearted, lovable, human being. Anyone with that tooth could do no wrong. Suspicion was unwarranted, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Mostly, they were right. His dad was all those things. But he hated his tooth.

“What, Jake?” Penny asked, hitting him in the elbow with the back of her hand. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh nothing. Nothing really. Well…I’m just remembering that time when Daddy got caught by the buck-naked linebacker in the Lambeau Field locker room bathroom.”

Jake’s mom laughed.

“And to think, I dared him to do that one. We did get a free suite out of it too. All the hot dogs you could eat, nachos, pop.”

“BEER!” Jake’s dad said.

“Oh yes, beer. Can’t forget that,” his mom echoed back.

Jake’s smile rested on his lips as he again focused on the white line flowing by. It darted away from the car for a few seconds, then raced back toward it, nearly touching the bottom of the window. 

Read Chapter 2

Read more Bedtime Stories

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