Family road trip—AGAIN?!
Once more, little Bobby finds himself in the big van. Another summer and this year on the road map Mom’s highlighter has captured the state of Florida in neon yellow.
But what’s in Florida? Bobby wonders. Why go there? Everything, all that’s good, is here.
All of summer’s freedom kept away from him outside of this big van that’s like a tin can and him the trapped bean. And he really feels like a bean, too, with every member of his family a hundred generations back coughing, moving around, and adjusting in their seats.
Bobby looks around. How could anybody find this fun?
“It’s hot!” Grandpa yells. “Not a thing to do! I’m expected to sit and bake here with nothing but Aunt Aubrey’s breath to breathe in!”
Suddenly a flash in the van. A tablet. Grandma shoves it in front of Grandpa’s face before he can protest.
“Ahhhh!” A sigh from grandpa.
On the tablet Bobby sees a book cover glowing. Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood by Cheryl Diamond. Above the image of the book cover: Hoopla. What on Earth is a Hoopla?
Cousin Brittney rows up from Bobby, stirs in her seat. To Uncle Frank, she whispers, “It’s Minecraft Monday. Everyone else is online, playing. Look at me. I’m staring at a blank Nintendo Switch!”
Suddenly a hand rises up above the heads. Whose hand is that? Bobby wonders. And what’s that thing it’s holding? Suddenly Cousin Brittney’s Nintendo Switch buzzes to life, screen flashing. With one touch of a finger, she is playing Minecraft.
“Hotspot’s on!” Uncle Frank yells.
Nearby Cousin Ben’s laptop buzzes to life and from Great Aunt Debra’s phone music plays.
It was one of those hotspots that hand was holding, Bobby thinks—that, even in a van, can give everyone internet to connect to. He’s seen them before . . . where?
Little Teddy a few seats over is crying. Great. A paper bag materializes. Take-and-Make in colorful letters at the top. Little Teddy rips it open and finds blue strands of paper, the tentacles and body of a jellyfish. Next out of the ripped bag a sheet of instructions.
A board book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, its cover bright, flies across the van into the hands of Second Cousin Meg. Giggling fills the van.
Cousin Tony mesmerized, flips through a comic book, Crossover Vol. 1: Kids Love Chains by Donny Cates.
Great Grandma’s hands are busy, deciding between magazines, Motor Sport Magazine or House & Home, on the Libby app. Bobby doesn’t know anyone named Libby.
The next-door neighbors’ kid Julio is onto his third Tumblebooks.
Cousins Reid and Christopher, a board game spread between them: Snug as a Bug in a Rug! Under each of their hands the backs of paper beetles that they make scurry. Where did they get that?
Aunt Harriet looks up from World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever to suggest yet another stop.
Turning away from his misery, rejecting this invasion around him, Bobby is desperate to hold onto his bad mood. Florida can’t win.
But he is stopped by something passed back to his sour corner. His hands blindly feel and bring to his eyes a DVD. Raya and the Last Dragon. He’s been asking to see this one for, what, a thousand years?
There is that old DVD player under the seat, it lives there, gray as a sleeping hound. From under his feet, Bobby fishes it out. He puts the disc in. The screen glows.