by Dan Crawley
Since they were on a stretch of I-70 between someplace and somewhere else, the dad told his only boy to pee into an empty gallon milk jug. Usually it held water for the radiator, but now was empty, and the Plymouth’s temperature gauge’s needle moved gradually toward the H, millimeter by millimeter. The dad was certain: to maintain speed and a constant flow of wind against the grill would keep them going until the next gas station in the next town. And waiting for the boy, while idling at the side of the road, would only bring on an eruption of billowing steam. The mom agreed: they better not get stranded again, just as before and all those other times before. They had no choice but to keep moving.
The boy grimaced in pain, but mostly embarrassment, his legs splayed, the plastic jug bulging underneath the windbreaker jacket his mom threw over his lap. His sisters surrounded him in the back seat, teasing about his pregnancy. The dad grinned into the mirror and called out that his only boy was simply glowing. The mom smiled, too, finally, the first time in what seemed like weeks. Her dread and gloominess momentarily drifted out through the cracked opened windows. Her lilting giggle rippled over the worn and pockmarked vinyl panels. The boy wanted more of this from his mom, always. Rather than her yelling about taking a train or bus as far away from this stupid vacation as possible, and as far away from them as possible. For all she cared, after she was gone, they could live in some parking lot in Utah or Colorado for the rest of their lives.
So the boy called out, “Here comes the baby. I’m pushing! I’m pushing!” Just like he’d seen in movies. The dad called out to the mirror, “You’ll be a lovey-dovey mom, just like your lovey-dovey mom.” The mom called out to the dad, “Well, mister, I just want to let you know, you’re my lovey-dovey sweetie-poteetie.” And the sisters called out to the boy, “You will be a lovey-dovey mommie-wommie. You will.”
Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including Wigleaf, matchbook, New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, CHEAP POP, and North American Review. He teaches creative writing workshops and literature courses at various colleges and universities throughout Arizona. He is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at dancrawleywrites.