Are We There Yet?

Sky. Ground. Sky. Ground. Metal groaning, cracking. Sky. Ground. Silence.

Beth jerked awake.

“Honey, is everything all right?”

She glanced over to find her husband, hands at ten and two, focused on the road ahead. Sidney was fine. She was fine. Why did that seem wrong?

“Beth?” Now he looked at her, concern evident.

Forcing a smile, she replied. “Just dozed off and didn’t realize it.”

Sidney relaxed and returned his attention to the road. “Dozed off? You were out cold. I think you were even snoring.”

She backhanded his upper arm. “Jerk.”

He just grinned in return.

Shifting in her seat, Beth surveyed the landscape. Still nothing to see for miles but endless scrub and an achingly blue sky. And the road. An endless ribbon of faded black that disappeared light-years away into the hazy summer horizon.

As if echoing her thoughts, a voice piped up from the back seat, “Are we there yet?”

“Well, Pollack, we’re still moving aren’t we?” Sidney said.

“Yeah…”

“So we can’t be there yet, can we?”

Daaaad…”

Beth had to agree with her son. A simple yes or no would have been nice. But she held her tongue.

“Of course we’re not there yet, stupid,” a second voice chimed in from the back.

“Lumet Sidney Martin, what have I told you about calling your brother stupid?” Beth said.

“But it was a stupid question, Mom.”

“It really was a stupid question,” Sidney said in sotto voce.

She clenched her teeth. “Please don’t encourage him.”

Eventually everyone settled back down. And the road still looked as endless as it had before.

Beth leaned her forehead against the passenger’s window and sighed, her breath barely registering on the warm pane. Her eyes drifted closed. Another quick nap to kill a few more miles miles. As long as–

“Give it back, Lumet!” Pollack growled.

“You weren’t even using it, stu–Pollack.”

“But it’s mine.”

Beth counted slowly to five before peeking over at her husband. Sure, this battle he would choose to sit out. He always sat out the battles he wasn’t involved in. Ten years in and he would always be the good cop, while she would forever have to mete out the discipline.

Steeling herself, she turned around to the boys. “Pollack, what is wrong?”

“Lumet took my DS.”

Lumet shrugged. “He was asleep. It wasn’t like he was using it.”

“But it’s mine.”

Lord, give her strength. “Lumet, give Pollack back his game. You have your own to play with.”

“No I don’t,” Lumet countered.

Now Sidney did join in. “Lumet, what have I said about nice things?”

“That I can’t have ‘em if I lose ‘em. Yeah, yeah, I’m not stupid, Dad.” If there was one word Beth could banish from her son’s vocabulary, “stupid” would be it. “I meant I don’t have it now. It’s somewhere in the way back.”

“Then you’ll have to wait until later.” True to form, Sidney expected logic to rule the day. With ten-year-old-boys. Right.

Lumet sighed as only a child could. “Fine. Here, stupid,” he said and tossed the plastic device to his brother.

“Lumet,” Beth said, “stop saying stupid.”

“But he is!”

“Am not!” Pollack said. “Can you spell subconscious? No? Didn’t think so.”

“Bet you don’t know what it means.”

“Do so.”

“Do n—”

A sound like a gunshot and suddenly the car was spinning, spinning, spinning.

“Shit shit shit,” Sidney swore as he tried to regain control.

“Language, Sidney,” Beth hissed in reflex. That was all she needed was Lumet to start using “shit” instead of “stupid”.

The car tipped precariously to one side and kept going. Rolling sky to ground. Sky. Ground. Sky. Ground. Metal groaning, cracking. Sky. Ground. Silence.

Beth sat up, heart pounding and disoriented.

“Honey, is everything all right?”

She glanced over to find her husband, hands at ten and two, focused on the road ahead. Sidney was fine. She was fine. Why did that seem wrong?

“Beth?” Now he looked at her, concern evident.

Forcing a smile, she replied. “Just dozed off…” Her words died out as she frowned.

“Beth? What’s wrong?”

“I…I…uh, didn’t we just have this conversation.”

Sidney smirked and returned his attention to the road. “We haven’t be driving that long.”

Beth always fell asleep on roadtrips. Something about the smooth hum of tires on pavement lulled her. “Maybe I dreamed it.”

“Dreaming about the roadtrip we’re on? That sucks.”

“Yeah, it does.”

Shifting in her seat, Beth surveyed the landscape. Still nothing to see for miles but endless scrub and an achingly blue sky. And the road. An endless ribbon of faded black that disappeared light-years away into the hazy summer horizon. Jesus, it felt like they’d been driving forever. Next year, they were flying, prices be damned.

“Are we there yet?”

“Hey, I was just going to ask that, Mom!” Pollack said from the back.

Beth shivered. She really didn’t like this at all.

“We’re still moving aren’t we?” Sidney said.

“Yeah…” Pollack agreed.

“So we can’t be there yet, can we?”

And now Pollack’s going to whine.

Daaaad…”

And Lumet’s going to call him stupid. Again.

“Of course we’re not there yet, stupid,” Lumet said on cue.

“Yes, it’s a stupid question but your brother is not. Knock it off.” Beth snapped. She could feel three pairs of eyes lock onto her.

“Beth, honey…”

The barren landscape was interrupted by a faded road sign. Dave’s Dead-End Diner.

Anything to get off this damned road.

“Sidney, it’s close enough to lunchtime. Let’s eat at that diner up ahead.”

He frowned for a moment in consideration, then nodded. “Sounds good. It’s not a real road trip without diner food anyway.”

Beth would be glad when both the road and the trip were behind them.