If You Could Live a Nursery Rhyme, Which One Would It Be?
“Can you look up how far it is to the next gas station?” my mom asked. “Colonel Mustard could use a few more gallons, and I could use some caffeine.” I pecked at the screen of the GPS.
“The closest one is in 23 miles,” I said. “Want me to drive?”
“No, I’m okay, but give me some more of those sunflower seeds, will you?”
I poured a mound into her hand. Within moments, she had de-shelled a seed with her teeth and spit the remains into a Styrofoam cup between her legs. The activity had kept her alert for the last several hours. I could almost tell the time by the rising pit of wet shells and seeds.
“I’m taking over the wheel at the next stop so you don’t drown us in those things,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah.” She spit again and a dark gray seed clicked against the others, muted slightly by its sogginess. I could easily see the top of the mound now. It was approximately 3:15 AM. “What if I just get a new cup at the gas station? What are you gonna do then?” She smiled over at me and spewed more trash from her mouth.
“Well then, I guess I’ll have to wrestle you for the keys, and I think we both know how that will turn out. You might as well just hand them over to me and save us the trouble. Especially since I’m the only one of us who has slept tonight.”
“Yeah, you do have a few pounds on me, Hercules.” Her words had more strength than my muscles ever could.
“That’s probably because one of us actually eats.”
“Yeah, a little too much sometimes.” She turned toward me and smirked. “Oh come on, I was just kidding.” Ironically, ‘just kidding’ had become her unfunny way of apologizing.
“I’m just tired. Maybe I’ll have to make use of your new driver’s license after all.”
The fluorescent light closest to the street was flickering when we pulled into the gas station. Having been immersed in darkness for hours, this place looked like the light to heaven that people warn you about walking toward. As my mom filled up the tank, I swung open the station doors. A tiny bell jingled above my head and an attendant nodded in my direction from behind the counter. Like everyone else in the world, I made a beeline for the candy and soda. The bell rang behind me.
“Pick out what you want and let’s get back on the road,” my mom said.
After plucking a Milky Way and a bag of licorice from the shelf, I poured myself a 44-ounce Pepsi from the soda fountain. My mom raised her eyebrows when I plopped my snacks on the counter next to her bottled water.
“Do you really need all that?” she asked.
“I’d hate to start dozing off at the wheel.” I smirked. “Besides, my sugar water is almost three times bigger than your bland stuff and it costs less.”
“Tell that to your thighs when you’re my age.” She paid for my guilty pleasures then tossed me the car keys as we walked out the door. “Don’t make me regret this,” she teased.
“Just go to sleep and we’ll be there before you know it.” I revved the engine for effect.
“Lord have mercy on our souls,” she said. I heard her breath grow heavy as I pulled out of the gas station and merged back onto the eastbound highway.
The sun peeked over the horizon as we crossed the Missouri River. It was then I realized we were living a nursery rhyme: Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.