The SUV hums along at the 75 miles per hour speed limit. Vinnie’s dad’s hands gripped vice-like on the steering wheel. Vinnie’s mom has bluetooth earphones stuck so far in her ears they’re nearly touching. Vinnie’s sitting behind his dad, Rupert is on his lap facing Vinnie. And, Dexter is lying on the floor at Vinnie’s feet.
Vinnie says, “Hey, Dad, Rupert says thank you for rescuing Dexter. Will the motel we’re staying at tonight take dogs? I don’t mind camping out. Why didn’t we take a tent, Dad? Why?”
Vinnie’s dad’s mind races back through the conversation with the state trooper. “Sir, is everything, okay?”
“Yes, officer, why?”
The state trooper looked through the back window and watched Vinnie mouth something. “Sir, who is the boy in the back seat?”
“That’s my son, Officer.”
“He just mouthed the word prisoner, Sir. Why would he do that?” asked the State Trooper.
“We’re on vacation, Officer. He’s upset we put his dog in the kennel. That’s what it’s all about.”
“Roll down the boy’s window, Sir,” said the State Trooper.
Vinnie’s dad rolls down Vinnie’s window.
The State Trooper bends over, puts his two large hands on the window ledge and says, “You okay, Son?”
Vinnie says, “I’m okay. This is my friend, Rupert. Our other friend, Dexter. That’s my dog. He’s a beagle and my Dad put Dexter in a kennel. I think it was one of those places where they kill dogs if you don’t pick them up on time.”
“It was not. It was a legitimate kennel,” said Vinnie’s dad.
“I’m talking to your son. Don’t interrupt,” the State Trooper’s words landed like a hammer on a nailhead.
“Go on,” said the State Trooper to Vinnie.
Vinnie avoided his mom’s eyes. He said, “They were mean to Dexter at the kennel. They wouldn’t let me leave him his special dog treats. I don’t think he’ll live two days. I wanted to give my parents all the money I saved to put him in a nice place, but they wouldn’t take my money.”
Vinnie’s mom and and dad both turn and stare at him. Vinnie’s dad says, “That’s not true.”
The State Trooper says, “Sir, turn around front, when I want to talk to you I will talk to you.”
Vinnie said, “At school I wrote a story about what I wanted to do when I grow up and it was to be a State Trooper. I got an A from Mrs. Navis and she’s mean.”
The State Trooper said, “Well, you’ve got to study hard. Pay attention to what your mom and dad tell you do. When I was your age I had a pet beagle, Sonny was his name. He was my best friend. So I know what you mean when you say you miss him. I believe your parents are going to turn around and get him. Having Dexter with you will make the trip better for everyone.”
“You think so?” asks Vinnie.
The State Trooper said, “I’m convinced they will do the right thing, won’t you sir?” says the State Trooper to Vinnie’s dad.
That’s how it went. The State Trooper followed them for forty miles before turning off. Vinnie’s dad and mom didn’t speak during the ride to the kennel.
Vinnie’s dad, arrives back in the present moment. He says, “Did you say something, Vinnie?”
“I forgot what I said, Dad. Dexter’s hungry. Can we mobile order a hamburger for him? Can we, Dad. What’s Mom listening to, she looks like she’s sleeping. Wake her up, Dad. I got a question to ask her.”
“Maybe I can answer your question, Vinnie. What is it?”
“Can we sneak Dexter into motel if they don’t take dogs? I’ve taught him to walk on his hind legs. He’ll look like a real person.”
Vinnie’s dad taps Vinnie’s mom on the arm.
Vinnie’s mom takes the ear phones out of her ears. She has a pleasant smile on her face. She says, “I just finished visualizing I was walking along the seashore, the waves were lapping upon my feet. The only sounds were those of seagulls and waves. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and I was alone in my peaceful world.”
Vinnie’s dad says, “Was I with you?”
Vinnie’s mom starts laughing.