Vinnie Begs His Dad to Take the Next Exit


Vinnie and his Mom and Dad are on the highway heading north toward Amarillo. Rupert sits on the seat across the aisle from Vinnie. Rupert wears his eternal smile. Vinnie calls to his mom, “Mom. Mom. Mom.”

Vinnie’s mom, grateful for fifteen minutes of relative quiet says, “Yes, Vinnie?”

“I made a discovery,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom is thinking, ‘I can’t wait to hear this one.’ Instead, she says, “What is it?”

“Did you know grizzly bears can’t blink?”

Vinnie’s dad cocks an ear toward the back seat, “Is that so? Where did you pick up that information?”

Vinnie’s mom already knows the answer, but tries to follow good parenting protocol, says, “That’s interesting.”

Vinnie unbuckles and grabs hold of Rupert.

“Vincent, get buckled. Everyone in the van is supposed to be buckled. It’s the law,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Thanks, Mom. I’ll put a note in my journal.”

“Journal? You’re writing a journal?”

“Yes, Mom. I’ll read it to you after I tell you and Dad how I discovered grizzly bears can’t blink. Dad. Dad. Dad, look. Quick.”

Vinnie’s dad’s heart rate increase by twenty points in four point two-seconds. “What is it? What’s happening? What am I supposed to see?” 

Vinnie’s mom is trying to keep track of the different conversations Vinnie initiated. She thinks, he’s telling us about his discovery. He’s going to read his journal to us. I don’t think this is a good idea. Maybe I need a different support group. And, now he’s excited about something and making it seem like an emergency.”

Vinnie gestures toward the front window, “There, Dad. There.”

“What, Vinnie? I don’t see anything,” says Vinnie’s dad looking for a deer or an antelope running across the highway, a state trooper with a radar gun, or a longhorn steer that broke loose from the herd and is standing in the middle of the highway.

“There, Dad. Can we go? Can we go there, Dad?”

“Where, Vinnie?”

“The sign says the town at the next exit is called Happy. Did you know there is a town called Happy, Texas? Did you, Dad? Did I teach you something, Dad? Did I, Dad?”

Vinnie’s mom rolls her eyes, she looks ahead at the sign and remembers begging Vinnie’s dad to fly to anyplace instead of driving to the Grand Canyon. A vacation should be relaxing. Who wrote those words of wisdom didn’t raise an eight year old child and decide to go a long road trip because it will be relaxing, she thinks. 

Vinnie’s Dad passes the sign, “Happy is eight miles ahead. Sorry, Vinnie, we stopped a half hour ago. We’ll stop in Amarillo and have lunch.”

Dexter suddenly wakes up, and barks.

“We have to stop, Dad. Mrs. Navis told us after spring break we have to have an idea for a science project. I’ve got the perfect idea. Please, Dad, can we stop. Can we, Dad?”

Vinnie’s mom relies on experience to know where the conversation is going. She knows Vinnie’s dad doesn’t have a clue. She decides to toss Vinnie’s dad a lifeline. She says, “Vinnie, what’s your idea for your science project? I can’t wait to hear about it.”

Vinnie says, “Mom. Mom. This idea is so great I know I will win the science fair in May.”

Vinnie’s mom’s instincts go on high alert, “Tell us your idea, Vinnie.”

Vinnie says, “I want to discover what makes all the people in Happy, Texas, happy. It’s sure winner, right, Mom?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “I don’t think everyone is happy in Happy, Texas, Vinnie.”

Vinnie’s mom knows this is not the right response to Vinnie. She holds her lips closed with her thumb and forefinger of her right hand.

Vinnie says, “They have to be happy to live in Happy, Dad. Can we move to Happy, Dad? I think all the teachers are nice and the school lunch has pizza every day.”

Vinnie’s mom half twists in her seat enjoying the pursed lips and scrunched eyebrows on Vinnie’s dad. 

“Dad, Dad, Dad, it’s in six miles, we’ll be there before we know it. Put your signal on, hurry, Dad, hurry.” 

Vinnie’s dad twists his head slightly toward Vinnie’s mom, “Help me, Dear. Please?”

“You’re flying solo, Dear, and I’m enjoying every minute.”

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