Tw0-thirty, Friday afternoon. Vinnie’s dad pulls the SUV into the Cute Dogs Home Away From Home. Vinnie’s mom sits in the passenger seat. Vinnie sits in the seat behind his dad. Rupert is in Vinnie’s backpack. Dexter lies on the floor next to Vinnie.
Vinnie calls to his dad, “Dad could you park under the tree so my backpack won’t get hot?”
Vinnie’s dad pulls the SUV toward a giant live oak tree. Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm, and says, “Don’t. Vinnie is up to something.”
Vinnie says, “Mom, what can I do? I only want to take Dexter on a longer walk before he goes in the slammer. I wish you let me take Dexter to Uncle Mike so Uncle Mike could tell him what to do. Maybe Uncle Mike could have told Dexter how to escape.”
“It’s not the slammer. It’s not a prison. It’s a doggie spa. It’s very expensive to board dogs here and they always have a waiting list. We were lucky there was a cancelation.”
“Don’t be surprised if Dexter escapes. I’ve been teaching him how to dig his way out. Did you see the hole he dug under our fence into the Johnson’s yard?”
“Dear God, Dexter dug a hole that comes up in the Johnson’s yard? Al, Harry will sue us for sure.”
Vinnie hollers from the back seat, “No worries, Mom. Sara moved two of her mom’s potted plants in front of the hole. She uses the hole to sneak over to play with Joey and Larry and me.” Vinnie stops talking for a moment. He pats Dexter. He starts talking, “I’ll take Dexter in by myself since you already made the reservations. Dexter won’t miss you guys. He’ll only miss me and Rupert. Good thing Rupert is guarding the house for you.”
Vinnie’s mom starts to speak, but Vinnie’s dad cuts in as if he’s weaving in out of rush hour traffic, “It’s a good idea, Marti. What could go wrong?”
“Thanks, Dad,” says Vinnie pushing the button to open the sliding SUV side door.
Vinnie’s mom turns toward Vinnie’s dad who staring at his iPhone, “A thousand things could go wrong, that’s what could go wrong. What are you looking at on your iPhone?”
“I was checking out the Zagat ratings for the best restaurants in midtown. . . .”
Vinnie’s mom interrupts, “What were you really doing?”
“Uh, I was watching videos of the highlights of last night’s game.”
“Didn’t you already watch them?”
Vinnie opens the door, climbs in and sets the leash on the floor. “Thanks for letting me go in by myself. You won’t regret it. Hurry, Dad. I don’t want to miss the bus for camp.”
Vinnie’s mom half turns around to look at Vinnie. Vinnie is looking out the window. She says, “Vincent look at me.”
Vinnie turns away from the window. “What, Mom?”
“Something’s up and I want to know what it is,” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie gives his mom a million-dollar smile, and says, “Me, Mom?” He points his index finger to his chest.
Vinnie’s mom says, “You and Larry and Joey cooked something up. I better not get a call from Melanie or Kyle while we’re in New York. You only have to behave for two days. Is that so hard?”
“No, Mom. I can do it. Look, there’s the bus. There’s Joey and Larry waiting for me. Sara’s with them. I didn’t know she was going. It’s going to be the best camp ever, Mom. Dad, pull up close to the bus so I can load my backpack and gear on the bus. You don’t have to help me. I’m strong, I can do it all myself.”
“Okay, champ,” says Vinnie’s dad trying but failing to sound cool.
Vinnie’s dad pulls up to the bus. Vinnie hits the unlock button and the SUV side door slides open. Joey and Larry rush over to help Vinnie. In unison they say, “Hi Mr. and Mrs. Ricci.”
Vinnie’s mom’s view of Vinnie going to the bus is blocked by Vinnie’s dad. “Dear, move so I can see what Vinnie is up to,” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie’s dad looks out the SUV side window toward the bus. He says, “Nothing much is going on. Vinnie’s got his backpack on and he’s climbing the steps into the bus. Joey and Larry and Sara are lugging a large travel bag up the bus steps. They must be helping Melanie and Kyle.”
“Something’s up, Al. I’m telling you, something’s up,” says Vinnie’s mom.
“You’re wrong this time, Marti. Vinnie’s handling this little trip like a pro. I’m proud of him.”
“Let’s make a wager. If you’re right, I will watch every football game you watch on TV this fall and not complain. If you lose, I get to hold your iPhone whenever you’re home for two weeks,” says Vinnie’s mom.
“That’s like stealing candy from a baby,” says Vinnie’s dad.
“It sure is,” says Vinnie’s mom.