Vinnie’s Dad Offers Vinnie’s Mom a Lifeline – LOL

17

The SUV cruises along on a remote stretch between Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Vinnie sits quietly in the backseat with Rupert squeezed between his knees facing him. Vinnie’s mom has a subconscious imaginary circle, one-hundred meters in diameter, with Vinnie at the Center sending cosmic beams from the perimeter toward Vinnie. The Imaginary circle operates much like radar, pinging back a signal when it reaches Vinnie. The returning volume of size of the ping back emanating from the epicenter of the circle, e.g., wherever Vinnie is located, indicates the cosmic effect Vinnie is having on his immediate environment. At the moment, Vinnie’s mom’s radar is picking up a faint beeping signal. This signal is only heard by moms because dads are either too insensitive to pick up the cosmic broadcast, or, if in the strange circumstance they do pick up the cosmic signal, they interpret its meaning incorrectly believing everything is okay.

Vinnie’s mom picks up the signal while reading social media on her iPhone. She casually says, “Vinnie, everything okay back there?”

No answer from the back seat.

The volume of the cosmic ping back increases.

Vinnie’s mom, reading the most recent Facebook post from her sister, calls out, “Vinnie, I said is everything okay back there.” 

The communication from Vinnie’s Mom flew past Vinnie’s dad without landing. He was playing with the dashboard console trying to figure out how to make it shuffle the songs on his iPhone.

Still no answer from the backseat.

Vinnie’s mom turns around and sees Vinnie using his hands to pry different parts of his face into a grotesque configurations. One part of Vinnie’s mom wants to scream and tell Vinnie to stop it. The other part wants to laugh. 

Now, Vinnie has a forefinger in each side of his mouth stretching it sideways. 

Now, Vinnie is pulling his two ears forward and sticking his tongue out at Rupert.

Now, Vinnie inserts his forefinger and middle finger into his nostrils and and lifts them up while sticking his tongue out.

Vinnie’s mom can take no more. “Vincent, that’s disgusting. Take your fingers out of your nose this instant.”

Vinnie with the fingers still in his nose turns toward his mom, “Why, Mom. Rupert and me are having an ugly face contest. He’s winning. I have to make uglier faces than him.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “I don’t care what Rupert is doing, I care about what you’re doing and your fingers must be disgusting. Do you know how many germs are on your fingers?”

Vinnie takes his forefinger and middle finger out of his nose. He holds them up so he can examine them. He says, “I don’t see any germs, Mom. My fingers look mostly clean.”

“What do you mean mostly clean?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“There’s one small bugger on my middle finger, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of it,” says Vinnie wiping his hand on his pants.

“Vinnie’s mom reaches down, picks up a container of Lysol disinfectant wipes, pulls one out, and extends her arm back toward Vinnie. “Take this wipe, wipe your fingers and hands, and then wipe off your pants.”

“But, Mom, I didn’t see any germs.”

“You can’t see germs,” says Vinnie mom quickly realizing her poor choice of words. She corrects herself, “I mean, everyone knows germs are there even if you can’t see them.”

Vinnie’s dad’s cosmic antenna pick up an interesting vibe. He tunes in to the vibe.

“Are there germs on your nose, Mom?”

“Well, everyone has germs on their nose, Vinnie.”

“Are there germs on your lips, Mom?”

Vinnie’s dad glances over at Vinnie’s mom, “Will a lifeline cancel out my debt?”

“Yes, yes,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad says, “Vinnie, let’s play a road game. Any good ideas for a game.”

“I got a good one, Dad,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom rolls her eyes, touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm, “Why? Is this the best you can do?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Un huh.”

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Vinnie Asks The Stranger, “Are You a Cowboy?”

15

The SUV cruises along Interstate 27 at 75 miles per hour heading toward Amarillo.

The storm siren warning of a tornado goes off in the backseat in the guise of Vinnie’s frantic demand, “Dad, Dad, it’s four miles. We’re going to miss Happy, Dad. It’s our only chance to be happy, Dad. Don’t you want to be happy, Dad?”

Vinnie’s mom glances over at Vinnie’s dad content to let him handle the crises.

Vinnie’s dad takes a deep breath trying to remember how to do Zen breathing. Was it count to five on breathing in or eight or six and should he breath out through his nose or mouth or maybe it doesn’t matter as long as he’s breathing. The thoughts ramble through his mind at the same speed the SUV travels.

“Dad, Dad, it’s two miles now, slow down, you’re going to fast. I want to be happy, Dad. Dexter wants to be happy, Dad. Rupert wants to be happy, Dad. Even Mom wants to be happy. Everybody but you, Dad, wants to be happy. I can see the exit. Do you need help with the turn signal? Rupert will help, Dad. He has a driver’s license.”

“I am happy, Vinnie. I am very happy. I don’t need to go to Happy, Texas, to be happy. I don’t think everyone in Happy, Texas, is happy. We are not going to stop until we get to Amarillo,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Mom, Mom, Mom, I’m not happy if we don’t go to Happy. Why can’t we go to Happy, Mom? It will be my science project. You want me to get a good grade, right, Mom?”

Vinnie’s Mom says, “Do you want to listen to this or multiple variations of this all the way to Amarillo, another hour and a half, or do you want to end it by turning off driving to the center and turning around and getting back on the highway. It’s fifteen minutes versus ninety minutes. Your choice, Dear. A possible one hour and forty-five minutes of peace or relentless questioning why you didn’t want to stop at Happy.”

Vinnie’s dad touches the turn signal and begins to slow down. 

“Wise decision, Dear,” says Vinnie’s mom.

The SUV turns left off the exit ramp, crosses over the Interstate heading toward Happy, Texas. 

“Dad, Dad, Dad, look there’s the sign. Wow, wow, wow, Dad. It’s says, Welcome to Happy, Texas. The town without a frown. It even has a cowboy riding a horse like he’s at the rodeo, Dad. If they have a rodeo, can we go? I think I want to be cowboy when I grow up. Can we get a horse when we get back home? Can we, Dad?”

“Our yard isn’t big enough to have a horse, Vinnie. Where would we keep a horse?”

“That’s easy, Dad. You and Mom can park in the driveway and the horse can sleep in the garage. Rupert and me can ride him to school. I’ll be the coolest kid at school. Nobody else rides a horse to school. Maybe we can find a saddle on the trip, Dad. Dad look at Mom, she’s happy. Mom always laughs when she’s happy. Are you happy, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom turns a bit and wipes tears away from her eyes. She says, “I’ve never been happier Vinnie. Honestly, it’s the happiest I’ve been in weeks.”

“See, Dad. See. Can we move here, Dad. There’s a house for sale, Dad. It has a horse in the yard. This is the best town in the whole country, Dad. Dad, there’s a Dairy Queen. Can I have an ice cream? Can we get one for Dexter. He’s starving.”

Dexter hears his name, sits up, looks to the left and then to the right and then up at Vinnie. He doesn’t see food, but he heard his name. Dexter forces himself to stay awake. His beagle instincts tell him he’s going to be fed soon.

Vinnie’s dad turns into the Dairy Queen on the belief that Vinnie can’t talk and eat at the same time. 

The family walks into the Dairy Queen. Dexter, overflowing with optimism, is sitting in the driver’s seat staring out the front window waiting for his family to return and bring him food. Vinnie’s mom and dad go to the counter to order, Vinnie spots an older man ruddy faced man wearing a white cowboy hat and red bandana around his neck drinking a cup of coffee.

Vinnie walks over to the man, “How come you’re sitting alone? Do you want company? Are you a cowboy?”

The man tips his cowboy hat back, turns his head  and checks out Vinnie. He smiles and says, “Pull up a seat, son. I can use some company. I live alone, except for my dog, Cactus and my horse, Brother Joe. I think you can call me a cowboy since I have a ranch and a hundred head of cattle. How about you? Where are your parents? Do you live around here? I haven’t see you before.”

Vinnie points toward the counter, “There’s my mom and dad. We’re on a trip. We live in San Antonio. I have a dog too, his name is Dexter and he’s a beagle. My parents think Dexter is overweight, but I think he’s all muscle. What kind of dog is Cactus?”

“Hah, Cactus is a mutt. He’s part of everything. He showed up one day and forgot to leave. Probably because I feed him.”

“That’s just like Dexter. I’m always sneaking food for Dexter when my parents can’t see me. Dexter knows I’m his best friend. Fist bump?”

The cowboy and Vinnie fist bump.

Vinnie sticks out his hand and says, “Here come my parents. Thanks for talking to me. Will you shake with me?”

“Of course, pardner.”

The Cowboy takes off the bandana around his neck and says, “I’m as happy as a man can be. I’ve want you have this cowboy bandana to remember the day we met. My name is Sam. What’s yours?”

“Vinnie. Thank you, Sam. I mean, sir. I told my mom and dad if we stopped in Happy we’d be happy. You made today the happiest day ever for me.”

“I’ve got to head back to the ranch, Vinnie. Anytime you come through Happy stop by and see me. My ranch is only ten miles up the road, you can’t miss it, it’s the Circle S. Adios,” said Sam rising from his chair and tipping his hat toward Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s mom smiles and waves. 

“How does Vinnie do it, Dear? asks Vinnie’s Dad. 

“Somethings are a mystery, Dear, and cannot be explained,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie Returns Tomorrow

Vinnie makes a new friend. Vinnie’s Dad doesn’t understand Vinnie. Vinnie’s mom thinks the way Vinnie’s mind works is a mystery. LOL

Vinnie Returns Monday – Will His Parents Survive? LOL

Vinnie insists his dad stop in Happy, Texas, to discover how to be happy. Will they stop? LOL

Vinnie Begs His Dad to Take the Next Exit

14

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.”

“Vincent, What Are Those Two Slices of Bread Doing on Your Ears?”

13

Vinnie’s dad pulls the SUV into the car gas island at a truck stop. Vinnie’s mom turns around and says, “Vincent, what are you doing? What are those pieces of bread doing on your ears? Where is the tunafish that was inside the bread?”

Vinnie’s has his hands pressed against two pieces of whole wheat bread, one on each ear, pressing the bread tightly against his head. His eyelids are shut, he says, “We landed at Space Station X30. I’m ready to fire at any aliens from another galaxy. My trusted navigator, Rupert, is with me. And our fierce fighter, Dexter, is ready for action. Dexter prepare to fire the death ray.”

“Vincent,” says Vinnie’s mom raising her voice and stretching to reach one of Vinnie’s arms.

Vinnie pulls a slice of bread off of his right ear. He says, “Do you want to board the space station, Mom?”

“Vincent, give me those slices of bread. I made you tuna sandwiches. Where is the tuna?”

“Dexter was hungry, Mom. I let him lick the tuna off of the bread. I didn’t waste the bread. I’m using the bread as my headset as I travel through space.”

Vinnie’s dad turns toward Vinnie’s mom, “Dear, I’ll be filling the tank. I’ll go to the restroom with Vinnie when I finish.” He quickly gets out of the car before being asked about joining the space station crew.

“Do you think I made those tuna sandwiches for fun, Vincent?” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I don’t know, Mom. Grownups have fun different from kids.”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph please pray for me,” Vinnie’s mom silently whispers.

“What did you say, Mom? I saw your lips moving but I didn’t hear any words,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom takes the two slices of bread from Vinnie and puts them in a plastic bag she’s using for trash.

Vinnie says, “Mom, can I give the bread to the birds. I see some blackbirds by the trashcans.”

“No, Vincent.”

“Why, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom wants to answer with the answer her dad gave her when she was a child, ‘Because I said no,’ but the psychologist who leads her support group suggested reasoning is more effective.

Vinnie’s mom says, “The birds may be carrying disease, you don’t want to be near them.”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I said no,” says Vinnie’s mom deciding her dad is smarter than the psychologist.

“Okay. When we go inside can I get a hot dog, some fries, and a 42 ounce Doctor Pepper?”

“No,” says Vinnie’s Mom.

“Which part are you saying no to, Mom? Okay, I won’t get the fries,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad opens the side SUV door and says, “Let’s go, Vinnie. I want to make Albuquerque by five.”

“No hot dog, fries, or 42 ounce soda for Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad answers, “Okay.” 

Vinnie’s dad and Vinnie walk toward the travel station. Vinnie’s mom watches them. Vinnie’s dad has his hands in his front jean pockets. Vinnie has his hands in his front jean pockets. She see’s Vinnie and his dad talking. It gives her a fuzzy warm feeling. Dexter interrupts the idyllic scene chasing after Vinnie and the scent of hotdogs grilling for over 24 hours inside the travel station.

Vinnie’s mom grabs Dexter’s leash, leaps out of the SUV and looks like an Olympian sprinter. She hollers, “Vinnie. Vinnie. Here’s Dexter’s leash. Grab a hold of him before he gets hit by a car.”

Vinnie and his dad stop and turn. Dexter skids to a stop next to Vinnie, the magic genie who understands canine culinary tastes better than anyone on the planet. 

Vinnie’s mom catches up to Vinnie and his dad. She hands the leash to Vinnie. “I’m going to the restroom. Dear, will you close the van doors and lock them? Vinnie, leash Dexter and wait here out of the way for Dad. You and Dad take Dexter for a walk before you go inside.”

Vinnie looks over at Dexter lifting his right leg against stacked cases of bottled water outside the travel station. He turns back to his mom, “We don’t have to, Mom. Dexter will be through in a minute. Want us to put him back in the van?”

“Why Can’t We Eat Barbeque, Mom?”

12

Vinnie fell asleep holding Rupert. Dexter was sleeping on the floor at Vinnie’s feet. Vinnie’s dad was traveling on US 87 through Big Springs, Lamesa, and Tahoka before reaching Lubbock, home of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. 

Vinnie’s mom says, “Dear, should we stop and take a bathroom break? My bladder’s nearly full.”

“Mine is too. We’ve had two hours of peace. Do we want to give it up?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Maybe we can take turns going to the restroom and let him sleep,” offers Vinnie’s mom.

“Amarillo is a little less than two hours. Should we chance it? There are hardly any places to stop on this road. The small towns have the big rough tough looking cowboy types,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Are you afraid a cowboy will steal me?” chides Vinnie’s mom.

“No, we have Dexter and Rupert to protect you.” Vinnie’s dad says and laughs. “Let’s stop, we’ll have to sooner or later. I can get gas and we can get to our motel at a decent hour.”

Vinnie’s dad signals to exit. At the end of the exit ramp is a red light. He stops. Suddenly from the seat opposite Vinnie, Dexter presses his nose against the window and begins barking that turns into a howl hitting every note on the B major scale.

Vinnie opens his eyes, he rubs them, and turns toward Dexter, “What’s wrong, Dexter? What’s wrong?”

Vinnie’s dad now wishing he held it says, “Nothing. I think Dexter saw a dog.”

Vinnie’s mom regretting suggesting they stop says, “Dexter stop.” Dexter interprets Vinnie’s mom’s words as “It’s food time,” and howls even louder.

“What’s wrong with Dexter, Vinnie? Can you get him to quiet down?” asks Vinnie’s mom. 

Vinnie’s dad considers going through the red light hoping it will stop Dexter’s howling.

“Dad! Dad! Dad! I know the problem. Look! Look! Look!” hollers Vinnie gesturing with his finger to something outside the SUV.

“I’m driving, Vinnie. I can’t look,” says his dad.

“No, Dad. You’re not driving. You’re at a red light. Why are you looking at your iPhone. I think looking at cell phones while you’re driving is against the law. Will they put Dad in jail in the police catch him, Mom? Will they, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom reaches over and takes the iPhone from Vinnie’s dad. “Vinnie, Dad won’t go to jail. I have his iPhone,” says Vinnie’s mom. “What is Dexter barking at?”

“Can’t you smell it, Mom? Look in the parking lot near the gas pumps they’re barbecuing. Can we have some barbecue, Mom? Can we? I’m starving.”

“No, Vinnie. We are not going to eat Barbecue.”

“Why, Mom. Why?”

“Because, Vincent?”

“Because why, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom takes a deep breath. She wonders if Google has an answer. Vinnie’s mom believes life would be so simple if Google could answer most of Vinnie’s questions. She says, “Because barbecue isn’t healthy.”

“Why do they sell it, Mom. If it’s bad, why do they sell it? Why, Mom?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Mom’s a vegetarian, Vinnie. Vegetarians think meat is bad for you.”

“Why does she let you and me eat meat, Dad? Why?”

“The light turned green, Vinnie. I’ll have to answer it after we go to the bathroom.”

“Can we buy barbecue for Dexter? He’s only part human. The other part is beagle.”

“Does it ever end?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“What, Mom? What do you want end?” asks Vinnie.

“Afraid not, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad.