Vinnie Embarrasses His Dad


“Ninety-one splashes of poop on the wall, ninety-one bottles of poop. You take one down and pass it around, their are ninety splashes of poop on wall.”

“Vincent, stop singing that song. It is disgusting,” says Vinnie’s mom. Vinnie’s mom starts rubbing her temples.

“Which part, Mom?” asks Vinnie.

“How much further to Flagstaff, Dear?” asks Vinnie’s mom. “I feel like we’ve been riding for twenty hours straight without a stop. How long has it been since our last stop?”

“Thirty minutes. Here’s something to brighten your spirits. It’s only sixty miles to Flagstaff. You can see the mountains in the distance. The highest mountains still have snow on their peaks. We should make it there by five,” says Vinnie’s dad. Before Vinnie’s mom responds, he says, “Vinnie, what has been your favorite part of the trip so far?”

Vinnie’s mom bows her head and puts her hand over her eyes. Vinnie’s dad glances over and sees Vinnie’s mom’s lips moving. “What are you saying, Dear?”

“A Hail Mary.”

Vinnie says, “I’ve got lots of favorite things so far, Dad. I’m making my top ten list. When I’m through making my list, want me to read it to you and Mom? If you like it, I’ll ask Mrs. Navis if I can read it in front of the class when I go back to school.”

Vinnie’s mom twists a bit toward Vinnie’s dad, “I am not going to get you out of this one. Your on your own.”

“What do you mean, Dear? What harm can come from Vinnie making a list of his favorite things so far on the trip?

“Have you been listening at all for the past seven hundred miles? Hello, Earth to the International Space Station, please come in,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad says, “This is a difference between you and me.”

“Oh?” says Vinnie’s mom. “I want hear it.”

Vinnie’s dad avoids eye contact and pretends he’s concentrating on driving. He says, “I look at the bright side of everything. I can find good in almost any circumstance. It’s one of the things noted on my annual evaluation. You should try it.” A pause. the front seat quickly fills with the chill of an early winter. Vinnie’s dad attempts to turn on the emotional defroster, “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

Vinnie’s mom stares straight ahead, her arms folded across her chest.

The tension breaks when Vinnie says, “I’ve finished. It was hard because I had to leave off some of the best things that happened so far.”

Vinnie’s mom looking for an opening says, “What is one best thing you left off your top ten list, Vinnie?”

“That’s an easy one, Mom. It almost made the top ten. The top ten were the best ever.”

“Well?” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Yes, Vinnie. Tells us the top best thing you left off your best things list,” says Vinnie’s day making a failed attempt to charm Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie opens his notebook. He says, “Rupert will read it. He is a very good reader. I don’t think many grizzly bears can read as good as Rupert.” 

Vinnie places Rupert on his lap and holds his notebook in front of Rupert. He uses his falsetto voice as Rupert’s voice, “The best thing that happened that wasn’t on the list happened when we stopped in Gallup. When Dad came out of the men’s room, his zipper was down. Some kids were pointing and laughing at Dad and he didn’t know it.” Vinnie now speaking in his voice, “Dad, is your zipper still down?”

Vinnie’s mom says, “We haven’t started the top ten list, Dear. I want to hear your positive spin on this one. Please two hands on the wheel, you can zip your pants when we reach Flagstaff.”



The Psychologist Said, “Vinnie is Going Through a Stage”


In the infinite space between the beginning of 20 Questions and awareness the game started, Vinnie’s mom recalls her family singing songs they all knew and how they laughed when they made up words. She wonders for a millisecond if it might work with Vinnie and decides against it. Vinnie will either sing in Rupert’s falsetto voice or howl like a dog and tell her it’s Dexter. Singing is out. 

What are you thinking, Dear? asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Oh, uh, what I will do when it’s my turn. You know I’m going to win,” says Vinnie’s mom careful not to bring the singing thought up in case Vinnie wants to go with it. 

Vinnie jumps in, “Don’t be too sure, Mom. Rupert and Dexter want to play.”

Vinnie’s mom turns toward the rear seat, “Vincent, Rupert and Dexter can watch, they cannot play this game.”

Vinnie’s dad grabs hold of the steering wheel with both hands. He takes a deep breath and releases it slowly hoping it will stem an anxiety he feels rising within him.

Vinnie says, “That’s not fair, Mom. You’re jealous of Rupert because he’s smarter than you.”

Vinnie’s mom feels the overwhelming urge to say, “Rupert is a stuffed grizzly bear. He cannot think. He cannot talk. He’s made of cotton, glass eyes, and plastic toenails.” The psychologist told her that it’s appropriate and healthy for Vinnie to fantasize, assuring her Vinnie will outgrow the stage. Following the psychologist’s advice, Vinnie’s mom says, “I admit Rupert is a genius. It won’t be fair to have him in the game. He’ll win each round.”

Vinnie’s mom feels a sense of pride in how well she handled this delicate situation. 

Vinnie’s says, “It’s too late, Mom. I already passed my turn to Rupert. He’s going first. Right, Rupert?”

Vinnie holds Rupert up to face him. He shakes Rupert’s head affirmatively and answers in Rupert’s falsetto voice, “I’m ready to play.” 

Vinnie turns Rupert around to face front. Vinnie’s Mom says, “Dear, say something. Help me here.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Rupert are you thinking of something living?”

Vinnie’s mom says, “I’ll show Rupert who’s the smartest.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “It’s only a game.”

Rupert says, “Game on. It could be living and it could be dead.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Oh, oh.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “Vincent, something is either living or it’s not living. Now, which is it?” 

Rupert answers, “Mom, it’s my question, not Vinnie’s question.”

“I am not your mother, you dumb grizzly bear,” the thought rushes quickly through Vinnie’s mother’s mind. She says, “Excuse me, Rupert. Can you explain what you mean when you say ‘it could be living or it could be dead?’

Vinnie turns Rupert around to face him. Vinnie’s mouth moves but no sounds come from it. Periodically, Rupert shakes his head. Vinnie turns Rupert around to face front. Rupert says, “It’s living most of the time, but sometimes it’s dead. That’s one question. You only have nineteen more.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Is it grass?”

“No, eighteen questions.”

“Dear, no wild guesses. Let’s ask more questions,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I thought it was a good guess,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“It was the worse guess ever, Dad,” says Vinnie.

“Why was it the worse guess ever?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Seventeen questions,” says Rupert.

“How much further to the hotel, Dear,” says Vinnie’s mom.

From the rear seat in a falsetto voice, “Sixteen questions.”


Vinnie Thinks His Mom Would be Cool if She Made Long Burps


“Dad, Dad, Dad, can Dexter and Rupert play too? Don’t feel bad if they do better than you and Mom,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom quick to remember the painful experience of the game Vinnie invented, says, “No invented games, Vinnie. It has to be a game we all know. It’s only fair.”

Dexter is sitting on his haunches. It’s an automatic response to hearing his name called. Dexter, like all other beagles, learns early on as part of dog etiquette. Dexter knows sitting on his haunches tells humans he is a beagle with good breeding and a strong sense of dignity. 

Vinnie’s mom twists and sees Dexter. She says, “Why is Dexter sitting?”

Dexter’s ears perk up and his tongue drops out of his mouth. 

“Is Dexter smiling at me?” asks Vinnie’s mom. “That is so adorable.” Vinnie’s mom reaches into the overstuffed book bag and pulls out a package of doggie treats. She tears the top off of the bag and takes out three treats. 

Vinnie’s mom hands the treats to Vinnie, “Here, Vinnie. Dexter is the cutest dog, he can have a treat.”

Vinnie reaches for the treats. Dexter’s eyes follow the exchange. His tail now moving to the beat of Ed Sheeran singing a love song. Even the remote possibility of food stirs strong, instinctive romantic images in Dexter’s mind even if he’s neutered. 

“Thanks, Mom. Dexter sit. Oh, you’re already sitting. Good one, Dexter. Shake. Good boy. Stand up. Good boy. Lie down. Good boy. Dexter may be the smartest beagle in the world, Mom. He ate his three pieces. He’s ready to play. We are going to play, Can you see what I see. I go first.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “That’s not a fair game, Vinnie, because you can see things in the back and out the side windows. I have to keep my eyes on the road.”

“Thank you, Dear. You saved us from extraordinary suffering,” says Vinnie’s Mom.

“What did Dad do, Mom? Did he miss hitting an antelope? Did he swerve out the way of a runaway truck? Is Dad a hero, Mom? Is he, Mom?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad glances over at Vinnie’s mom, “Am I a hero?”

How did I weave my own trap? We have seven more days of this vacation and we’re not close to the Grand Canyon. Why didn’t we fly? No, we tried that once and I think Vinnie got us on the Watch List. Whose idea was the car ride? The thoughts rain through Vinnie’s mom’s mind circling and diving deeper and deeper forming a vortex from which few humans recover. Fortunately, Vinnie saves her.

“Rupert says Dad is a hero, Mom. Rupert is the second smartest person I know and the smartest grizzly bear I know.”

Vinnie’s dad always seeking to show his sensitive male side, says, “Rupert was thinking what Mom was thinking. He must be able to read minds. I’m sure Mom is the smartest person in the world.”

“Sorry, Mom. You’re not the smartest person in the world. I have proof who’s the smartest person in the world.

Vinnie’s Dad attempts thought projection into Vinnie’s mom’s mind telling her to let Vinnie’s comment go. He quickly realizes Vinnie’s mom set up a barrier blocking incoming thought projections.

“If I am not the smartest person you know, I want to know who is the smartest person you know,” says Vinnie’s mom sounding hurt.

“Mom, can you take your finger off?”

“That’s a silly trick, Vinnie. It has nothing to do with intelligence,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Can you take quarters out of my ear?”

“There are no quarters in your ear and there never were quarters in your ear,” says Vinnie’s mom already knowing where Vinnie is going before Vinnie announces where he is going.

“I think you’re mistaken, Mom. Can you make burps about two meters long?”

“What does burping have to do with intelligence, Vincent?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“Everything, Mom. Gramps said there’s science behind long, loud burps. When he came over last week, he was teaching me to do it. You want to know what he taught me?”

“Your Dad is one of the most interesting and intelligent men I’ve met, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad trying to be sensitive again and again failing.

“What would you think, Vincent, if I made loud, long burps,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie answers, “You would be the coolest mom in the all the world. Can we play 20 questions? I go first.”

“Why Can’t We Eat Barbeque, Mom?”


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.

Vinnie Claims it was for the Science Fair


Vinnie and his family are cruising along on the Interstate heading for vacation in the Grand Canyon. Vinnie’s dad is driving the speed limit. The driver and passengers in the last five cars that past the SUV all stared at Vinnie’s dad. Vinnie’s dad checks the rearview mirror. He stares into it. He taps Vinnie’s mom’s arm. She glances at him. Vinnie’s dad makes a motion with his head and shoulders toward the rear seat. Vinnie’s mom half turns and sees Vinnie pushing his face against the car window. His hands plastered against the window on either side of his face. Each hand holds a piece of paper.

“Vincent!” Vinnie’s mom says sternly.

Vinnie doesn’t answer.

“Vincent, turn around and face front,” orders Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie slowly turns around. He crumples the two pieces of paper and hides them in his fists.

“Vincent, let me have those two pieces of paper,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Why, Mom? I was only doing an experiment,” says Vinnie. 

“What kind of experiment,” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“For the science fair at school this spring, Mom. It didn’t work. I’ll have to think of something else,” says Vinnie.

“The two pieces of paper, Vincent. Now,” demands Vinnie’s mom.

“Here, Mom. Remember, it was an experiment for the science fair this spring,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom reaches for the two crumpled pieces of paper. Vinnie places them in her hands. Vinnie’s mom turns around and faces the front. She sets the papers on her lap. She picks up one of the crumpled pieces of paper and unfolds it. She takes a deep breath. She picks up the other piece of paper. She unfolds it and shrieks, “Oh, sweet Mother of God.”

Vinnie’s dad glances into the rearview mirror and then over at Vinnie’s mom and says, “What?”

Vinnie’s mom says, “Vincent was holding two pieces of paper against the car window. Do you want to know what they say?”

“I have to pay attention to the road. There’s a state trooper behind me. He’s been there for the last ten miles.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “It’s because Vincent wrote Call on one piece of paper and Police on the other piece of paper.” She turns toward Vinnie. “Young man do you know what trouble you’re in?”

“It’s not my fault, Mom. Honest,” says Vinnie.

“It’s not? I know it’s not dad’s fault. And, I know it’s not my fault. So, whose fault is it?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“It’s Rupert’s fault, Mom. He really misses Dexter. Rupert made me write it. He’s afraid Dexter will die of loneliness,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad sees a rest area ahead and signals that he is going to pull into it. He checks his rearview mirror and notes the state trooper has the same intention. Vinnie’s dad says, “The state trooper is following us into the rest stop.”

Vinnie’s dad parks the SUV away from the other cars. The state trooper pulls in next to him. The state trooper gets out of the car and walks over to Vinnie’s dad window.

Vinnie says, “He’s really big, Dad. Do you think you can take him?”

“Vincent, not a word. Not another word unless you are asked to speak,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie Says, “Are we almost there, yet?”


The SUV pulled out of the Doggie Palace parking lot heading toward the Interstate. Vinnie’s mom says, “I’m glad you found your iPhone, Dear. When we get to a city with an Apple store we can see if one of the genius’s can repair it.”

Vinnie’s dad mumbles something.

Vinnie says, “Are we almost there, yet?”

Vinnie’s dad says, “We left Doggie Palace ten minutes ago. How could we be in Albuquerque, when it is over nine hundred miles away?”

Vinnie says, “We could travel on an invisible radio beam and be there in seconds.”

“That’s impossible,” says Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie’s mom joins in, “Vinnie, I believe Dad is upset because you put his iPhone in Dexter’s water bowl. Do you have anything to say?”

There is silence for several minutes.

“Well? Vincent,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Mom, it made the most sense. I didn’t want anyone to steal it and there was no other hiding place that was any good. I asked Dexter what he thought about putting it in the bowl and he said it was a good idea.”

Vinnie’s dad jumps in, “You know Dexter can’t talk.”

“Wrong, Dad. Dexter just doesn’t talk to adults because adults believe dogs can’t talk. This way they can talk to kids. Besides, Dad, I saw on TV the new iPhones are waterproof.”

“It’s not a new iPhone. It’s an iPhone 6.”

“Geez, Dad. It’s time for a new iPhone. I bet everyone at work makes fun of you having something so old. Even Gramma has an iPhone 7. And, my other Gramma has an iPhone 8.”

Vinnie’s mom taps Vinnie’s dad on the arm, “Vinnie’s making a point.”

“Mom, when is it lunch. I’m hungry?” asks Vinnie.

“It’s six-thirty in the morning. I have a snack bag up front with me, what would you like?” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I want a hamburger with fries and extra ketchup,” says Vinnie.

“Vincent, you are not getting fast food on this trip,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Why, Mom? Why? Joey’s mom takes Joey to McDonald’s for lunch on Saturdays and Joey gets a hamburger and fries and sometimes he gets chicken McNuggets.”

“I’m your mom and I don’t think you should that food. It’s not good for you,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s quiet for a brief moment. Then he says, “Mom, do you have a pen and paper I can borrow?”

“Let me look. I like the way you’re thinking of doing something constructive with your time. Here’s an idea, why don’t you make a journal about our trip. You can make an entry every day. Or, if you want, you can make an entry every time you see something interesting.”

“Great idea, Mom,” says Vinnie reaching for the pen and notepad.

Vinnie starts writing. 

Vinnie’s mom turns a bit and says, “What are you writing, Vinnie?”

Vinnie looks up from the notepad and grins. He says, “Do you want to hear what I  have so far?”

“Yes, Dad and I are very interested,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“You sure?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie begins reading, “First day of my terrible trip. Mom and Dad put Dexter in Doggie prison. They have guards with machine guns all around so the dogs can’t escape. And, Mom thinks Joey’s mother should be arrested for taking Joey to McDonalds….”

“Stop, give me that notepad,” screams Vinnie’s mom.