Excerpt of The Vacation by Polly Horvath
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On Friday my teacher and the principal sorted out the
homework with me, as well as giving me a Critz Elementary
T-shirt to wear in Africa.
"Don't worry about a thing," they said. I know it's one
of those things that people say and they meant it kindly,
but surely they can't imagine that someone whose
mother has been lost in Uganda is ever going to be able
to put it out of his mind for long.
The odd thing was that once we hit the road, for a
while I did. For one thing, there was the giant ball of
Aunt Magnolia and Aunt Pigg argued in the car all the
way to the giant ball of string. They argued about
whether it was just another giant ball of string or the
world's biggest ball of string. They argued about whether
when Aunt Magnolia's doctor said, "Please leave," she
meant her office or that Aunt Magnolia was well enough
to travel. They argued about whether they should stop at
their house in Floyd and get their swimsuits and cruise
wear for warmer weather or whether to go on and buy
stuff on the road as needed. But Aunt Magnolia wanted
her cell phone, so they returned to Floyd and stopped at
their office, where half a dozen assistants waited on them anxiously. They told the office staff to give my parents the
cell phone number when they would inevitably call, having
tried and failed to reach us in Critz. Then we went to
their house, but I did not get to see the amazingly small
backyard because they, rudely, did not invite me in but
left me in the car while they packed. Then we were back
on the road and I returned to sprawling in the backseat.
Aunt Magnolia should really have been sprawled in
the backseat because she wasn't well enough to sit up all
day yet, although, thank goodness for small favors, she
was past the point where she was going to ooze blood all
over the car. That would have made the trip impossible.
But she seemed to think seat position denoted rank, and
she refused to be relegated to backseat status. Instead, she
lowered the front seat until her head was almost resting
on whatever part of me happened to be lounging behind
her seat. In case of an accident we would probably end
up wound together like one huge sticky lump of dough.
It did not bear thinking about.
After they came out of their house and threw their
suitcases, presumably packed with cruise wear, into
the trunk, they spent the rest of the drive arguing about
whether all their cruise wear was suitable for a Virginia
beach. I would like to go on record as saying that by the
end of the day I hated them both all over again with a renewed
passion that might have been invigorating but was a little disturbing at times. You don't like to find yourself
pausing in your day to plan the best way to tie your relatives
(no matter how unlovely) to railroad tracks.
By the time we finally reached the giant ball of twine
(it was not string, as Aunt Pigg had said it would be; this
started another argument), we were all hot and thirsty
and less interested than we might otherwise have been. I
wanted to go into the museum and gift shop devoted
to Colonel Beaumont Wilke's twine obsession. For one
thing, I was desperate for some time out of the car. But
Aunt Pigg and Aunt Magnolia, having found a Coke machine
outside the museum, decided this was excitement
enough and refused to take me inside because of the
small admission charge and their sudden passion for
"After all, if we are to stay at the beach for a month or
two or three, until your parents return, then we must save
our pennies," said Aunt Magnolia as we shared the one
Diet Coke she had bought.
Aunt Pigg chose that unfortunate moment to put a
dime into the Coke machine, preparatory to putting fourteen
more in, and Aunt Magnolia slapped her hand. I
think she had meant to just sort of flick it away, because
when it made more solid contact than that, she looked as
surprised as Aunt Pigg and me.
Excerpt from Vacation by Polly Horvath, pages 34-39. Copyright . 2005 by Polly
Horvath. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC in 2005. All rights
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