Episode Eight: The Brownfield Family

Greetings, friends! Today begins the new story arc that I promised you! Today you receive a double episode of the great and glorious adventures of Quin. As always, don’t hesitate to email me with comments or suggestions at alsothemadhairman@gmail.com

Thanks for reading.

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“Are we there yet?”

Minivans are unsuitable for any and all activities. They are too large to be sporty, too small to be utility vehicles, and too ugly to be liked. Besides these obvious downfalls, minivans are used for all means of mode and transportation, including -but not limited to- family vacations.

Families swear by the power of minivans to squelch their children’s enthusiasm, hope, and popularity. Nothing but a minivan can do all that at once. The miles of a family vacation road trip can drag on and on, and the whines of the children can drag on and on, but the minivan stays strong.

A flashing red light on the dashboard turned on.

“Honey?” Mrs. Brownfield said.

“Yeah?”

“It looks like we’ll have to stop to get gas.”

“Aw, dang it. We’re running late as it is.” Mr. Brownfield said. His eyes dipped the gauge. “We can squeeze in a few more miles. These warning light things are always geared to give you some breathing room. We won’t actually run out of gas for a while down the road. We’ll be fine.”

The minivan ran out of gas immediately.

The Brownfield’s had planned this vacation for months.

That is to say, they had expected this vacation for months. Mr. Brownfield had expected how much the trip would cost, had consoled himself with the thought of how much money they would be saving by driving Gettysburg instead of flying there, and what a stud he was being, taking his family on an educational vacation. They would keep these memories for years to come, thinking of him fondly as the awesome father that he truly was.

As you may imagine, this was not part of Mr. Brownfield’s plans. There was no room for the van to conk out. No one ever anticipates their vehicle breaking down, especially a minivan. Being let down by a minivan simply adds insult to injury.

The Brownfield children, Curtis and Sandy, had expected to be trapped for days traveling in an obsolete ugly vehicle to a boring grassy field that had historical markers placed on it. They also expected their father to preen himself over his thoughtful vacation choice.

Mrs. Brownfield expected nothing. She was reading back issues of Better Homes and Gardens.

Cursing under his breath so the children wouldn’t hear him (they did), Mr. Brownfield coasted the minivan over the rumble strip and to the side of the road, barely avoiding a semi truck by inches.

“Darned truck drivers!” Mr. Brownfield fumed. “When I was a kid, they were the safest drivers on the road. Now they’re the most reckless. People just aren’t what they used to be.”

Mrs. Brownfield gently reminded her husband that it wasn’t the truck driver who swerved through three lanes of traffic without using his blinker. He told her to go back to her magazine.

Curtis and Sandy had so far endured three days of blistering boredom and blistering conversation. These were days that God had made headphones and Netflix accounts for. Their father resented their seclusion into their electronic devices. Mr. Brownfield told his kids that they had not embarked on this vacation to give their son and daughter a field trip with their smart phones. They grunted and didn’t look up from Facebook. Since then their father had denied them access to the phone chargers.

Curtis and Sandy had not wanted to go on this vacation. They whined that he was cutting them off from their friends.

“That might do you some good. I say kids these days are too connected anyway. Back in my day, you had to work for information if you wanted it.” Mr. Brownfield said.

“You’re separating us from our friends.” they said.

“You’ll have your phones. You’ll be able to talk to them just as much as you could if you were in your bedroom.” Mr. Brownfield countered.

“But we can’t see them in person.” Curtis complained.

“You never see them in person when you’re at home.” Mr. Brownfield said. He had them there.

“Well, now we won’t have the chance to see them even if we wanted to.” Sandy, the older daughter, declared, desperately trying to close the gap.

The Brownfield children were not on solid ground for debate.

The minivan came to a stop on the side of the interstate, the right wheels in the grass and the left wheels on the shoulder of the road. Immediately a huge semi truck went speeding past, rocking the minivan like a cradle in its wake. Then another sped past. And another.

“Maybe you should call roadside assistance, dear.” Mrs. Brownfield told her husband. He was inclined to agree. His fingers touched his phone and dialed for help.

The Brownfield children started to Google things like, ‘how long does it take to starve when stuck on the interstate,’ ‘how can we get gas when we’re in the middle of nowhere’, and the tried and true, ‘help’.

“Roadside assistance can’t get here for another hour.” Mr. Brownfield said disgustedly.

“What’s taking them so long?” Mrs. Brownfield asked.

“I guess everyone is on vacation today.” the head of the family replied. “There are so many people broke down on the road that they can’t get a truck free to come and help. We’re on our own for now.”

“We could hitchhike.” young Curtis suggested.

“Don’t be a moron.” Sandy criticized. “That’s how you get mugged. The first driver to stop for you would be Freddy Krueger.”

“Who’s he?” Curtis asked.

“He’s before your time, lightweight.”

“There’s no need to get panicky.” Mrs. Brownfield said, clearly panicked. “Help will be coming soon.”

But it was clear to everyone that help was not coming soon, or possibly later even.

That is, until they saw a young man walking past their van along the side of the road, his crazy brown hair blowing in the wind, and carrying a gas can. He had a messenger slung over his shoulder. If you would have asked him what the bag was, he would have called it a satchel.

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