Abby looked at the clock in her mini-van. 6:19 A.M.
“He’s not coming,” Abby said.
“I’m telling you,” Dylan said. “He said he is. Just give him his five minutes.”
Mack emerged from the house in a pair of jeans, a black T-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses with a duffel bag slung over his arm.
“Dylan,” Abby said as her brother approached. “How did you pull this off?”
“I just know how to talk to people,” Dylan said.
Abby popped the hatch and Mack stowed his duffel in the back, then walked around to the driver’s side.
“Shall we give the girl soldier a shot at the wheel?” Mack asked.
“It’s your funeral,” Abby said as she snuck through the pass-through to the back seat next to Dylan.
A giddy Paige moved over to the driver’s side as Mack took the passenger’s seat.
Once all doors were closed, Mack made some announcements.
“Family,” Mack said. “Be advised I am not attending this trip out of a desire for fun, recreation or quote unquote ‘having a good time.’”
“Whatever you need to say, Mack,” Abby said.
“I am attending as the world is a dangerous place and the idea of allowing people I am related to venture off unescorted is an untenable situation in my estimation,” Mack said.
“You love cartoon wombats,” Abby snickered.
“I’ll ignore that,” Mack said. “People, this is the point of no return. Has everyone gone to the bathroom?”
“Sir, yes sir,” replied Mack’s family.
“Good,” Mack said. “Because a premature stop would cause an unnecessary delay. Does everyone have all required medications and assorted items the failure of which to pack would bring our excursion to a grinding halt?”
“Sir, yes sir,” the family replied.
“Excellent,” Mack said as he opened up his wallet. “Boy soldier!”
“Sir?” Dylan asked.
Mack passed the boy a twenty dollar bill.
“You have been appointed quarter master of this operation, the man in charge of procuring all necessary goods and materials,” Mack said. “At our first stop, you will procure me a Red Bull and a bag of Funions. Use any remaining currency to procure snacks and drinks for yourself and fellow soldiers. Have I made myself clear?”
“Sir, yes sir,” Dylan sad.
“Sister soldier!” Mack said.
“Will you stop with the ‘soldier’ bit?” Abby asked.
“Now is not the time to descend into chaos, Abby,” Mack said. “You have been appointed as navigator. Keep an eye on your cell phone GPS and make sure we’re headed to our destination using the best routes available.”
“It’s got a GPS right there,” Abby said as she pointed to the monitor at the front of the vehicle. “See?”
“Oh,” Mack said. “Then take a much deserved nap as a reward for all your labors and be rested for when your driving shift comes.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Abby said as she leaned back.
“Sir?” Paige asked.
“In my career, I have received the requisite training to drive tractor trailer trucks, Humvees, tanks and also to pilot helicopters and all manner of aircraft, light and heavy,” Mack said. “You are now under my command and will be expected to follow my instructions to the letter or be relieved of duty. Have I made myself clear?”
“Sir, yes sir,” Paige said.
“Good,” Mack said. “Take us out.”
Paige immediately put the car in reverse and took her foot off the brake.
“Boom!” Mack shouted.
“What?” Paige asked as she braked.
“You’ve failed to put on your seatbelt,” Mack said. “Had there been a collision, your carcass would have flown through the windshield only to flop around like a fish gasping for air on the hood.”
“Do we need to be that graphic, Mack?” Abby asked.
“The more graphic I am today the less likely she’ll experience such a scenario in the future,” Mack said. “Resume driving, girl soldier.”
Paige started to back out again.
“Boom!” Mack shouted.
“What?!” a frazzled Paige asked.
“You’ve failed to adjust your mirrors,” Mack said.
“I did,” Paige snapped.
“Lies,” Mack replied. “Your mother is taller than you are and has her mirrors set to her liking. You are shorter and if you are unable to see out of your mirrors then it is only a matter of time before you careen this vehicle into another transport and set us all ablaze in an inferno that will seal our doom.”
Paige adjusted her mirrors. “Oh. That is better.”
“Proceed,” Mack said.
Paige did and it wasn’t long before Mack shouted another “Boom!”
“OMG!” Paige shouted as she hit the brake. “What now?”
“You failed to check if anyone was coming on the roadway behind you,” Mack said. “You lucked out this time but had there been a transport, you surely would have killed all of us, all of them, or some combination of us and them. Best case scenario in that situation is you end up badly mangled, recover after years of surgeries and physical therapy, then are forced to live out the rest of your days with the horrendous, agonizing guilt that comes with knowing that your screwup got your family and other innocents killed.”
Paige nodded, checked her mirrors, checked her blindspots, then brought the car out into the road.
“This is going to be a long trip,” Dylan said.
“Mack,” Abby said. “You know she’s never done any highway driving before.”
“Only way to learn is to do it,” Mack replied. “No one taught me how to drive a truck at a hundred miles an hour down a runway as the enemy pilot of an attack helicopter mercilessly deployed a barrage of gunfire and missiles my way. You learn or you die. It’s that simple.”
Paige and Dylan’s eyes lighted up.
“Did that really happen?” Dylan asked.
“That’s classified,” Mack replied.