Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
Every other Sunday morning I called shotgun, which meant I also had to load the jugs into the trunk of the station wagon, but I didn’t mind.
“It’s not fair,” my brother said. It was his own fault he was too slow.
“It’s your fault you’re too slow,” I told him.
Old Betsy wouldn’t always start up on the first try, but when it did we felt like it was going to be a good trip, like our own little good luck charm. It almost made up for having to get up at five in the morning on a weekend. Almost.
“It’s your fault you got a big head,” Teddy retorted, sulking from the back seat. It was a lame reply, but he had never been very original.
“And you get to stare at it the whole way there,” I said. “Cause I’ve got shotgun.”
“Both of you, shut up,” our mother said, her eyes never leaving the road for even a second.
If it was up to her we wouldn’t ever hit the road on Sunday mornings. If it was up to her we wouldn’t have an old station wagon that started up on every third try. But it wasn’t up to her, and neither was our dad leaving in the middle of the night and never coming back. It just was, and she expected us to adjust as she always had.
“How come this spring is so far away?” whined Teddy from the backseat. “Why can’t we get water bottles from the store like everyone else?”
“You got money to spend on those water bottles from the store?” asked Mom. Teddy sat there biting his lip. “Thought not,” Mom continued.
I could probably map out the route in my sleep, we had gone so often, the stop at Crazy Eddie’s gas station, the begging for ice cream at Holland Farms, the silence of the back road we turned off on when we were almost there. Then there was the praying that began about halfway there that Old Betsy wouldn’t break down and leave us stranded. It had only happened once, but it was a clear and present worry nonetheless.
“I hope we’re the only ones,” I said, right before the last turn.
“I hope we’re the first ones,” Mom said. “Because if we’re not…”
“There might not be enough water left to fill all our jugs,” Teddy interrupted. We had heard and seen it all before. If we got a late start, Mom said we might as well not go. The spring might have been a secret, but enough people knew about it to make it not quite secretive enough. It was pretty much dried out after filling sixty bottles, like clockwork, so if you weren’t first there were no guarantees. The only time we had was on Sunday mornings when everyone else was getting ready for church, or still fast asleep.
“Maybe afterwards we’ll stop and get that ice cream,” Mom said. But I knew we wouldn’t.