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“Where to next, Chief?” Cj asks, craning her neck to see over the steering wheel.

“Indiana. Keep following Interstate 69 out of Michigan. I’ll let you know when to stop.”

It’s Thursday, August thirtieth today, our third day of the trip. After the Big Sable Point, we headed down to Grand Rapids to find a hotel for the night. Cj’s leg was so sore she could barely move, and she shot me death glares almost the entire way there. When we finally made it to the Motel 6, she crawled up on one of the queen size mattresses and refused to move, even after I tried to tempt her with Arby’s. She threw her leg at me instead.

Yesterday, after getting ready for the day, we spent the vast majority of our time at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. That was entirely Cj’s find. Apparently, she’s wanted to see it ever since she discovered it on a friend’s Facebook three years ago. Wheeling herself around, she acted like a little kid in a candy store, rushing around and taking pictures on her phone of everything. She almost dropped it in one of the waterfalls. Twice.

Her favorite part of the day was Leonardo Da Vinci’s horse. I’ve got a picture of her leaning over in her chair and hugging one of the gigantic hooves with a huge smile on her face. Afterwards, we stopped and ate at the Twisted Rooster, where she put me to shame devouring a Duke Wellington and drinking a few too many screwdrivers. I eventually had to carry her up the stairs to our room because she kept ramming her chair into one of the side doors, screaming and trying to “use the force” to get in.

Which is probably why she’s wearing gigantic sunglasses today. Hangovers suck.

After checking out of the motel and loading all of our crap back in the truck, we continued down on Interstate 96 towards Lansing. We stopped at a Sunoco Fuel Mart on the outskirts of the city to top off on fuel and to grab drinks. That was at seven in the morning. Now, we’re on the road again, Cj behind the wheel this time.

“Don’t you have any decent music? Sam Hunt and Hunter Hayes aren’t doing it for me on the radio,” she whines, flipping through the stations.

“Keep your eyes on the road, small fry. I don’t want to die because you can’t see over the dash. I’ll pick something else. Just give me--” I begin to reach for the aux cord, but she snatches it out of my hand and plugs it into her iPhone before I can say anything else.

“Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.”

“Okay Dean. Hand over the phone and tell me what you want, and no one gets hurt.”

“Fine,” she grumbles, tossing it onto my lap and concentrating on the road. Thank the Lord.

“You actually have to tell me what you want so I can play it. That’s how basic communication works.”

“I don’t know. Put on some Chris Stapleton or Sturgill Simpson, if we’re in the country vein.”

Selecting Chris Stapleton on Spotify, I push play on “What Are You Listening To?” and set the tracks to shuffle.

 “There? Happy now, your Majesty?”

She flashes a grin in my direction and flips me off before putting her hand back on the steering wheel.

“Beyond a doubt, peasant.”

Cj works on not killing us after adjusting the ridiculous sunglasses. Today, she’s wearing a pair of Rock Revival jeans and a cut off Metallica t-shirt. It’s a weird combo with the country music, I’ve gotta admit. She makes it look good though, that’s for sure.

“Slug bug! No slug backs!”

Breaking me out of my daydream, she reaches over and punches me, hard. For such a tiny woman, she’s got a hell of an arm.

“What the hell was that for?”

“It’s called slug bug, old man. For every Volkswagon Bug that you see, you “slug” the other passenger in the car. Jesus, get with the times.”

“So, if I see a Bug, I get to punch you? That doesn’t seem like a very nice game.” Holy crap. I’m gonna have a hell of a bruise tomorrow. Good thing there’s a tattoo there.

“C’mon, I’m a big girl. I can take it,” she smirks, lighting her fourth cigarette of the morning.

“I think you’d cry if I punched you.”

“Not likely.”

“I don’t want to test the theory.”

 “Suit yourself.”

About twenty minutes goes by in relative peace before I end up getting sucker punched again.

“Cruiser bruiser! No cruise backs!” she yells, pumping her fist in the air and grinning.

It’s at the last second that I see an ugly purple PT Cruiser with wood grain paneling pass us on the freeway.

I’ve never beat a woman before, but today might be the first time.

“Cj. What the hell? Stop hitting me. I’m not a Bobo doll, for the love of God!”

She turns to look at me, confusion crossing her face.

“What’s a Bobo doll?”

“It’s a… you know what, nevermind.”

“Awww… is someone upset that they’re losing?” she teases, sticking her tongue out at me.

“You’re going down. It’s on like Donkey Kong.”

Sitting up out of my slouched position, I keep my eyes focused on the road, searching for the stupid Bugs or Cruisers that I’m supposed to be looking out for. I’m thoroughly annoyed now.

Another hour passes without seeing any of the target vehicles, and Cj hums along to every single song that comes on, getting on my nerves. Thankfully, I spy the Fort Wayne sign. And a beautiful, black PT Cruiser.

Reaching over, my fist smashes into the side of her bicep. When I pull it away, my knuckles sting from the impact.

“Cruiser bruiser! No cruise backs!” I roar, grinning from ear to ear.

Cj sits in the driver’s seat in shock before her face crumples and she starts sobbing, rubbing her arm.



At this point, she’s howling in pain, and I feel about two inches tall.

“I didn’t mean to hit you--”


“Hey now, you slugged me be--”

“I didn’t try to take your goddamn arm off now, did I?” she growls, pure venom dripping from her voice.

“Cj, I’m sor--”

“No you’re not. You enjoyed that.”

“A little bit, yeah.”

It’s really hard not to laugh at her right now, considering she has her bottom lip stuck out and she’s trying hard not to cry.

“You’re a dick, you know that?”

“So you’ve told me.”

She sits in the driver’s seat fuming, probably plotting a thousand different ways she could dump my body in the back roads of Indiana without anyone knowing. It’s a good ten minutes before she speaks again.

“I can’t BELIEVE you punched me. Of all the stupid, shitty things you could do, you fucking deck me,” she suddenly yells, slamming a hand against the steering wheel and turning to glare at me.

“This is why I didn’t want to play that crappy game. I knew you would cry if I punched you,” I mumble.

“Then why didn’t you tell me or try to warn me that your hit is that hard? God, you’re such an inconsiderate asshole,” she snarls, lighting yet another cigarette.

This is one of those times I have to pick my battles. God only knows how many battles I have left with this woman.


It’s almost four in the afternoon by the time we reach Evansville. The slugging incident forgotten, Cj’s been her usual sarcastic and smartass self ever since we stopped for an early lunch at a Cracker Barrel in Anderson. Having never eaten at one, her eyes were about the size of the dinner plates. She managed to scarf down six pecan pancakes and a pile of bacon before she tapped out. After that, she was ready to forgive me.

“So. There’s this place in Evansville called the Dream Car Museum. Do you wanna check it out?”

“Sure. If you want to, that’s fine by me. Just give me the directions.”


I quickly tap the address into her phone, handing it back to her so that she can get us there. When we pull into the parking lot, there’s not very many vehicles around.

Letting out a breath, I glance over at Cj. “There’s almost no cars in the parking lot. I don’t think anyone’s here. They’re probably closed already.”

“That’s because all the vehicles are inside, dummy. It’s a CAR museum, for Christ’s sake.”

“Well, what time is it?”

She checks her phone. “4:30 pm. Did you see what time it’s supposed to close?”

“It said 6 pm on the website.”

“Alright. Let’s go then.”

“After you.”

“You’re such a gentleman.”

“I know.”

Stepping into the Dream Car Museum is a fantastic dream come true. Hundreds of cars line the walls, everything from a cherry red 2014 McLaren MP4-12C down to a pale green 1934 Ford Woody in mint condition, even a black 1970 Dodge Charger used in the Fast and the Furious. A section of gas pumps that look like they’ve never been used sit roped off in a corner. Vintage neon signs adorn the walls, lighting up the atmosphere in bursts of rich color. My personal favorite is a round blue and yellow Piggly Wiggly sign.

Cj nudges me in the arm, smirking. “You’re gonna catch flies if your mouth stays open like that.”

“I’m sorry. Did you say something?”

She rolls her eyes. “C’mon man. We gotta get you somewhere you can clean your pants.”

“You’re hilarious.”

“I know I am.”

For the next hour, we explore the entire place, peeking in every nook and cranny. I do, anyways. Cj quietly wheels around in her chair, taking my picture every time I ask her to. She rolls her eyes and mumbles under her breath when I pose with a plastic Daisy Duke in front of the General Lee. It’s not until she sees a 1971 Volkswagon Super Beetle that her eyes light up.

“Oh my God! It’s Herbie!” she squeals, racing to get closer.

“Out of all the memorabilia here, you’re most excited to see a Bug? We saw twenty on the way here.”

“First of all, Herbie is a classic. Who knows when I’ll see him again? Second, The Love Bug was my dad and I’s favorite movie to watch together. The 1968 film, not the crappy 1997 remake.”

She’s silent for a minute, studying the plaque in front of the car. Clearing her throat, she turns towards me, holding her phone with her arm extended.

“Can you take a picture of me please?”

“Of course.”

Placing the sunglasses on top of her head, she reaches down and adjusts her t-shirt before trying to position her chair in the right spot.

“Do I look okay?”

“You look fine. Just relax and smile.”

She grins, flashing the camera a thumbs up. Her hair tumbles down the front of her shirt and over her shoulders, creating a tousled blanket of curls that swallow everything in their path. Her tattoos pop in the neon light next to Herbie, casting a blue effect on her pale skin. Cj looks absolutely stunning, and I feel the brick drop in my stomach the way it always does when she smiles.

“Did you get a good one?”

“I think so.” Walking over, I hand her the phone to show her the picture.

“Eww. I look like shit. Take another one, please.”


Taking my original position, I snap a couple more pictures, all the while thinking of the ways Cj and I could utilize Herbie and help him live up to his namesake of The Love Bug.

“Let me see.”

“Why? You look fine.”

She sticks out her bottom lip and pouts, whining. “Tucker, just let me see.”

I hand her the phone, already knowing what’s coming.

“God, I look gross. Take another.”
“I’m gonna take one more, and then we have to leave. It’s 5:55 pm.”


Five more minutes pass by before Cj is satisfied by any of the photos I just spent fifteen minutes taking. Satisfied is the wrong word. Agreed to leave the museum because we almost get locked in is a better way of saying it.

“Man, you suck at taking pictures.” We’re back in the truck, Cj sitting shotgun and flipping through her phone.

“Yeah, well, my model wasn’t very compliant.” Switching subjects, I clear my throat. “Where do you want to eat tonight?”

“Can we just find a hotel and order pizza in? I’m not in the mood for going out.” She’s staring out the window and watching the city fly by, her voice somber.

“Sure. Can you look up a couple different hotels and book a room?”


 She finds a room at an Econo Lodge, but the only room available has one king size bed. The total comes to $68 a night and has continental breakfast. It’s a win for me, but the ball’s in her court.

Turning the radio down, I look at her. “Do you still want to book the room, or keep looking?”

She shrugs. “Let’s just book it. I’m tired.”


It’s almost 7:30 pm by the time I drag all of our crap up the stairs and dump it in the room. Cj sits morosely by the window, watching the traffic on the Interstate roll by, her head in her hand. Digging through one of her duffle bags, I locate a pair of her fuzzy pajama pants and a hoodie, throwing them in her lap.

“Here. Why don’t you get changed, and I’ll order the pizza. Meatzza and parm bites from Domino’s okay?”

“That’s fine.”

She rolls towards the bathroom, stopping by a duffle bag to grab her toothbrush and hairbrush. “I think I’m actually gonna take a shower. I’ll be out in a bit.”

“Sounds good.”

By the time she comes out, I’m lounging on the bed in sweatpants and working on my second slice of pizza, watching reruns of MASH. She climbs out of her chair and flops down on the bed, reaching for a couple parm bites.

I nudge her with my arm, watching her face out the corner of my eye. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just going through some shit right now.”

“That doesn’t sound fine.”

Sighing, she nabs a piece of pizza. “Seeing Herbie at the museum brought a bunch of unwanted crap to the front of my mind. Shit I haven’t thought about in years.”

“Like what?”

She smacks me on the arm, narrowing her eyes at me. “You’re kind of nosy, you know that?”

“You’ve told me a time or two.”

“Yeah. Well, I was thinking about Pa. He took off when I was eight, and I’ve only seen him a handful of times since. He had an affair with another woman, and left me and my brother Kyle with Ma. I haven’t talked to him since I was sixteen. That was ten years ago. I don’t even know if he knows about my condition.” She drops her head and glances down at her missing limb.

“Parents suck sometimes.”

“Here’s the thing though. He didn’t suck. He was an awesome father. He made time for Kyle and I by taking us fishing, being the coach on our Little League team, showing us how to change a tire. You know, dad shit. When he left, I was convinced for YEARS that it was my fault. I mean, why else would he completely stop talking to us?”

“It wasn’t your fault though, or your brother’s, and probably not your mom’s.”

“I know that now, but it didn’t hurt any less when I saw him with his new family at the county fair when I was fifteen. Picture perfect family, really. Blonde wife with huge tits, two little blonde boys and a newborn girl. He had a whole new life. But it didn’t give him the right to forget about his old one.” She lets out a bitter laugh, wrapping her arms around her legs.

I stay silent.

“You know what the shittiest part is? I tried to empathize with him. I really did. Maybe he felt abandoned by Ma. That I could understand. Maybe it was because I was always a troublemaker in school. I could understand that too. Or maybe it was because of Kyle being gay. I don’t know. He probably had a lot on his mind, and I don’t blame him, but I can’t forgive the fact that he just walked away and only popped back up when he needed something. Like when he needed money, or when his new girlfriend kicked him out. Jesus Christ, Ma’s still in love with him, and it’s been sixteen fucking years. Sixteen goddamn years of us not being good enough for him, except when it’s convenient.”

Tears fall like rain from her cheeks, and I’m not really sure what to say, so I do the next best thing. Grabbing her and pulling her to me, I settle her head on my chest and let her cry, rocking her and rubbing small circles on her back. Right now, all I want to do is beat the ever loving piss out of her dad for hurting her like this.

“Shhh. It’s okay.”

Instead of having the calming effect I intended it to, all she does is cry harder, gripping my tear stained shirt like a lifeline. After about ten minutes, her sobbing subsides to a couple hiccups and sniffles. We sit like that for a long time, her legs thrown over mine and with her cradled to my chest. She finally pushes herself up and reaches over me to grab a Kleenex on the nightstand.

“Are you okay now?”

“Yeah. I was gonna make you sleep on the floor,  but can you stay with me tonight? Please?” She looks up at me with huge red rimmed eyes.

Even in her state, it takes all of my self control not to lean down to kiss her.

“Gee, thanks. Only if you promise not to kick me.”

“I won’t. Not very hard, anyways.”

Standing up, I turn the covers down and throw the pizza boxes on a nearby table before crawling back in the bed and shutting off the TV. I plug my phone into the wall charger and set an alarm for seven before laying down on my back. Cj scooches closer and lays her head on my chest again, her hair tickling my nose. I wrap my arm around her before reaching over to shut off the light.

“Goodnight Tucker.”

“Goodnight Cj.”

I love you is the last thought that flashes through my mind before I drift off into a dreamless sleep. 

Submitted: July 03, 2018

© Copyright 2023 A. R. Currson. All rights reserved.


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