Monday, August 29, 2011

Crazy Summers with Isabel Kunkle

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Please welcome the fabulous Isabel Kunkle to the blog today! Isabel is the author of Hickey of the Beast, which you can add to you reading list and see my review of by clicking the title.

She's here to share a kooky summer story (which I adored reading) and give away some goodies too! Don't forget to leave a comment, and enjoy!

The first thing I have to say here is that my father is deranged.

There’s a fair amount of evidence supporting this--the man came within a stern phone call from his mother to naming me Bathsheba, for God’s sake, and I caught him dancing to the blender once—but none more telling than this: when I was ten years old, he started driving the family to Pennsylvania for summer vacation.
That might not have been a big deal, if we hadn’t lived in California at the time.

So: four people, one Volvo—later a Suburban—seven days on the road. Have I mentioned that my sister and I are a year and a half apart, and that we fought like cats in a sack when we had a whole neighborhood open to us? Have I mentioned that Dad got us up at 5:30 in the morning in order to get the most driving time in? Or that he had a schedule that involved, I swear, picoseconds?

He’d update us about our relationship to said schedule, too.  We’d get back in the car after a stop, and Dad would shake his head—in the resigned manner of a man bearing stoically with whatever divine curse had made him sire daughters who needed to both eat and go to the bathroom—and inform us that we were seven minutes behind schedule. In fairness, he also told us when we were ahead.

Usually at six in the morning.

So, when we pulled into a little town somewhere between Amarillo and the gates of Hell, we were all just a little glad to get out of the car. Yeah, the fold out bed in our motel didn’t have sheets on it, but the management promised to send them up. Yeah, there were some suspicious stains on the ceiling, but…how much time do you spend looking at motel ceilings anyhow? We dropped our suitcases, de-pretzeled our spines, and headed off to the only restaurant in town, which was adjacent to the other motel.

…annnnd also to a slaughterhouse. Well, hey: at least we knew the meat was fresh, right?

And there was probably a perfectly good reason that two long black cars were parked in front of said slaughterhouse at 8 PM.  Yep.

Inside, the restaurant featured the kind of vinyl chair your butt always sticks to when you’re wearing shorts, puke-yellow walls, and the smell of nicotine and despair. And no alcohol: it was a “dry county”, so my father had to purchase some sort of membership card in order to have a beer.

I don’t remember the food, for the most part. I suspect this is some kind of Lovecraft-esque thing where my mind has protected itself by blotting the memory from my recollection. I do, however, remember that our appetizer plate was deep-fried vegetables, which…okay…except that the selection included both carrots and jalepeno peppers. Carrots and peppers look surprisingly similar when deep fried.

This is unfortunate.

The highlight of the evening, or at least the bit that has lodged firmly into my family’s collective consciousness, came when my father asked the waitress about dessert.

She tucked her cigarette behind her ear. “Well, there’s pie, hon,” she said. “But I wouldn’t eat it if I were you.” Leaning forward, she dropped her voice like a convict passing a message in the exercise yard. “It’s microwaved.”

Since she’d gone to such lengths to warn us, we felt we should heed her advice.

Somehow, we survived the evening, and even the rest of the road trip. My father and I were fated to return to the place some years later, as part of a cross-country move: him, me, and the dog, in a series of wacky hijinks that involved me standing in the farm equipment section of Wal-Mart during a tornado warning.
But that, as the man says, is another story.


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