On the Road Again
The wind chimes sang a beautiful tune despite the storm that was brewing within the dreary clouds. The sound of things moving from one place to another was filling the entire house for the fourth time. The walls were bare, except for that white shelf next to the TV because that didn’t come here when we did. The only sound in the entire white-walled house was the sound of boxes being transported from one base to the next. It used to ruffle my feathers, but now I’ve gotten better at accepting it.
But I don’t fully accept it.
I hated South Carolina more than Missouri and Tennessee combined. It didn’t feel right to be in the other states and it still doesn’t feel right to be moving to more states. By the time I’m twenty, I’ll probably have lived in at least half of them. I just want to go back to the state before the others. Life was amazing until we had to move away from Mom. Dad never told me, nor did Christian. Christian knew because he always made that stupid face he makes when he must negotiate a lie. It’s like the face when you bite into an orange expecting it to be very sweet and juicy with the perfect amount of sweet and sour, but then you get hit with all sour and no sweet and it burns your taste buds.
That parrot has been my best friend since the beginning. He’s been adventuring with me since I first moved to Missouri seven years ago. Well, he’s been adventuring since I’ve lived most of my life in South Dakota with my old family.
“Primrose! Let’s go! It’s a twelve-hour drive from South Carolina to New York!” Christian called out from the bottom of the staircase.
“Hold up!” I called out to him as I searched my empty room for my stuffed parrot. I don’t know why I can’t find him. There’s nothing to look under and there’s nowhere for him to hide. Everything’s in the moving truck. I opened my old closet door and found him lying on the floor as if he didn’t want to leave. He was doing the same thing that I was doing when we had to move from Missouri to Tennessee. Now, I didn’t know what to do. I went, obviously, but that didn’t mean I didn’t try and resist it. It wasn’t not up for debate though.
I heard footsteps pounding up the stairs and grabbed the parrot as quickly as I could. Christian barged into my room and rolled his eyes at me. “You almost forgot Parry didn’t you?”
“No! I’d never forget Parry. I was just …” my voice trailed off as he raised an eyebrow at me. “I was just … thinking …”
“How many times do you need me to repeat this before it sticks in your brain like sap on a tree? Moving to New York will be amazing.”
“That’s what you said the past four times! And has it been amazing? No!” I crossed my arms and stroked Parry’s wings. “Why did Dad have to marry someone in the military?”
“Because he loves her.”
“But he loved Mom.”
Christian sighed and rested his hand on his forehead. “He loves Aurora. Now are you coming?”
“Yeah, I’m coming.”
More footsteps came up the stairs, and a woman with slicked back brown hair peeked her head through the doorframe. I dusted Parry off with my hand and held him neatly in the crook of my arm.
“You comrades heading into the van or what?” she asked sternly. My brother and I straightened our stance and nodded our heads. “There better be no resilience to orders in this bunker.”
“No, not at all Ma’am,” I said with a straight face as she looked me up and down.
She smiled as she walked over to me and slung her arm over my shoulder and pulled me close to her chest. “No need for formal terms, we’re family now!” She let me go and looked directly into my eyes. “It’s not new to you anymore. I remember your scared ten-year-old self after I married your dad. You did not want to move to Tennessee, but I had been stationed there, and we made a promise to travel as a family.” I smiled a tiny smile and let her continue her story. “You barely spoke to me for the longest time. Christian wanted to hear all the stories about military life and what it’s like to live in a bunker and train to be a part of the US Army.” Christian laughed and nodded his head. “But us women need to stick together.”
“Like sap to a tree.”
“Like sap to a tree.” She intertwined her pinky and index finger with mine as we did our little handshake. It always ends with my favorite pose, fluttering wings. My right thumb and her left thumb connected as we waved our fingers to imitate a parrot flying high above the trees in the rainforest. As much as I despise her military stories, I admire her courage and strength. I wish I had as much strength as her.
Dad honked the horn seven times and Meta-Mom signaled for a Casevac. We walked in unison and our footsteps matched up exactly. It took years for me to master the left, right, left, right, left walk because I didn’t exactly give it my all. I thought it was dumb, but treated it as another adventure, which isn’t dumb at all.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in the car with my seatbelt buckled and Parry on my lap with my backpack full of snacks at my feet (a secret from Christian because he’d steal my orange gummies and chocolate bars full of orange jelly).
“Alright everybody, say goodbye to Pineville!” Dad waved goodbye to the house and backed the car out of the driveway. Meta-Mom saluted to it, Christian smiled a toothy smile and I leaned against the window.
I’m not mad or upset that we’re leaving Pineville. I’m upset that we’re not going to South Dakota. I did some research on my computer about New York and apparently, New Yorkers have an ego and an attitude. I hope my new school doesn’t have any kids like that. We’re moving to upstate New York thank God. I hate cities with every bone in my body. Too many people in one place.
Back in South Dakota, Mom and I had a girls’ night out and went to downtown Sioux Falls for the evening and had dinner at Crawford’s Bar and Grill. I really enjoyed their cheese plate and calamari that we devoured for an appetizer. I loved the food at the restaurant, especially the barbeque chicken. It was so juicy, and I added extra mozzarella and my mouth was watering just by looking at it. Mom ate a Caesar salad with extra cheese and croutons, and she enjoyed it. The whole reason she got the extra croutons was so I could put them on my face and make a beak. I loved doing that back home. It felt like I was one of the parrots. Of course, Parry was there. Mom made the waitress get him one of those highchairs for babies or little kids, and I tied a napkin around his neck so his fur wouldn’t get stained. I’d go back in a heartbeat. I just hated waiting an hour just to get seated. Cities take forever because the volume of people that inhabit it is insane. I hate waiting for necessities, and food is a necessity.
Oh, how I miss-
“Bird at three o’clock!” Meta-Mom jumped and pointed her finger at something in the air.
“Where! Where’s the bird!” I ripped my bag open and pulled out my Polaroid camera. My fingers fumbled trying to find the button you need to press to take the picture, but once I found it, I rolled the window down and stuck my head out the car window. I pointed the camera at the sky and looked everywhere for the bird, but I couldn’t spot it. I pulled the camera away from my eye and realized what the “bird” was. It was a helicopter. I slumped back into my seat and rolled the window back up. I sighed as I placed the camera back in its case.
I was really looking forward to taking pictures of new birds on our twelve-hour drive from Pineville to Buffalo, but now I wasn’t so sure. I loved taking pictures of birds and hanging them on my non-permanent Polaroid wall. Most teenage girls have pictures of their friends and their family or whatever on their walls, but I had pictures of Parry and his bird friends. One time, back in Lakeland Tennessee, a beautiful red-headed woodpecker was sitting on my balcony, and I took a picture of it. It came out beautifully, and it’s one of my favorite bird pictures to this day. The red head of the woodpecker came out cleaner than fresh white laundry when it comes out of the dryer. It was impeccable, it truly was. I wondered what kind of birds Buffalo has to offer. Hopefully, something I’d never seen before. Birds native to New York are different than the native birds in South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and even South Dakota. Will they beat the birds in those four states? That was something to look forward to.
“Are we there yet?” Christian groaned half asleep. Meta-Mom whipped her head around and narrowed her eyes at her stepson.
“It hasn’t even been an hour yet,” Dad said with his eyes fixed on the never-ending road in front of him.
“You know Christian, if someone in the military complained like that, they’d be taught a lesson. One time my good friend Diana complained about standing for too long, and the lieutenant said ‘Drop down and give me fifty! Now!’”
“Well, good thing I know how to do pushups,” Christian joked raising his eyebrows at me.
I leaned my head against the window and rolled my eyes. My brother was stupider than the stupidest bird in the sky. He was that one bird in the V formation that didn’t know how to do it or just couldn’t do it. He might know how to do pushups, but is he a better skater than Kevin Fiala?
My brother stopped basketball as soon as he got to Missouri and picked up hockey instead and actually didn’t fall on his face as many times as I thought he would. He was ecstatic because hockey is huge in New York. I was too, but not because I wanted to play it, because I could watch it.
I used to watch hockey all the time back in South Dakota. I did that mainly with Dad, but Mom watched it with us occasionally. There were no NHL teams stationed in South Dakota, so we developed an interest in the team to the right of us. We went to a game once, for my seventh birthday. Dad surprised the entire family with tickets to see the Minnesota Wild play the Buffalo Sabers at Xcel Energy Center. It was a four-hour drive, but boy was it worth it. The entire family played road trip games such as I Spy, Name That Tune, and my personal favorite, One Hundred Bottles of Milk. It took forever for us to get down to zero because Christian’s peanut brain kept forgetting what number came after the other.
Hey, I have a great idea …
“Want to play a road trip game?” I suddenly sat up straight and looked around at the people sitting in the car with me for the past thirty minutes. Dad said nothing, he just kept his eyes focused on the road. Christian had his headphones in, so I wouldn’t be hearing from him for another three hours. Meta-Mom turned around to face me.
“That sounds like a great idea Primrose!” She smiled at me and it made me feel nice. She glanced over at my brother and gave him a poke in the shoulder. He made no movement. She kept poking, and poking, and poking him, but he didn’t budge.
My ears started to bleed because of how loud his music was. I could hear it through the headphones. I grunted and gave him a well-deserved kick to the leg. It felt as though his garbage was drowning the backseat. F this and F that. You little B, F you-
I ripped his headphones off his head and the loudest earsplitting screech came from my brother’s mouth.
“DAD!” I squawked as loud as I could. “CHRISTIAN’S LISTENING TO HIS TRASHY PLAYLIST AGAIN!”
“Shut up Primrose!” Christian grunted as he pried the headphones out of my hands.
“What did I tell you about listening to that unholy garbage son?” Dad scolded while still keeping his eyes on the road. It was as if he was looking for someone, expecting them to be on the same road as him.
Christian rolled his eyes and smashed his finger onto his phone. “It’s not unholy Dad. Everyone listens to it.”
“It’s unholy in this family and you’ve known that since the day you were born.”
My brother flipped me off behind my Dad’s seat so that he wouldn’t see him. I gasped and reached for something stuffed in my orange bag. I pulled out a white pillow and targeted his precious face.
I chucked that thing so hard. If it weren’t a soft pillow, it would have gone right through the window and landed somewhere on the never-ending road.
“Christian Omega, did my eyes deceive me or did I just witness you flipping off your sister?” Dad raised an eyebrow at his son through the rearview mirror.
Huh, so Dad could take his eyes off the road for a second. Maybe what he realized that what he was looking for wouldn’t be there.
Christian threw the pillow back to me, but luckily, I know how to catch things. He crossed his arms like a child, but first fixed his hair like the stupid eighteen year old that he is. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.”
“As a member of the church, we do not curse at anyone like that. God, strangers, and especially not family.”
“She’s just a little b- “
“That kind of kinetic language is not tolerated in the military,” Meta-Mom chimed in.
I placed my hand on my forehead and shook my head.
You try to do something enjoyable in a situation that makes you want to jump out the window onto the cold, hard concreate of the I-77 N. I just want-
“You’re lucky I don’t have the taser on me right now!”
Dang! What drama did I miss?
“I just wanted to play a road trip game,” I chimed in, hoping to get this drastic argument somewhere.
“We haven’t played once since the trip to Minnesota for the hockey game eight years ago,” Christian pointed out as if I didn’t already know that.
“I think that’d be a fun idea,” Meta-Mom’s harsh tone evaporated, and I did a silent prayer, so it’d stay that way for the rest of the trip. “I Spy sound good?”
I nodded, Dad smiled, and Christian shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll go first.” She gazed out the window and into the rapidly changing world around her. “I spy with my little eye, something … green!”
“Your water bottle?”
“No you dumbo, it has to be the sign.”
“None of you are right,” she stated, which shocked us all.
“But nothing else is green, Dear,” Dad corrected as nicely as he could.
“I spied a green jeep.”
I looked out the window and saw no other cars on the highway except for a black Honda, gray Toyota, silver Nissan and … is that a white Tesla? That family was certainly not from South Dako- Carolina.
“I spy with my little eye … something … blue!” Christian exclaimed as he pointed at what he spied.
“You’re not supposed to point genius,” I retorted.
“The sky!” Dad said with his eyes still on the road ahead. “Me next!” He put a finger on his chin like those corny dads do and smirked when an idea popped into his head. “I spy with my little eye something gray.”
“That car that just passed by?”
I rolled my eyes at my brother’s stupid answer. “It’s the road.”
I smiled. It was my turn to take flight now. “I spy with my little eye …” I took some time to stare outside and inside. I wanted it to be tricky, but not too tricky to the point where it was impossible. There was nothing much outside, so I had to look for something inside the car. I looked around the backseat and found the perfect, I mean perfect, thing. “Something orange.”
“Oh, that’s easy. It’s you!” Christian remarked pointing a big, fat finger at me.
My mouth dropped, and I swatted his hand away like a pesky fly because that’s what he was. “I’m tan stupid! It’s summertime!”
The guesses kept coming, but the right answer hadn’t stopped by to visit yet. I watched them guess random things like a charm on my bracelet or a pin on my bag. Christian’s big brain even guessed my bra. None of those things were right. Especially the bra one. God, why was this kid so dumb?
“No, no, no and HELL NO!” I picked up Parry from the seat and pointed at his head. “I spied Parry’s orange head.”
“What! That’s not fair, and you know it!” Christian whined as Dad and Meta-Mom were swapping glances of realization.
I rolled my eyes and ignored my brother. He was the kind of kid that got on your very last nerves doing the stupidest things.
I leaned my head against the window again. I wasn’t about to start a fight during our long car ride. All I wanted was to have some fun and trigger a memory locked away in their brains. I sighed and stared at the constantly moving scenery. Nothing stayed the same for more than a second. The colors just flash before my eyes, then bombarded me with even more of them. It was too much sometimes. Just when I got comfortable with what I saw and where I was, I flew away as if I were never there.
I looked down at Parry. At least I’d had someone in my flock. Even though the migration is tough, the destination is somewhat worth it. As long as I had Parry with me on the voyage, I’d be okay.