The Road Trip

Deborah Hendrick on Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Richard Gillette waited until his family had been eating about ten minutes, then raised his voice slightly and announced, “I’ve decided that when we drive to Grandmother Lovey’s house this weekend, we won’t listen to the radio or CDs, or iPods, Elizabeth. Instead, I want you girls to read aloud, from any book you choose.”

They all stopped eating, four pairs of eyes widened and stared, and Elizabeth dropped her fork. Please clear your selections with your Mother,” he spoke into the quiet, “who will also read to us.”

“Daddy?” asked Jeannie, “all my books have pictures in them.”

“That’s fine, darling. You can tell us what the pictures look like if you want. It will help us enjoy the story.”

“Richard. Eight hours on the road?” said his wife, Jean.

“We’ll take turns; the changes and breaks will make the trip go faster.”

“Well I hope you like Ivanhoe,” snarled Elizabeth, “because I have to read it for English class, and I’m not wasting my time reading something else.” She modified her voice. “If that’s ok with you, Mother.”


The Gillette family was on the road by seven o’clock Saturday morning, and once Richard had cleared the city traffic and was cruising on the interstate, he asked, “Who wants to read first?” There was no response.

“Perhaps I’ll start us off, then,” said Jean. “Paul Gallico wrote this story, about a cat named Thomasina.”

One hour and fifteen minutes into the trip, Richard pulled into a favorite road-side rest stop, because by the time the second child had arrived in the family, he’d learned that road trips were measured neither in miles nor hours, but by potty stops.

“Can I read my book now?” asked six-year-old Jeannie. Four heads nodded yes. “Ants in My Pants,” she announced, and held the book up so everyone could see it. Then she began to read in a voice very much like Miss Bethany’s, the story lady at the library.

Jean smiled at Richard. Richard looked in the rear-view mirror and smiled at Melanie, who smiled at Jeannie and offered her a pillow to rest her book upon. Elizabeth, seated behind her father, stared out the window.

They all cheered for Jeannie as she finished her book. It was funny and since Dad had never heard it before, he was especially pleased. Some of the words were hard, but Elizabeth helped her.

The Little Red Hen was a favorite restaurant on the way to Grandma Lovey’s house, and stopping at eleven o’clock meant quick service. “Two family size orders of chicken strips, with all the trimmings,” he ordered. “And your most excellent chocolate pudding cake for dessert.


Back on the road it was Melanie’s turn to read, and they all enjoyed her choice of Hank the Cowdog. That Hank and his friend Drover could get into more trouble, without even trying. But Melanie’s eyes gave out quickly, and she said her stomach felt funny, so she closed her book, closed her eyes, and said it was Elizabeth’s turn.

In a voice pitched lower than usual, but careful and clear, Elizabeth began to read from Ivanhoe.

“In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys .”

She read for an hour, stopping only to take sips of water, and they were all drawn into the story. Gradually her voice normalized, and the miles flew by. Jeannie laid her head in Melanie’s lap, and Melanie stuffed her pillow in the corner of the seat and the door, and leaned into it.

They stopped again, at the girls’ favorite roadside emporium, which coincidentally, sold gasoline at the highest possible price the market could bear. It pained Richard to fill up there and he never did if he were by himself, but happy females (of all sizes) and pristine restrooms were a joy worth paying for. Not to mention premium peanut patties, freshly-made caramel corn, real limeades, and those raspberry jelly and coconut sponge cakes found only in quick stops, which his wife oddly craved occasionally.

Jean took a turn driving, and Melanie said it was time for Daddy to read, that he could read from Mommy’s book about the cat. With a bit of drama, he gave his best female voice to Thomasina, until Jeannie protested and said “Just read, Daddy.” So he settled down, too, and told the cat’s story.

In the twitch of Thomasina’s whisker, they were at his mother-in-law’s house. There was Lovey, fragrant from fresh-grated lemons and dusty with flour, running down the steps to welcome them all in. It was a favorite scene.

How had he, Richard Gillette, previously a man alone in the world, come to be selected, and elected without doubts, the head of this tribe of women? None of them helpless or frail, but strong-willed and determined, and himself made a better man because of them, though he felt like a lion-tamer every now and then.


If pulling into Lovey’s driveway was a favorite event, then sitting around her dining table was tops, because Lovey was a caterer. And on the evening when a long day rewarded her with her daughter and son-in-law, and her trio of granddaughters, Lovey set the table with the finest examples of her work.

Small steaming cups of delicious consommé, and appetizers both dainty and hearty. She made all their favorites, though why his daughters should have acquired a taste for caviar at such an early age was still a mystery to Richard. Creamy cucumber sandwiches, and tiny rolls of smoked salmon on her homemade rye bread, topped with sour cream dill sauce. Thin slices of proscuitto wrapped like tissue paper around surprise fillings—amazingly tied with slim strands of carrot laces. And Richard’s favorite, fragile, flaky pastry cups filled with tart lemon curd. Enough to founder on.

Lingering over the meal, even the girls reluctant to leave the table, Richard said, “Lovey? Come live with us. Or we’ll buy you a house if you want, or buy a bigger house. We can build you the kitchen of your heart’s desire. But you’re too far away, and we need you.”

They all stopped. Five pairs of eyes widened and stared, and Elizabeth dropped her fork. “Oh!” she squealed, “Lovey, please say yes. I’ll be your assistant and carry the heavy things and do the washing up. What ever you want, Lovey. Oh, say yes.

“Can I be your second assistant, Lovey?” asked Melanie, assuming it was a done deal.

“You are full of surprises Richard,” said Jean, smiling. “Please say yes, Mother. Because I have a surprise too; I’m going to have a baby.”

“A baby? Like a little brother?” asked Jeannie.

“Might be,” said Lovey, eyeing Richard’s astonished face. “Your Dad could use some reinforcements,” she said with a laugh.

Lovey rose, and fetched a dusty bottle of Springbank scotch from the back of her pantry. She poured a finger for herself, and two fingers’ worth for Richard. “Jean dear,” she said, “You’ll just have to kiss Richard for your taste this time.” She tipped her glass to Richard’s. “To Jean,” she said, “and to the baby.”

“I want my name, Mrs. Lovelle Grace, in gold leaf on a sign. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, YES!” shouted Elizabeth. She picked up Jeannie and danced her around the dining table. Jean began laughing. and then crying. Richard pulled her to her feet and danced her around the dining table too.

“Well, Lovey,” said Melanie. “I guess some of us have work to do,” and she began stacking the plates.

Topics: Short stories

One Response to “The Road Trip”

Kelly Says:
July 24th, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Sweet. l


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