Hour Four

For the first time, Lacey asks, “Are we there yet?” We laugh.

We are , however, in Georgia, a state I love and adore for this reason and this reason only: the speed limit here is seventy, which means I can up my speed to seventy-seven. Aside from that, Georgia reminds me of Florida.

We spend the hour preparing for our first stop. This is an important stop, because I am very, very, very, very hungry and dehydrated. For some reason, talking about the food we’ll buy at the BP eases the pangs. Lacey prepares a grocery list for each of us, written in small letters on the backs of receipts she found in her purse. She makes Ben lean out the passenger-side window to see which side the gas cap is on. She forces us to memorize our grocery lists and then quizzes us. We talk through our visit to the gas station several times; it needs to be as well-executed as a stock car pit stop.

“One more time,” Lacey says.

“I’m the gas man,” Radar says. “After I start the fill-up, I run inside while the pump is pumping even though I’m supposed to stay near the pump at all times, and I give you the card. Then I return to the gas.”

“I take the card to the guy behind the counter,” Lacey says.

“Or girl,” I add.

“Not relevant,” Lacey answers.

“I’m just saying — don’t be so sexist.”

“Oh whatever, Q. I take the card to the person behind the counter. I tell her or him to ring up everything we bring. Then I pee.”

I add, “Meanwhile, I’m getting everything on my list and bringing it up to the front.”

Ben says, “And I’m peeing. Then when I finish peeing, I’ll get the stuff on my list.”

“Most importantly shirts,” Radar says. “People keep looking at me funny.”

Lacey says, “I sign the receipt when I get out of the bathroom.”

“And then the moment the tank is full, I’m going to get in the minivan and drive away, so y’all had better be in there. I will seriously leave your asses. You have six minutes,” Radar says.

“Six minutes,” I say, nodding my head. And Lacey and Ben repeat it also. “Six minutes.” “Six minutes.” At 5:35 P.M., with nine hundred miles to go, Radar informs us that, according to his handheld, the next exit will have a BP.

 

As I pull into the gas station, Lacey and Radar are crouched behind the sliding door in the back. Ben, seat belt unbuckled, has one hand on the passenger-door handle and the other on the dashboard. I maintain as much speed as I can for as long as I can, and then slam on the brakes right in front of the gas tank. The minivan jolts to a halt, and we fly out the doors. Radar and I cross in front of the car; I toss him the keys and then run all out to the food mart. Lacey and Ben have beaten me to the doors, but only just barely. While Ben bolts for the bathroom, Lacey explains to the gray-haired woman (it is a woman!) that we’re going to be buying a lot of stuff, and that we’re in a huge hurry, and that she should just ring items up as we deliver them and that it will all go on her BP card, and the woman seems a little bewildered but agrees. Radar runs in, his robe aflutter, and hands Lacey the card.

Meanwhile, I’m running through the aisles getting everything on my list. Lacey’s on liquids; Ben’s on nonperishable supplies; I’m on food. I sweep through the place like I’m a cheetah and the tortilla chips are injured gazelles. I run an armful of chips and beef jerky and peanuts to the front counter, then jog to the candy aisle. A handful of Mentos, a handful of Snickers, and— Oh, it’s not on the list, but screw it, I love Nerds, so I add three packages of Nerds. I run back and then head over to the “deli” counter, which consists of ancient turkey sandwiches wherein the turkey strongly resembles ham. I grab two of those. On my way back to the cash register, I stop for a couple Starbursts, a package of Twinkies, and an indeterminate number of GoFast nutrition bars. I run back. Ben’s standing there in his graduation gown, handing the woman T-shirts and four-dollar sunglasses. Lacey runs up with gallons of soda, energy drinks, and bottles of water. Big bottles, the kind of bottles that even Ben’s pee can’t fill.

“ONE MINUTE!” Lacey shouts, and I panic. I’m turning in circles, my eyes darting around the store, trying to remember what I’m forgetting. I glance down at my list. I seem to have everything, but I feel like there’s something important I’ve forgotten. Something. Come on, Jacobsen . Chips, candy, turkey-that-looks-like-ham, pbj, and — what? What are the other food groups? Meat, chips, candy, and, and, and, and cheese! “CRACKERS!” I say, much too loud, and then I dart to the crackers, grabbing cheese crackers and peanut butter crackers and some of Grandma’s peanut butter cookies for good measure, and then I run back and toss them across the counter. The woman has already bagged up four plastic bags of groceries. Almost a hundred dollars total, not even counting gas; I’ll be paying back Lacey’s parents all summer.

There’s only one moment of pause, and it’s after the woman behind the counter swipes Lacey’s BP card. I glance at my watch. We’re supposed to leave in twenty seconds. Finally, I hear the receipt printing. The woman tears it out of the machine, Lacey scribbles her name, and then Ben and I grab the bags and dash for the car. Radar revs the engine as if to say hustle , and we are running through the parking lot, Ben’s robe flowing in the wind so that he looks vaguely like a dark wizard, except that his pale skinny legs are visible, and his arms hug plastic bags. I can see the back of Lacey’s legs beneath her dress, her calves tight in midstride. I don’t know how I look, but I know how I feel: Young. Goofy. Infinite. I watch as Lacey and Ben pile in through the open sliding door. I follow, landing on plastic bags and Lacey’s torso. Radar guns the car as I slam the sliding door shut, and then he peels out of the parking lot, marking the first time in the long and storied history of the minivan that anyone anywhere has ever used one to burn rubber. Radar turns left onto the highway at a somewhat unsafe speed, and then merges back onto the interstate. We’re four seconds ahead of schedule. And just like with the NASCAR pit stops, we share high-fives and backslaps. We are well supplied. Ben has plenty of containers into which he can urinate. I have adequate beef jerky rations. Lacey has her Mentos. Radar and Ben have T-shirts to wear over their robes. The minivan has become a biosphere — give us gas, and we can keep going forever.

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