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Let's Just Talk About Pretzels
Colin turned the dial clockwise on the car radio. CCR blared loudly as their truck coasted along the open road.
“Can we stop for a pretzel or something?”
His daughter was sitting in the seat next to him, one ear bud in her ear, staring dramatically out the window.
“At the next truck stop, sure honey.”
She sighed, put the other ear bud back in her ear and closed her eyes.
The sign up ahead read: Wisconsin 100 miles. Colin didn’t remember how they ended up this far east but he wasn’t upset about it. They needed to get away. He needed to get away.
“Why are we doing this dad?”
Colin slowly turned to his daughter, “you know why Kenny.”
“I don’t know if I do anymore.” Her ripped jeans revealed her slender legs as she lifted them up on to the seat, hugging them with her arms. Her chestnut hair was visible beneath her navy blue hood. Colin watched her for a second. Such a simple movement and yet it insinuated so much emotion inside of him.
His knuckles turned red from gripping the steering wheel so hard. He readjusted the ball cap on the top of his head and took a deep breath.
“Because. It’s Christmas.”
“It’s June 16th.”
“No. It’s Christmas. And during Christmas we drive across the country and stay in a place that no one knows about. It’s a family tradition kiddo.”
Kenny looked down at her hands. “Dad?” She said softly, “Can you pull over?”
Colin gave her a concerned look, nodded and pulled the truck over at the next possible patch of dirt.
“Dad I…” She paused, studying the silver clasp on her wrist.
“What’s wrong Kenny?”
“They told me I was supposed to let you play out the scene until you understood,” Kenny muttered, “until you forgave yourself.” A single tear ran down her cheek and she quickly wiped it with the back of her hand.
Colin looked confused, rubbing his eyebrows with his thumbs. “I… we’re meeting your mom in Milwaukee. It’s almost dark, we need to go.”
“Dad. Mom’s dead. She died driving east on Christmas 3 years ago.”
“No she didn’t!”
“Then explain this.” Kenny pulled up the sleeve of her hoodie to reveal a large scar, white with a pale pink border. “Mom and I were driving to Milwaukee 3 years ago on Christmas, to see you. Because you were working and didn’t have time to fly home and spend the holiday in our car like always. We hit black ice. The car rolled 3 times. But you know this dad! The doctors told me if I keep telling you, eventually you’d choose to remember.” Kenny was looking up desperately at her father, the moody teen persona completely faded, in its place a sad girl.
Colin twirled the wedding ring on his finger and breathed deep. After a few minutes he pulled back on to the highway.
“Lets go get you your pretzel eh? Your mom’s waiting.” He produced a weak smile and began to once again drive down the interstate, turning the radio dial back up so CCR was once again their only distraction.