The jagged cliff faces look like towering layers of ice cream: strawberry and caramel, with chocolate sprinkles, and green frosting swirled around instead of trees. When the dad slows the station wagon and veers off toward the side of the road, the sisters yelp. Now maybe they can go exploring down the slope of dripping rocks just outside the windows.
Their mom tells the sisters in the back seat they’re staying put.
Their dad parks behind another car. A red Pinto, the hood up as far as it could go, fluffy white cotton candy filling the sky. Now their dad talks to a large man near the Pinto. And now their mom stands beside a woman in the powdered sugar dirt.
Emily tells everyone the lady outside the window is Caramel Sauce.
Charlotte tells Emily not to say such mean things.
Mindy tells Emily she is mean; that’s why she says such mean things.
Lauren, who is close to Emily because they are only twelve months apart, tells Emily not to listen to anyone. The lady is Caramel Sauce.
Soon their dad and the large man climb into the front seat. Their mom pokes her head through the open door and tells the sisters to get in the very back, but tells their little brother to stay put. They belly over the seat and pile onto the duffle bags full of clothes. A boy the sisters had not seen before climbs in and sits next to their brother, followed by their mom, and then Caramel Sauce. Charlotte murmurs to her sisters the boys are the same age and they nod.
Charlotte stares down at the boy’s voluminous hair, how thick and wavy it is, and fights the urge to plow her fingers through it.
Mindy fights the urge to yell because her brother’s duffle bag beneath her smells like it’s full of throw up.
Emily fights the urge of telling everyone that the large man in the very front seat, sitting next to their dad, is just plain old Vanilla. Instead, she murmurs in Lauren’s ear.
Lauren fights the urge of telling everyone that the large man in the very front seat, sitting next to their dad, is just plain old Vanilla.
When the boy turns around and stares at the sisters, his eyes are big saucers of whipped cream with dollops of hot fudge in the centers.
Vanilla tells everyone how he is so, so thankful they stopped. And to just drop them off at the first gas station with a phone booth, and my yes, that would be so, so wonderful.
Their dad tells Vanilla he’s been there, broke down in the middle of nowhere, more times than he could count.
Caramel Sauce tells everyone that if you have to break down, what a place to break down.
Their mom tells Caramel Sauce to look outside — there! — through that window.
Caramel Sauce sings like aaaaaaaah and it’s another planet’s magnificent colors — so, so —
Vanilla hosannas like my yes, so, so — my yes!
Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including CHEAP POP, Spelk, and New Flash Fiction Review. Along with teaching creative writing and literature courses in Arizona, he reads fiction for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://dancrawleywrites.wordpress.com/.
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