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Grumpy Vacation, Part 2 [WL2019]

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posted on Sep, 15 2019 @ 06:42 PM
Grumpy Vacation, Part 1

More ATS shorts.

When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was my dry mouth - dehydration was setting in. It was going to be a problem.

The dysphagia normally only affected my ability to take food. And though its severity fluctuated, I've never been capable of eating all that much, which was a double-edged sword: keeping a trim figure was easy, but putting on muscle was a perennial issue. I learned to work with it.

But in full-summer heat at Tahoe's elevation, dehydration would become a medical emergency if I couldn't take water. I got up and went to the shower; while washing, I tried for a swig of the hard motel water with the same resulting coughing fit as at dinner the night before. After settling down, I experimented and discovered I could pass sips of water - perhaps a quarter teaspoons' worth, perhaps equivalent to a typical volume of saliva. Any more than that caused a fit of coughing, spluttering, choking.

It was better than nothing. 'As long as I can take a sip of water, I'll be fine,' I thought.

The fan in the bathroom provided poor ventilation; steam lingered after I turned off the shower and the mirror remained fogged over. Exiting the bathroom into the main area of the room, I was greeted by studied vanilla talking head blather on the Weather Channel, which the wife had turned on after she and the daughter had woken up and started rummaging around in the kitchenette. They were in their pajamas and robes and the wife was spreading jam across gluten-free toast.

"Baby, I hope you don't mind, but I rifled through your wallet so I could get all the cash together and budget the remainder of the week...but I didn't find much. Where's the rest?"

A weatherwoman on the television reported thunderstorms in the northeast and the fingernails of both my hands dug into their respective palms; my lips pursed slightly.

There *really* wasn't a lot of money. She didn't know.

"Squirreled away safely in my suitcase," I lied. "If you didn't find it I guess my hiding spot worked..."

Her puzzled expression broke into a smile, "Always thinking one step ahead..." She resumed jamming gluten-free toast. Blackberry.

My chest heaved up and down in relief as I took what felt like my first breath in thirty seconds. I didn't have enough opportunity to exit the room before she continued: "I feel better now. I was like, 'How are we supposed to last three more days and get home on less than a hundred and fifty dollars?'…"

(I do lots of stupid things, e.g., buy bad, expensive dinners; give big, undeserved tips to bad waiters; accept "free" vacations. Frequently, this results in lost track of cash balances.)

There was gasoline, food, and activities - the most inexpensive I could conceivably find in tourist country still surely more than back home. Furthermore, one must remember the expense built-in to even nominally "free" activities; e.g., the parking fee at the trailhead; the price-gouged bag of organic trailmix for the hike itself; the overpriced first-aid foam to treat the minor blisters afterward.

"…but anyways," the wife continued, "I forgot to pack sunscreen. I noticed a 7-11 down the street on the way back from Zephyr Cove last night. I'll go there to buy sunscreen before we head out for the day."

"I'm already showered. I'll go," I offered.

"That works too." She lowered the second pair of gluten-free bread slices into the bowels of the toaster and glanced at the television. "Speaking of heading out for the day, sounds like it's going to be *hot*. What should we do?"

The daughter leapt into action. "SWIMMING!" she interjected, her mouth full of masticated toast and jam. "LAKE! LAKE! SWIMMING!"

"Complete sentences, sweetie," the wife said sternly.

I couldn't not snicker. "Are you trying to be funny?" I asked, stifling derision.

"What?" she replied.

"Nevermind." The irony of the wife committing the exact grammatical misuse she scolded the girl for. I've erred similarly, certainly? Nevermind that now nevermind that now nevermind that now. Focus. A lakeshore beach is probably one of the cheaper activity options; opting for it this early in the vacation would be like taking 'chance' on one's first turn in a round of Yahtzee, but afterall, that the daughter suggested it reduces the probability of problematic volatility from e.g., "boredom", i.e., wanting to do something else entirely…something likely involving either ice cream or "prize tickets", *plus it is* going to be a hot day: it's the natural order of things that people go swimming on a sweltering summer day AND nobody will suspect that inept planning was the reason we're not going to Six Flags or Hershey Park or Hollywood Squares or whatever goddamn thing…

"What…daddy?" the daughter said, making squinty eyes and wrinkling her nose.

Christ. How much of that did I say out loud?

The wife looked at me in a (mostly) mock-serious expression. "Aaaaare you feeling okay?"

I produced convincing laughter to dismiss the growing discomfort in the room. "Just making sure you're both listening."

Again, the wife's puzzlement broke into a smile and a light chuckle. Her eyes brightened and softened when she smiled. "Well. It *worked*."

After forcing myself to take a couple sips of water - a chore that by then I had generally come to regard with antipathy - I shoed myself. Having made myself shod, I put one of the keycards in my pocket and left on foot to buy the sunscreen.
edit on 15/9/2019 by DictionaryOfExcuses because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 15 2019 @ 07:04 PM
It *was* going to be a hot day. It was still early enough that there was a light dew, but it seemed to sizzle away by the moment as the sun climbed higher, beaming down through anorexic high sierra pines.

I arrived at the 7-11. My feet crunched on road grit and broken bottleglass as I crossed the parking lot to the front entrance. As I reached out to open the door, a *California Lottery Lucky Retailer* decal in the window caught my eye. A bell rang as I crossed the threshold.

The clerk was a short, balding, well-fed man of indistinct Asian descent. He wore glasses with Cokebottle lenses and his eyes looked buggy through them as he looked up to greet me. He resumed tapping red-and-white cans of soup with a cheap pen, jotting final tallies on a sheet on his clipboard, and I located toiletries and sundries hanging on pegs and sitting in dusty shelf bins in a small section on the rear wall of the store.

Didn't need Trojan.

Didn't need Vicks.

Vaseline, Chapstick, Selsun Blue. No, no, no.

Didn't need Preparation H at that particular moment.

Eureka! Banana Boat. I picked up a tube and turned for the cash register. I felt a pang of thirst as I passed by the cooler with colorful bottles of cold Gatorade and pop. So close, yet so far away.

The clerk was behind the counter by the time I arrived. "Hi," I said, setting the tube of sunscreen on the counter, which had one of those windows through which scratch-off lottery tickets are displayed.

The clerk lifted the sunscreen close to his eyes to examine it. "Aaaaah. Solah prohtection. Belee, belee smaht," he said. I faked a conciliatory smile as he proceeded scanning the barcode, then averted my gaze back down to the scratcher tickets: bingo scratchers, blackjack scratchers, even slot machine scratchers.

My family's financial need was fresh on my mind. Perhaps I fell prey to the marketing of the "Lucky Retailer" decal on the front door and a streak of plain old wishful thinking got the best of me.

There I was. South Lake Tahoe, California.

There I was. Spitting distance from the Nevada stateline at Stateline, Nevada.

There I was - at the doorstep of the land of slot machines, poker tables, roulette wheels - with the sudden itch to play the scratchers?

The rest of the world seemed to darken away, and suddenly I was behind the wheel speeding down a narrow and twisting road through the blackest hour of night, fleeing from a monster that dines only on the headlamp-light of the damned, a monster closing in…closing in, but wait just within the horizon of my headlamp light: scratchers. Scratchers growing near, nearer, full of promise. Beautiful scratchers, reflecting the light of my headlamps with their glittery print. I'm getting closer…closer…closer…

I pointed into the ticket case. "I'll take six Crossword Prospectors." They were twenty dollar tickets.

The clerk cocked an eyebrow. "A man who know when to pray safe…" he said, first gesturing to the sunscreen, then to the lottery display "…and when to just pray. Behhhhhlee guud." He tore the tickets from the stack and totaled the transaction. I thrusted nearly the remainder of the cash across the counter. The change was an odd mix of bills and coins; I pocketed all of it except for a penny, collected the tube of sunscreen and lottery tickets, and left the store.

I sat down on the curb, which was starting to feel warm itself. I had the strange sensation I was being watched, and turned to look toward the end of the building. Indeed, there was someone looking at me, and even through his crooked Ray-Ban aviators I could see that his eyes were squinted almost completely shut. Only his head protuded around the corner of the building; he wore a brown fedora crammed over browner hair, and had a bushy but vaguely odd-looking beard.

As soon as I noticed him, he smiled an odd, embarrassing smile - like a kindergartener faking a big smile for class pictures.

It was like watching myself smile.

His eyes then opened as wide as possible and his head jerked out of view. I watched, waiting for him to reemerge, for several moments.

Satisfied that the stranger was gone, and with penny still in hand, I began the ticket scratching, making sure to remove *completely, thoroughly, remove* the scratch-off ticket coating to each corner and edge because nobody, nothing, not even this wax-like filth, will obscure my fortune, obfuscate, agitate, agitate, agitating - yes, like the voice - nevermind that now nevermind that now nevermind that now the voice is gone first revealing my letters, then matching them up with words on the grid the voice isn't coming back ever not ever again until finally I had scratched all my letters off the grids on all six tickets and left each one completely clean; I composed myself.

A(n identical) list in the margin of the tickets showed the number of revealed words corresponding to its cash prize.

I counted up the number of revealed words, referring to the list in the margin. The first ticket was a loser. The second ticket paid for itself. The third and fourth were losers. The fifth ticket was a thousand dollar winner.

The fifth ticket was a thousand dollar winner.
edit on 15/9/2019 by DictionaryOfExcuses because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 07:11 AM
Well done ... My luck I would have been walking the parking lot looking for a quarter (25 cents) and trying to figure out what I was going to tell the wife !!

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 08:09 AM
That was an entertaining read, but the winning dollar amount, I am sure, is not enough to rid your main character of his grumpiness.

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 09:31 AM
a reply to: InTheLight

You sir/miss are exactly correct!

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 11:05 AM
Didn't dare comment last night, I was waiting for the next

I remember reading this last month and this was a very good continuation, I can imagine a number of different ways it can go.

...and is it weird that I see Will Wheaton playing this guy?

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 11:14 AM
a reply to: Argen

Thanks Argen. I wrote the 1st part over a year ago and it took me a bit longer to come to the this story than I intended. I have three other big storytelling projects, and am very distractable to begin with. Will be knuckling down on this and completing it sooner.

Will Wheaton of Stand By Me and, much later, Star Trek TNG? That's a cool thought...I always liked his acting.

posted on Sep, 16 2019 @ 10:48 PM
I enjoyed your story.

posted on Sep, 17 2019 @ 01:03 AM
Ohh: zactly the same feeling as Argen; read it, loved it, but was waiting for the other shoe to drop, ... or not... LoL !

Love your writing style.

Can't wait for the suite, to find out if you saw a guy on a boat, when you were at the beach.

posted on Sep, 18 2019 @ 06:30 AM
a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses

sf cool story bro

posted on Sep, 24 2019 @ 12:17 PM
a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses

You said You didn't want Your Score Tallied, BUT I gave You a Star and Flag anyway, because this was a Good Read!
Nicely Done!!

edit on 24-9-2019 by SyxPak because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2019 @ 07:02 PM
a reply to: SyxPak
a reply to: PillarOfFire
a reply to: Nothin
a reply to: Onlyyouknow
a reply to: Argen
a reply to: InTheLight
a reply to: 727Sky

But there's more! You see, I counted and recounted the revealed words on the clean, shiny ticket, checking (and re-checking) the payout table after each tally. Sixteen words. $1000. My entire body settled and a brief sense of relief washed over me: the remainder of the vacation and journey home would be fully-funded and I wouldn't need to sell plasma or anything else of the sort.

I paused for a moment to thank whatever deity had spared me over. Traffic had steadily increased on the street; several cars filtered into the parking lot, idling as their operators bought coffee and cigarettes. The whistling and chirping of mountain chickadees, sonic wallpaper just a moment prior, rang triumphantly, heralding relief if not outright victory.

I stood up from the curb and composed myself, relaxing any trace of the crooked, hubristic grin I felt twisting into my countenance, and reentered the store to redeem the scratcher.

The clerk glanced, then did a double take with a mischievously congratulatory grin. Arriving at the counter, I placed the winning tickets* in his outstretched hand. "First time I see you," he said, "I know. You have belee guud fortune." His gaze fell to the tickets, which he then inspected one by one. "Mhm. Mhm. Oooooh. Congraturations. But…" He thrust the big winner back to me, pointing to small print on the back of the ticket. Bewildered, I squinted my eyes into focus and read:

'Cash prizes greater than $600 must be claimed either by mail or in-person at a California Lottery District Office.'

The words chafed in my mind. My jaw clenched. "You mean I can't have the money?"

"NOOO! You rucky! You winner! You *can* have monies! I pay small monies," he said, holding up the twenty and thirty dollar winners, "Big money, you get in Saclamento."

That was only an hour away. To drift away from the wife and daughter for a couple hours was totally feasible; I'd already started mentally inflating a raft of excuses when the clerk continued, "You go tomollow."

"Why tomorrow?"

"Office open Monday to Fliday."

I must've had a vacant expression, because he continued, "…aaaand today Sunday…"

Rocks. My raft sprung a leak. *Of. Course.*

Crestfallen, I collected $50 from the small winners and walked back to the lodge. As I walked, I mock-read the label on the tube of sunscreen. (It helps to keep the eyes busy occupied. One of those things you pick up.)

* Attentive readers will waste no time in pointing out a conspicuous lapse in continuity: six tickets were purchased at the 7-11, yet only five were reported as scratched. The explanation for the ostensible mistake, however, is more straightforward than it appears. It is during several undocumented moments - occurring between the initial stupified realization of winning and the ensuing word recount/prize verification - that the sixth and *truly* final ticket (a $30 winner) was discovered and scratched.
edit on 11/1/2019 by DictionaryOfExcuses because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 2 2019 @ 06:57 PM
The daughter was slouching on the love seat dressed in her swimming suit, staring at the television. It wasn't obvious she noticed I had entered the room until she said, "Mommy's in the shower. She doesn't feel good."

"Uh oh. I'll go check on her." I set the sunscreen on the coffee table, made a quick stop in the bedroom to stash the scratch-off tickets in my suitcase, then went to the bathroom door and gave a gentle knock. There was a groan - barely discernable over the fan and the static of showerwater pelting the showerwall, but unmistakable nonetheless - and the wife answered, "Yes?"

I opened the door: lifegiving moisture! Beautiful, dynamic, amorphous steam, dancing chaotically to the drone of the lint-choked ceiling vent. I breathed in. "It's me, honey. Got the sunscreen."

Her voice chippered. "Oh, great." Her hand pulled the shower curtain back, and her face appeared. "Thanks, honey."

"I'm gonna take a piss." I stepped all the way into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. "Heard you're not feeling good. You want to stay in and have a lazy day?"

She disappeared behind the shower curtain as I stood before the toilet unbuckling my belt. "Oh…" she started, "It's nothing..."

My piss, the volume of which would have failed to fill even a popcan, was the color of maple leaves in late October.

The wife continued, "We ought to go have fun. While you were gone, I found a beach on my phone. It's not too far and it sounds nice. Bishop's Landing, I think. Just give me a couple minutes."

I zipped up and left the bathroom. While the daughter and I waited, I was filling our water bottles when my phone beeped conspicuously at me. I opened the screen - it's a flip-phone - and read: 25% Battery!!! 'Thanks for letting me know,' I thought. I folded the phone and shoved it back into my pocket.

By then, the wife had joined us in the main room and was massaging sunscreen onto the daughter's back. "Would you like me to put some of this on your back, too?" asked the wife.

"No thanks," I said, continuing softer, "No amount of sunscreen will help me now."

"What, honey?"

"Nothin. Let's get outta here."

posted on Nov, 2 2019 @ 10:55 PM
a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses

Great story and followup mate. I'll get this story book marked. In the first part of the story I was mildly confused at the total winnings from either 5 or 6 tickets scratched but sure enough I see where your character scratched off all six. A good surprise when the 6th ticket sums up and he walks away with at least 50 bucks plus the yet to be claimed $1,000. So I guess he was somewhat stunned at the $1,000 win from the 5th ticket and when cashed in the additional amount was tallied. Hope I got that bit right. My 'sums' ain't that good.

Good comeback. I wouldn't have really worried about the footnote. It all ties in perfectly, although, the face peeking around the corner threw me a bit, I was expecting a robbery haha.

Would like to see what he decides in going about cashing in the $1,000.

Kind regards,

edit on 2-11-2019 by bally001 because: comprehension

posted on Nov, 5 2019 @ 11:50 AM

originally posted by: bally001
I wouldn't have really worried about the footnote.

Oh heavens I feel silly now! (You are correct, both in your analysis of the narrative, and in your above-quoted assesment.)

Perfectionism: it's a blessing and a curse but frankly seems to be a bit more of the latter. At it's basis is ineluctable insecurity, right? I think it's conducive to all sorts of unnecessary tension and conflict, like when that guy parked his Tesla car nex---

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a moment.

You see, while the wife packed our supplies into a totesack*, the daughter and I got in the muggy car and turned the air conditioning on "full blast". The wife momentarily joined us, loading the totesack into the trunk before climbing into the front seat.

She failed to fasten the totesack. Consequently, it was thrown on the first hard turn out of the parking lot. There were several clanging thuds as our stainless steel water bottles flew around in the trunk.

"Oopsieeee," squeaked the wife. I sighed.

Luckily, we didn't have to listen to our water bottles tumble around in the trunk for long. Taking directions from the voice on the wife's phone, it was hardly ten minutes until we arrived at Bishop's Landing, which was on the California side of the lake, hardly off the beaten path from the lodge. We practically could have walked.

The car was only off for a second before the dense heat returned, sparking a brushfire in my thoughts as I realized the sun could kill me. 'As long as I can take even a single sip of water,' I mentally reaffirmed, 'I'll be fine'. It doused the nascent panic.

The wife and I got out of the car while the daughter boxed up crayons that were going soft in the back seat. I opened the trunk and began gathering the scattered water bottles and sunscreen and puzzlebooks and pencils, repacking the totesack.

A shiny new Tesla with tinted windows pulled into the lot and parked on the dented side of our tintless-windowed Hyundai. A couple exited the interloping vehicle: the man had a recent jarhead haircut, stern countenance, and puffed-up carriage; in counterpoint, the woman possessed a wholesome beauty with a friendly, inviting aura…not to mention being very pregnant.

The pregnant woman stood massaging her big round belly, pausing once to shift her swollen breasts, while she waited for the man to unload the car. The wife stepped tentatively toward the pregnant woman.

"Must be trying to relax before the baby comes…how much longer?"

Her words were received with eye contact and a glowing smile. "About three weeks."

The wife further closed the distance between them. The pregnant woman showed no signs of suspicion or alarm! I've never understood how sometimes strangers can meet and seem like best friends so quickly. The air smelled of blacktop and parking lot tar baking under the sun.

"OOOOOOHHHH! Exciting! Is it a boy or girl?"

I finished loading the totesack and was ready to go. I went over to where the wife stood, thinking if she saw me holding the totesack, she would take a hint that we were ready. She didn't; she glanced at me and returned her attention to the pregnant stranger.

"Hon, let's g---" I started.

The wife stuck her just-a-sec finger in the air. "Just a sec," she said.

Anger with words behind it rose in my chest, but I clenched my jaw. 'Let this one go,' I thought. 'Think about something else.' I looked around for an alternative thing for my thoughts to corrode. My eyes fell to the totesack dangling from my hand. 'Those money-grubbing earth-first parasites must've made a zillion dollars off these goddamn things. I wish I'd thought of it first.'

Meanwhile, the pregnant woman continued, "We don't know…we didn't want to know. But other women tell me my bump is hanging low, so we're thinking it's a boy." The man swelled noticeably with pride.

"I wouldn't be so sure," the wife said, pausing to glance toward the daughter, "Back when we were expecting our little one, we wanted it to be a surprise, too. Same story." The man deflated as the wife spoke. His face sharpened into a scowl. He snorted ever slightly. The wife, unaware of his body language, continued, "We were sure we'd have a boy. Oh and we wanted a little boy sooooo bad. Just goes to show you really nev---"

"Stop bothering this woman," I interrupted. The mood - as it so often does when I enter a conversation - blanched instantly. But I kept talking: "Remember when you were pregnant? You hated all the unwanted attention you got." It was true, but nonetheless I immediately sensed it was the wrong thing to say**.

The pregnant woman's smile disappeared and her eyebrows rose to a point in an expression of slight bewilderment, "No, no, it's alright, I---"

The man slung a rugged-looking backpack over his shoulder, slammed his trunk shut and sidled up to the pregnant woman. He and I exchanged glances***. "Let's go babe," he said.

The pregnant woman composed herself, smiling one last time before waddling away. "Nice to chat…take care..."

"You too and good luck with your delivery…" The couple who arrived in the Tesla started walking across the parking lot toward the beach. The wife's smile faded and she said, "I'm not feeling all that well again. I'm taking the car back to the lodge. I'm sure you both can walk back, right?"

I think she was really mad at me.

*A reuseable cloth totesack widely available for purchase at major grocers, often featuring screen-printed virtue-signaling buzzwords, such as "Thrive".

**I later surmised that the comment almost certainly seemed paternalistic to the wife; furthermore, the pregnant woman probably thought I was insinuating her friendliness was phony.

***The contents of this communication, in the mysterious language of the eyes: "Were it not for the tenuous bonds of the social contract, the combat which would otherwise now ensue would conclude only when one of us lay dead."
edit on 11/5/2019 by DictionaryOfExcuses because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 5 2019 @ 02:20 PM
a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses

Hmm, interesting, keep going.


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