|Van by: Abe Sluka|
At age 6 she had received her first bad haircut from a delinquent basement hair dresser who unevenly clipped her already short hair. "One ear's a bit too low!" she heard Red say. It was in the sure hands of Red the barber that her butchered head now rested. Her Dad joked with his trusted barber as the girl heard the clippers evenly buzz the misshapen mishap. Red was quite adept at cutting hair for men and boys. She now resembled the latter. Even the promise of a Dumdum sucker couldn't quiet the distress of her uneasy stomach. To counter the masculine fix, she accompanied her mother and sister to the mall to right this gender confusion. So this was how she came to have her ears pierced.
Wincing at her tender ears she watched her Dad pack the nude color van and pop-up camper with rolled sleeping bags, boxes of food, chilly, green coolers, and golden suitcases purchased for a honeymoon. They loaded themselves into the van, too. A Mom, a Dad, two brothers, a sister, an Aunt, a recent widow, and a girl foreign exchange student from Ireland. Early that morning they hit the road towing the wobbly camper behind them.
She sat next to her Aunt in the back seat. Her Aunt explained to the girl that she needed to carry in her purse salted peanuts encapsulated in an old medicine bottle. Without a healthful dose of protein she'd get sick. Shuffling a deck of cards in her small hands, the girl asked her Aunt to play a game of rummy. Her Aunt declined citing the need to closely follow the Dad's driving route. She was going to make a scrap book of their trip once home and needed to record accurate data. So, the girl pulled out a safety pin with embroidery floss and pinned it to the seat in front of her. She tied knots making stripes of color--pink, yellow and white--as she listened to her Mom read aloud Where the Red Fern Grows. The book was on her brother's summer reading list which he was trying hard to ignore. So, the book was passed amongst the literate passengers each reading a page or two. After awhile the girl grew sleepy and climbed into the rear of the vehicle nesting in a little square which her Dad carved out for her. Among the stacks of bags and boxed sandwich fixings, she fell asleep to the lull of the road.