The Pickett Family Vacation
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This story should maybe be titled, "The Pickett Family Resurrection."
I wrote this story centuries ago (more or less). I entered it in a story contest where it failed; then I lost interest in it and track of it. In another article I posted on Faithwriters, ("Accepting or Rejecting Criticism") I mentioned this story and started to feel nostalgic about it. I did like those silly Picketts! I've tried to rewrite the story as best as I could from memory. If it's no good, I'm sure the original was much better! Happy Reading.
P.S. This story is just for fun. Please don't bother looking for a moral to it (unless it be, "A place for everything and everything in its place," -- or possibly, it's always so irritating when the person who keeps on offering obnoxious, unwanted advice ends up being right that it's a good idea not to reject any advice too strenuously.) Okay, I guess maybe it could have a moral or two.
Every year, the Pickett family went on vacation to their cabin in the mountains.
This year, the car was packed, the children were strapped into the back seat, and Mr. Pickett was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel while Mrs. Pickett made one final check of the house to see if anything had been forgotten.
She emerged from the house carrying a large box. In the box was the inflatable dinghy the twins always used for paddling around the little mountain lake.
"Good thing I made one last check," she called to Mr. Pickett. "We nearly forgot the twins' rubber dinghy. They never could have managed on vacation without it."
Mr. Pickett said nothing in reply, but his face said plainly that he wasn't positive the twins couldn't have managed just this one vacation without their rubber dinghy.
"Where do you expect me to put that?" Mr. Pickett inquired politely of his wife.
"Oh, just anywhere. It doesn't matter. Put it in the trunk," she answered airily.
"The trunk?!!! I barely got it closed as it is."
"Oh, well, then. I don't know. Put it at the children's feet. They don't need the leg room."
"That's where all the blankets and the picnic basket are. There's absolutely no room in the car for anything else."
"If you repacked the trunk, I'm sure you could fit it in. You probably just haven't arranged things properly."
Mr. Pickett said nothing but opened the trunk and began taking out every item. Out came the suitcases and the beach toys and the kitchen items and other unidentified boxes and his briefcase.
He studied the pile thoughtfully, and with an engineer's eye for design, began repacking the trunk, shifting and shuffling items until he was satisfied he was making the best use possible of the space. With a small chortle of triumph, he closed the lid. And it stayed latched.
Then he noticed his suitcase still on the ground beside the car.
He muttered something under his breath.
"What did you say, dear?" Mrs. Pickett asked him. She'd been following the repacking process with great interest and an occasional piece of advice.
"I didn't say anything."
"You forgot your own suitcase," she observed helpfully.
"I know I forgot my suitcase."
"It doesn't matter. You'll just have to start again. I'm sure if you'll listen to me this time when I'm trying to help you, you'll get it all in."
"I'm not unpacking that trunk again," Mr. Pickett said firmly.
"Oh, well, then. Do it your way." Mrs. Pickett settled herself into the front seat of the car and consigned her husband to his fate.
"Where are you going?" she called after him as he made for his shop.
"To the shop," he said shortly.
"What do you want there? Haven't you packed everything you need already?"
There was no answer. Mr. Pickett was rummaging noisily through drawers and corners in the shop.
"Why is nothing ever where I leave it?" he demanded of no one in particular as he came back to the car.
"It's because you don't put things back where they belong," his wife told him. "My mother had a saying I live by, 'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' If you'd do the same..."
Her husband cut her off with, "I know where I left my rope, and it's not there now. Every piece of rope or binder twine I own has vanished out of the shop. Do you have any idea why?"
"Oh, that!" his wife said dismissively. "I think the twins were playing with it. I saw them trying to lasso fence posts in the backyard. It might still be there. What do you want with rope?"
But Mr. Pickett said nothing. He was halfway to the back yard.
When he came back, he carried three lengths of rope in his hand.
"What have I told you about letting the kids into my things in the shop?" he asked Mrs. Pickett.
"I didn't let them into it. You shouldn't leave your things lying around if you don't want them playing with them. It's just a bit of rope. Not worth the fuss you're making. What do you need with rope, anyway? It's time we were on the road, not pottering around with some old pieces of rope."
Mr. Pickett said something his wife couldn't hear.
"What did you say, dear?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said at a volume considerably louder than the "nothing" which his wife hadn't heard.
"You said something. I heard you saying something."
"I said, 'I need the rope to tie the suitcase onto the roof rack. There's no room for my suitcase in the car.' "
"Oh, well, then, do it, and let's get moving. We've wasted time enough already."
Mr. Pickett positioned the suitcase on the roof rack and, half hanging upside down from the roof of the car, performed such complicated maneuvers with the rope that it resembled a cat's cradle when he was finished.
"There!" he said, satisfaction in his voice. "That's not going anywhere."
"Good, then," Mrs. Pickett said. "Let's get going. I'm starting to roast."
Mr. Pickett climbed into the driver's seat, felt the ignition, and began patting his pockets.
"Something the matter?" his wife inquired.
Mr. Pickett climbed out of the car and dug deep in his pockets. Then he got down on hands and knees and felt around in the grass.
"Dear, what on earth?"
"I've lost the car keys," Mr. Pickett said in a tone above his normally subdued one. "With all that nonsense with the suitcase, all the gymnastics I was doing, the keys must have fallen out of my pocket."
"Are you sure you had them when you came out? They might still be in the house," Mrs. Pickett suggested.
"I know where I had my keys. I had them right in my pocket when I started tying down the suitcase. And now they're not there."
"Oh, well then," said Mrs. Pickett. And after a pause, "Twins, Bethy, you might as well get out if you want. No sense sitting here sweltering."
Timmy swung his door open hastily, and there was a crunching sound followed immediately by a roar of anguish.
Mr. Pickett got up slowly from his hands and knees, holding the back of his head.
"Are you trying to kill me?" he bellowed.
"How could Timmy be expected to know his father was right by his car door, crawling around on the ground like some kind of an animal?" Mrs. Pickett asked reasonably. "Don't shout at him. It wasn't his fault you lost the keys."
At this juncture, Bethy began to cry.
"Don't cry, Honey. Daddy isn't really hurt. He's just being silly," Mrs. Pickett comforted.
"She isn't crying about Dad. She's just thirsty," Tommy corrected.
"Want dwink, Mama," Bethy said in between wails.
"Of course you do, Sweetie. Twins, will you please take Bethy and get her a drink. From the hose outside. Don't go in the house. I don't need to start cleaning again. I'm going in to see if I can find where you left the car keys," Mrs. Pickett added, addressing her husband.
She was back in a moment with a set of keys dangling from one finger.
"Where..." Mr. Pickett started to ask.
"In the pocket of the pants you had on yesterday. If only you'd remember to put things back in their place. You remember my mother's old saying, 'A place for everything, and everything in it's place'? I take it for my motto, and you don't see me losing things."
Mr. Pickett said nothing but took the keys and got back into the driver's seat.
"Now where are those kids?" he muttered after a moment or two.
The twins and Bethy reappeared from around the corner of the house. Bethy was still wailing, and her red and white dress, frilly socks, and patent leather shoes were soaked.
"Twins give me dwink all ovuh," she sobbed.
"Twins, what on...what did you have to go and do a thing like that for?" their mother asked.
Timmy's little monkey face was as innocent as he could make it when he answered, "We were just trying to help Bethy drink from the hose, but she wasn't any good at it."
"Oh, well, then. What's done is done. Stop crying, Bethy Honey. We'll just have to get you changed."
"Oh for...Can't she just dry in the car? It's a blazing day," Mr. Pickett said.
"No, certainly, she can't. You know perfectly well that my own brother got pneumonia at her age from riding in a car in midsummer with the windows rolled down with wet hair -- in both lungs!"
Mr. Pickett wisely refrained from asking how Mrs. Pickett's brother had managed to get wet hair in both lungs, and Mrs. Pickett took the dripping Bethy into the house.
When she came back, Bethy was still wearing the wet clothes.
"I'm sorry, Dear, but you'll have to get her suitcase out. All the dresses I had for her are in her suitcase."
"There's no way on God's green earth that I'm...her suitcase is at the bottom of the trunk. She'll just have to get pneumonia, I guess."
Bethy began to cry again.
"Don't cry, Baby. Daddy doesn't mean it. He's just cross today. I guess she'll just have to wear some old rag from the back of her closet," Mrs. Pickett said and shot her husband an injured look.
"I guess she will," he said firmly.
Bethy and her mother vanished into the house again. Mr. Pickett drummed his fingers and hummed aimlessly, but the humming didn't have a pleased sound to it. The twins had disappeared from sight.
Mrs. Pickett and Bethy were soon back, Bethy looking less smartly-dressed but much drier in an old sundress.
"Now where are those twins?" Mr. Pickett grumbled.
They weren't far away, and the family was soon loaded into the car without further mishap.
Mr. Pickett released a long whoosh of breath as he started the car and backed out of the driveway.
A mile or so down the road, he pulled the car into a gas station.
"Get my wallet out of the glove box, will you?" he said to his wife and got out to remove the gas cap.
In a moment or two, she poked her head out the window and signalled to him.
"Your wallet's not here," she said, wrinkling her brow.
"What do you mean, it's not there? Of course, it's there. You just can't see a thing when it's right in front of you, that's all. If it was a snake, it would have bitten you."
"Oh, well, then. Look for yourself," she said stiffeneng her spine straight in her seat.
Mr. Pickett looked for himself in the glove box. He discovered a map of Idaho, a handful of loose change, one navy sock, the buckle off a belt, a plastic doll's arm, and a pair of sunglasses missing an arm, but no wallet.
Everyone had to get out of the car and search their seats, but no wallet was turned up. Mr. Pickett proceeded to disembowel the trunk one more time, but there was no wallet there. He tossed out onto the pavement the blankets and the picnic basket from underneath the twins' and Bethy's feet, but there was no wallet among them. Finally, he undid the series of cat's cradle knots securing his suitcase to the top of the car and explored every nook and cranny of his luggage. Still no wallet.
While he searched, Mr. Pickett didn't speak. When he had exhausted every possibility, he repacked the car, reloaded the family, and retied the suitcase to the roof rack. He worked in complete silence, and no one else dared to say anything.
As he pulled the car out of the gas station and back on to the highway, Mrs. Pickett ventured, "Now what? Where are we going?"
"Home," Mr. Pickett said grimly. "I must have left the wallet in the house."
They pulled into their own driveway, and Mrs. Pickett said, "You see, Dear? It's what my mother always said, 'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' And another habit I learned from her that you should cultivate: before we left on vacation, she always went back into the house for one last check to see if anything had been left behind. It saves so much time in the end."
Mr. Pickett said nothing.
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