As the Camry had backed out of their driveway that morning, Andrew had inserted his ear buds; Clarence knew from experience that offering to tune the radio to a station more to his son’s liking would have been met with a disinterested shrug. Besides, Clarence liked the inconsequential rhythms of his jazz, playing softly through the rear speakers, covering the crashing sounds emanating from Andrew’s ear buds.
The car approached a highway sign, Columbus 44. Their plan was to stop for gas and switch drivers just south of the city, a third of the way to campus; Andrew would drive until they stopped for lunch, then Clarence would get behind the wheel for the rest of their journey. An hour until the first switch; Clarence nodded with satisfaction.
“Dad?” At first, Clarence thought the voice he heard was only in his imagination, as the corner of his vision showed that his son hadn’t moved. Then Andrew raised his hands up to his ears, tugged down on the wires of his ear buds, the white plastic orbs falling — “Dad?”
Clarence had to clear his throat before responding. “Yeah?”
“Can I get some gum?”
A memory of a blue and white sign they had just passed came to Clarence. Rest Area, Vending Machines, 2 Miles. He grunted — “thought you got some last night?”
Andrew lifted his left hand toward his father, presented a wad of empty wrappers like he was offering a gift. “All gone.”
Clarence shook his head, blinked, focused again on the black road in front of the car. “Poor planning, again.” The rest area approached on the right; he sighed, flicked the turn signal. “Make it quick.”
“Can I have some money?” In response, Clarence pointed down at the coin console between their seats.