Academy Challenge 5/2002: Category #1: "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."
Disclaimer: These are two Uber characters based on the wonderful Xena & Gabrielle. Dont sue me, please, Im poor and you wouldnt get much.
Violence/Subtext Warning: No violence, and a definite yes on the subtext. If it bothers you, go far far away.
"Gross!" I hear her mutter from the kitchen, followed by, "What the hell is in here?" I hear the lid of a plastic Tupperware container being removed and I prepare myself for the shrill squeak of surprise that will soon follow. She doesnt disappoint me. "Jesus Christ!!" She screams, and I hear her struggle to her feet as she races to the garbage can. A heavy thud signifies the offending leftovers demise. I giggle to myself under my breath, imagining the disgusted look on her adorable face.
"Honey?" She questions, having come from the kitchen here into the bedroom to scold me.
"Yep?" I answer innocently, looking up from the pile of clothes scattered on the bed. Shes standing in the doorway, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Youre never allowed to make fish gumbo ever again." She tells me succinctly, and then turns on her heels headed back to the kitchen to resume her cleaning frenzy.
"I promise, no leftovers next time." I tell her, knowing that my plea falls on deaf ears and that my fish gumbo recipe will forever be banned from our house.
As much as I love her, shes driving me nuts. We are finally taking our first vacation together, a real vacation, and shes freaking out.
Everything is under control. The dog is staying at the kennel, but my worrywart of a girlfriend is convinced that when we return our beloved dog will be afflicted with kennel cough, mange, lime disease, fleas, heartworms, and have forgotten us completely. Its a great kennel, its where the dog has had obedience and agility, and we trust them, but Julie was so upset about leaving the dog that even the $15 bucks I paid extra for more sessions of "doggie playtime" didnt make her feel better.
I think the dog will be fine.
But shes not only worried about the dog, but about silly things like the stove suddenly exploding, or the heat suddenly kicking on and killing all of her plants. Never mind that my mother is coming over every other day to feed the stupid fish and water the plants, but Julies still convinced some horrible tragic event will occur and well find out about it by seeing our home go up in flames on the evening news.
And the cleaning, for Gods sakes, the cleaning. I dont know why, but shes decided that the house must be spotless before we go, lest some burglar breaks in and will be offended by the mess. Shes had her freaking steam buggy out for days and is steaming everything. She even had the mail stopped, regardless of the fact that my mother can bring it in when shes here. Julie thought that a burglar could peek in our mailbox and see two days worth of mail in there and decide that we are on vacation and break in. (She didnt think it was funny when I pointed out that the burglar would be committing a federal offense by opening our mailbox, but I did admit that she had a valid point when arguing that if he was a burglar, he wouldnt care about committing a federal offense.)
At least I was able to convince her to let me pack my own suitcase. I know shell sneak a look at what Im bringing when Im in the shower, but thats okay.
I love her, neuroses included.
"Honey?" She calls again and I shove the rest of my clothes in my suitcase and join her in the kitchen.
"Yes?" I ask, wrapping my arms around her slim waist and kissing the back of her head.
"Can you dust above the cabinets?" She asks, leaning back into my embrace. I sigh into her hair and chuckle as I hug her before releasing her.
"You just love me because Im tall." I joke as I swipe a paper towel above the tall cabinets out of her reach.
"Thank you." She says, smiling
as she stands on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on my lips. "My heroine."
I roll my eyes at her and throw the dusty towel away.
"Are you packed?" She asks, her green eyes lighting up in anticipation.
"Yeah." I answer cautiously. "Why?"
"Dont get all suspicious." She responds, a faint trace of a grin on her face. "I just thought you could get in the shower. Mom will be here soon to drop us off at the airport."
"Okay." I answer condescendingly and head for the shower. Before I even turn on the water I hear her rummaging around in my bag. I laugh as I get under the water. Ever since we decided we were going to Florida, Ive been telling her that I cant wait to wear my black thong bikini. I know shes going to take it out and hide it so I cant wear it.
I love doing things like that to her. I havent worn that stupid thing in years, and would never want to wear it again, but she doesnt know that.
Theres a certain disconcerting feeling you get when laying halfway underneath a car with traffic whizzing by your head at 80mph. Its kind of exciting, and really really terrifying. We would have been on time to the airport, despite my wonderful-but-always-running-late mother if she hadnt gotten a flat tire two exits before the airport. My mother wanted us to call a cab to take us the rest of the way, but Im not going to leave my mother alone to wait for Triple-A. Who knows what lunatic might come and kidnap her or something? Hey, Julie might be a worrywart about leaving for vacation, but Im a worrywart about my mother.
So since its been determined that Im the more butch one in our relationship, Im under the car trying to fix the stupid tire. Im doing pretty well, trying to remember what my father taught me when I was little, but how much can a five year old really grasp about changing a flat?
I tighten the last nut or bolt or whatever and gingerly remove myself from the side of the car.
Great. Im so glad that I decided to wear a white shirt and khakis. They go so well with my decorative grease stains.
"Lets go." I tell them as I get in the car. Julie thoughtfully hands me a wet-nap and I try to get as much of the filth off of my hands and from under my nails as possible. I try to ignore my chuckling mother and my girlfriend in the back seat, giggling her blonde head off.
"Come on!" Julie calls needlessly, urging me on as we race to our gate. Our plane was supposed to start boarding give minutes ago; we are breathless by the time we make it to the smiling agent.
"Hello." She says, staring at my grease-encrusted outfit. I dont even bother to explain, its just too time consuming.
"Are we in time?" Julie asks nervously.
"Your seats have been given away, but I can still fit you on the plane." The agent says, with an air of false apology over our lost seats.
I bite my tongue, knowing if I open my mouth Ill just shout an unintelligible stream of curses.
"Ms. Troy, youre in seat 1-A, and Ms. Montoni, youre in 26-E."
"The seats arent together?" Julie asks and the agent purses her lips.
"Im sorry, its our policy to give up your seats unless youre checked in 20 minutes before boarding."
"Thank you." I tell the agent through clenched teeth as I grab our boarding passes.
We show them to the flight attendants on board and Julie takes her seat in the front row. Her short legs stretch out comfortably and after putting her suitcase in the overhead compartment I smile and shrug my shoulders at her as I head to my seat.
Seat 26-E is perhaps the smallest seat ever; in fact, its not really even in a row. Its just a random seat stuck in between row 25 and the restrooms. Great. I just want to sit down and relax. I open the overhead compartment for my suitcase, but its full. Wonderful. I open each compartment on either side of me and they are all full. Is no one checking baggage anymore? I finally find a clear spot, so close to the front of the plane that I can see the back of Julies blonde head.
I lift my suitcase easily and try to put it into the compartment. It wont fit. I turn it and try to shove it the other way, with still no luck. I growl underneath my breath and forcefully ram it into the compartment, smiling in satisfaction as the end of it squeezes in.
"Maam?" A low voice questions and I turn my head.
"Yes?" I ask shortly, still struggling to force the rest of my bag in.
"You cant have this bag, it exceeds the regulations of carry-on luggage." He says, and for the first time in my life I feel I am capable of cold-blooded murder.
"What?" I snap at him and out of the corner of my eye I see Julie turn around, her eyes widening when she observes the situation.
"Ill take it to cargo." The flight attendant offers and wordlessly I hand him my suitcase. "Just pick it up at the baggage claim."
Suddenly I feel like Ben Stiller in that movie, you know, with the toilet-trained cat? Julie went nuts after seeing that and was convinced that we could toilet-train the dog. I dont think the dog is quite over it yet. Anyway, in that movie, they take away Ben Stillers luggage and he goes so insane that he has to be removed from the plane. Thats how I feel.
But I know how much this vacation means to Julie and I dont want to wreck it over a stupid bag.
"Fine." I tell him. Julie gives me a sympathetic smile as I return to my seat. Delta Airlines really really really sucks. A lot.
I sit down, realizing that Im so tall that my knees are bumping the seat in front of me. A scary red-haired lady turns around, shooting me a nasty look for hitting the back of her seat. I sigh, and force my legs down as much as possible, sticking them out in the aisle a bit.
The flight attendants prepare us for takeoff and I pout as I remember that Julie has the CDs and the walkman with he cool double headphones as well as all our travel games and other things to keep my occupied. My carry-on has an extra pair of underwear and a toothbrush because Julies sure that somehow our luggage will be lost even though we are just carrying-on. Well, at least shes carrying-on. My luggage is now lost in the vast void that is cargo. This flight is going to suck. Oh well, at least theres a movie.
I love movies, anything but Nicolas Cage. He drives me nuts. Maybe because he looks like my boss, whos face I have to stare at all day while pretending that everything he says is pure genius.
I flip through the on-flight magazine, and see that our movie is that stupid "Captains Mandolin." Or whatever its called.
For the love of God, what next? The plane will crash? Well get re-routed to Cleveland, or somewhere equally crappy?
I sigh and pop my ears as the plane reaches its altitude. Julie has all the gum.
I hate flying.
The most joyous thing about seat 26-E is that the line for the bathroom completely blocks my view of the movie. How can so many people have to go on the bathroom on a plane? Dont they realize how disgusting it is? I scan the line of bathroom attendants, spotting the guy that is sitting next to Julie. I smile, thankful that at least I kept my wallet in my carry-on.
"Sir?" I ask him politely. "Can I make you an offer?"
"Surprise gorgeous." I greet my girlfriend, holding my complementary bag of peanuts out to her invitingly. She snatches them and kisses me.
"What are you doing here?" She asks, smiling as she tears into the peanuts.
"I paid that guy who was sitting next to you to switch seats." I tell her, smiling and feeling proud of myself.
"Awesome!" She remarks, her eyes lighting up with happiness.
"I missed you. It was cramped back there and the lady in front of me was mean." I pout to her, determined to show her how miserable I was.
"Poor darling." She coos to me, stroking my hair and making a big fuss over me. I love when she does that. "Come here." She invites, holding up her blanket and letting me snuggle down close to her. This could be heaven, as far as Im concerned.
Julie wiggles a little and puts my hand under the blanket, chuckling in my ear like she does when shes .
I was mistaken. This is heaven.
"Its a black bag, about 2 x 3, it has a pink ID tag, and the name on it is Kate Montoni." Julie patiently tells the luggage claim guy as I fume in silence. That little fucker of a flight attendant said it would go into cargo. But he was wrong. Not only did my bag not make it on the flight, but they cant seem to find it anywhere.
Julie gives him the address of our hotel and he tells us hell call when they find it.
"Thank you." She states politely, taking my hand and leading me over to the Hertz rental car where we have our reservation. "Im sorry about your bag sweetheart." She squeezes my hand in sympathy. "Theyll find it."
"Sure." I tell her. "Good thing I have an extra pair of underwear and my toothbrush!" I state sarcastically, but she must not detect my tone.
"Thats right!" She states brightly. "Its always good to be prepared."
"I cant believe this!" Julie shrieks as I put her suitcase into the trunk of the convertible. "At first, when they said that they didnt have our reservation, I expected the worst! But when they gave us this car for only a little more money, I never thought it would be this beautiful!" She gushes on and on as she hands me the keys. "Come on, crabby, you drive."
I beam with excitement as I get behind the wheel of the yellow Mustang. This makes up for my lost suitcase. Maybe this vacation will turn out all right.
Florida is beautiful at sunset. Sitting with the one you love, sipping a cool drink while feeling sand between your toes is a blissful feeling. Way better than arguing about who got us lost and taking cheap shots at one incompetence at reading a map and the others lousy sense of direction.
Which is, of course, what Julie and I are doing. We flew in Ft. Lauderdale airport, and our beachfront hotel was supposedly only a few minutes away. Im not really sure how we ended up here, in the middle of the Everglades, but Im pretty sure its because Julie cant read a map and my sense of direction is so bad that it embarrasses me too much to stop and ask for directions.
The Everglades at sunset isnt so pretty, especially when lost and seeing signs that tell us to "Beware of Florida Panthers."
"Listen." I say, breaking up our angry silence. "Lets drive to the nearest town and find somewhere to stay, okay? Lets make the best of this."
"Youre right." She looks at the map quizzically in the fading daylight. "Wheres the nearest town?"
I think for a second, looking down the desolated highway. "We havent gone this way, so lets just try it." I tell her, pointing down one stretch of road.
"Kate, sweetheart," Julie starts, the corners of her mouth curled in a smile, "Thats the way we just came from."
"Oh." I answer, embarrassed. "Well, lets go the other way then." I pull off the side of the road and keep driving.
It doesnt take long until we reach a crappy little motel. I park outside the office and leave Julie in the car.
"I need a room." I tell the greasy man behind the counter of the Gator Motel.
"$20, cash." He tells me, handing me a key. "Cleanest one Ive got."
"Thanks, I guess." I tell him, handing him a bill. "Wheres the best place to eat around here?"
"Jims. Up the road, 10 miles." He tells me through a wad of dirty tobacco. I thank him and head back to the Mustang. Ive never actually met a walking stereotype before. It was kind of disturbing.
"How was that?" Julie asks as I get in the car. I can tell shes trying very hard to keep a straight face, having seen the guy through the offices window.
I press my finger to her lips, silencing her.
"Lets never speak of it again." I tell her, and she giggles as if she thinks Im joking.
The room is surprisingly not that disgusting, but the water damage to the ceiling and walls isnt very attractive. The bed seems clean enough, and the carpeting is a pretty color of blue where it isnt threadbare.
Julie searches through her suitcase efficiently and pulls out a fresh pair of clothes for herself and hands me a blue t-shirt.
"This should fit." She tells me, adding apologetically, "But I dont have any pants that are long enough for you."
"Its fine." I tell her, pulling my greasy white shirt off and throwing it in the trash. I slide on the t-shirt, glancing at myself in the mirror. Its tight, but comfortable. The grease stains on my pants arent bad and should come out in the wash.
"You ready?" She asks, coming out of the bathroom, looking very cute and sunburned in her cargo pants and tank top. I cant believe how burnt she got today, just from driving in the convertible for a few hours.
Of course, the cosmetics were in my suitcase, so we didnt even think about sunscreen.
"We should find a supermarket or something." I comment to her as we get in the car. She nods in agreement.
Jims isnt that far, but we take one look at the cars in the parking lot and keep on driving. Various types of pick-up trucks, all completely rusted and devoid of any paint are parked there. The place looks totally scary.
"Theres got to be something ahead." Julie tells me and I nod in agreement.
Like a beacon in the night, the big blue Wal-Mart sign beams to us. We look at each other and smile before breaking into excited yelps and cheers.
This is what is good about America. When youre lost, dirty, and have no cosmetics, clothing, or food, theres always a Wal-Mart nearby.
Not that Im a big fan of Wal-Marts Kathy Lee sweatshop apparel, but at least they have a few pairs of shorts I can buy in case my luggage is never found. Weve loaded up on our lost cosmetics, and I put a big bottle of spf 80 sunscreen in the cart for Julie. I dont want her getting skin cancer or anything. Ill admit it, I worry about two things: my mother and Julie.
We load up on a few staple food items, cans of soda and cookies. Who knows how long it will take us to get from the Everglades back to Ft. Lauderdale.
Were so hungry we break down and eat at the Wal-Mart diner thing. I get a piece of slimy cheese pizza and Julie gets a soft pretzel and some cotton candy. Its the most disgusting food Ive ever eaten, but Im so hungry I dont care.
I look over at Julie, who has a wisp of pink cotton candy stuck to the corner of her mouth. I gaze fondly at her, knowing that even though this vacation has sucked rocks so far, I doesnt matter, because I am with her.
I woke Julie up early, determined to shower and get out of our room at the Gator Motel as soon as humanly possible. Around 4am I was scared awake by a guttural grunting sound that I assumed were the people in the room next to ours, doing the nasty, literally. But I almost jumped out of my skin when a half-awake Julie mentioned that it was an alligators mating call. I dont know how she knows this, and I dont care.
From 4am on, Ive been wide-awake listening o the alligator call for his beloved and convinced he would come in here and eat us in our sleep.
So I woke a very tired and ornery Julie at dawn and managed to get her coherent enough to shower and dressed, and then we got out of here.
I didnt even bother to ask the Gator Motel guy how to get back to Ft. Lauderdale; we just got in the car and are driving back the way we came. Weve got to get there sometime or other, right?
Weve made a pact over our breakfast of warm soda and junk food that we will stop every half and hour for directions until we make it back.
"Were cool." Julie tells me, hopping back into the car. "Just keep heading east." She finishes and I pull back into traffic. Ive made her ask for directions because shes really nice and her smile can melt the coldest heart. Im too standoffish and people are scared of me for some reason.
The warm Florida breeze blows back my hair and I smile in reflex. Julie was thoughtful to buy me sunglasses at Wal-Mart last night, and Im thankful for them while driving in the bright sunlight.
"Do you think theyve found your bag?" She asks in-between bites of a Ring Ding. I shrug, thinking my luggage is at the peaceful place in the sky where all lost bags go.
"I hope so."
"Well call when we get to the hotel." She says, adding, "If we get there." I glance at her, grinning at her sunburned face. I reach over and lace her fingers in mine, sighing with contentment as she strokes the back of my hand. "What do you want to do when we get to the hotel?" She asks.
"Lie on the beach, go dancing, do nothing." I respond, smiling. "That would be nice."
"Sounds good to me." She muses, sliding down in her seat. "I cant wait to go swimming."
"Oh no!" I tell her, my voice upset. "My black bikini was in my bag! I cant believe its lost!" I wail, pretending Im devastated.
"Um, Katie?" Julie asks, her voice gentle as she squirms uncomfortably in her seat.
"Yes, love of my life?" I question, not letting her know that Im on to her little secret.
"I took your bikini out of your bag. Its at home in your drawer." She says, blushing as I glance over to her. "But," she muses, "I wish Id had left it in your suitcase because then it would have been lost forever."
I crack up with laughter, squeezing her hand that still rests in mine. "I know." I tell her. "I wasnt going to wear it anyway."
She breathes a sigh of relief. "I mean, Kate, dont get me wrong, it would have looked amazing on you, but I would have to pummel every guy on the beach for staring at your ass." She crosses her arms across her chest like she does when shes trying to act like shes mad at me. "I dont like it when people look at you like youre a piece of meat. I love you for your mind, not your body."
I chuckle at her protective streak. "I know. I love you too, and Im proud to be yours."
She smiles. "Back at you."
A loud rap on the door jerks me awake and I hastily pull the covers over the nude and sleeping Julie, throw clothes on, and whip open the door.
"Yeah?" I ask the bellhop standing there with a vaguely familiar bag, though this one dented and demolished.
"The airline found your bag maam." The bellhop offers needlessly.
"Great. They found it two hours before we leave for the airport to go home." I mutter, shaking my head at the sorry condition of my suitcase.
I tip the bellhop and shut the door. Looking at my ruined luggage, I open it and transport the contents to my new, airline carry-on regulated bag and we bought at Wal-Mart. I leave my old suitcase by the trashcan.
All in all, its been a fun vacation. Despite the flat tire, baggage snafu, and getting lost in the Everglades, Julie and I have had some fun experiences. Like our hotel, which advertised itself as beachfront, when rather, if you squint and look between two buildings, you can kind of see the beach. Julie got stung by a jellyfish after she fell out of her parasail, my mother called to tell us the fish died, and we both had a slight case of food poising after we ate the ill-prepared fish I caught on our deep-sea fishing excursion.
But we had one day, where nothing went wrong. Everything was just perfect. We had a scuba diving lesson, a picnic lunch, and spent the entire day professing our undying love to each other.
Its been a good vacation. Now we just have to manage to make it home.
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