“Get up and get dressed. We’ve got a surprise fun day ahead.”
“Huh? Can’t we sleep a little longer?” Caleb pulled his covers over his head.
“Nope. We need to be driving away in one hour.”
Daniel propped up on his elbows. “What are we doing, Dad?”
“It’s a surprise. All I can say is it includes a little road trip.”
Caleb yanked the covers off his face. “A road trip? Are we gonna be home in time for the game?”
“No. I’m afraid we won’t.”
“What?! I always watch the game. Do I have to go?”
“Yes. This is a spontaneous family outing.”
“Oh man. Is this about Daniel saying you never do anything spontaneous?”
“This is about us doing something as a family.”
“But why do you have to punish all of us for something Daniel said?”
Daniel threw his pillow across the room, hitting the wall above Caleb’s bed.
“Stop protesting and get dressed.”
“Are we almost there?” Caleb leaned forward in his seat as he asked.
“I don’t know,” Mom responded, “I don’t even know where we are going.”
“You don’t?” Caleb and Daniel responded almost at the same time.
“Nope. I haven’t told any of you. I told you it was a surprise. I’ll tell you this much. We’ve been on the road for an hour and we have about an hour and a half more to go. So don’t ask any more questions until we get closer.”
“An hour and a half? Will we at least be somewhere that I can catch the game? It starts at one.”
“I think that qualifies as a question.” Dad smiled as he looked at Caleb in the rear view mirror.
“It’s nice to hear them getting along.” Mom half-whispered as she leaned over towards dad. “They’ve been playing cards for the past hour.”
“Me and Carl used to play cards together. Of course, he would beat me up when I won, but that didn’t stop me from trying.”
Mom laughed and leaned close again. “So, where are we going?”
Dad faked a shocked look. “You think I’m gonna tell you? You’re the worst secret keeper I know.”
“Look! There’s Neyland Stadium.” Caleb’s face pressed against the window.
“What?” Daniel asked.
“It’s where the Vols play. One day I want to go to a game there.”
Dad smiled at Caleb’s comment and cut his eyes over at mom. She raised her eyebrows in question, but he just shrugged.
“There sure aren’t many people there.” Daniel peeked over Caleb’s shoulder as he spoke.
“Of course not, dufus! This week is an away game. We’re playing in the swamp. The gators are going down!”
Everyone felt the car lurch as dad pulled to the side of the road and looked in the back seat. “What did you say?”
“I said the gators are going down. They killed us last year, but we’re ready this year.”
“No. I mean before that. This week is an away game?”
“Yeah, last week was a home game, though. I bet this place was packed. Wait.” Caleb stopped for a second because of his dad’s expression. “Are we here to go to a Vols game?”
Dad rubbed his hands over his face.
“Honey, is that why we’re here? Do you have tickets?”
“Yes.” Dad shook his head from side to side. “And no, we don’t have tickets. I was going to get them at the stadium. Don’t look at me like that. It was a spontaneous thing – last minute. You and Daniel both said I tend to over plan everything.”
Caleb laughed. “See what spontaneous gets us, Daniel? A three hour ride to nothing and the most boring day ever.”
Dad opened his door and walked to the front of the car. Everyone inside watched to see what he was going to do, but he just paced back and forth.
“Do you think he’s mad?” Daniel asked.
“He’s probably just frustrated. He wanted this to be a fun day.”
“It would have been fun to go to a game,” Caleb said.
They all got quiet as dad got in. They rode in silence. After about fifteen minutes, they pulled into a hotel parking lot. Nobody asked anything as dad got out and walked in. A few minutes later he returned to the car and they drove away.
The silence continued and soon they found themselves pulling in to a Walmart parking lot. Without a word, dad got out and went in.
“Should we have gone with him?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t know, dear. He didn’t say for us to.”
After another ten or fifteen minutes, dad exited the store with several bags and put them in the trunk. When he got back in the vehicle and started the engine, Daniel broke the silence.
“What are going to do, Dad?”
Caleb shrugged his shoulders at Daniel and they all rode in silence again. Soon they pulled back into the parking lot of the hotel.
“Here’s the plan,” Dad finally spoke. “Boys, you hit the pool while your mom and I get food ready. The game starts in about an hour. We’re driving home after the game.”
Daniel and Caleb looked at each other. “The pool? It’s kind of cold and we’re both wearing jeans.”
“Heated pool. There are swim trunks in the bags. Let’s get everything unloaded. We’re in room 134.”
Mom’s head leaned against the window as she dozed. Caleb and Daniel’s game of ‘slug bug’ had long since ended as the darkness made identifying cars too difficult, but their conversations had been nonstop.
“How did you like that game? I told you we were going to win.”
“Yeah, it was a good game. I can’t believe they made that long field goal at the end.”
“Oh, man. That was awesome!”
“Actually, this whole day has been awesome. I loved that pool.”
Caleb turned away from the window and looked at Daniel. “Yeah, it has. Best day ever?”
“Yeah. Best day ever.”