There are two things I can’t get enough of: new car smell and old paperback books, both of which I happily soak up in the back seat of our 2015 Jeep Cherokee. We’re going camping, Mom had told us this morning, You, me and your brother. When she’d sent the two of us to pack, I’d grabbed my favourite lavender t-shirt out of the laundry basket along with a fresh seersucker one-piece swim suit from my drawer. The rest of my duffel bag I stuffed with books. Good old books that smell of must and ancient stories.
Five minutes into the car ride, I pulled out the paperback closest to the top; a classic with countless dog-eared pages and snack stains. Now, on the corner of Ford and Cornwall, I’m two chapters in, waiting happily for Mom to fill up the Cherokee with enough gas to last the trip. Car engines are humming nearby, the brittle pages are smooth in my hands, and everything is right in the world for a moment.
“Vroom vroom, whoooshhhhh!” Jake gurgles beside me, smashing two Hot Wheels into one another. I unbuckle my seatbelt; it whizzes away as I stretch to flick the A/C off, keeping my thumb inside my book so I don’t lose the page. The air vent is blurry before my eyes from the pungent smell of gasoline and grease, which seems to be magnified by the heat. I slam the rest of the air vents shut before settling back into my novel. No sooner have I crossed my legs underneath me than a miniature hunk of metal in the form of a Corvette collides with the side of my head.
“Boom!” Jake yells.
He’s lucky I didn’t get a chance to hurtle it back at him since Mom opened the car door just as I snatched the toy car off the ground.
“Everyone excited?!” she asks enthusiastically, jamming the key in the ignition.
Neither of us answers. The putrid smell of the gas station is replaced by silence as the Jeep roars to life.