Catching Out

My father’s agoraphobia made leaving the house a spooky and ritualistic process, ruled by mysterious tempers, but with enough drugs it sometimes happened, and we were off, the whole family, on vacation! The very drugs that loosened his nerves and made the big bad outside world navigable also made him a sloppy driver, weaving lackadaisically around the highway, and wherever we were going—California, Vancouver—would seem very far away. Invariably, our crappy car would catch fire on steep grades (my sister’s job was to douse the transmission hump with water when she saw the carpet fibers smoldering), plus with seven kids, all piled on top of each other, somebody was always carsick and ralphing in the backseat. We kept an old dented saucepan in the car, called the Spit-Up Pan, which we passed around so my dad wouldn’t have to pull over every time a child needed to vomit.

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