I selected the manatees image from last week’s prompt for my 20 minute sprint this time around.
Summer in Florida:
Jason wasn’t thrilled with the idea of forty minutes in a car with his cousins.
He was far less than thrilled with the prospect of two weeks in Florida at his grandparents with said cousins and none of his aunts and uncles or his parents around to keep anyone in line. His grandparents let the kids do whatever they wanted. He hadn’t liked it when he was eight. He definitely didn’t like it now that he was eighteen.
As the “grown up” among the grandchildren, he was expected to help out. To drive the second car, to help cook, to clean up after everyone, to make sure no one got hurt.
No one had done any of that when he was little. He’d already been doing everything but the driving by ten, and his cousins were mostly in the ten to fifteen range. Why didn’t they have to do any of it?
Jason settled into the driver’s seat of the ancient sedan and counted heads.
Fifteen-year-old Kelly in the front, nine-year-old Jacob, eleven-year-old Evan, and eleven-year-old Julie in the back. He had the four cousins he was in charge of for the day, so he hit the button on the navigation app and started backing out of the driveway.
They were driving all the way to Tampa Bay to take the kids for a tour of some little place that raised money to protect the manatees. Jason expected the kids to find it boring and tiny and complain the whole way there and the whole way back.
Once they hit the highway, Jason found a pop station on the radio. It wasn’t his favorite stuff, but it kept the kids mostly behaving as they sang along with their favorite songs. Not all of the lyrics being completely accurate. Kelly was a budding comedian and liked to make up Weird Al Yankovic style lyrics to songs. Jason had to admit that some of them were pretty funny.
They did start complaining, and randomly chanting “are we there yet” at about the thirty minute mark.
Jason tried to ignore them and drive. It was not the easiest thing in the world, but he finally pulled up and parked where directed. He’d pulled out of the driveway before his grandparents, and they drove below the speed limit, so Jason didn’t bother waiting in the parking lot for them, the station wagon, and six more cousins. He just led his bunch across the sandy lot toward the buildings and what he hoped was the little museum.
“They have a penny press,” Kelly said, digging in her purse for change. “Who wants one?” she asked.
“Those a lame,” her little brother Evan replied.
“I want one,” Julie said, giving Evan a push so she could stand beside Kelly and watch her penny get flattened into a new design.
“No pushing, guys,” Jason said in a tired voice. “If you can keep it down and behave yourselves, I’ll get everyone a treat on the way home.”
There was a cheer from his cousins.
“But you all have to behave,” he cautioned. “One of you being bad ruins it for everybody.”
“That’s what Dad always says,” Jacob said.
“Yeah, and it’s always the baby who messes it up,” Julie agreed.
“Aren’t you glad your baby sister isn’t in my car today then?” Jason asked.
“Yeah,” Evan replied with enthusiasm. “Do we have to wait for them, or can we go look?”
“Kelly, will you stay with Julie please?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, I’ll keep an eye on her until we meet back up with you,” Kelly replied.
As his oldest cousin, Kelly wasn’t too bad by herself. It was just adding in her three siblings and all the other cousins that made it awful.
“Thanks, Kelly,” Jason said before leading the two boys into the building. It was a tiny museum, just like his grandparents had indicated. Jason trailed along behind as they ran ahead. It was small enough that he could keep them in sight while also looking at and reading a few exhibits.
Manatees were actually neat creatures. He remembered seeing one at the big aquarium a few years ago when his parents had last brought him to visit. That trip had been nice. The five of them had spent the whole time exploring museums, art shows, and aquariums. He’d learned a ton and gotten to see some amazing things. He didn’t see that happening with all his cousins in tow.
Jason glanced up and made sure Jacob and Evan were still in sight. They were hunkered down playing in the sand of an interactive exhibit, so he went back to reading exhibits. The power plant vented hot water into the ocean, and that’s why the manatees congregated here. They were warm blooded mammals after all.
Jason looked down where there was a tug on his shirt.
Jacob was there with Evan behind him.
“What’s up, guys?” Jason asked.
“There’s a movie deal playing, will you come sit with us?” Evan asked.
“Sure. Thanks for coming to get me rather than disappearing,” Jason said, ruffling Jacob’s hair and smiling down at Evan.
“We’re trying to be good today,” Evan replied. “We know you only bribe us when you’re getting fed up with us.”
“It’s not personal,” Jason said. “I just don’t like being forced to babysit for two whole weeks with no breaks.”
“At least they don’t stick you with Mindy very often,” Evan said. “Grandma always takes care of the baby.”
“True, but when I was your age, I took care of myself most of the time, so it grates a little that we can’t let you guys have the freedom I did as a kid.”
“Mom and Dad are too freaked about some stranger snatching us,” Evan replied.
“My mom worries about the neighbors snatching us,” Jacob murmured as they paused outside the little theatre.
“I won’t let anyone snatch you guys. I promise,” Jason said.
Jacob grabbed his hand, and Evan moved so he could hold the other.
“Looks like the credits now, so if we sit, we can see it from the beginning,” Jason said as he led them in. Maybe having his cousins around wasn’t that bad. They did mind him pretty well, and they were smarter than their parents realized.