My Summer Vacation
by Schuyler Thompson
Grade 5, Mrs. Lee
When summer vacation started, Dad came out of his coma. Right after I was born, he had to take a business trip to Thailand. When he was there, a big green fruit fell out of a tree and onto his head. The Thailand government had to fly him back home, and then the hospital plugged all these tubes into him. Basically I had only ever seen Dad asleep in the bed, with the tubes. I was glad when he woke up in June, because this year Billy Hill can’t keep saying I have a vegetable for a dad at recess.
As soon as he figured out how to talk again, Dad had to figure out how to walk again, which took forever. “There’s my Enforcer,” he looked at me and said when he got wheeled home.
I asked Mom what an Enforcer was. “Oh, your father and his football,” she said. Before he got strong enough to use the remote, he asked me something about how his Enforcers had made out this season, so I figured the Enforcers were a team. But I never heard guys talking about them at school.
“The Enforcers, the Chicago Enforcers,” he kept saying. “Aaron Bailey? Corey Ivy? Tyji Armstrong?” I told him I knew the 49ers, the Raiders, and the Chargers. “C’mon, little dude,” he said. “What have they been teaching you in school? That’s the NFL. Weak. I’m talking XFL. Memphis Maniax. Los Angeles Xtreme. Vegas Outlaws. Boy, you’ve been missing out!”
As soon as Dad could get around on his own, he went to the barber. When I visited him in the hospital, the nurses would cut his hair. They didn’t do a good job usually. They used this machine that looked like Mom’s old vacuum cleaner. When he came back, his hair looked weird still, but in a different way, like each hair got lighter toward the end.
“Whassup!” he said to me. I didn’t understand him. “Whasssssssssup!” he said louder. Then he said it again. Then he started making all these screaming noises, and for a minute I worried that he would have to go back to the hospital. But then he turned normal again and said to just forget it.
I asked Dad what was wrong with his hair. “Christ, you’d think a single professional in this town would know how to frost my tips right,” he said. “It’s like they didn’t even understand what I was saying! They still speak English in this country, don’t they?” He sounded sad and flopped down on the couch like he was really tired.
Mom walked into the room and looked at Dad’s new haircut. She said, “Robert, come on, you are 37 years old.”
Eventually Dad was back to almost normal, or at least Mom said he was. Normal Dad to me is when he was still asleep and connected to all those hospital tubes. He looked less happy now than he looked then, so I introduced him to my turtle, Melville.
“I bet you buy all Melville’s turtle stuff on the internet these days, huh?” Dad asked. Then he started laughing to himself. “Because pets can’t drive, right?”
I didn’t know what he meant. I said that of course pets can’t drive. He just frowned and said, “No, no, because pets can’t drive! The dog! The puppet!” Then he trailed off. “Shit, never mind. How about a movie? Let’s get some laughs.”
On the drive, Dad played his favorite rock music for me. He had it on CDs for some reason. They were called Astro Lounge, Smash, and I think Super Fast. He told me all about the actor in the movie we were going to go see. “You’re going to love Tom Green,” he said. “He’s just off the wall, totally insane. He has this show on MTV late at night where he pranks his parents.”
He started to tell me about the time Tom Green bought a cow head and put it in his parents’ bed. Then we got to the theater and Dad looked at the movie posters for a while and then looked really disappointed.
Dad said we should stop by Hollywood on the way home and get some Tom Green movies there instead. I said I read that Hollywood was really far away, and he laughed. “No, Hollywood Video, hombre. DVDs.” I told him I always watch movies over the internet, but he didn’t believe me. “I bet you a whole case of Surge that you can’t watch movies over the internet,” he said.
I thought that whatever Surge was had to be cool, so I bet him. When I showed Dad all the Tom Green movies you can watch online, he got pretty excited. “Oh sweet, Freddy Got Fingered?” he said. “That looked awesome. I haven’t even heard of some of these. I wonder if Stealing Harvard or Bob the Butler are as good.”
He was taking forever to choose, so I told him to hurry up and pick a Tom Green movie. He said that if I was in such a hurry, I should pick. I didn’t know the difference between the movies, so I said Charlie’s Angels, which was the first one I saw. But I didn’t like how that sounded when I said it, so I took it back and said Shred. But then that looked like it was about snowboarding and I hate snowboarding, so I said Road Trip, since it was first on the list.
“Is that your final answer?” Dad asked. I said yes. “No,” Dad said again, “is that your... final answer?” I said yes again. He was about to click play, but then he looked worried. He asked if I was sure it was safe to watch movies on the internet. I told him nothing bad could happen, but he said something about needing to make sure.
“I need to look into it,” he said. “It just seems like you could get a virus pretty easily this way. Couldn’t you get the ILOVEYOU virus or something?”
Even though he only ate through one or two of the tubes when he was in his coma, Dad still got kind of fat in the hospital. At least he got fatter than he was in the old pictures Mom showed me of him. He stood on the scale and looked at the numbers and said he should only eat at Subway from now on. “Like the TV dude with the pants,” he said when I asked why.
I told him I thought that one of the reasons he got fat was that he didn’t move for ten years, and that he probably forgot how to exercise. “Got that right, half pint,” he said. “Let’s go to the beach and toss the frisbee around.” I thought we could go tubing too, but he didn’t think it was safe. “Don’t want you pulling an Elián González, do I?” he said. Elián González is a 16-year-old from Cuba, I just found out on Wikipedia.
Dad said I better hurry and get dressed for the beach, so I did. When I got back downstairs though, he still wasn’t changed. I asked why, and he said he didn’t need to. Then he unzipped two zippers around the knees of the pants he was wearing, and the bottom parts of the pant legs came off so his pants turned into shorts. I had never seen anything like that before. I asked him if his pants were new. He said no, but I didn’t believe him. The hat he was wearing didn’t have a hat part, but just a bill. That had to be new, too, since I had never seen one before.
Overall, summer vacation with Dad not in a coma was better than summer vacations with Dad in a coma. My birthday was a lot better, because Dad got me cool things none of my friends have even heard of yet. His best present was this silver scooter with two wheels that you stand on. When you’re not riding it, you can fold the handle down and carry it around like a skateboard. “You got lucky, buddy,” Dad said to me. “This was the only one I could find anywhere. These things must still sell like hotcakes!”
Mom said I shouldn’t tell Dad about 9/11 yet.