A Bump in the Road

From Happy Hour to Baby Shower

Maureen Lipinski

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books

Chapter One

Sunday, April 22

Earlier on the plane:

"This is why we’re never having children," Jake said as he lurched forward in his airplane seat again.

"Relax. Didn’t you hear? Li’l Mikey is experiencing a personal tragedy. He wants to watch Cars but the DVD player is broken." I stifled a laugh.

"You’re hilarious. I’m going to put a muzzle on that kid if he doesn’t shut up," Jake said.

Li’l Mikey stopped screaming for a moment and everyone collectively exhaled.

"NO! NO! NO! NO! MINE! MINE!"

Jake rocked forward again thanks to Li’l Mikey’s short and fat toddler legs. He turned around and tried to glare at the parents through the half- inch gap between our seats.

"Mikey, you’re making these nice people upset. If you don’t stop, you’re going to get a time- out. You don’t want that, Pooh Bear, do you?" his mother cooed to him.

"NO TIME OUT!"

"Do you want some candy?"

"CANDY!"

We heard rustling and Li’l Mikey silently chewed for a moment, until we heard what sounded like marbles dropping on the ground as all of his M&Ms dropped to the floor.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

"Can I start screaming, too?" Jake asked me pathetically.

I opened my carry- on, pulled out four Tylenols and a Gatorade, and handed them to Jake, who wordlessly gulped it all down. After forty- eight hours of debauchery in Vegas, I had prepared to battle the Mother of All Hangovers but not Damien, Evil Spawn of Satan.

"This is God punishing us for spending a drunken weekend in Sin City," I moaned as I jerked my thumb back toward Li’l Mikey.

Jake closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. "Wrong," he said, his eyes still shut. "This is God punishing us for sneering at the parents whose kid was screaming in the restaurant last night. It’s like Dante’s Inferno, except with annoying children and mothers instead of hornets and wasps."

"Oh, please. They absolutely deserved to get kicked out of the restaurant. I mean, it’s somewhat difficult to enjoy a fifty- dollar steak when Junior next to me is screaming ‘Fie truck! Fie truck!’ "

"I agree. But like I said, Dante’s Inferno: the poetic justice of two hungover assholes suffering through three hours with Li’l Mikey."

"Speaking of which... ," I said, reaching forward again into my carry- on to pull out my birth control pill.

"Yes. Please. The only thing more frightening than other people’s obnoxious children is the prospect of dealing with one of our—" Jake stopped when Li’l Mikey reached forward and gave him a good solid bop on the head with a stuffed Buzz Lightyear doll. Jake didn’t seem to appreciate it.

He also did not appreciate when I laughed so hard I choked on my birth control pill.

"You think this is hilarious, but I’m the one who has to give a presentation on Logitech’s new software application to about fifty executives tomorrow," he whispered as he fiddled with his wedding band.

I smiled at him. "Maybe you should bring Mikey as your secret weapon."

"What, like, ‘If you don’t buy our product, I’ll give the kid a Jolt cola and turn him loose in your employee break room’?"

"Exactly. See? Children can be useful," I said as I opened Newsweek.

Once the plane landed, the airplane doors opened like the gates of heaven. As Jake and I stepped off the Jetway into the terminal, I felt a tap on my right shoulder.

"Are you Clare Finnegan?" a short, chubby woman with round chipmunk cheeks asked me.

"Yes," I said, moving aside to let people behind me keep walking.

"From Am I Making Myself Clare?"

"That’s me," I smiled at her.

"I’m Melanie. I just love, love, love your blog. I read it every day at work. I think you’re hilarious." "Thanks, that’s great to hear." "I started reading it after the article in The Daily Tribune. I’ve been

hooked ever since. Do people recognize you a lot?"

"Every now and then, more since the article came out last month." I straightened my wrinkled pants, hoping she wouldn’t notice the mustard stain on my hip.

"Hi, I’m Jake," my husband said, and extended his hand.

"I recognize you, too. It’s nice to meet you." She giggled. "How’s your car?" "It’s fine. All taken care of," he said, turning a little red. "Well, I just wanted to say hi. I don’t want to keep you. I can’t

wait to read the next entry," she said, then gave a small wave and disappeared into the mass of people in the terminal.

"She was sweet," I said to Jake.

"Yep. Thanks again for writing about my accident."

"No problem."

"Which way’s baggage claim?"

"I think to the left." I pointed. "I guess I should start looking somewhat presentable when I go out. I hate meeting people when I look like a homeless person. Do I look OK?"

"You look great."

"Really?"

"Well, except you split your pants when you bent down to pick up your carry- on." Jake saw my look of horror and started laughing. "I’m just teasing. You look fine." "Don’t harass me when I’m hungover, Jake. I will not hesitate to sic my legions of fans upon you."

"I’m terrified. Let’s go before someone else recognizes you, Internet Rockstar. Besides, I fear the consequences of keeping your sister waiting outside."

"I do, too. I’ve read a teenager’s patience window is around ten minutes. Sam won’t hesitate to use her Tiffany heart bracelet as a weapon if pissed off."

In the car after we collected our bags, Sam began to rant. "Holy shit! You are majorly, effing kidding me right now, aren’t you? What a loser! He is such a complete freak show! He’s so totally emo it’s not even funny." She flicked her long blond hair, perfectly straightened due to a several- hundred- dollar Japanese straightening treatment, rolled her eyes, and snapped her Swarovski- encrusted Sidekick closed. She threw it into the backseat, narrowly missing Jake’s right temple. "So what the eff took you so long? I had to go around the airport forever and this ginormously obese policeman kept blowing his whistle thingy at me."

"Sorry. We were at baggage claim for a while. The airline lost one of our bags."

Oh, but Rosemary and her baby sure got their bags promptly.

Jake leaned forward from the backseat and whispered, "What does ‘emo’ mean?" "How should I know? I don’t speak teenager," I hissed at him. Sam’s blue eyes narrowed as she sized me up. "Did you guys get fatter over the weekend or something? You look all puffy." "Probably just the hangover. It’s great to see you, too. Where’s Mom and Dad? I thought they were coming."

"Hel-lo, do you think their lives, like, revolve around picking you up from the airport? They’re being so annoying today. I have, like, a jillion things to do to night and they made me come and get you. How am I supposed to get Chris to ask me to KOH when I look like a corpse?"

"What’s KOH?"

"Duh! King of Hearts? You know, the dance? God, how freaking old are you, anyway?"

"I’m twenty- seven, Sam."

"I effing know how old you are, OK? It’s called sarcasm, ever heard of it?"

Assuming her question was rhetorical, I glanced back at Jake with a slightly amused smile. He didn’t miss a beat.

"So, Sam, did you go out and get wasted this weekend?" He held up his right hand, his fingers making the Rock On! symbol.

"You guys are so weird." She rolled her eyes and grabbed her M.A.C. Lipglass out of her Coach purse and applied some using the rearview mirror.

"Um. Sam. Car. Look."

"What? Oh, whoops," she said as she swerved away from a parked car.

"Pay attention, OK? I don’t want to die in a massive pileup. Besides, I think this hangover is enough to kill me."

She opened her mouth to retort, but the Blackeyed Peas’ "Don’t Phunk With My Heart" started blaring in the backseat and she reached behind her to grab her phone while cruising through a red light and nearly ramming into an open car door.

Jake handed her the phone and the last thing I heard before I drifted off was "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. So fugly."

I jolted awake when we reached my parents’ house and Sam flattened the newspaper in the driveway.

"OK, bitches. Get out," she said, and jerked her head, her palette earrings swishing back and forth.

My parents were inside, putting away groceries. Sam immediately went upstairs to her room to lie down from the extreme effort it took to drive us home.

"Welcome home!" my mom shouted, her head halfway in the fridge.

"Hey! There they are! The two Vegas whales!" my dad said, slapping Jake on the back.

"Oh, right. We’re up two hundred bucks. I’d hardly call us whales," I said.

"You two want a beer?" my dad asked.

"No way. I’ve had enough beer for a while," Jake said, pointedly grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge as my mom closed it.

"We’re so hungover," I moaned, and laid my head down on the kitchen island.

"Three Tylenols, flat soda with lots of ice, frozen peas on the head, and a little hair of the dog. You know this stuff. Didn’t I teach you anything?" My mom thrust a two- liter bottle of Coke in front of me.

"Mom, this hangover is impervious to the effects of caffeine or sugar. It’s like I’m dying."

"What the hell did you expect to feel like after coming home from Vegas?"

"Like shit. She’s just whining," Jake said.

"Has your sinus infection gotten any better?" my mom asked.

"The horse- pill antibiotics cleared it right up. Now, instead of my head exploding from sinus pressure, it’s throbbing due to the virtual bottle of vodka I drank last night."

"That one, my dear, is your own fault. No sympathy here. And stop complaining, you’re not the one who has to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to make a six a.m. flight," my mom said while trying to shove a container of ice cream into the already bulging fridge.

"Flying out?"

"Yep."

"Where to this time?"

"Hospital in Austin, Texas. We’re implementing a new HR database."

"Sounds thrilling."

"Always. I’ll be gone all week so your father has to wrangle Sam himself. I know he has a couple of late meetings so keep your phone on in case she needs to get ahold of you."

"When are you going to realize she’s seventeen and not six?"

"When I stop watching my oldest daughter’s cat while she’s getting drunk in Vegas over the weekend."

"Funny. Hey, guess what? A fan recognized me at the airport," I said.

"That’s so great, honey! Your last blog entry was hysterical. Very funny. How’s the car, Jake?"

"Fixed, thankfully. But I have a feeling the accident is going to live on via Internet lore." He turned to my dad and said, "Is the game on?"

"Let’s go," my dad said, and they walked into the other room to commandeer the big- screen television and watch what ever game was referenced.

"Staying for dinner?"

"Of course. Free meals taste the best. What are we having?"

"Pepperoni, sausage, and cheese."

"Is Mark coming?"

"No. He’s staying in the city. It’s one of his roommates’ birthdays." She paused. "At least, I think that’s what he said. I think it’s just an excuse to go out on a Sunday night." "Mom, when you’re twenty- two you don’t need an excuse. The

fact you’re legally allowed to drink in bars still has some luster." "Just as long as he doesn’t end up in the gutter somewhere." "Clearly you haven’t heard some of his college stories." As we sat down to eat pizza an hour later, I watched as Sam picked at the cheese on her plate, not daring to touch the crust for fear of osmotically ingesting a carb. She felt me watching her and snapped her head in my direction and narrowed her eyes. "Do you know your cat is gay?"

"What?" I said. Jake choked a little on his pizza.

"Your. Cat. Gay. Did you know?"

"What is she talking about?" I turned to my parents.

My father had an amused smile on his face.

"What?" I asked him.

"Oh. Nothing. I have no idea what she’s talking about," he said.

"Mom?"

"Well, let’s just say Butterscotch is very interested in women’s fashion." "Huh?" "We came home from dinner the other night and—" "No! Let me tell the story. Mom and Dad came home the other night and your totally weird cat was all bored while you were in Vegas and we were stuck watching him. Did you know he is so fat and afraid of everything?" Sam said.

"Point?"

"Jeez, relax, psycho. I wasn’t done yet. Way to interrupt me. Anyway, he went into everyone’s rooms while we were gone and brought stuff downstairs and left it on the kitchen floor. Like presents or something. He brought down your old ugly frilly prom dress, mom’s gross black underwear, and my thongs. Mom and Dad came home with the Andersons and tried to explain why there was lingerie and weird crap all over the kitchen." She took a swig of her water and sat back in her chair, arms crossed.

"Seriously?" I said, and looked back and forth. "Unfortunately," my dad said. "It was pretty difficult trying to blame all of that on the cat." "Yeah, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Andersons any time soon. They left pretty quickly," my mom said.

"I’m so sorry, he’s never done—," I started to say.

"Don’t worry about it. Like I said, maybe he’s just interested in fashion," my mom said.

"Why couldn’t you have a cat that was interested in normal fashion, like Citizen Jeans or something, rather than ugly nineties prom dresses and lingerie? Your cat is a freak show."

As if on cue, we heard the unmistakable sound of Butterscotch howling. We all froze and looked at each other, cautious smiles on our faces. We waited, silent and still, as the howling got louder. I took a sharp breath in and my mom elbowed me to be quiet. Butterscotch rounded the corner into the kitchen, dragging Sam’s hot pink, sparkly feather boa from Halloween behind him.

We jumped up and cheered and Sam let out a snort. "What is wrong with you people? Hel-lo, that cat has serious problems. He is so freaking annoying. Aren’t you like totally embarrassed to be associated with him?" she said, turning to me.

"Not really. I’ve been associated with you for seventeen years. I’ll get used to it."

"You’re such a loser. Just like your cat," she said, and stomped off, wrenching the boa from Butterscotch, who looked confused that his latest present wasn’t gratefully accepted.

I turned to Jake, who looked positively thrilled.

"This. Is. So. Awesome. That cat can stay," he said.

1:00 A.M.

Finally, back at our apartment, gay cat and all, I opened my computer and checked my blog’s comments. I yelled to Jake in the bedroom, "Wifey1025 offered to drive you to work tomorrow if your car isn’t fixed yet."

"Thanks. Tell her I prefer to get hacked into little pieces next week instead of this week."

"Will do," I told him as I walked into the bedroom. I jumped into our fluffy marshmallow bed and snuggled underneath the comforter. "How great does it feel to get in bed?" I asked him, my face buried in a pillow.

"Pretty damn good," he said, and stretched his arms over his head.

"I know, but Jake?" I poked him in his ribs.

"Yeah?"

"I’m kinda hungry again," I said, and smiled at him.

"Jesus, we just ate a few hours ago." He flipped on the television.

"I know, but it’s the hangover. I’ve gone from extreme nausea to ravenous hunger pains. My body is finally ready to accept food. There’s all that leftover pizza my mom gave us."

"OK, fine," he said as he casually turned off the television. He slowly sat up in bed. "The deep- dish slices are mine!" he yelled as he scrambled out of bed and nearly trucked over Butterscotch lying in the doorjamb.

"NOT COOL!" I yelled as I chased after him.

He got to the kitchen first and yanked out the pizza box so forcefully the leftover slices slid out onto the floor.

"Nice going," I laughed.

He looked at me and shrugged. "Ten- second rule?"

We both paused and smirked at each other before diving onto the floor and trying to salvage the slices not covered in cat hair. We leaned against the kitchen cabinets and silently munched on the cold pizza.

"Leftover pizza is nothing short of amazing," I mumbled as I wiped pizza sauce off my mouth.

"I’ll show you amazing." Jake smiled wickedly at me as he took the pizza crust from my hand.

"Kitchen floor? I don’t think so. When’s the last time we actually cleaned this thing? Actually, have we ever cleaned this floor?" I said as I tried to grab the crust back.

"Probably not. Who cares? Let’s have fun."

"Well . . . what the hell," I said, and allowed him to pull me closer.

We didn’t get back to bed until almost two in the morning. I’m sure I’ll be exhausted tomorrow and find cat hair and dust in some very interesting places, but as Jake said, "Who cares?" We haven’t even been married a year— we’re still newlyweds. We can have sex on the kitchen floor until the crack of dawn while eating leftovers, right? By my calculations we only have a few more years to do things like that, so we might as well take advantage.

Excerpted from A Bump in the Road by Maureen Lipinski.
Copyright © 2009 by Maureen Lipinski.
Published by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.