By Jayanth Ramganesh, age 8, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
It was the last day of vacation. I sat near the window of my room, contemplating whether I should complete my homework or not, as I still had one pending.
“Hey Jay, are you coming for a road trip?” It was mum and dad. My little sister was holding my mum’s hand.
“But mum, what about my pending homework?” I asked.
“I thought you had finished it all, Jay,” she said, half annoyed. “How big is it?”
By now, I really wanted to go outside and escape the boring homework. “Nothing much, mum,” I lied.
“Okay then. You can do that homework after we come back from our trip,” dad said.
The road trip was very nice. Much more interesting than the homework! We drove along and went to a couple of places, while we had originally planned only one of those. The weather was so nice that we didn’t have the mind to turn back. But when we eventually did, we were horrified to see the traffic on the highway. Traffic piled up as far as we could see, and it moved at a snail’s pace.
We had a long way to go. It seemed to me that we would never reach home if we progressed at this speed.
Just then my dad spotted a road branching off from the side of the highway. “Hey, hey!! I’ll take this road!!!” Then he prepared to turn into the branch road.
My mum was a bit nervous and she cautioned, “But we do not know where this road leads to.”
But my dad said, “There is so much traffic on the highway. I bet this branch road should join the highway after a while. Maybe this was used as a detour when the highway was under maintenance two years back.” And with that he zoomed off.
We sat back, hoping we had beaten the traffic. However, I was suspicious about why this road was so empty. After all, if this road would help to beat the highway traffic, why didn’t any other car take this route? But dad seemed so sure that this road went parallel to the highway.
We hadn’t gone for more than forty minutes when our car was jolted to a stop.
“What?!! What happened?” asked mum.
“Looks like a flat tire,” said dad.
It was indeed a flat tire. We had to wait as dad took out the jack and the spare tire. It took a long time for dad to change the tire. By this time, it had become very hot. There was absolutely no trace of the nice breeze that we had enjoyed when our trip started. We had been standing on the road and were sweating profusely. I looked at the long stretch of road on which we were stranded. There was absolutely no trace of civilization around. Mum was worried and I was scared. My sister started crying. Probably she was tired and hungry. Where was this road leading to?
But we were with my dad, and almost everything he says ends up being correct! I assured my sister that this is a route that my dad knows. Sometimes, my mum calls him the hero of routes. But he was wrong this time.
Off we started down the road again. After twenty more minutes of uneasy riding, my dad became doubtful. After a few more minutes, he was convinced that this road would take us nowhere. We had to turn and retrace our way to the highway.
My mum is always resourceful and had carried a bag full of biscuits and water bottles. We had to stop for a quick snack before we resumed our journey.
We were soon in for a nasty surprise. The car shuddered, jumped a few times and finally came to a stop. Dad got out and opened the car bonnet to see what went wrong. He couldn’t figure out anything. It was growing darker, and my sister was crying inconsolably. Mom was trying hard to pacify her. Dad reassured us that everything would be fine shortly, but I could see that even he was irritated and tired. He picked up his phone and called recovery service. He was on speaker. We listened with dread and despair when the voice from the other end crackled: “It is already late in the night. Also, there seems to be a huge pileup on the highway. Sorry, we won’t be able to send any help now. We will be able to send a recovery vehicle early in the morning.”
We had no way out. So we had to sleep in the car, feeling sticky and miserable in our sweaty clothes.
Early in the morning the recovery vehicle did come as promised. It towed our vehicle to the nearest service station on the highway, which was forty minutes away. The mechanic there identified that the problem was with the fuel pump of the car. It didn’t take long for him to fix it.
We started on the way back. The traffic block on the highway had cleared now. We were all extremely worn out by the time we reached home.
When I entered my room, my math homework note stared at me from my table. But I didn’t even have the energy to look at it. All of us hit the bed right away and slept like logs until late afternoon. I missed the first day of school after vacation and my dad missed a day at the office. I finished my homework in the evening.
When I entered my school the next morning, I was really scared. My mathematics teacher is very strict and he had particularly warned us all that he wanted all our homework notebooks on his table on the very first day of school. I had missed the deadline and was surely in for some kind of punishment.
I went and sat down in my place, and gave a half-hearted smile to my best friend in class. He asked me why I didn’t attend school the previous day. I told him about our highway odyssey and also confessed about my fears on being punished by the teacher.
He heard my confession and started laughing. I was angry and asked him, “Is this a joke for you!? Our teacher told us to bring this project yesterday and I brought it today; a whole day late! I do not know what punishment and embarrassment I am due to receive today!”
He smothered his laugh and replied, “Well, you wouldn’t have to face any embarrassment today. That is because none of us submitted our projects yesterday.”
I was surprised, and at the same time relieved.
“But why is that so?” I asked him.
“You did have a nice and memorable trip on the highway. What you couldn’t have guessed is that our mathematics teacher was also on the same road that night and he too faced a similar ordeal as you. He was stuck in the highway traffic and couldn’t reach the city before midnight. Hence he too missed school yesterday. Ta da!!”
I also started laughing and was in fact laughing more loudly than him.
Ah, sweet relief!