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Wally and the Holiday Jailbreak

The Sweet Bribe

Chapter 3
of 5

arah’s dog, Bee Bee, was sitting in Wally’s seat when he opened the door to Mr. Evans’s yellow Subaru. Bee Bee was a shaggy Bernese mountain dog with a head twice the size of Wally’s. A small puddle of drool had pooled on the seat under her mouth. Bee Bee moved her head toward Wally and licked the air in his direction, but he recoiled.

Sarah tugged on Bee Bee’s collar. “Bee Bee, watch out, Wally’s afraid,” she commanded from the middle seat. Bee Bee jumped down to the floorboard and rested her head in Sarah’s lap. Wally threw his backpack over the seat, then plopped down as he pulled the door shut.

“Did you get in trouble?” Sarah asked.

Wally almost cried again as he replied softly, “Ya.”

Sarah’s younger sister, Eileen, extended her arm in front of Sarah’s face and pointed at Wally. “Seatbelt,” she told him.

Mr. Evans climbed into the car and let out an “Ahhh” as his butt sank into the driver’s seat. When he depressed the start button, the car turned on and hot air rushed through the vents. The stereo blasted a pop song through the speakers, “I came in like a wrecking ball!” Eileen sang along, “Ya, I just closed my eyes and swung!” Mr. Evans reached his arm toward the control panel and turned the volume down.

“Hey, that’s my jam!” Eileen shouted. Her short blonde hair formed tight curls around her ears. She was wearing nothing but a diaper and was strapped into a pink booster seat like a race car driver. Her right hand clutched an empty purple sippy cup covered in glittery golden stars.

“We need to hear about Sarah and Wally’s last day of school,” Mr. Evans said. Eileen grunted as Mr. Evans put the car in drive and pulled out of the parking lot.

Mr. Evans looked at Wally and Sarah in the back seat through the rearview mirror. “How was the holiday party?” he asked.

“Mrs. Brenda kept calling it a Christmas party, and I corrected her like Mommy said,” Sarah replied.

Eileen’s face scrunched up. “I want Santa to come!” she complained.

“He’s going to come, Sweetie. Plus, you just got to celebrate eight nights of Hanukkah and presents, remember?”

Eileen nodded and sucked at the teat of her empty sippy cup.

“How about you, Wally?” Mr. Evans asked.

Wally stared at Bee Bee, but he couldn’t stop thinking about whether Mr. Evans would tell his dad about how he broke Olivia’s toy, or if Principal Anderson had already called him. He didn’t think Mr. Evans would tell on him because he was usually cool, but he might tell his dad about this. He wondered if Mr. Evans would get mad if he asked him to keep it secret.

Mr. Evans turned the radio off and decreased the flow of hot air blasting from the vents, “Wally, Bud, what happened?”

Sarah spoke up before Wally had a chance to respond, “Olivia told him her dad knows the meaning of life and wouldn’t tell us!”

“The… What? What wouldn’t she tell you?”

“Olivia said she knew and wouldn’t tell us. She was keeping secrets and that’s not nice.”

Wally noticed Mr. Evans’s gaze was directed at him in the rearview mirror and turned his head to avoid eye contact.

“Wait… What did she say she knew?” Mr. Evans asked.

“The meaning of life.”

There was a pause. Wally held his breath, hoping Mr. Evans would change the subject. A blue pickup truck with dented and rusty doors flew past Wally’s window, then cut in front of them. Mr. Evans accelerated to keep up.

“So, Wally, why did you take her doll?” Mr. Evans asked.

“He had to!” Sarah shouted. “She was lying!”

Mr. Evans bit his bottom lip as he cranked the steering wheel left. Wally slid into Sarah at the apex of the turn. When the car straightened out, Mr. Evans replied, “OK, well let’s try not to take people’s stuff even when they’re mean, OK?”

“But she was keeping secrets and lying!” Sarah protested. “Mommy says we have to stand up for ourselves.”

“Well, maybe next time you tell Olivia, ‘I don’t like that you’re lying and I don’t want to speak with you anymore,’ and you just leave it at that.”

Mr. Evans made another sharp turn, then sped quickly up the street.

“To infinity, and beyond!” Eileen yelled.

Mr. Evans smiled and leaned his head to the left to see Eileen in the rearview mirror, “That’s right, Sweetie.”

“Do you know the meaning of life?” Sarah asked her dad.

“I… Why are you and Wally even wondering about that?” Mr. Evans asked.

“Because Wally’s dad is really sad that he doesn’t know, and we wanted to make him happy for Christmas,” Sarah declared.

“Did he tell you that, Wally?” Mr. Evans asked.

Wally lifted his head from the cushion of his arms and nodded, “He was crying and when I asked him why, he said he couldn’t figure out the meaning of life.”

Mr. Evans took a deep breath and was silent for a minute. Wally felt Bee Bee panting hot air onto the back of his neck. He snapped back up to a seat and leaned onto the door away from Bee Bee.

“Do you know?” Sarah demanded.

“No, I’m sorry I don’t know,” Mr. Evans confessed, “But I think if we—”

“Does Mommy?” Sarah interrupted.

“No, I don’t think she does, but you could ask her.”

“Then who does?!”

“I think the only one who might know is Bee Bee.”

“Bee Bee?!” Sarah exclaimed.

Wally crossed his arms and looked at Bee Bee, whose cheeks were flapping against her teeth as hot air shot from the car vents onto her face.

Mr. Evans replied, “That’s right, dogs know a lot about life that we don’t.”

Sarah grabbed both of Bee Bee’s cheeks with her hands, “How do we make her tell us?”

Mr. Evans chuckled, “Well, she can’t talk, so I guess you’ll just have to watch her and see.”

Wally wasn’t sure if he believed Mr. Evans. He didn’t think Mr. Evans would lie to them. He always told the truth and kept his promises, but this seemed unlikely.

“Are you going to tell my dad?” Wally murmured through a wavering voice.

Mr. Evans grinned at Wally in the rearview mirror and opened his mouth to reply, then abruptly shifted his attention back to the road as he slammed on the brakes. The car tires squealed against the pavement as they skidded to a stop and just avoided slamming into the blue truck. “It’s green!” Mr. Evans complained, throwing his hand in the air.

“Just fucking go!” Eileen shouted.

Mr. Evans spun around, “Eileen, what did I tell you about saying that?!” There was a low grumble in his tone that perked up Wally’s ears. Mr. Evans was never mad, but he was mad at Eileen. At least now Wally knew Mr. Evans wasn’t mad at him earlier.

Sarah turned her head toward Wally and opened her mouth into the shape of an “O.”

Eileen giggled uncontrollably.

“Eileen, you can’t say that. I’m serious,” Mr. Evans said.

“Did she just say the F word?” Sarah clarified.

“Sarah, don’t start.”

“Isn’t she going to get in trouble?”

“She is in trouble,” Mr. Evans asserted. He punched the accelerator and zoomed past a blue pickup truck.

Sarah protested, “If Wally got in trouble for taking Olivia’s doll, then Eileen should get in twice as much trouble for saying the F word.”

“Just fucking go!” Eileen shouted again.

“Eileen!” Mr. Evans yelled. “Santa doesn’t bring presents to kids who use bad words. You’re about to get put on the naughty list.”

Eileen instantly opened her mouth and screamed as her face reddened. Her cries were so loud, Wally could feel them vibrating off the car windows. Bee Bee pushed her nose into Eileen’s bare tummy, making her laugh a little between sobs, but Eileen didn’t let herself become distracted. “Ahhh!” she cried.

“OK, you know what?” Mr. Evans hollered over Eileen. He swiped the turn signal into place, “Nobody’s in trouble. Santa told me I could give each of you one free pass and you’ve used it—”

“But I didn’t do any—” Sarah shouted, interrupting her dad.

“I don’t care,” Mr. Evans said. He turned into a parking lot. “You each used up your pass, and if you do anything else, Santa won’t come. Understand?”

“Ahhh!” Eileen screamed. She threw her sippy cup at the back of the passenger seat. It bounced off the headrest and collided with Bee Bee’s back. Sarah covered her ears with her hands.

“That’s right. Eileen, if you say that word one more time, no Christmas presents,” Mr. Evans declared. He pulled the car into a parking space and unbuckled his seatbelt, then leaned on the center console and turned to face them, “Now, what we’re going to do is get ice cream and forget any of this happened.”

Eileen’s face was still scrunched and red, but she stopped crying. She looked confused. Wally was confused, too.

“Ice cream?” Sarah asked.

Wally looked out of the car window and saw a sign for “Sweet Cow Ice Cream” illuminated on the front of the building. Mr. Evans loved to take them there and he always got the biggest ice cream cone they had.

“That’s right,” Mr. Evans replied. “Here’s the deal. Sarah, we forget what you and Wally did at school—”

Sarah spoke up again, “I didn’t do—”

“Stop,” Mr. Evans interrupted, pinching his fingers together in front of his face. “The deal is, we forget about all of it. We don’t talk about it. Eileen, if you say those words ever again, Santa won’t come. Sarah, stop arguing. Nobody says anything to Mommy. We all get a fresh start to holiday break. Can we make this deal?”

Wally looked at Sarah, who was taking an uncomfortably long time to respond. The free pass seemed like a no-brainer to him. “Deal,” Wally replied. The knot in his stomach and tension in his neck eased as he unbuckled his seatbelt. Now he could focus on finding the meaning of life…after he ate his eggnog-flavored ice cream cone.

“Sarah? Eileen? We have to have a deal before we go in,” Mr. Evans said, moving his gaze back and forth between the two of them.

“OK,” Sarah replied, “but I didn’t do anything.”

“Eileen?” Mr. Evans asked.

Eileen nodded her head, “I want two scoops!”

Mr. Evans closed his eyes and sighed. “Just this one time,” he said as he turned and exited the car.

Eileen wiped tears from her cheeks. “Ice cream!” she shouted jubilantly.

Wally swung the door open, almost hitting the white car next to them.

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