“Kroger’s K. HIJKL. I’m on L. What are you on?”

“I don’t know. Do you think she’s going to be all right?”

“She’s going to be fine. We’ll get home. Put her to bed. A good night’s sleep, and tomorrow, she’ll be fine.”

“And what if she’s not?”

“If she’s not, we’ll take her to the doctor.”

“Maybe we should take her to the hospital now. Just to be sure.”

“Like the last time? And spend the night in the waiting room just to be told that she has a cough? We can’t run to the ER each time she gets a bug. Kids get sick. They just have to sleep it off. She’ll be . . . L. Limit. Did you need a J? We just passed a Jeep. Are you playing or not?”

“It’s hard to concentrate.”

“This will get your mind off of it. There’s nothing we can do now. It’s late, and the best thing for her -- Mile. M. Next. N.”

“Just J. Kentucky K. Left L.”

“Jesus. I thought you couldn’t concentrate.”

“I don’t need to to beat you.”

“Trash-talking from someone who’s behind.”


“It’s not easy to drive and play at the same time.”

“See. You just admitted it’s true, and anyway . . . Make M … anyway, I beat you when I’m driving. No N. Open O.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No. You don’t. You know why? You hardly ever drive. Whenever we go to the cabin, you do, maybe, an hour. I drove almost all the way up, and I’ve driven almost all the way back down.”

“That’s not true. Pancake P”

“Whenever it’s just about time to switch, you fall asleep, or you pretend to.”

“Fine, I’ll drive right now.”

“I’m not stopping; it will wake the baby, and sleep is the best thing for her.”

“You won’t let me drive, and then you complain about my not driving. Why do you always call her baby? Her name is Trudy.”

“I know what her name is.”

“But you don’t like it.”

“You know why I didn’t want to name her that.”

“I thought you were going to get over it. I would have suggested something else if I would have known you’d be like this.”

“You didn’t suggest it. You picked it. Even though you knew how I felt. Sometimes you can win and still lose.”

“What’s that mean?”


“No, what’s it mean?”

“It means you make everything a battleground. A competition. Every piece of clothing. Every jar of food.”

“That’s not true.”

“If I put the baby in short sleeves, you say she needs to be in long sleeves. If I put her in long sleeves, you take her and put her in short sleeves. It’s exhausting.”

“Her name is Trudy.”

“Overnight. O. That puts me at P. What are you on?”


“When did you get to Q?”

“I’m on Q. Why didn’t you take that exit?”

“If you aren’t driving, don’t drive.”

“That’s the fastest way.”

“I’m going the back way.”


“Because I missed the exit.”

“You’re pathetic”


“You ‘missed’ the exit with the road that has a Dairy Queen. You would rather try to win this stupid game than get our daughter somewhere safe as quickly as possible.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You missed the exit on purpose.”

“It’s almost as fast this way.”

“But there’s no Dairy Queen this way, is there.”

“If I’m so smart at the game, how come I supposedly lose every time?”

“I want you to go straight to the hospital.”


“You say she’s going to be fine, but you’re not a doctor. You don’t know anything about children. You let her crawl around naked eating dirt.”

“I wasn’t letting her eat dirt. I was letting her touch it. She was exploring. That’s how children learn.”

“And now she’s sick.”

“You think it’s my fault?”

“I want you to go to the hospital.”

“They’ll just send her home.”

“Fine. But we’ll know she had quality care.”

“Quality care? Is that why you want to go? Is the ambulance company called Quality Care?”

“Don’t turn this around on me. Don’t accuse me of doing what you’re doing.”

“Pancake House. P.” 

“I used pancake. You can’t. You’re still on P.”

“Fine. I’ll drive around until I see a car from Pennsylvania. That will put me on Q too. Then will you still want to go to the hospital?

“I don’t care. I’m sick of this whole thing. Go where you want to go. You’re driving. In charge. Like always. If the game is more important to you than whether our child is dying.”

“Jesus Christ. She’s not dying. She has a cough.”

“And a fever.”

“A fever?”

“A temperature of a 103.”


“Yes, 103.”

“How do you know?”

“I took it the last time you stopped. When you went in to use the restroom.”

“I thought you were asleep.”

“No, I was taking care of our daughter.”

“I didn’t know we had a thermometer.”

“I do.”


“In my purse.”

“Let me see it.”


“Show me the thermometer.”


“You don’t have it.”

“It’s in the back.”

“You said it was in your purse.”

“Don’t be a jerk.”

“Fine, we’ll stop and take her temperature again. If it’s 103, I’ll go to the hospital.”

“Quality Q.”


“We just passed a sign with Quality on it.”

“For what?”


“Quality what? Oil? Inn?”

“I don’t know. I just saw the Q.”

“I bet.”

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing. Except there’s a reason you always win.”

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing. I’m just worried about the baby.”

“Her name is Trudy.”


Joe Mills teaches at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has published four collections of poetry with Press 53, most recently "Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet." More information about him can be found at www.josephrobertmills.com. He also blogs regularly at www.josephrobertmills.blogspot.com.