It’s my son’s birthday. He turns three today, and we planned his party for tonight, but there is discontent in me. I read a few pages then toss my book down. I scratch and rub at my body to escape its confines. This waiting is bullshit. I struggle to focus. The poker tournament televised over my shoulder pricks at my ear with exciting commentary, choice phrases, and greed, but I sit six hours from home concerned only with our return. Car troubles forced delay as dealers close on Sundays, so I checked my family into a nearby hotel for the night.

I am not the only one waiting to hear of conveyance. My sister and mother call one after the other to learn of our state, but I have no news, so they express love and concern via voicemail. Laura texts me wondering whether or not to check out, but I have no news and tell her to “hold tight.”

After three-and-a-half hours, we know what ails my Prius: several things. My rear brake pads wear thin, the fuel system runs sub-optimally, a component worth one-sixth of what I paid for the car needs replaced, there’s too much oil in the engine, and the inverter went bad. That damn inverter — why it turned against me I’ll never know, but the culprit triggered a red exclamation triangle of death, forced the air conditioner to kick out, caused the car to pull and jerk, and would have stranded us in the mountains if given the chance. Misinterpreting its message, I overfilled the car with $15 worth of oil, so the mechanic will drain off the three quarts I added and take out the troubled inverter.

With any luck, we’ll make it out of here for less than $500 for which I’m thankful, considering what we could have paid. The Prius’ other issues? We can resolve those after we’re back in Ohio.

Signing off from North Carolina, sharkbite-free, Jake Lees.