Authors: Gary Paulsen
Alida’s Song • The Amazing Life of Birds
The Beet Fields • The Boy Who Owned the School
• The Brian Books:
The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return
Canyons • Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats • The Cookcamp
The Crossing • Crush • Danger on Midnight River • Dogsong
Father Water, Mother Woods • Flat Broke • The Glass Café
Guts: The True Stories Behind
and the Brian Books
Harris and Me • Hatchet • The Haymeadow
How Angel Peterson Got His Name • The Island
Lawn Boy • Lawn Boy Returns • The Legend of Bass Reeves
Liar, Liar • Masters of Disaster • Molly McGinty Has a Really Good Day
The Monument • Mudshark • My Life in Dog Years
Nightjohn • The Night the White Deer Died
Paintings from the Cave • Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers
The Quilt • The Rifle • Sarny: A Life Remembered
The Schernoff Discoveries • Soldier’s Heart
The Time Hackers • The Transall Saga
(The Tucket’s West series, Books One through Five) •
The Voyage of the
• The White Fox Chronicles
The Winter Room • Woods Runner
Picture books, illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by James Paulsen and Gary Paulsen
Jacket photographs copyright © by Eric Isselée/Shutterstock (top) and Erik Lam/Shutterstock (bottom).
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of
Random House, Inc., New York.
Wendy Lamb Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Road trip / by Jim and Gary Paulsen. — 1st ed.
Summary: A father and son embark on a road trip to a distant animal shelter to save a homeless border collie puppy.
[1. Fathers and sons—Fiction. 2. Automobile travel—Fiction. 3. Border collie—Fiction.
4. Dogs—Fiction. 5. Animal shelters—Fiction.] I. Paulsen, Gary. II. Title.
PZ7.P28432Ro 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2012014284
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
This book is dedicated to
everyone who’s ever
loved and been loved
by a really good dog
(and that includes you,
Debra Kass Orenstein).
And to all the dogs
who make us better people
by their example.
Working on a book with my son never crossed my mind before this—Jim’s a sculptor, not a writer, and I work alone—but he’s got a great sense of humor and a way of looking at things I’ve always admired.
We talk on the phone nearly every day, and one day he mentioned having gotten a new dog. Like me, he collects strays and gets his dogs from the pound—we take the next one that’s not going to make it and give it a home. We’ve done this forever; our family always has five or six dogs, all ages and sizes and breeds. I can’t recall exactly what he said about how he came to discover that his new dog was in need of a home, but after I hung up the phone, I wrote a section about a father and a son rescuing a homeless dog.
I sent it to him even though I never send him books
I’m working on and the characters didn’t have anything to do with us. A few days later, I got an email from him; he’d written a chapter about the characters on a school bus. I was surprised, but I liked what he’d done, so I added another section and sent it back to him. We never talked about what we were doing or had a conversation about how the story was unfolding. We just wrote and read what the other wrote and then wrote some more. And then our editor came in and tied it all together.
Maybe it’s because we both love dogs that we could work together like this. I’ve written about dogs many times, and those books seem to have become my favorites. Even if it’s not expressly stated or a part of the story line, I always think the characters in my books probably like dogs.
Jim and I lost track when we tried to count how many dogs we’ve owned over the years. But we’ve never lost sight of how much they added to our lives, and we can remember something about every dog we’ve ever known. We always encourage our dogs to expect that we’ll share whatever we’re eating with them, and we remembered the dogs who liked ice cream sandwiches and baby carrots and liverwurst. We can picture what each dog looked like sleeping and how some tucked into tight balls burying their noses under their tails while others slept on their backs, paws in the air, and still others slept with their legs out to the side like an
the middle stick. We remember their games and their tricks and how, as a rule of thumb, dogs don’t seem to enjoy practical jokes or being snuck up on. We recalled their births and deaths and how the world turns a different, brighter, softer color when a litter of puppies is born and then dims slightly when you have to say good-bye to an old friend.
Dogs never lie or cheat, and their default setting is love. Some may seem grumpy, but all dogs have honor, humor, and dignity, and if you’re really lucky and you pay attention, they will bring out those same characteristics in you.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Because I’m your father and I said so.”
“That’s really lame.”
“But it works. We’re going.”
“That’s what I thought.” I lean against the pickup in our driveway and watch Dad shove the road atlas in the glove box without even looking at it.
Checking freeway numbers and plotting a route beforehand would be too traditional for him—he knows which direction he’s heading and how to find the main freeway out of town; he’ll figure out how he’s getting where he’s going when he’s closer to getting there. That’s how he rolls.
I don’t roll like that, but I usually wind up going along for the ride. This time, literally.
Dad’s always coming up with ideas for things for us to do together—rock climbing, sculpting class, fencing lessons, poetry slams, white-water river-rafting camping trips, helping the librarians organize a protest against censorship during National Library Month, ATV riding, and a photography class we took at the community center last year.
You’d think I’d be used to his spur-of-the-moment plans by now. But the clock on the dash says it’s 5:17 a.m., and I didn’t expect to be up this early on the first day of summer vacation. Dad shook me awake a few minutes ago and pulled me out to the driveway, talking nonstop: “We have to get on the road, now, right now, this very minute. Hurry up, Ben, we’re burning daylight. We gotta hit the road.”
I yawn, rub the sleep out of my eyes, and smile as I remember the rest of what Dad said. “There’s a border collie pup who needs us. I just got an email from someone in the rescue group. We’re going to bring him home.”
We already have a border collie, Atticus, and we foster them sometimes when they’re between homes, so I know how awesome they are. I love all dogs, even if they’re ugly or yippy or they drool all the time or snort and wheeze. I even like the old, fat, waddly ones who can’t control their pee. But border collies are extra special.
They’re not like dogs. They’re more like control freaks with paws. They’ve been bred to herd sheep for generations, and even if they haven’t been born and raised on a sheep farm, border collies are always trying to keep everyone in their world in check. Another border collie is definitely a good idea for someone like Dad. And maybe this one will like me best. Atticus has always preferred Dad, even though he tries to pretend not to. I can’t really blame him; Atticus was part of the family before I was.
“Gimme fifteen minutes so I can get packed.” I start back for the house.
“Packed? You’re not making a grand tour of the capitals of Europe, you know. Couple days, there and back. I already threw skivvies and a toothbrush and a clean T-shirt and shorts in a paper bag for you. A sweatshirt, too. You’re good to go.”
I look at the crumpled bag he’s tossed on the floor of the truck. I’m not at all sure that’s everything I might need, even if it is just a two-day trip like he promises. I start a mental list: snacks, bottled water, a book, my iPod and the charger, my laptop, sunglasses, sunscreen …
Dad guesses what I’m thinking. “Travel light, Ben, so you can move fast.”
He won’t even let me brush my teeth or take a shower before we leave. I sleep in gym shorts and a T-shirt, so he considers me dressed. He does let me slip on a pair of
flip-flops and grab my phone and charger from the kitchen counter.
He’s revving the engine and has started edging away from the garage, so I hop in the truck and slam the door as he whips down the driveway in reverse. The house is a blur as we leave.
“How do you think Atticus is going to deal?” I tip my head toward our fifteen-year-old border collie sitting between us on the seat. He’s staring holes through the windshield as if he’s responsible for memorizing the route and is making note of landmarks and directions.
I’m not sure how Atticus will react to a new dog in the family, because I don’t think he considers himself a dog. I get the feeling Atticus believes he’s more of a person than a pet. He’s old and kind of crabby. Plus, he ignores other dogs if they approach him. So I’m a little worried about how he’s going to live with a new puppy.
Dad laughs. “Oh, he’ll hate it. But they’ll work it out.”
That’s his motto, I think: It’ll work out. I pull out my phone and take a quick picture of Dad and Atticus in profile. Ever since our photography class, I take a lot of pictures and post them on my Facebook page.