(Most press releases are boring, as is writing about them. So, I took an exceptionally boring press release and, um, spiced it up a bit.)
"Do I like it?! DO I LIKE IT?!" There was sweat on David's upper lip. "You just spent an obscene amount of money – my god-damned hard-earned money – on a completely frivolous purchase, and you didn't even bother to ask me! Of course I don't like it! I'm having a hard time liking you right now!"
He threw his leather briefcase onto the entryway's tile. By the time the briefcase hit the floor with a dull thud, Ashley's smile had turned upside-down. Her lower lip was quivering, her eyes were watering. David hadn't spoken to her like this in a very long time. Not since before therapy, the therapy that (by his promise) would "fix our problems" and "secure a solid foundation for the family going forward." Now, it was like he'd never spent those countless hours in Dr. Kilbourn's office. Happy days were gone again, it seemed.
As the garage door creaked its way skyward, David knew immediately that something was wrong. Very wrong.
Instead of an empty garage space, he saw a giant black monstrosity taking up the space that was rightfully his. He was the one that went to work. He was the one who put up with the insane demands of his how-did-they-even-get-hired superiors. He was the one who made the decisions. Evidently, that all changed sometime between eight in the morning and five in the afternoon.
"God damn it," David shrieked. "A brand new 2015 Toyota Sienna? You've got to be fucking kidding me." He parked, on the driveway, like it wasn't the home he paid the mortgage on.
The door to the Camry slammed shut so hard that it rustled the receipts in the center console like a pile of leaves in a stiff breeze. Somebody is going to get it. Somebody is really going to get it.
David entered the house and came face-to-face with an ear-to-ear smile.
"Do you like it?" Ashley was clearly proud of herself. She was brimming with a level of optimistic anticipation that David hadn't seen in years. "Please tell me you like it!"
She stammered. "B-b-but, but we needed a new—"
"A NEW WHAT?!" David's face was red, the reddest it had been in a very long time. His hands, now briefcase-free, were balled up tightly, like a dog afraid of fireworks. His knuckles were white. Ashley's face was slowly turning that same shade.
"…A new minivan, Daddy! A 2015 Toyota Sienna! We needed a new minivan, and Mommy bought the best one!"
David turned to see his fraternal triplets – Billy, Vince, and Andrew – standing near the kitchen, all three faces resembling Ashley's by this point. David knew at this point that he needed to calm down. Above all else, Dr. Kilbourn reiterated the notion that the children must never see David's bad side again.
David relaxed his fists and breathed deeply. This wasn't the end of the world. They had prepared for a big expenditure, but David had hoped that it would go towards a new kitchen, or perhaps even that new roof that Ashley and David both wanted. But, at the same time, Ashley should have known that this wouldn't go over well. Anything this extreme had the chance to dredge up something that nobody, not even David, wanted to see ever again.
"Well," David managed to spit out between clenched teeth, "How do you know Mommy picked the best one?" His eyes were still locked onto Ashley's, as if to say you are so unbelievably lucky the kids are home right now.
Billy walked up to his father, having already taken the keys off the kitchen counter, grabbed David by his now-unfurled hand, and led him into the garage.
"Come on, Daddy, see for yourself."
David once again set his eyes upon this giant black mass of money that could have – should have – been better spent. Billy pressed a button on the remote, the Sienna's doors unlocked, and the headlights came on.
"Look at the headlights, Daddy!" The Sienna's new, LED-heavy front fascia stared right back at David. "They look like they're from a spaceship! Aren't they cool?! They look so cool! Now I actually want Mommy to drive me to school and soccer practice!"
David paused for a moment. Their old minivan had been giving them plenty of trouble, trouble that would have likely cost the family more money in the long run. Perhaps this wasn't a bad idea. He was still fuming, but now, slightly less so.
Billy climbed into the front seat and opened up the Sienna's conversation mirror. "Look at this little mirror, here, Daddy. Now you don't need to turn around to yell at us – all you need to do is look in this little mirror. It's much safer, Daddy. It's called a conversation mirror, for having conversations. Hopefully not for yelling conversations…" Billy had a good point, and hearing that caused David to feel pangs of guilt in his stomach.
He remembered one time, on the way to Andrew's soccer practice, when one of the kids spilled a juice box on the old minivan's beige carpeting. It didn't matter which one was at fault; all three of them were going to feel responsible for the accident, god damn it, because yelling just felt right. It felt, dare he say it, good. But it didn't feel good for the kids. And it didn't feel good for Ashley, who took the kids on an impromptu "vacation" to the downtown Hyatt for the night. Being left alone in a vulnerable mood didn't help matters any.
"It's also super safe, Daddy. Did you know that? It has more airbags than any other minivan, because Mommy wants us to be as safe as possible. Accidents happen and nobody wants to get hurt, Daddy."
That didn't happen after the last accident. A few years back, when the triplets were still very young, somebody pulled out of an alley and smashed into the van's front end. Ashley had a small cut above her eyebrow from the accident, and all three boys were crying. David spent the weekend in jail, and the next three months in court, because he nearly split the other driver's skull in two on the concrete. In front of his children. It didn't remedy the crying.
Billy then directed his father's attention to the instrument cluster. "Look, Daddy, this will be your favorite part. The directions from the big map can be put right in front of you on the screen! That's good because it means you won't miss any more turns." Billy hung his head low, finishing his pitch with, "And we all know how much you hate missing turns…"
David knew what Billy meant by that. The family road trip didn't end when they missed that turn, but the fun sure did. One red palm, one red cheek, one crying child, one seemingly innocuous question asked at just the wrong time. It wasn't his proudest moment. But it was the move that spurred him to seek out Dr. Kilbourn. Now, in the garage, David finally began to realize just how much his anger had affected his family.
Billy's eyes widened up once again. He had one more thing to show his father, and he saved the best for last. "Okay, Daddy, one more thing. I think you're going to love it. Climb into the minivan and get in the back row. Doesn't everything feel nice? Everything feels so nice. And it's black, so if we spill again, it will be easy to clean up." David made his way into the Sienna's third row, where there was plenty of legroom for even a man of his size.
"Can you still hear me, Daddy, even though I'm talking quietly?"
"Yes, Billy, I can. Why is that?" David was genuinely intrigued at this point. He was interested, he seemed eager to hear his son out, for the first time in a long time.
"Because there's a microphone, Daddy. The nice man at Toyota said that it's called Driver Easy Speak. There's a microphone above the driver's seat and it sends your voice to the speakers in the back so you can hear me. You don't have to yell, Daddy. You don't ever have to yell again."
You don't ever have to yell again. That was the five-finger death punch. David sunk into the third row, completely defeated. Maybe the minivan was a good idea. Maybe Ashley knew exactly what the family needed, not only to keep up with family activities, but also to keep the family together. Maybe she actually bought this minivan for him, to provide a collection of bandages that would cover every one of his open wounds. Maybe Toyota built this minivan just for him, because the company knew that even though life gets hard, there are always ways to make it easier.
Ashley and the remaining two children hung their heads into the open sliding door of the Sienna. All eyes were on David. They wanted to see if the minivan had won him over. If anything could win him over. They wanted to see if it was truly possible to save him from himself.
Every head queried in unison, "What do you think?"
David, still sunk into the Sienna's black leather interior, remained silent for a few seconds. His eyes started watering. Every memory from the last five years came flooding back to him. Yelling. Crying. Hitting. Drinking.
Then, finally, he smiled. Hopefully the unexpected adventures that Toyota wants its Sienna to inspire aren't the kind of adventures David struggles so hard to remove from his life.