Steven considered the road trip a flop
when his father suggested a quick rest stop.
They pulled into the parking lot, spilling out
of the minivan with nary another family about.
"Stretch your legs," said his dad, "but don't wander
too far." And as Steven stretched, he remembered fonder
days when he hadn't had to sit and endure
visiting relatives he disliked in a tri-state tour.
He stepped into trees, into the grass two feet high,
walking away from the van, though he didn't know why.
"Daddy said to stay near the car!" shouted his sister
but Steven intentionally ignored or missed her
warning and continued deeper into the glade.
The deeper he went, the more his family seemed to fade
from his memory, until he stood alone in a clearing
and couldn't recall where he was or why the moon was appearing.
Suddenly there appeared a magical creature
who looked less like a menace and more like a teacher.
This beast was made half-unicorn half-antelope
and Steven stood shocked as the unicantelope spoke.
"Your family may not be the ones you'd have picked
and your sister may be mean or your parents too strict.
But family is family and their unconditional love
isn't something to ignore or something to shove
aside in times when you may need them the most.
Which is now, if it's true that Uncle Jerry's the host
of the barbeque to which you're heading today.
It's a foregone conclusion that Jerry'll say
things about childhood vaccines and sleeping in cribs
all while calmly chewing on some baby back ribs.
"Your mom will get angry, while your dad tries to reason
with Jerry but the rest of your in-laws will smell the treason
and soon you'll be forced to band together or perish
in the war against people whose opinions are garish.
So head back to the van, young Steven and find
your parents and sister, and try to be kind."
The unicantelope took off with a trot
leaving Steven rooted to the very spot
he seemed to have been standing for what seemed like an hour
as his legs finally regained their original power.
He walked out of the forest on the edge of the lot,
reflecting on the newfound knowledge he'd got.
So when his sister sighed upon his return
and his father berated him, face all stern,
Steven simply smiled and hugged them long and slow
then got into the car, saying, "I'm ready to go."