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The Automobile 

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My daughter Amy is coming to take me for a drive. She’ll bring tiny sandwiches and a thermos flask, from which she’ll serve me a plastic mug of revolting chamomile tea.

Sandra, the fat nurse, comes into my room and shouts, “Let’s get you all dolled up! Aren’t you the lucky girl!”

I try to tell her that first, I am not a ‘girl’ and second, I’m not at all lucky, but she doesn’t listen.

I hear voices approaching. My hearing’s good, contrary to what you might believe, listening to Sandra and the other carers at the Twilight Home yell at me. What a name! Twilight Zone, more like. I recognize Amy’s voice with its scratchy smoker’s timbre. But who’s with her?

My granddaughter! Sweet Suzy, lover of grunge and punk, slides in behind her mother. Her hair is spiked and orange, her eyes circled in black, resembling a raccoon, her jeans more hole than denim. And my heart lifts with unexpected happiness. I love this girl, this sixteen-year-old rebel with her big heart and her fiery temper. She reminds me of my dead husband, Brett. Somehow his genes have completely bypassed Amy and settled on Suzy. Who is now telling me that she is, from this day forth, to be known as Sierra.

“A spiky mountain range! How lovely!” I exclaim.

Amy sniffs. “For God’s sake, Mother!”

In the car, I sit in the back with Sierra, who tucks her arm through mine. “Want some gum, Moll?” she asks, holding out a battered packet of Trident. She has never called me Grandma, much to Amy’s horror. We sit happily chewing until Amy pulls in at a gas station, where she orders Sierra to take me to the bathroom.

The restroom is outside, so I wait in the sunshine for Sierra. I lift my face and close my eyes, enjoying the warmth on my skin. When I open them, a beautiful, long blue and silver car with elegant fins has pulled up beside me. Not just any old car, a true 1950s automobile. The driver gets out and goes into the Men’s room, leaving the engine running. I gaze longingly at it, remembering that trip along Highway 66 with Brett way back.

Sierra comes out of the restroom. “Sweet wheels! No catalytic converter for this baby.”

“Okay guys,” Amy says, “Get in the car while I pop in the little girls’ room.”

Sierra rolls her eyes. We turn to walk back to the car. And then, together we stop and stare at the automobile, the sweep of its lines, the curve of its fins, chrome glinting in the sunlight. “Can you drive?” I ask.

“Doing Driver’s Ed,” Sierra replies, with a huge smile. “Just a sec.” She picks up a broom that’s leaning against the wall of the restrooms and slides it through both door handles. “That’ll give us a bit of extra time!”

We climb into the shiny auto, slam the doors and hit the road.

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Rosemary Mayo lives in Seattle, where she obtained a Master’s in English Literature from the University of Washington and has taught in numerous community colleges. She has self-published two novels, and her work has appeared in the Manhattan Literary Review and two collections of women’s essays.

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