We were in a real bind. Grandma was having one of them spells, and there was no way we could get her to the hospital in the city. The hurricane had knocked out the electricity and the phone line. We couldn’t get a good signal on our cell phones out here. Worst of all, a huge tree had fallen on Cousin Zeke’s self-driving car.
We just stood there, wondering what we could do, when Grandma had another seizure. Her body went rigid. Then she started shaking all over, her white hair flying wildly. She fell to the floor and started babbling nonsense words.
“Don’t just stand there,” Aunt Carrie said. “Somebody do something.”
“There’s nothing we can do,” Cousin Millie said. “We can’t carry her to the city.”
“There must be something,” Aunt Carrie insisted.
“What about Grandpa’s old car?” Cousin Millie asked. The car was about thirty years old. It had been sitting in the barn since Grandpa died about six months ago. Before he died, he used to drive it almost every day.
Aunt Carrie turned to Zeke. “You can drive Grandpa’s car, can’t you?”
Zeke shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea how to drive one of them old dinosaurs. It’s nothing like the self-driving cars.”
She looked at the rest of us young people, but of course no one knew how to drive an old-fashioned car. I wasn’t sure they even made them anymore. They were notoriously dangerous. Thousands of people used to die in auto accidents every year with the old cars.
Millie had helped Grandma into the ragged, green chair, where she sat looking dazed. Then she started waving her arms and jabbering some crazy stuff before she fell to the floor again.
Aunt Carried yelled, “We’ve got to do something,” as she and Millie helped Grandma back into the chair.
“What about Uncle Frank?” Zeke suggested.
“No, he wouldn’t be able to do it,” Millie answered.
Years ago Grandpa and Grandma had bought this big old place out in the country because it was within walking distance of the Rest Haven Nursing Home. Grandma had started having her spells, and they thought it would be good to be near the place. As it turned out, the nursing home couldn’t do anything for her. She had to go to the hospital for a few days when one of her spells hit her. It was good to be near the place, though, when Uncle Frank started having memory problems. He was fine at home until he started wandering off and getting lost in the woods.
Uncle Frank was Grandma’s brother. He was old enough to have owned and driven the old-fashioned cars. But would he remember, and would we be able to get him out of the nursing home?
Frank liked the nursing home. He thought he was back in the army, and the head nurse was the first sergeant. Ironically, the head nurse’s name was Miss Smiley. She could have been the model for Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
As we expected, Miss Smiley gave us a hard time about taking Uncle Frank Home for a short visit. Naturally we didn’t tell her the real reason.
“He can’t leave without a doctor’s okay, and there is no doctor here right now,” she told us.
We had been expecting that, so I left while the rest of the family kept Miss Ratchet—I mean Miss Smiley busy. I snuck down the corridor to Uncle Frank’s room and found him watching television. He was glad to see me.
“Are there any orders from headquarters?” he asked.
We had played along with his idea that he was in the army. Whenever any of us visited him, he asked if there were any orders from headquarters.
“Yes, Private Frank,” I said. “You and I are going on a secret mission. We can’t even let the first sergeant know. We’re going to have to sneak out the side door.”
A half an hour later we were back at the house. After some fiddling around with Grandpa’s car, we got it started. Zeke and I sat in the front seat with Uncle Frank at the wheel. Aunt Carrie and Millie sat in back with Grandma. It was scary riding with Frank at the wheel, but we got there okay and got Grandma into the hospital.
After we got home, we sat in the kitchen drinking coffee. As we sat at the table Aunt Carrie patted Uncle Frank’s hand.
“It’s a good thing you knew how to drive,” she said.
“It’s a good thing the car had an automatic transmission,” he answered. “I wouldn’t have known how to drive it if it had a stick shift.”
Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, and CommuterLit among others. His book-length fiction includes Elmhurst Community Theatre, a novel, and RFD 1, Grangely, a collection of humorous short stories. He is the author of several textbooks, including Successful Resumes, and Get Your Point Across, a business writing text. The memoir of his teaching career, Touching Eternity, was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award.