"Your mother’s been in an accident. I’m taking her to the hospital."
My mind reeled. She and I had been through so much together. We had survived my father’s excesses and abuses, and the past few years had been a testament to her resolve and my patience. She was the only family I had, and I could not wrap my mind around the possibility that I would lose her. How bad is it? How bad is it? How bad is it?
"Is she ok?"
Right at that moment, I heard her from the garage. Talking to him. Not to me. "Make sure Peter takes care of my car, ok?" I couldn’t see her. I just heard her voice. Talking to him.
"I’m taking her to the hospital. Take care of the car and stay here until we get back."
I didn’t think to insist on driving. I didn’t think about how much worse it could have been if injury had been added to injury. My role was set. I was the dutiful son who would take care of the car. Everything else was being taken care of.
How bad is it?
They drove off. I still hadn’t seen her, but I had something to do. I walked about a half-mile down the road and found a twisted heap of metal. This had been a Chevy Eurosport. You’re a sport. It was a dumb name for a car. Like a wind-up doll, I saw to my task. I managed to get into the front seat and ignored the shattered glass and the fresh blood – her blood – as I tried to get the engine to turn over. After a while I stopped begging the machine to work, realizing that with one axle bent up off the ground there was no way it would move on its own again. I started thinking about what would happen if she died. I’d be forced to go live my father. It’s funny how the mind works.
I looked again at the blood. She wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. She swerved and hit something hard. She was thrown part way through the windshield. She was laying here, bleeding. I struggled with the ignition and managed to get the keys out. I was thinking, counter to all logic, that at least no one would steal it. I walked home, desperate to keep myself together.
I called Penny. Penny’s house was like a second home for me and all of the other strays. Penny would know what to do about the car. She was good like that. Penny came to pick me up. She let me talk and helped me get to sleep. She tracked down my folks and let them know where I was. I don’t know what happened to the car, except that it was at a local yard the next day. She probably took care of that, too.
It was a few days before I talked to my mom. She was ok, but she had been really scared that she would die and I’d be forced to live with my father. It’s funny how the mind works. She had some scarring but had already been put in touch with a good plastic surgeon. Everything was going to go back to normal.
It never really did.
When her friends tell the story now, I was the dutiful son who stayed by my mother’s side all through her recovery. In reality, I was so angry at them for putting themselves in danger and for leaving me the way they did that I didn’t go home for a week. I felt I had been pushed aside, and I don’t know that I ever again felt as close to her as I had.