Gee Whiz—Elaine Bonow
It was still February, the middle of winter. After more than two weeks of sunshine and fifty plus degrees, the rain that had started to fall seemed an anomaly. Seattle had become an unnatural place, not warm enough to be Los Angeles where there were outdoor bookshops but perhaps somewhere in the South where an early spring was the norm.
“Jeeze, I had to pick today to drive all the way up there.” Nance said to herself as she ducked into the car closing her dripping umbrella. She turned the radio to KIXI Lite. Rosemary Clooney was crooning “Blue Skies.”
“I’ll just get on I-5 and drive.” She said as she adjusted her seat, turned on the wipers, her headlights and pressed the Voice Control button on her phone. “Call Sandi.” She shouted. The phone answered, “Calling Sandi.”
“ Hi, it’s me. I’m on my way up there now. It’s raining hard. I should be there in a couple of hours.”
“Well, I sure hope you know what you are going to do about this god-dammed situation.”
“I know what I would do but this has to be agreed on by all of us, Donnie included.”
“Why is family drama so fucked up? Why did she get so ill so fast? All of this resuscitation and feeding tubes. Damn it! The doctor doesn’t do anything. I’ve been praying hard all day.”
“Well, she is our mother after all and she said she wants to have every effort made to keep her alive. She said she was afraid to die. “
“Oh, I know that but this is getting ridiculous. You aren’t here every day to see what shits been going on.”
“Well, some of us have a job and you are the one who said you owed it to her to take care of her when she got old.”
“I know that and maybe I was wrong. No Damn it I was right. Someone in this family needs to be caring. God knows. You just act like it’s no business of yours.”
“Oh, Sandi. Don’t try and make me feel like one of the evil stepsisters. I just think she should have gone into a nursing home. You are the one who needed a place to stay.”
“Is it my fault I became homeless, is it? Is it my fault?” Sandi started to cry.
Nance waited on the phone until Sandi blew her nose. She was almost to Everett. The smell of the pulp mills was especially strong trapped beneath the dense grey cloud cover and the pounding rain. Even though it was before noon all of the cars had on their headlights. Her windshield wipers beat a steady sound like a mechanical beat-box. Nance always made up words to go with the rhythm of the wiper motor. Today the wipers squeaked “Gee Whiz. Gee Whiz. Gee Whiz.”
“Sandi, are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m still here. I tell you if it wasn’t for my church I don’t think I could make it. You know my pastor has been over to see mom every day. He leaves me a scripture to read everyday. Today it was….”
“Oh no, don’t get me involved in your superstitions. I don’t have any need for your God or your phony scriptures. Thank you very much.”
Sandi didn’t say anything. She closed her eyes tight and started chanting, “The Lord Is My Shepherd I…”
“Sandi, Sandi Stop it.” Nance pictured her sister rocking back and forth her skinny tattooed arms hugging her equally skinny body, shivering from the emotions of her praying.
Nance was now past the Casino. The traffic was still heavy heading into Mount Vernon. Soon now she thought the highway would widen and the roadside attractions, tire stores and Taco Bells would be replaced by a green curtain of birches and evergreens.
“What time will you be here? I’ve been here at the hospital since five this morning. I rode in the aid car with her. You should see her. She’s….”
“I’ll be there soon. Hey Sandi, Sandi?’ The connection dropped as Nance looked for an exit. Suddenly the car stalled, cutting out. She slowed down. There were no exits in sight.
“Thank god I was able to pull over safely.” She turned off her engine and stared at her blank phone screen. “I know I charged this thing before I left home. Oh, what the hell do I do now?’
The rain pounded on the roof and the hood of her car. “I’d better stay inside.” She mumbled as she sat staring at the rain-smeared windshield. She heard it before she saw it coming. The Doppler effect of the semi’s horn echoed in back of her and the rush of the cars whooshed in her left ear. The impact happened right next to her. She could see the family inside the ratty minivan. Their mouths were open and then silenced by the ferocious growl of the minivan, as it was devoured by the front grill of the semi. She could read the writing on the side of the truck, Jamison’s Lumber. The eighteen tires were just a smoking black fog of burning wet rubber skimming the oil-slicked pavement.
The violence of the accident moved in slow motion up I-5 North so fast it disappeared from Nance’s sight. Her mouth worked its way closed and open and closed again. Her phone rang. She picked it up automatically and pushed it on. “Nance? Nance are you almost here?”