Mummy turned to the girls. “You’ve got that long drive ahead of you, so
now let’s head out, shall we? I want you to have all the fun that you can in
George was so excited about leaving, that she climbed on her hands and knees
and crawled into the car. Mummy looked worried – as always; she was trying
really hard to hide it. She had this idea that all the time and effort she put
into taking care of the girls was pointless without them. But she would
understand if George was disappointed – they were all going to meet Mum
“Don’t worry, love,” Mummy said, “we’ve got all the time in the world.”
“I hope I have a fun time,” Ella said, her voice full of joy, but she also
cracked a tiny smile, because suddenly she didn’t want this to feel like real
“Me too,” said George, so cheerfully George was practically crying.
“You know, you do this all the time with your friends, when you go out,”
Mum said, “and I never really complain.”
“It’s the least I can do,” George said, “it’s the least I can do to take
care of my girls.”
Mummy laughed. “I agree. And you deserve it. Especially since you’ve been
such busy little busy guys.”
And then they headed out. Everything in the world looked just a little
brighter, even if the streetlights weren’t working. There was a bright blue
rainbow in their rearview mirror, and the trees were turning a vibrant green.
A big, fat fluffy white cloud moved slowly down from the sky. And the
sounds–well, they sounded like thunder.
“Did you hear that?” George asked, but her voice was far away, and muffled
by the seat belt – which she hadn’t even realized she’d put in her handbag.
“Did you hear that?” she asked again.
“Yeah,” Ella said, “we heard something.”
As the car approached the edge of town, they suddenly heard a horn blow
loudly. A car honked. A loud car horn.
“Ooh,” George said, “let’s hope ours doesn’t honk or turn left on this
little two-lane highway.”
“I think they’re probably being cautious,” Ella said. “Probably not want to
have to turn right.”
The driver braked, and they heard a horn from his side. They slowed down a
little more, watching a giant red-leafed maple branch fly down the road.
“Look,” said George.
And then a very tall and very thin man emerged from behind the wheel of his
car. He must have been in his late eighties; his shoulders sagged, and his
face was thin and haggard. But, at the same time he had an air of indestructible
strength and determination. He held his arms out like an embrace, and he made
a low, deep, rumbling sound, like he had trouble breathing.
The car slowed down, so he had room to move his arms. And with his free
hand he pulled the cord of his horn. It made a high-pitched whine that made
the girls cover their ears.
“Ain’t nothing on this old highway,” he cried out.
“Honey, we aren’t supposed to honk,” Mummy shouted. But she was yelling at
the wrong place, because he did it again.
“I’ll do it!” George shouted.
He turned around, put his hands on his hips, and did the same thing again –
trying to wave them in the air and make this thing stop.
“Honey, stop making a fuss,” Ella said.
But he kept at it. The driver of the car took another deep breath, and
yanked the cord on his horn harder this time. This time the sound made the
girls flinch and cover their ears.
“What the hell’s he doing?” Ella asked, but she couldn’t really understand
what was happening – their voices were muffled by the seat belt and the head
rest and the heavy layers of clothing that he and Mummy had forced George to
A few car engines roared. They had to pull over to the shoulder and look
over the front of the car. A woman with a baby in her arms sat in the driver’s
seat. She was about their age; she was white-haired, with a few grey hairs
rising out of her scalp. Behind her, two children – one a toddler, the other
a baby – sat in the back. Both were black, with a large head of dark curly
auburn hair. And they were grinning.
All the time the man had his arms up. As if he was waving to the woman. And
as the car drove off, the children began to laugh and bounce up and down in
the backseat. The woman took it in with a shocked expression on her face,
trying to turn away from the two children. And then she let out a yell, as
she reached for the man’s arm, and yelled: “You fool! If you’re not going
to leave the road, why are you forcing me to?”
And the man laughed. “I didn’t mean to, ma’am,” he said.
“You didn’t,” she said. The children began to laugh harder, and they were
almost bouncing up and down on the car seat. “Are you trying to kill me.”
“No, I’m trying not to,” he said. And he laughed. And the women in the car
began to laugh, and the children laughed, too.
“Are you going to kill yourself?” the woman asked.
“No, that I will not do, ma’am.”
“Are you a murderer?”
“Are you a murderer?” the children asked.
“No, I am a doctor,” he said. “And I have a license to practice my trade.”
“You’re not an asshole,” the woman told him.