I stop carefully at every corner, even the ones without stop signs, and for yellow lights. At this rate I won’t even need a license when I turn sixteen. Just drive slow and don’t get caught. The VA has a visitor parking lot, but I pull into the emergency drive and put the flashers on, ahead of where they’d have to pull in an ambulance.
Rory looks up from the desk. “Miss Aurora! You brung your Grandpa back?”
“He’s got his Glock in the car.”
Rory shakes his head and unfolds six feet three, coming around from behind the desk. We go out to the car. Rory makes sure Grampa sees him, then gently swings the passenger side door open and salutes. Rory was a field medic in Afghanistan the first time around, so he gets it right. And he gets it.
“Welcome to the hospital, Sir!”
“Little slow there, aren’t you, sonny?”
Rory doesn't take it personally. “Need to check your weapon, Sir!”
Grampa looks down at the pistol in his lap, dull black and with the safety still off. He clicks on the safety, slides out the magazine and hands it and the gun, handle first, to Rory.
I didn’t know I was holding my breath.
Rory holds out his arm, and Grampa puts his hand on it, his skin mottled with age spots but still pale underneath. They get him out of the car, and walk in through the doors.
“I’ll be right back,” I say, and go repark in Visitors, putting Grampa's Plymouth in the last row so I don’t have to worry about scraping somebody else’s car.
When I get back to Emergency, Rory’s not at the desk, so I sit in one of the armchairs. Might as well inventory.
Contents: One cell phone, possibly blow-dryable back to life; one hairbrush, fine; one notebook, possibly iron-able back to life; three pens, fine; one compact, fine once powder-puff is dried out; one pack of gum, toss it; three leftover movie ticket stubs, toss them; ten dollars, fine.
Have had purse since: last purse was stolen; purse before had can of refried beans dumped into it at Canned Food Drive; purse before had contents pinned to cork board and displayed in School Pride Honor Case.
Am getting tired of buying purses: now.
It started in middle school.
Elementary, I was just one of the smart kids who got bussed across town for Gifted once a week. Sixth grade, I started riding the bus to school, waiting at the bus stop every morning, walking home every afternoon. About halfway through October, one of the eighth-grade boys, someone I didn’t even know, called out, “Hey, Eyedropper!” and there it was. Every day. Every class. Every passing time, every lunch. Gum in my hair. Gross stuff on my locker lock. People talking about me behind my back, but loud enough so I could hear. And middle school? Being smart doesn’t put you in a group any more, unless you’re smart enough to hide it.
Of course there’s a story.
Later, my friend.