upon a time there was a middle aged woman and her slightly older
brother, Butch, who was visiting her in Austin
from his then home in Baytown.
They had taken her car, her beloved iridescent plum colored Lincoln
Continental sedan named Mary Todd, with slightly cracked gray leather
seats, purchased used some years before, and had gone to lunch at
a favorite Chinese buffet restaurant. It was her brother's habit
to drive them, laughingly described by him as Driving Miss Sissy,
and after the meal was over the woman decided to sit in the back
seat behind her much taller brother, for reasons she doesn't recall
now, maybe acting out the movie role in a friendly spirit of giving
up her usual rabid control to let her brother drive. Big mistake
on her part. Better visibility would have been really handy, in
Normally the man was a calm, steady, clear thinking individual who
had completed a long and successful career in various fields of
law enforcement before retiring a couple of years earlier. His biggest
moving violation, in her oft voiced opinion, was a highly irritating
habit he had of driving at least 25 miles below the posted speed
limit within the city, a habit he says he acquired while working
for more than two decades in the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown
where no one was allowed to drive at speeds greater than 15 mph.
This drove the woman to distraction at times, and she occasionally
let her irritation show, but only in small, subtle ways, of course.
His unvarying rejoinder was “It's okay, Sis. I've been to Low Speed
Pursuit School.” This had apparently taken place sometime back during
his days as a public law enforcement officer. It never was what
the sister considered a satisfactory reason, by the way.
They chatted casually as he drove back toward her house and all
was well, so she thought, until they turned onto her street. She
paid no attention whatsoever as they approached her driveway until
the car, with absolutely no warning, jerked forcefully to the right
in what had to have been a pure 90 degree turn from a straight line.
I don't think this is even possible in any vehicle that I'm aware
of. The sister felt her neck suddenly snap and then move in an unnatural,
side to side, wildly flapping motion until her eyeballs rattled
and rolled crazily in their respective sockets, and she heard his
high pitched, terror filled, falsetto voice screaming “No brakes!!
No brakes!!!!” as the sedan plowed upward into the middle of the
yard and came within inches of the front window of the house.
She joined in the unearthly squealing as their voices formed a duet
of operatic proportions, and she felt her heart stop as her Chinese
buffet lunch came within inches of adorning the back of her brother's
closely shorn scalp. There was a terrifying second when she envisioned
herself with a snout full of glass, couch cushions and splintered
coffee table before she mercifully shut down into a mini coma.
Dead silence, then the sister heard a deep, rumbling, baritone chuckle
bubble up from the depths of Mr. Low Speed Pursuit's, chest. An
urge to do grievous bodily harm came to mind, but she remained paralyzed,
physically and mentally, and was unable to act. Was this payback
for every one of the thousands of times she tattled on him when
they were kids, some brief, synaptic lapse that unhinged him neurologically,
or just a depraved whimsical impulse out of the blue?
It remains a small, but closely nurtured, source of satisfaction
to the sister, a remnant of her nursing knowledge, that remote memory
is the last to fade, and she is, after all, a whole thirteen months
younger than Hell On Wheels Harry with a childhood spent honing
her skills at the game of sweet revenge.
© Frances Giles
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"
August 1, 2015 Column
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