The old man rocks slowly, rhythmically. His arthritic hands bird-claw the wheel of the eighty-seven Skylark coupé as if they are going someplace. They are not. He is not. It has been years since Minnie took away his keys, but he cannot remember.
Sam cannot remember where he wants to go or how to get there. But, each morning he wanders out to the shed and sits mimicking a life that his brain no longer recalls.
“Yonderly,” his neighbor, George had said, as if the word explained it all.
“Alzheimer’s,” had been Doc Stillwell’s diagnosis, which explained no more but had the cleanliness of medical assurance. That had been after Jack Landscombe, the shop teacher, had found Sam, just as now, at the wheel of the dark green coupé. They were on the ball fields back of the old high school. Driving circles until out of gas, Sam had come to rest on the varsity second base.
“You can’t go back,” George had said. That was when he had visited and brought a fistful of rhododendrons—pink, purple, red, gold—fresh, smelling just cut from the bushes his Livi prized.
Sam, not yet sufficiently medicated, had been locked in the clamor and confusion of the psychiatric ward at Good Shepherd. That had been before Minnie, who taught algebra twenty miles away in Livermore and who had been coming home once a week to make sure her father had enough to eat, had packed her belongings and her tabby cat and moved back home to care for him. Suddenly, Sam’s slipping mind had become more imperative than those who had not yet conquered equations and factoring.
At first Minnie had tried to keep the old coupé available for her own use. It was easier than the bus, and her Volkswagen had been surrendered to the demands of economy. Sam’s pension didn’t hardly cover day to day, and there was precious little set aside. The old Skylark was paid off and not worth selling; while the motor still ran, that dark green body had gone to rust and holes, and vinyl upholstery was stained and cracked with memories and wear.
At first, Minnie had figured taking away the keys would be sufficient; but Sam, with a canniness his dementia could not conceal, had searched them out. Once more, he and his green coupé had come to rest behind the school.
Medication upped, Sam had again come home. In his absence, his neighbor and best friend George, had pulled the wires, drained the gas, and left the dark green hulk under the shed roof, a dinosaur set out to ruin.
That has been some years. George is now gone, although Livi still totters about her garden shears clutched in shaking hand. Doc Stillwell is a resident in the nursing home where Jack Landscombe’s wife, Sue, is an aide, and where each morning she feeds the elderly their pills washed down with Tang. They are the same pills as Minnie gives her father, but Sam is coaxed with sweet coffee, smiles, and love.
Minni has changed: Put on weight. Grayed. She no longer dreams of finding love. But she does not abandon her post. Neighbors pity her. Young boys snicker. On occasion meanness sails a stone at Sam as he drives to nowhere. But for the most part, time has left them ignored.
Nobody remembers that day, fifty-seven years gone past, when Sam played outfield on the town team. Nobody remembers his last varsity game, against Livermore. One out, bottom of the ninth, Sam on first. Losing two to one—a pitcher’s duel, and he had bunted safely on.
The other kids screaming, yelling, chanting from wooden bleachers.
Mike Oberlman, shortstop, up next. Takes a swing. The crack of ball on bat. The ball sails up. Sam widens his lead. In right field, a pinstripe-clad player makes the catch. Sam charges back to first, tags, and starts for second base. Head first he hurls himself. A moment too late; he’s out.
Nobody remembers that day except Sam, who rocks slowly, rhythmically. His arthritic hands bird-clawing the wheel of the eighty-seven Skylark coupé as if they are going someplace. As if time can start again.