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Cars and Dogs and Shoe Boxes
I remember greatly anticipating the trip to see my cousin, Audrey. Thinking back on it I see that I, then, hadn’t realized how much she had changed- not matured, just she acted like a different person. I guess she was trying to grow up really fast; Audrey was trying to be more like her seventeen year old sister, Rory. When my mom and I finally arrived at Audrey’s huge house, my mind was already full of ingenious plans with absolutely no room for the one Audrey had long before devised in her own.
I awoke to a hard tapping on my knee. I opened my eyes to find a perfect view of the Hudson River before me. Groggily, I sat up in my seat and asked mother, “Is the next stop ours?”
“Yes, Lauren. Collect your things and when we get off the train look for Uncle Nat’s new car. He told us it’s gray and it’s a Lexus or something.”
I rolled my eyes, “Oh, great. That helps us. Do you have any idea on how many gray cars there are?” The train reached a stop and as Mom and I got off I immediately spotted Uncle Nat’s car as it was the only gray car in the parking lot. Deep down, I already knew this car would bring memories (I just didn’t know if they were going to be good or bad).
We rode to Uncle Nat’s house in silence… well, at least I did. While he and Mom chatted, I let the wind whip my hair as I played Angry Birds on my phone. I looked out the window occasionally, always just in time to see elderly pedestrians trying (and failing) to cross the road at three inches per hour. I dearly hoped that it wasn’t my only form of entertainment.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached Uncle Nat’s home. Excitedly, I ran up the front steps, threw open the front door, and bounded into the living room. I skidded to a stop and threw my arms around Audrey who had been lying on the couch and watching Looney Toons. She fought off my hug saying- rather breathlessly, “Lauren, Lauren, good to see you too, but you don’t need to strangle me!”
“Oh, uh, sorry. Uncle Nat said that y-you weren’t feeling w-well. Are, are you better?”
“What? Yeah, I’m fine. Never better. You need to work on that excited stutter you got going on there. What’d you say we go play Wii or something?” We bounded down the stairs to the basement which was where Nani and Audrey hung out since Rory thought of herself as an adult, and adults didn’t play Wii in basements (or so she said).
It was in that stupid basement that she told me her plan. Tomorrow, she said, Uncle Nat planned to take Mom to some sort of botanical garden in his old car. He wasn’t going to be taking the new one which Audrey so obviously lusted after. So she wanted to drive the new car around the neighborhood, maybe even take it onto Main Street.
But I was a worrier then, “What if they come back and we’re gone?”
“They won’t come back before we do. It takes thirty minutes each to and from the gardens. Anyway, they’re probably just going to stand around looking at poison ivy thinking it’s an orchid- that’ll take them at least two hours.”
Finally, I gave in. I knew that Audrey had already gone to great lengths to plan this and who knew how she would treat me if I didn’t go through with it. But just because I had agreed to be her accomplice didn’t mean that I had to like it. I really did hope that Uncle Nat decided to cancel his trip to the botanical gardens, but with luck like mine he of course didn’t.
The next day I woke up as late as I possibly could. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I checked the time. Ten twenty, I really needed to start learning how to sleep in late. But just as I was laying my head back on the pillow, a face popped up in front of mine. Great, Audrey had caught me.
“Go away,” I groaned and rolled over in the bed.
“NO! HURRY UP SO WE CAN SAY GOODBYE TO DAD AND AUNT CELIA!” the annoying brat shrieked into my ear as she tore the sheets off of me. I knew there was no getting out of it, so I stumbled out of bed.
“Go away,” I said to Audrey and after she left the guest room I threw on some clothes and peeked out the window. Uncle Nat had filled up his Honda Civic to the brim with food; I could only assume that he and mom had planned to spend a full day at the gardens.
Right before he and Mom left, he told us that Rory would be taking care of us and that we should try and be as much of a help to her as we could. Uncle Nat loved his eldest to death. That was another thing, Rory wouldn’t be staying and acting babysitter. She had a very important party to attend and would be leaving in her Kia the second Mom and Uncle Nat were out of sight. And then there was Nani. She was at a play date, so Audrey and I would (unfortunately) have the house to ourselves.
We waved goodbye and smiled as Mom and Uncle Nat pulled out of the driveway. On the inside I was dying and on the outside I’m sure I was the perfect picture of childlike joy. Audrey looked just as happy, but her happiness was real- she was finally going to get to drive the car. It was her chance.
Even after our parents had disappeared over the river and through the woods, Audrey and I just stood there until Rory came out of the house. She approached us and exaggerated having to bend down to reach our height. “Now I’m leaving. If you tell dad or Aunt Celia where I am going, I will personally see to it that daylight never reaches your eyes again. Got that? Also, if you two pull any stunts while I’m gone… I am going to kill you. So don’t do anything.”
I could feel my cheeks reddening with guilt. Rory narrowed her eyes at me, but finally decided that I was too pure to commit any sort of crime. If only she knew of Audrey’s plan.
As soon as Rory was gone, Audrey dashed into the garage. She had already grabbed the spare set of car keys and I could see her eagerly getting into the car. Glumly, I shuffled up to the passenger’s side. I was opening the door when Audrey said, “No, you help me back out of the driveway. Use hand signals like those people who direct airplanes. When I reach the road you come and get in!”
Relieved that if Audrey crashed the car I wouldn’t get blamed or die, I practically skipped to my position in the front of the house. I waved my hands forward, telling Audrey that the coast was clear and she wasn’t likely to run over any pedestrians. Then I heard barking, the annoying yapping of a small dog. I knew it was probably the neighbor’s rat terrier, but I wasn’t worried. His owner kept him on a leash at all times, and their fence was too high for the dog to jump over. So I kept telling Audrey to keep backing out.
She was three fourths of the way to the road when I saw him. The rat terrier was barreling towards the driveway at top speed. Of course, only Audrey would think that cars had mirrors in them for vain purposes, so when I started waving my hands like a crazy person she didn’t use the mirrors to check behind her. I stuck my hand out in the universal “stop” but the thrill of driving her dad’s car must have made her dizzy, because she didn’t even slow down.
Audrey was acting like an idiot. By the time she finally acknowledged my frantic waving for something other than “go”, it was too late. Just as she was about to hit the brakes, I heard an ear piercing yip. The little streak of black and white was under one of the rear tires. Please no, I thought, please don’t let that dog be dead! But I think I mentioned my luck earlier…
I ran around the car to Audrey’s side. I yanked open the door and pulled her out. Her face was white and she was shaking as she asked, “Did I, did I h-hit something?”
“What-what did I-I hit?”
“A DOG?!” Audrey was really freaking out. So was I, but in a way that was hard to tell. I was quietly dying on the inside while she was flapping her arms in helpless way. She asked, “Is it… dead?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t checked.”
“Then we-we better take a look.” we walked around the back of the car and when I saw it I almost puked. Audrey puked in a neighbor’s carefully pruned shrub.
“What are we going to do, Lauren?” Audrey asked.
“We’re going to get rid of the evidence,” I said in an even voice. I knew that our parents would kill us, if Rory didn’t do it first. Uncle Nat would probably send Audrey off to a convent never to be seen again. As for me, well I knew that Mom would think of something other than the conventional hanging-Lauren-from-her-toes.
Then I had an idea, “Okay. This is what we’re going to do: I’ll put the car back in the garage, you go get some plastic bags and a shoebox and bring them back here. After that we’ll get a shovel and a broom. Got it? Good.”
Audrey disappeared into the house and I slowly drove the car into the garage. I shut it off and put the key back into its place. When I came back out onto the driveway with a shovel and broom Audrey was already standing there, her eyes fixed on the dog. She held three plastic bags and the shoebox I had asked her to bring. “Audrey? Are you okay?”
“I just ran over Mrs. Archer’s dog. I ended a life. Do you think I’m okay?”
“Well, no. But come on. We have to hurry and get rid of the…remains.” the two of us worked quickly and soon, wrapped in plastic bags, we had the dog in the shoebox. It was then that I realized that I really needed to relieve my stomach. I ran to some nearby azaleas and puked. It really was not turning out to be a good day.
When I came back, Audrey had already swept away little clumps of fur that had come off in the crash. She picked up the shoebox and handed it to me. Together we walked into her backyard and straight to the brook which ran through it. Carefully, we scampered down the rocks and stood in the calf deep water.
With the shovel, Audrey pushed rocks away from the area in which we planned to bury the dog. We made a shallow hole in the mud and quickly placed the shoebox inside before the water covered up the hole. With that accomplished, we started to put rocks on top of the box so that no one would be able to see even a corner of the dog’s coffin.
We climbed out of the brook and were casually walking towards the house when we hear: “GEORGE! GEORGE! OH, GEORGEY! WHERE ARE YOU?”
Immediately, Audrey and I froze. No one had to tell me that George was the dog’s name, I just knew. We started to walk more quickly towards the back door. Audrey and I really were not in the mood to face Mrs. Archer. But it was too late.
“Oh, hello girls! Audrey and…”
“Yes, Audrey and Lauren. Well, have you two seen my precious little pet, George? It seems as if he’s run off, poor dear. He dug a hole under the fence and was gone. I heard him yapping, but it seems as if he’s quiet now. Oh, well, if you see him please come and tell me. Thank you dears, go and run along now!” Mrs. Archer disappeared behind her fence.
I turned to Audrey. “Now is no time to give in, we’ve got act natural. Never look Mrs. Archer in the eye. One more thing, above all-“
I was interrupted by the sound of a car pulling into the drive way. Audrey and I looked at each other, eyes wide. We dashed through the back door, sat down on the couch and turned on the TV to reruns of America’s Next Top Model. We heard the sound of steps and sprawled ourselves on the couch as casually as we could and, just for good measure, Audrey threw in a “Go Tyra!”
“Oh, so this is what you’ve been doing. And I thought you two were going to do something productive with yourselves,” Mom said as yellow stuff like pixie dust floated around her and Uncle Nat.
“Achoo!” I sneezed
“Sorry, Lauren. It must be the pollen.” Uncle Nat said as he brushed off more of the yellow stuff. “Well, we’ll just leave you girls to your show.”
After our parents had disappeared up the stairs, Audrey turned to me, “What were you saying earlier? Something about ‘Above all’?”
“Oh, yeah, that. I was saying that above all, always remember that this was your idea and that I had nothing to do with it. That’s all.”
“But you were the one directing me!” she said indignantly.
“I’m not the one who hit the dog.”