After a few wrong turns made by yours truly, Great-Grand Maddie pulled her cell phone from a pocket and talked to a voice. Sore Ears, Sherry, or maybe I was hearing Shirley. Either way, I couldn’t really understand what Maddie called this invisible presence she talked to, but the two of us (three?) finally made it to the Parkway.
I picked the young lady up in Gluckstadt a short while ago and we headed for Savannah, Tennessee by way of the Natchez Trace Parkway. There we would join with daughter-in-law Gail and turn north to Chicago for a visit with son Bob, for a last rose of summer vacation.
Maddie sat in the back seat pushing buttons on her cellphone.
“I know you thought I was lost a few times,” I said. “But we’re on the right road now. When it comes to today’s technology, I’m rather unimpressed. I’m used to the old days, and the old ways.”
On down the road a ways I spotted a familiar name. Maybe she needed to know her Great Grand wasn’t completely over the hill. “Red Dog Road.” I pulled over and pointed to a sign.
“Old memories, Maddie. I was in a writing group, the Red Dog Writers. We published several books with short stories by Mississippi authors.” I took a deep breath, stretched, and settled back. “And that’s the gospel truth. What do you think about that, young lady? I was right proud of those books. And I’m proud to say, that this state we call home has more published authors than any other state in the union.”
I heard a giggle from behind me.
“That’s not funny,” I scolded. “You shouldn’t laugh at what I said.”
“I didn’t hear you. I’m playing games.”
“Paper dolls? Tiddly Winks?” I asked.
“Panda Pop. Candy Crush.” She set her phone down and leaned forward. “Alpha Betty. I’ve been working puzzles with my phone.”
She yawned, picked up her phone, and slid into a sleeping bag.
“Never miss a good chance to shut up, Lottie Bee,” I told myself, pulling away from Red Dog Road.
No more wrong turns, and several hours later Maddie and I made it to Tennessee. We drove over the Tennessee River, passed through the town of Savannah, and wound around a few lush green meadows sprinkled with grazing cows, horses and mules. A little further down the highway, slate hills lining either side of the highway like ancient guardians came into view.
“Olive Hill. Here we are,” I said, swinging off the interstate and onto a narrow road. After a few miles we turned onto a gravel strip, and weaved through a cow pasture. “We made it in spite of me. Maybe I need to make friends with Sore Ears.”
A soft laugh came from the back seat.
Maddie (Sherry/Shirley/Sore Ears) must have contacted our welcoming committee; daughter-in-law Gail and grandson Brent waited outside in the driveway.
We pulled to a stop; Maddie and I got out of the car.
“Welcome to the Villa, at Olive Hilla.” Gail said.
We all laughed, had moments of brief hugs, then began unloading luggage.
Brent set an overnight case down. “I think y’all have a problem. I hear something.” He looked over his shoulder.
“I hear it too,” Gail said.
“Tire leak,” he and Gail chorused.
Brent looked concerned.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Maddie’s cellphone has a voice on it. Sore Ears knows lots of things. She helped us get here and she would have told us if anything was wrong with the tires.”
Brent stared at me.
Gail gave me a funny look.”What are you talking about?”
I placed my hand over my heart in a peace gesture. “Never mind.”
Brent began circling the car. “Something doesn’t sound right.”
I punched my hearing aid volume up. “I kinda hear something. Like rocks rattling in a tin can. Maybe y’all need to upgrade your driveway,” I said, “From gravel to concrete.”
“Our driveway’s fine,” Gail said, “For everybody else who comes up here.”
Maddie stepped away to pet a kitten who had strayed up and was rubbing her ankles.
“Maybe not everybody. Y’all could be wrong. Sherry/Shirley/Sore Ears---”
“Whoa, Maddie,” Brent yelled. “Don’t move.” He dashed for the house. “I’ll be right back,” he called over his shoulder as he ran.
“What in the world?” I asked.
“Right there,” Gail screamed. “On that rock.”
Only a few feet from Maddie, definitely not part of our welcoming committee, coiled on a rock, a rattlesnake drew back.