It was a dark and snowy night. I know, I know, that sounds like the winter twist of an often overused horror cliche. So what? It really was after dark, and the snow coming down really was blinding. It had not been so bad when Mildred left her daughter’s house about twenty minutes before. The storm seemed to come up out of nowhere. By now she should have made it home, taken her medication, and have been well on her way to bed.
It was that medication which pushed her home in the first place. She could make it a day without her Prilosec (not comfortably), but there was no way she could skip a dose of Zestril. Her heart would not last through a loud, crazy, family Christmas without it.
So here she was, nose to the windshield, going about 20 miles an hour down the road as nervous as one could be. I know, it seems she is always going too slow and driving too cautious, but just this once, I don’t blame her. Even still, it didn’t help. As if out of nowhere, an eight-point buck came flying through the snow into the road. Mildred slammed on her brakes, but it was too late. Her left headlight was shattered as it impacted with the deer. The car spun on the slick road, went off the edge, and slammed into a tree. Her seatbelt should have protected her, but nothing could have saved her from the branch that went through the shattered front windshield.
– – – – – – – – –
“Is she coming back tonight?”
“No. Grandma said she will sleep back at her place and then head back first thing in the morning.”
I looked out the kitchen window into the darkness outside. You could barely see the light from the garage just a few yards away. It was only a blurry, speckled glow illuminating the heavy snow thickly blowing in an almost horizontal direction. A gust of wind rattled the entire pane.
“Well, I hope she is alright.”
Uncle Mel called over from the living room. “She has her cell phone and only has to push one for it to ring your grandpa. I’d hate to call and check in on her now in case she still is on the road. And I don’t want to face her nagging if I wait too long and wake her up later. If there’s trouble, she will call.”
“Sure hope so,” Aunt Betty said as she wiped down the candlesticks and set them back on the table. I felt a bit guilty at my irreverent comparison at how the light blue with silver trim on the candles was not quite as blue as grandma’s hair. I don’t know what she had last used to wash her wig, but I didn’t have the heart to inform her of the discolorment.
The three boys, my son and his two cousins, came yelling through the kitchen and into the living room. The crash of one of those boys into the coffee table was followed by a yell of anger from Uncle Ty and laughter from Uncle Mel and grandpa. No question there who was winning. My guess, he was also the only one of the three still sober.
“I know exactly what we all had.”
Uncle Ty argued with the other two. He wanted to reset the cards back as they were, but the other two were saying they just had to start over. He was outnumbered, and I don’t think that was an argument he was going to win.
My sister Carol tried herding the three up and out of everyone’s way, but she would have had better luck herding cats into a dog kennel. I was probably the only one to hear the front door ring. I went to it, but when I saw the red and blue flashing through the snow, I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. Two cops were standing on my porch, a taller, slightly overweight man in brown hair and a lady probably an inch or two shorter than me. Both had deadly serious looks on their faces.
“What did Mike do this time?” I asked this question as I rubbed my hands trying to warm them from the biting cold wind.
The male cop turned to his partner in the hope that she would speak up. She did.
“Is this the Smith residence?”
I half smiled as I answered. “One of them. I am Amy Smith.”
“Ma’am, are you related to Mildred Smith?”
A slow horror started to creep up through the cold as I answered, “Yes. She is my grandma.”
“I am terribly sorry, ma’am. I have terrible news.”
Silence slowly descended on the house when I stepped out of the blizzard back inside a short time later. One of the men in the living room muted the game and asked what everyone was wondering.
“What is it? What happened?”
I can only imagine the look on my face as it was reflected back on me by a dozen pairs of eyes. I shook myself to work free enough thought to be able to answer.
“It’s grandma. She got run over by a reindeer.”