“Do I have to go along?” pleaded Andy Harper.
“Yes,” replied his mother in no uncertain terms. “Your grandmother wants everyone to go along.”
“I hate sitting next to her. She smells funny.”
“She smells just fine. The purifying system of the CL unit not only eliminates odor but it also masks any possible smells with perfume. I dare say, she smells better than you.”
Andy put on his most angelic face. “Will you at least let me sit in front by Dad. I don’t like sitting next to a dead person.”
“But you are more than willing to eat the cookies she bakes. Now go tell your grandma to hurry up. We have to be on the road soon.” She shooed her son into the house and finished packing the car.
Andy found his grandmother in the bathroom, putting an additional coat of skin toned base on her face. He had seen her without her makeup only once, but it had been enough to give him nightmares. Her pale, nearly white skin had given him the heebie-jeebies.
“Grandma, Mom says we need to get going.” He made sure to look at the floor just in case.
“Well, she should know not to hurry a dead person. It takes a bit longer for me to make myself presentable.” She paused and looked at Andy. “You can look at me you know.”
“I know. I will when you are done.”
“I need you to go to my room and grab the extra power pack for the CL. I hate to have the battery die on the way.”
“You and me both,” said the eleven-year-old boy. He was happy for the reprieve and ran off to find the power pack.
“How much longer?” asked Andy’s little sister Claire.
“We have at least another hour,” replied her Dad. “Traffic is pretty bad today. Since they started permitting life-extendies to drive, it’s been tough going on the roads They drive way too slow.”
“That’s deadist,” announced Grandma from the back seat. She turned and winked at Andy.
“I’m just stating the facts, Mother,” retorted Mr. Harper. “With more people extending their lives there are more cars on the road.”
“I’m surprised they gave extendies the right to drive,” interjected Mrs. Harper. “You would think it would be dangerous. What if the battery in their CL goes out?”
Andy knew the answer to that question. They had discussed the topic in school recently. “The law requires that the CL units are linked to the car’s power. With the auto-navigator turned on, there is really no danger of an accident.”
“True,” said Mr. Harper, “but they still don’t need to set the max speed to such a slow setting.”
“You wait till your dead,” said Grandma. “Everything tends to slow down a bit.”
Nearly three hours later the Harper family car pulled into the Continuity Life parking lot. Before any of the younger, living Harpers could open their door, Grandma called for their attention.
“Before we go in there, I want to say that you don’t need to extend my contract. I have had a wonderful extra year with all of you. I have gotten to say goodbye to all my friends. It’s just a waste of money to keep me going.”
“Mother,” said Mr. Harper as he turned to face her. “We love you. We are doing just fine financially. We can afford to keep you around. It’s not like you eat any food.”
“But renting the CL unit costs a lot of money. I just think that when you sit down to talk to the salesperson you should be aware that I am satisfied. I don’t need you to keep me around.”
“I understand that, Mother. Thank you for your concern, but we will do everything we can to keep you with us.”
Mr. Harper couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You mean the yearly rental price has tripled? That is ridiculous!”.
The sales representative merely shrugged. “The government has figured out that our technology is very popular. They are piling on all sorts of life taxes and extra license fees. You know what they say, ‘there’s only one thing for certain in life: taxes.’ We have some outstanding financing plans available.”
“You are putting us in a very difficult position,” said Mr. Harper. “My mother wouldn’t want us to pay that much to keep her around, but I can’t just give her up. She’s my mother.”
“You should decide before she get’s back from her check-up.” It was clear the salesman did not want Grandma to help with the decision. “If it helps, we do have a pretty good two for one package available.”
“Nobody else is dead!” screamed Mr. Harper as he rose from his seat. Andy and Claire both slumped in their chairs, finding the conversation and their father’s yelling uncomfortable. Mrs. Harper grabbed her husband’s hand in an attempt to settle him down.
“Calm down, sir,” said the agent as he slid his chair back a few inches. “I was just trying to help you out. Look, how about this, it’s the best I can do.” The salesman wrote a number on a slip of paper and slid it to Mr. Harper. If you agree, I can check with my manager to see if he’ll let me give you a great deal like that, but I think he will.”
Mr. Harper stared at the paper for a long time. Finally, he turned to Mrs. Harper. “We could do it if we quit contributing to the kid’s college funds for a year.”
“If that’s what you want, dear. I understand. She is your mother. I will support you no matter what you choose.”
The ride home was very quiet. Mr. and Mrs. Harper sat quietly in the front seat. Andy and Claire each stared out the window.
Finally, Grandma broke the silence. “What’s with you guys, you’re acting like somebody just died.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who has spent a good deal of his spare time the last couple of years trying to put some of the odd ideas and stories circling his brain into words. He lives in western Wisconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary.