The key to being a good parent is to teach your kids all the important things they'll need to know in life. Take driving, for example. Now sure, I was years away from my 16th birthday, but doesn't it make sense to take your kid out to an empty parking lot and let him practise driving the family car? What if there were a big storm and all the 911 emergency services were unavailable? And both your parents were out and your sister fell down the stairs and needed to be taken to the hospital? "Sorry, sis," you'd have to say. "If only dad had let me practise driving the car, I could have taken you to the hospital."
I decided to run this idea by my parents. I found them relaxing in the backyard, enjoying some cold drinks, and I explained how I thought they should both teach me to drive their cars. My dad took this idea into careful consideration. He weighed the pros and then he weighed the cons. This took him half a second. Then he began roaring with laughter. Streams of tears rolled from his eyes. My mom didn't even take half a second to decide. Laughing so hard, she could barely speak. She choked out, "Drive?" Gasp, gasp. "My car??" Gasp, gasp. "Stop! Stop! You're killing me!"
Disgusted that my parents had failed to see the wisdom of my idea, I jumped on my bike and headed to Gordon's house. Half a block away, I could still hear their laughter.
When I arrived at Gordon's house and told him about my idea to learn to drive, he thought it was a great idea. In fact, he said, we should go to Paulo's and see if his dad would let us practise driving some farm tractors.
When we arrived at Paulo's farmhouse, we found Paulo and his dad in the barn lifting heavy bales of hay, sweat dripping from their faces.
| "Hi, Mr. Lima," Gordon said. "We want to learn how to drive. Can we practise on some of your farm tractors?"|
Mr. Lima dropped the two bales of hay he was carrying and grabbed his sides as his body began to shake with uncontrollable laughter. "Paulo," he gasped. "Your friends, they always crack me up! Learn to drive on my quarter million dollar tractor! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! That's the best laugh I've had in a long while. Paulo, you can have the rest of the day off to play with your friends. Such comedians!"
Mr. Lima picked up his bales of hay and staggered away, chuckling to himself.
"Well," Paulo grinned. "This is great! My dad never lets me get out of chores. Thanks a lot! What do you guys want to do?"
We decided to go for a bike ride down the gravel road. The road was deserted and we hadn't seen a car in over an hour of biking. As we rounded the top of a hill, Paulo pointed and said, "Hey, look at that."
At the bottom of the hill, a pickup truck was parked half on, half off the road. A person was propped up against the front tire, legs stuck out straight onto the road. Gordon, Paulo and I coasted down the hill and carefully approached. Had there been an accident? Was the person sick? As we pulled up closer, I could see that the person was a woman and that her eyes were closed, but as she heard our bike tires crunching on the gravel, she opened them. She turned towards us. "Oh, thank goodness. I'm saved. Someone came along!" she said. "I'm pregnant and about to give birth!" This was followed by moans, crying and yelling. But when the woman was finally able to calm Gordon, Paulo and me down, we agreed to help her any way we could.
"Just help me into the back seat and one of you young men can drive me to the hospital. You're old enough to drive, aren't you?" she asked as she held out the truck keys. "I don't see well without my glasses."
With lightning speed, Gordon, Paulo and I each grabbed for the keys. Gordon got to them first. Grinning from ear to ear, he assured the woman. "Ma'am, don't you worry about a thing. I've been driving for years." Of course, Gordon never explained that in all those years, he had only ever driven a tricycle, a bike and a skateboard. The three of us gently helped the pregnant woman up and carefully loaded her into the back seat, where she stretched out as if on a bed and instantly fell asleep, totally exhausted.
Gordon, Paulo and I loaded our bikes into the back of the pickup truck and climbed into the front cab. Spotting a package of cigars on the dashboard, Gordon withdrew one from the package and stuck it in his mouth. "This will make me look older," he said. Grinning at Paulo and me, Gordon stuck the keys into the ignition and started the truck. It roared to life. He shifted the car into drive and then it didn't happen. The truck didn't move.
| "Gordon, step on the gas pedal," I said.|
"I'm trying," he said. "I just can't reach it."
I looked down and could see the very tip of Gordon's shoe barely touching the gas pedal.
"She's a tall woman, Gordon," said Paulo. "The seat's too far back. Move it closer." Try as we might, none of us could find the lever to adjust the seat. We would just have to make do. With Gordon's leg stretched as far as it could, he could barely make the truck go 10 km an hour. It was the slowest emergency drive to the hospital ever. Fortunately, the woman remained asleep and after an hour of driving, we were finally within a kilometre of the hospital. And then it happened. We spotted a police car driving towards us.
"Quick! Duck!!" Gordon yelled. All three of our heads disappeared from view. It was the worst thing we could have done. When the cop saw the slow moving truck, he expected to see an old person driving it. Instead, he saw what appeared to be no one driving it. Paulo peeked up. "Whew, he's gone!"
We all sat up. "That was a close call," I gasped. Suddenly, we heard a siren and saw flashing lights. The cop had turned around and was pulling us over!!
Barely able to touch the brake pedal, the truck came to a slow stop. Through the side mirror, I watched the police officer stomp towards the truck. Gordon lowered his window and, clenching the unlit cigar in his teeth, he asked, "Is there a problem, officer?"
"IS THERE A PROBLEM?!" the cop roared, yanking the unlit cigar from Gordon's mouth and throwing it on the ground. "Is there a problem?? How old are you? At first I thought no one was driving this truck, and now I see that it's a kid!! You boys stole this truck, didn't you?"
Before we could explain, the woman groaned from the back seat. "What was that?" the cop yelled, peering behind us.
"It's a woman, about to give birth. We found her on the side of the road next to her truck and we're taking her to the hospital," said Gordon.
"Out of the way, kid," ordered the cop, quickly grasping the situation. He pushed Gordon on top of Paulo and me and climbed into the driver's seat. He sped off to the hospital and the woman was rushed into the delivery room.
Gordon, Paulo and I spent the next hour in the waiting room, arguing about what the baby's name should be.
"I think she should name the baby Gordon, since I drove her to the hospital," said Gordon.
"Well, I think she should name the baby Paulo, since I saw her by the side of the road first," reasoned Paulo.
"Well," I said, "I think the baby should be named -" At that moment, a nurse burst into the waiting room and announced that the baby had been born. "It's a healthy baby boy!"
Behind the nurse was the policeman, grinning. "The mother says she's going to name the baby Daniel, after me, because I drove her to the hospital!"
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Book 1 - The Dead Bird Collection
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