Without lights or siren, the ambulance crawled down
the rough farm road like a wounded animal - wary, halting,
inching its slow way forward over deep, sun-baked ruts,
bruising a tree as it rounded the narrow turn; the little house
came into sight below. The driver kept his foot firmly on
the brake, forcing the machine to creep along at a minimum
pace. Acceleration was out of the question. The road had
been built for trucks and big-wheeled farm machinery.
Every steep incline and rain-worn ditch presented danger to
a low-to-the-ground automobile. One moment's hurry could
mean a lost muffler, a broken oil pan.
Beside the tiny wooden farmhouse, Peter Beaumont
watched the vehicle's timid approach. He looked on in
silence, one large hand raised against the glare of the
afternoon sun. He sighed heavily, turned, and started
reluctantly along the path to the porch.
"Mama?" He pushed open the screened door and
stepped into the small kitchen. The old woman was in
motion, carefully maneuvering her wheelchair over the
small hump between the kitchen and bedroom. She topped
the trim threshold and rolled out of sight.
Peter pulled the door closed behind him and followed.
He entered the bedroom and stood quietly, facing the back
of the old woman's chair. She had a drawer in her lap. Her
hands worked through its contents with unhurried
precision, lifting out one item after another, turning each
tenderly between her ancient fingers, raising it close to her
eyes. As she rejected each item in turn, she would refold it,