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25 Years Online
••• The International Writers Magazine -
extract from 'The Restoration of Ami'

The Road to Savannah
• Sam Hawksmoor
What does it feel like to be old?


The road sign said Savannah 80 miles. Remy had stuck to Route 17 as there would be more stops, even if it was longer. At least it ended up in the Historic part of Savannah. He’d seen it all before many times, but he wanted his passenger to see it with her own eyes.  He rubbed his neck, it was sore.  Maybe Maisie had been right he was getting too old for all this.  He glanced at Ami who was staring out at the monotonous view.
“Get used to being bored, kid. It’s a long drive. We’re headed towards Richmond, Virginia after Savannah. And that’s only about half way.”
Ami had no concept of distances, this being her first ever road trip. She shrugged. “It’s all new to me.  You, ok?  You keep rubbing your neck.”
Remy nodded, wincing as he rubbed it again. “They didn’t design these seats for comfort back in the fifties. I’ll be alright. Remind me to take some painkillers on the next stop.”
“What does it feel like to be so old.  I think you’re the oldest person I ever met so far.”

Remy laughed, wincing at the pain in his neck, which he noticed had spread to his shoulders. “Well for one thing, you get sore necks and stiff joints on long drives. I’m luckier than most people my age. I’m still upright. My heart still works. I reckon I can go on for ten, maybe fifteen years yet.”
Ami stared at him, wearing a heavy frown. “But you’re always going to be thinking about dying.”
Remy glanced at her wondering if she was making a joke, but he could see she was dead serious.  “You got a strange idea in your head, kid.  Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you think about being old or death. I feel no different to when I was fifty.  Which, I admit, probably still sounds ancient to you.  You don’t feel age. You might get frustrated that you can’t do stuff like you used to, but it’s not like a tree can feel it’s tree rings, even if it’s been standing for a hundred years.  Do you feel fifteen?”
Ami thought about that for a moment.  “I don’t think I feel anything.  No, that’s not true. I feel a ton of love for Stan. He makes me want to live. I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to him. But I guess you’re right. You can’t feel fifteen any more than when I was ten.”

“Of course, the mirror tells the truth every morning. I hate looking at my face these days. Keep wondering where the hell I’ve gone and who the hell this old guy is with a white beard.”
“No mirrors at the farm.”  Ami told him.
“No mirrors?”
“Devil might see you naked.”
Remy didn’t laugh. “Yep, you certainly wouldn’t want that.” He was suddenly thinking about Rascal who for all those years had sat in Ami’s seat keeping him company on the road. He’d been one special dog. “You’re right about Stan. I’m pretty sure he loves you just as much as you love him.” He pointed to the cubby hole. “There’s a little plastic album in there. Take a look.”
Ami pulled at a small 6x4 plastic covered album and opened it up.  She smiled.  They were all photos of Rascal.  Running, jumping, hauling, carrying sticks way too big for him, smiling, curled up in Remy’s lap or stretched out on his bed fast asleep.
“He was beautiful.” Ami said quietly impressed.
Remy smiled. “He was.  The one thing you could never do was comb him. Couldn’t abide it.  I once found three combs and two brushes buried in the yard.”  He laughed at the memory and how upset Rascal had been when he’d dug them up.  “Took me a long time to get over him dying. Long time.”

Ami put the album away and gave Stan a hug.  “I’ve got no photos of Stan. Cameras are banned at the farm, along with pretty much everything else. I drew him though. Had to leave the sketches behind.”
“Well better than the other way around,” Remy told her.  He rubbed his neck and left shoulder again.  “I have to take a break soon. Need to take those painkillers now. Maisie said I should wear a brace when I’m driving, I guess I didn’t listen to her.”

Ami leaned back against her door and stared at him. He was rubbing his shoulder all the time now. “Maybe it’s a bad idea going all the way to Canada.”
Remy shot a look at her. “Now don’t you start nagging me as well. If it takes a bit longer to get there, we’re in no rush. You got some other place to be?”
Ami shook her head; aware she’d annoyed him. She saw a sign that said Gas-Food-Lodging and pointed it out. Remy nodded.
“I see it.”  His neck was killing him now. Didn’t usually play up so early in a road trip.
Ami could see his head kept dropping, like he couldn’t keep awake. She began to grow anxious. “Will the painkiller help?”
Remy didn’t answer. He was having to use all his concentration now on keeping the truck straight. He was already in the slow lane and prayed the gas station would turn up real soon.
“Remy?  Can you hear me? Maybe you shouldn’t drive for a while.”
Remy dropped the speed, the pain in his arms was more acute now. The turn off finally appeared and he tried to force his eyes open but …

Ami realized that Remy had actually fallen asleep. She reached over for the wheel and took the turn off. They were approaching the Exxon gas station a little too fast and she had to find the handbrake.  The engine stalled at an awkward angle, but Ami remained calm.  She pushed Stan out of the way and with a struggle hauled Remy across to her side of the cab. Not easy to move an unconscious person but she had to get his legs out of the way.  She took his place and pushed down hard on the clutch to force the gear box into neutral. She then started it up and straightened it out. She didn’t want anyone wondering what was going on.

She reached over to Remy’s jacket and pulled out his wallet. She extracted a twenty and put it back. “I’m getting you some coffee and painkillers, Remy. Won’t be long now.”
Stan waited for her impatiently outside the store unused to being left out of things.
Ami finally reemerged juggling two hot drinks with a packet of painkillers held in her teeth. She nodded towards to Stan, and they headed back to the truck. Somehow, she had to get the old man to swallow the pills and get him right again. She couldn’t let him die. Maybe she was supposed to call for help and maybe they’d help him, but no one would be helping her and Stan.  She opened the truck door.

“Wake up, Remy. I got you coffee and pills. Got to get you better.”  She got two pills down him but not much coffee. He fell asleep again almost immediately.  She looked around wondering what the hell to do. She looked back at the old man. “Don’t die on me, Remy. Please don’t die.”
© Sam Hawksmoor 5.1.24
you can download the whole novel here - The Restoration of Ami.

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