(Beach Photo by Joyce Saviak)
Avery cranked the window down in her 1994 jeep wrangler. She could hardly contain her excitement as she drove onto the Refaire Bridge. Now this is what summer is supposed to be, she thought to herself. She had a very strong opinion that summer was to be filled with boys, beaches, and tans, yet so far her summer had been anything but that.
Now she was headed down to her grandparent’s old beach house, where she would help out with anything they needed- mainly grocery store trips and repainting the house. They had gotten so old that there was only so much that they could really do by themselves. Normally her aunt took care of her grandparents, but this summer it was her turn. To others in her family this trip seemed like a chore, but not to Avery. She adored her grandparents, and thought that this summer could be one of the last chances she had to spend time with them before heading off to college next summer.
Cruising down Bonneroute Boulevard, she stuck her arm out the open window to feel the breeze. This is perfect, she thought. The sky was the most beautiful blue; however, off to the right on the horizon, a huge storm was brewing. It wasn’t uncommon for storms to brew over Mobile, AL and never make it to the island, but this one looked as if it may.
When she finally reached her grandparents house at the west end of the island, she stepped out of the jeep and stretched. The trip here from Tennessee was long, and loud inside her jeep. Her mom had offered for her to borrow the corolla, but Avery refused. The trip may have permanently hurt her eardrums, but she would never have given up the chance to drive her jeep around on the dunes behind her grandparent’s house. It was something she had been dreaming of doing for years, even before she had bought her jeep.
“Avery? Is that you?”
Both of Avery’s grandparents were standing on their porch, far above her head, screaming her name. Her grandparent’s house was on stilts, like most beach houses, which was one of the main reasons that her grandparents never left it. The stairs were too much of a hassle for their aging hips.
“Yeah! I’m here!” Avery called back up to them, and proceeded to drag her enormous duffle bag across the center console and out the driver’s side door. Although the sun felt great on her back, the humidity was already making Avery sweat bullets. By the time she had lugged her duffle bag all the way up the stairs, she was drenched.
“Come inside, its nice and cold in here. Would you like a coke, honey? We have a few in the fridge already,” Avery’s grandma put her arm around her and hugged her close. She picked up her suitcase while her grandpa held the door open, cold air wafting out of it.
Down at the beach, the water was calm and the sand was deliciously warm. Avery spread out her arms, wanting to feel the warmth on as much of her body as possible. Now this is what she thought summer should be. Thinking of all the possibilities for the rest of her summer made Avery smile, and she sat up to enjoy her view. A group of attractive guys about her age were playing beach volleyball a dozen yards away. They seemed to sense her staring and began playing even more aggressively, each guy trying to outdo the other.
Avery giggled. Boys will be boys, she thought. It made her happy that someone, especially a few someones, wanted her attention. Pulling her beach bag closer to her, Avery searched for her sunscreen. Frustrated, she found nothing. In all of her excitement to head down to the beach, she had forgotten to put it in her pack. Her fair skin would surely burn if she didn’t use sunscreen out here. Huffing, she picked up her beach bag and towel, and turned to head back to the house.
She walked fast, wanting to get back as soon as possible in the hope that the boys would still be playing when she returned. Her flip-flops slung sand against her calves as she made her way out of the sand and onto the street. Although her grandparents’ house wasn’t right on the beach, it was only a street away.
Finally reaching the stairs to the house, Avery took the steps two at a time and dropped her bag and towel right outside the door. “Hey Grandma, I’m just grabbing my sunscreen!” She yelled, searching the kitchen table for the lotion. Out of the corner of her eye, Avery saw her grandma walk inside from the back porch.
“Avery, do you think you could be a doll and head into town to get a few things? I’m afraid we are out of most of the food we’ll need for the next week. Jenny was supposed to go to the market for me, but she had to stay late at work.” Avery’s grandma looked up at her, her knit eyebrows leaving deep creases in her forehead. Even though she wanted nothing more than to return to the beach ASAP, she could never say no to her grandma. After all, it was grocery trips like this one that were the reason that she even had the chance to be down on the island at all.
As her grandma made a list of things that she needed from the grocery store, Avery slipped out of her bathing suit and back into her shorts and t-shirt. Grabbing her purse off of the dresser as she headed back into the kitchen, Avery looked for her flip-flops along the wall next to the front door.
Shuffling toward her, Avery’s grandma thrust out a piece of paper and several twenty- dollar bills along with a set of car keys. “Oh, no grandma, I brought my jeep. I don’t need to borrow a car.” Avery tried to hand back the keys, but her grandma shook her head. “Nonsense. It’s about to storm and your jeep doesn’t even have a roof. I don’t want you to get soaked on the drive back inland. You’d catch a cold.”
It did make more sense to take her grandma’s car, but Avery was still hesitant. Rain or not, she loved driving the jeep. It was pure freedom to have nothing other than a roll cage in between you and the sky; almost as if you could spontaneously lift off of the tarmac and fly up to the heavens. “Okay, Grandma. I’ll take your car.”
The rain was pouring by the time Avery got down to the Oldsmobile. She unlocked the door with her key, and slid onto the old leather seat. She pushed her wet hair off of her forehead and turned the key in the ignition. The world looks so much different when it rains. All of the colors dim and run; nothing seems as well defined as it did before the storm. Avery turned on her headlights in order to see more clearly.
What is it that makes a human being a person? Is it their eyes? Their smile? Their laugh? At what point are they no longer considered a person? Doctor Carter Reynolds pensively watched Avery Walden’s chest rise and fall, rise and fall. He was a friend of the Walden family and had witnessed that girl grow up. He had given her her first stitches. He understood that medically, it seemed less and less likely that Avery would recover.
Doctor Reynolds reviewed Avery Walden’s patient file sheet for the fifth time that day. Doctor Cooper, a doctor new to the hospital, walked into room 229 behind him. “Doctor Reynolds, I think it would be wise to ask the family if they would consider discontinuing life support. Avery has been in a vegetative state for three months now. It doesn’t seem likely that she will ever regain consciousness.” Doctor Carter Reynolds’ dark, heavily lined eyes looked up from his coffee.
“She’s not gone yet. I can feel it.”
Avery cranked the window down in her 1994 jeep wrangler. The movement seemed so familiar, as if she had done it a million times.