Today's Reading

"Can you stand up?" the boy asks.

Rose nods. With his help she makes it shakily to her feet.

"Let's get you fixed up," the boy suggests. Matter-of-factly, he draws the hospital gown up around her shoulders. Moving behind her, he says, "You've got yourself all undone."

Her gown is tugged straight as he ties the two ties in the back.

"Amazing boy" is all Rose can manage.

"When Dad's aunt Clara got bats in her belfry we kept her at home," he says. "There. Good as new."

"My belfry is emptying. Bats are flying the coop. Mixed metaphor," Rose says. "You—somebody—tell me where this is." Rose feebly waves an arm and feels the gown pull open over her bottom. "This is so weird... It's not summer. What—I don't know..."

"You'll be okay. Aden is going to get people to help you. Want to sit down?" the boy asks kindly.

Rose doesn't want to sit down, but realizes she can no longer stand up. He helps her to a boulder near his fallen bike. Without his hand gripping her arm, Rose would collapse.

"Hey!" comes a shout. Two men in white coats burst out from an arch of trees a hundred yards away. "Hold her!" one of them shouts as they trot toward her and the boy.

"White coats," she murmurs. "Where are the butterfly nets?" Terror slams into her, snatching the breath from her lungs. "No! No," she begs, and clutches the boy's hand. "There's been a mistake. Don't let them take me."

"You'll be okay now," the boy says soothingly. "They'll get you some water to drink, and get you all set."

The men arrive. Both panting, both overweight, alike to one another as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

"I think she's super dehydrated," the boy says. "I gave her some water, but it wasn't much."

"Thanks, kid," the nearest Tweedle says. "We'll take it from here."

Rose can't run. She can barely stand.

Expertly, they flank her. Each takes an elbow and a grip on the corresponding shoulder. Effortlessly, they lift her until her toes are skimming the ground, not like she's a person, but like she's a sack of lawn clippings being dragged to the curb.

"Wait," Rose wails, kicking as ineffectually as a baby. "Damn you! Put me down!"

They pay less attention to her than they would to a yapping dog. In a practiced two-man scuttle, they cover ground rapidly, rushing her toward the gaping hole in the foliage from whence they emerged. The tops of Rose's feet scrape along the ground. She bends her knees, lifting her feet to stop the damage. The men don't notice the extra weight. Rose tires; her feet are dropping. She tries to run between them, but they are moving too fast.

The three of them shoot through a tunnel of leaves. On the other side are houses, lawns, sidewalks. Half a block away two police cars and two sedans, one white and one gold, are double-parked in front of a one-story brick building with wide glass entrance doors. A discreet sign bolted to the brick reads LONGWOOD MEMORY CARE UNIT.

Two uniformed men and four women, one in pale green scrubs, are standing on the sidewalk as if waiting for the delivery of Rose. One is an impeccably dressed woman in her seventies, tall with a straight back and determinedly brown hair. Her arms are crossed tightly, as if she is afraid a word will shatter her. Next to her is a diminutive redhead in her forties, hair blunt-cut across her eyebrows.

"I know you!" Rose screams. "I know you!" She laughs with relief. Her throat is so dry, the laugh sounds like a growl. Names, Rose needs their names, but nothing comes. The handsome older woman is a blank. When she looks at the small redhead, all that comes to mind is "bad boob job." Trying to pull her arms free of her captors, Rose shouts again, "I know you!" The tall fragile woman turns her face toward Rose, her glasses flashing in the sun.

"You know me! Help me! For God's sake, help me!" Rose tries to plant her feet, stop the parade. The men don't slow.

"Gigi!" comes a call from behind. Twisting painfully in the orderlies' grip, Rose manages to look back. Hair shining in the morning sun, strong tan legs flashing as she runs, a girl races up the sidewalk from the direction of the tree-lined arch.

"Grasshopper!" Rose shouts. She knows this girl, loves this girl. Rose is so happy, she babbles, unable to stop herself. "I'm dreaming. Or I'm Rip Van Winkle. How old am I? This is so crazy. I sat down. Then I woke up and—and, and I'm so glad to see you!" She laughs from sheer joy at the sight of the beloved face of her granddaughter.
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