Marge cut the stitching out of her old teddy’s missing eye and pulled out three hundred and fifteen dollars. That’s how much she’d squirreled away without her rotten kids knowing about it. Enough to buy Joanne’s golf cart and still have money left over for a pizza. Blood pressure be damned. Teresa’s dog yapped outside her front window. Damned thing was loose again, probably shitting in her yard.
“Get out of here, you nasty thing. Get!” Marge shut the window, hoping the dog would go home. She didn’t have time to chase it off.
She put on her walking shoes and her summer jacket and stuffed the money in her pocket. They better not have sold the cart before she got back to pick it up. That little Nelly, as Joanne had always called her, would mean freedom for Marge. Truth was she’d been a little jealous when Joanne had bought her. She’d zipped around on old Nelly going to the clubhouse, and bridge games, and Saturday morning exercise class, and zipping home whenever she wanted.
Since Marge’s kids took her license away last year, she’d had to rely on others for rides. Couldn’t go anywhere without having to ask permission. It didn’t sit right with her at all. Mostly she’d just stayed home, not wanting to give up her own damn rights to come and go as she pleased. She enjoyed riding with Joanne and Nelly on occasion, though. No one could stop them from going wherever they wanted in the park on that golf cart. Didn’t need a license for that.
Two mobile homes down, Joanne’s place was nothing more than an empty shell now. Those kids of hers had already removed all her belongings, carted them off to thrift stores and the dump. All the treasures Joanne had spent a lifetime collecting, nothing more than junk nobody wanted.
The cart sat in the front yard, a “for sale” sign stuck to the side, covering the white hand-painted “Nelly” on the pink body. It was a gaudy thing. Joanne had attached pink and white streamers to the mirrors and covered the bench seat in faux fur. The white basket behind the seat had rust spots sprinkled across it. Joanne had kept her little Nelly pristine. In the month since her death, it had declined considerably due to neglect.
The blonde grandkid, probably in his thirties, came down the front stoop.
“Glad to see you back, Marge. Grandma would be happy she’s going to a suitable home. You know, she rode her til her last dying breath—”
His mother, Joanne’s daughter, approached and shushed him, grabbing the money from Marge’s hand.
“Do you need help getting to your place?” she asked.
“No, I’ve got it.” Marge sat on that fur lined seat and swore she felt Joanne sitting next to her. The two of them, like young girls, ready to create a ruckus. She turned Nelly on and drove off the lawn, the wheels slipping on the soft grass. The mother’s frown shot at her as she tore out of the lawn with a wave behind in apology. No one cared about that lawn anymore anyway, other than resale value.
Marge’s silver curls fluttered in the breeze as those streamers trailed through the air. Now she knew why Joanne had always had a smile on her face.
Back home, she parked beneath the carport and washed Nelly off. Nothing more to do today than heat a can of soup and take an afternoon nap.
When she awoke, the full moon shined through the window, flooding the living room with white light. She must have worn herself out with all the excitement. Usually, she napped for half an hour at most, but her watch told her it had been six hours.
She sat up, feeling wide awake, and went to the side window to make sure she hadn’t just dreamed about Nelly. She glowed in the moonlight, testifying to her existence. It wouldn’t hurt to take her out for a little spin around the park. Maybe it would help tire Marge out for the night.
A few scattered streetlamps were no competition for that full moon, giving the neighborhood an almost daylight glow. Marge watched a thin cloud drift overhead and took a deep breath. She started the cart and pulled out of the driveway.
The night, full of the chirrup of crickets and tree frogs, the buzz of those incandescent lamps, and Nelly’s tires crunching the ground beneath her, belonged to the two of them. Marge let the wind ruffle her hair, listening to the sounds of the night and giggling like a teenager.
Joanne whispered sweet words to Marge, just like she’d always done when they were together. There’d be no more late-night movies or cribbage with Joanne, but out here driving through the streets, they rode together wild and free. Marge leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes for a moment.
That damned raccoon came out of nowhere. Young one and it ran right in front of the cart. Marge didn’t see it in time. She stopped Nelly and got out to look. The raccoon’s squished body lay beneath the tire, eyes bulging. Never had a chance.
She couldn’t just leave the thing there in the road, so she backed up, off of it, and pulled that fur seat cover off the bench. She never did like that thing. Wrapping the raccoon in the fur cover, she lifted its body and placed it inside the basket.
When they got home, she buried the raccoon in one of her garden boxes. No one would know the difference. Worn out from all the activity, Marge took a shower and went to bed as the rising sun beamed into her front window.
Marge woke, once again, to the moon shining through her window. She smiled. Never liked the sunlight much anyway, and luckily, no one came to check on her much. She wouldn’t want to cause concern. That’s how you got yourself carted off to a home. She’d have to remember to leave a note for the clubhouse office so no one worried, tell them she’d be away for a few days.
She made herself a pot of coffee and grabbed the paper off the porch. She didn’t feel much like reading. Nelly waited, looking prettier than ever. The wash had done wonders for her. Even the rust spots were fading. Marge knew the baby just needed some love and attention. There was something niggling at the back of her mind, something Joanne had said just days before she died. No time for worries now. She needed to get out in that cool night air. Another spin wouldn’t hurt anything.
Marge heard Teresa’s yappy little mutt before she saw it. Why was it out this late, and why didn’t Teresa keep the dammed thing penned up? It would probably shit in her yard again. That mutt was a menace, but Teresa was to blame. Marge flushed with rage.
Then she saw it, standing in the middle of the road, yapping its fool head off.
“Do it. Get rid of the mutt for good,” Joanne whispered in her ear, only it didn’t sound like Joanne, but Marge didn’t really care.
She smiled and aimed the cart at the mutt. With one final yip, it slipped beneath the tire. As soon as she hit the dog, she had regrets. What had come over her? She got off the cart, hoping it might still be alive. It most definitely wasn’t.
After going home to grab her shovel, she scraped the dog off the road and took it home to bury. Luckily, her dirt was nice and soft from many years of working the garden. She buried the mutt beneath her rose bush. Then she hosed her baby Nelly off. Her grill smiled, like she was proud of what she’d done for Marge. The voice Marge had been hearing wasn’t Joanne’s. It was Nelly’s all along. Marge remembered Joanne’s words.
“I’m afraid of it, of how it makes me feel,” Joanne had whispered, just days before she died, as if she thought the cart might hear her.
Marge had chalked it up to dementia. It happened to most eventually. But maybe there was more to it than that. She remembered the look on Joanne’s grandson’s face as if there was something about his grandma’s death…the way he said, “she rode it up to her dying breath.” How did Joanne die? Marge didn’t really know. She assumed old age, stroke, heart attack. These things happened often around the neighborhood.
Nelly’s gorgeous body sitting outside her window, wearing that beautiful smile, took Marge’s mind off everything. She was probably being silly, just needed a good night’s sleep.
Marge awoke with the setting sun shining its last light into the living room. Grateful she’d woken up in the daylight, she decided to take Nelly for a spin to show her off to the neighbors. About time everyone met her new companion. As soon as Marge turned Nelly on, Teresa stepped out of her trailer, walking towards Marge’s driveway.
“Have you seen Toodles?” The lines on Teresa’s forehead and running down from the corners of her mouth to her sagging chin reminded Marge of an old bulldog.
Teresa’s mutt…Marge had almost forgotten. Teresa stood in front of her, hands on hips, in the middle of the driveway.
“I’ve heard you yelling at him. What did you do to my dog?”
A smile spread across Marge’s face. Nelly shook. Giggling filled the air.
“Go, Marge, go!”
Nelly lurched forward and down the driveway over Teresa. Marge put her in reverse and backed over her again. She’d need to get her broken down small enough to fit in one of her garden boxes.
Whatever Joanne’s reservations had been, Marge felt pretty damn good about everything. Teresa splattered Nelly with copious amounts of blood, but that would wash off.
Beneath the blood, Nelly was looking better than ever.
Roni Stinger lives in the Pacific Northwest, USA with her partner and two cats. When not writing strange, dark things, she is often wandering the forests, beaches, and streets in search of shiny objects and creative sparks. Her work has been published in MetaStellar, Dark Matter Magazine, and Unnerving, among others. You can find her at www.ronistinger.com and on Twitter @roni_stinger.