My mother was pale and panting, too weak even to scream as the pain surpassed her ability to feel it and she tumbled into a white void of shock. Jerry patted her left leg reassuringly and gently nudged it back to her side of the seat.

The car rolled backwards. Because the car had come equipped with power everything, when Jerry jerked on the wheel nothing happened; it was locked in place. When he stepped on the brakes he met with a totally unfamiliar resistance. He reflexively turned the ignition key but the car would not start with the shifter in neutral--a safety feature he'd paid extra for without knowing why. He could not find the emergency brake because it was not where he expected it to be.

The car rolled majestically down the driveway, out of control but stately as a homecoming float, rigidly serene as a zeppelin blown off course. The great power of the engine was neutralized, the car drifted quietly as a sailboat--quieter, even, with no splash of water against the hull or billowing sails and tightening ropes. In the few seconds it took to roll down the driveway Jerry managed only to turn on the lights and flick the highbeams on and off.

The car hit the young tree, bending it under the bumper so that its top touched the street. My mother's door, which she'd been too weak to close properly, swung open and she tumbled onto the sidewalk, exhausted as a shipwreck survivor flopping out of a beached lifeboat. Jerry leaped out of the car and ran around to my mother's side, going around the back of the car to note in passing whether it had suffered any damage. The car was fine, but the tree, though nicked just a little bit, would grow crooked and prone to undiagnosed tree diseases, occasionally dropping a limb or retaining its leaves well into winter only to lose them in spring.

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