Vol. 11


Eyes Straight Ahead

c. 1985; Troy, North Carolina, USA

“Left at the light.” Cautiously, Belinda turned onto North Main. It was one o’clock, and traffic in Troy was light.

Mr. Greene sat on the passenger side with a clipboard. It was Belinda’s third driver’s education lesson. She was a high school sophomore at West Montgomery and had always worn dresses. Her mother never owned pants and never had driven a car.

“Right. Use your signal.” Belinda’s hands were at 10 and 2.1 Her eyes stared directly ahead, never looking in the rear or side-view mirror. She looked only straight ahead; she wanted so much to pass the course.

“Right on Russell and keep straight,” Mr. Greene spoke. They had circled a city block and were back at Route 27. The high school was on Highway 109, four miles ahead. Belinda drove between 38 miles per hour and 41 miles per hour. All was quiet in the car. Shortly they arrived at the turn to the school.

Belinda wanted to make the turn into the school, but Mr. Greene said nothing. Therefore, Belinda kept driving straight, passing the school.

Before long, Belinda crossed into the next county. She had been to Albemarle about six times. She would go to Sky City to purchase bolts of cloth.

Belinda kept driving through Albemarle, then through the next town. Belinda drove straight, hands at 10 and 2, eyes dead ahead. Mr. Greene was quiet, so on they drove.

The Montgomery County school buses left her school at 3:15 p.m. Belinda dared to take her eyes from the road and looked at her wristwatch: 2:15 p.m. She might miss her bus. Belinda pulled the car off the road, already two counties from her school. Belinda turned the car around.

Mr. Greene was quiet. This time Belinda went a little faster than the speed limit, but still Mr. Greene was quiet. Belinda thought she must be doing a great job.

When they pulled into the school parking lot, kids were loading the buses. Belinda parked the car and ran to the bus, the car’s motor still running.

Belinda had parked the driver’s education car beside Sally Thompson’s car. Sally was a senior and drove to school. The slumped Mr. Greene on the passenger side of the car caught Sally’s attention. She tapped on the window, “Hey, Mr. Greene.”

Mr. Greene didn’t move. Sally yelled to the assistant principal. When Assistant Principal Jones reached the driver’s education car, Mr. Greene could not be awakened. Mr. Jones noticed the medical bracelet on Mr. Greene’s wrist that said “DIABETIC.”

Now, diabetic comas aren’t usually punch lines in jokes. Do not worry; Mr. Greene slept in his own bed that night. What does make a good joke is a two-and-one-half-hour driver’s education session across North Carolina. The next day the West Montgomery principal told Belinda what had happened.

Belinda eventually learned how to drive correctly. She learned to make sure to keep her passengers happy and conscious.

Bray Woodard, great-niece of Belinda; North Carolina, USA


1. If the steering wheel were a clock with 12 at the top, her hands were where 10 and 2 would be.



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