Thanks to the concerted efforts of my family and our neighbor to the right, Mr. Benson, LIW has agreed to finally take a ride in the car.

She’s been promised a glut of rewards, one of which includes (not to her knowledge) a trip to the doctor for a physical. My parents want to make sure she’s functioning properly, to which I hiss, Obviously she’s functioning. But I’m shushed, because like all animals, LIW probably won’t like going to the vet.

Instead, she’s promised ice cream, a shopping spree at the mall, and her ears pierced.

With beautiful jewels! My sister shrieks, hopping on one foot.

LIW smiles wanly at her and slowly climbs into the car.

She’s given the seat of honor, between my parents, in the front. Dad insists that the Chevrolet Caprice is built like a Sherman tank, so we continue to barrel around town while the rest of my friends are ferried in sleek station wagons with wood paneling.

From my vantage point in the backseat, I can see that LIW sits staring straight ahead. Her shoulders look to be in a perpetual shrug, and one of her braids is a little frayed.

Mom pats her as the engine roars to life and says, mantra-like, You’re safe, so safe, and we back out of the driveway.

It’s only about two miles to the mall, but Dad takes the Scenic Route, which consists of us driving slowly past the local brewery, a small state park, and through some of the nicer neighborhoods. It’s a TUDOR, he enunciates.

If I close my eyes tight, I think I can will LIW’s seatbelt to come unbuckled, will Dad to slam on the brakes, and then we’ll see if LIW is functioning well enough to go flying through the windshield.

And then, my sister flapping her arms in excitement, we arrive at the mall.