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The Rules

January 30, 2013

Miriam stood on the porch, hiding under the awning and staring wistfully at the car in the driveway. The rain was falling hard. The whole yard was a puddle.

“Why can’t I drive the car?” she asked herself. “I know that I should never drive in the rain, but why?”

She tried to remember why she never drove in the rain. It had been a rule for as far back as she could remember, at least as long as she had been married to David. She always just got out her raincoat and umbrella and a pair of waterproof shoes. Miriam always carried a pair of dry socks in a Ziploc bag in her purse in case the shoes did not live up to their promise. It was such a production just to go to the grocery store or the post office. Sometimes, if she saw someone she knew on these wet outings, she would end up accepting a ride after finding it difficult to explain why she didn’t drive in the rain and neither did David.

David always just said that those were the rules. He did not claim responsibility for their creation, but insisted that the rules be followed. The rules were comprehensive and aside from the one about weather affecting transportation, they mainly consisted of where and how each item should be handled and stored around the house. Miriam did not have to think about the rules. They had become ingrained; she had adopted them as her own. She did not ever consciously think about them, until now as she tried to figure out why she couldn’t drive in the rain.

“Why can’t you drive in the rain?” she heard a hard voice utter.

Miriam looked to see herself standing beside her. This other self looked older, with dark circles around her eyes and a voice that was as hard as compacted earth.

“Not you,” Miriam complained. “When you show up bad things happen.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve helped you loads of times. Remember I convinced you to eat a corn dog even though David said it was against the rules. It was delicious, remember?”

“I remember. I remember how sick I was and how angry David was when he found out.”

“He never would have found out if you had listened to me in the first place instead of that prude who follows you around.”

“She follows you around. I expect she’ll be here any minute to rescue me from you.”

“Yeah, well, I’m ready for her this time. I mean, seriously, it makes no sense to walk in the rain when you have a perfectly nice car. There’s nothing she can say that makes more sense than driving and staying dry.”

“She stays dry in a raincoat too,” Miriam heard from her right. There was another self, this one looked rested and content and her voice was soothingly light.

The Left self was not pleased to see the Right.

“You know that wearing a raincoat is not anything like staying dry. The rain tries to get in any opening it can find, buffeting without cease until you feel like a slice of bologna in a plastic bag. It is not a pleasant experience which is why everybody else on the planet drives when it’s raining.”

“And how many accidents are there?” the Right said calmly.

“I would guess the same amount as when it’s dry,” the Left retorted. “Maybe a few more, but not in such quantities that one would cease to use logic and decide walking in the rain is preferable to driving in the rain.”

“Some people sing in the rain.” The Right smiled.

“Yeah, dancers and the mentally ill.”

“Alright, you two,” Miriam interrupted. “I have to be to Doctor Phipps by one so I really need to decide if I’m going to walk—I’m going to walk. I mean it’s the rules. Why break the rules?”

“I’m glad to see you’ve been listening all these years.”

“And see where it’s gotten her, standing indecisively on the porch trying to decide whether she should drive or not because her overbearing husband is particular about the weather, unable to make up her mind and relying on two mental projections to make her decisions for her.”

“You never argue the point. You always argue around it.”

“Okay, here’s the point: There’s no good reason not to drive in the rain. It is just some arbitrary rule that has no real value and it goes against common sense.”

“Rules aren’t always about common sense.”

“Oh, shut up. Miriam, you know I’m right this time. This doesn’t make any sense. Just drive.”

“She’s not going to break the rules just because you tell her to. You haven’t given her any reason to.”

“Sure I have. The rule is dumb and it doesn’t merit consideration and it’s raining.”

The Right self smiled.

“This is typical of you,” she said. “Just because you don’t understand something it automatically warrants dismissal and scorn. Miriam is more levelheaded than that.”

“Levelheaded my eye. She can’t make a single decision for herself. Miriam, listen to me. I am saying this because I love you and I want you to be happy and I think you should start doing things for yourself instead of for everyone else: Drive the car.”

“Oh, I don’t think I could. Besides, I’m already in my raincoat. I’ve got my wellies on and I’ve got a spare pair of socks just in case.”

“Do you really want to show up at Doctor Phipps’ looking like you just ran through a tropical storm?”

“I’m not driving, Left, and that’s final. Right is right. I will obey the rules.”

“Alright, alright. You win this time, Right. I guess I’ll be on my way… Oh, yeah, just one more thing before I go. Would you mind being a dear, Miriam, and telling me what time it is?”

Miriam glanced at her watch.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s only fifteen minutes to one. I’ll never get there in time.”

“I’ll be seeing you,” Left said. She waved and disappeared.

“You can’t do it, Miriam,” Right said imploringly.

“I don’t think I have a choice; I’m not allowed to be late.”

Right sighed.

The nurse ripped the Velcro heart pressure cuff off of Miriam’s arm.

“Okay,” the nurse said, while writing on a clipboard. “Doctor Phipps will be right in to see you.”

The nurse hastily retreated leaving Miriam alone on the examination table. Miriam looked at her watch. It was 1:10.

The door of the examination room opened and the doctor entered.

“Okay, Miriam,” Dr. Phipps said. “What seems to be the problem?”

Miriam looked at her watch. It was 1:30.

“You drove in the rain,” David said gravely when she walked in the door.

“I was going to be late.” Her voice quivered.

“Oh,” he paused, looking puzzled. His brow cleared and he said, “I guess that’s okay then.”

Miriam hung her jacket in the hall closet and put her wellies below it, lining the heels up evenly with the heels of David’s rain boots. On her way to the kitchen, she stopped to look at herself in the mirror.

“So, why can’t I drive in the rain?” she whispered.

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