Ernie Glasgow was considered a genius. The men and women in white coats told him so. Many prestigious schools clamored for his mind, enticing him with scholarships, money and even women from time to time. He left Deans and Professors shaking their heads at his decision to attend a small community college near his home. He would decide later what he wanted to do. Ernie was 13 years old.


*        *        *



It all started with a horrific tragedy the year before. Mr and Mrs Alfred Glasgow and Alfred’s sister Penelope, with her new boyfriend in tow, flew to New York City in the Glasgows' Cessna for a simple day trip. Alfred negotiated a huge real estate deal while the other three went shopping. On the trip back the small Cessna ran into a sudden, freak lightning storm and went down. Three were killed and Penelope was left completely paralyzed.

Ernie was whisked away from the babysitter to Children’s Services and told in a cold unemotional manner by a frizzy-haired woman who looked old and tired that his parents were dead and his aunt in the hospital. Placed in a huge room with beds lining each wall occupied by an equal number of boys, Ernie cried, loneliness and fear pressing against his heart.

One month later he was placed in a foster home only two blocks from his aunt’s house. She had been released from the hospital two weeks after Ernie’s release from Children’s Services and he made a point to visit her every day after school. His foster parents resented these visits and tried to convince Children’s Services to have them stopped. Arguments went back and forth until everyone conceded it would be unfair to deny the boy visits to his only living relative. After all, how much time did Penelope Glasgow have? She was completely paralyzed and spent twenty-four hours a day in an iron lung. Arrangements were made to have the school bus stop in front of his aunt's house and one of his foster parents would pick him up later in the evening.

Ernie would run into the house, slinging his books in a chair as he always did before rushing into the next room to see his aunt. The Nanny-Nurse, hired by the estate to look after Penelope, would look up briefly, say ‘Hi, Ernie’, and settle her eyes back to the television screen. Nothing was going to interrupt her favorite afternoon soap. With eyes glued to the screen, the Nanny never noticed Ernie slipping from his aunts’ room to the basement.

For six months the Nanny didn’t notice Ernie slipping to the basement. The humming of a drill or an occasional bump was so muffled that the caregiver thought the noise from a neighbor. With irritation, she would increase the volume of the television.

The trained ears of the caregiver noticed the sudden cessation of the familiar suction and clack-clack sound of the iron lung. Fearing that the device had somehow become unplugged she rushed to the room. Horrified, her mind took a moment to grasp the sight of Ernie carrying his aunt’s limp, skin and bones body and gently placing her in a shiny black and red wheelchair that resembled one of those sidecars seen on the side of a motorcycle.

“Stop! What are you doing?”

The caregiver shoved Ernie aside and attempted to pick Penelope up. Ernie, who was a tall boy for thirteen, easily managed the yelling almost hysterical woman out the door. Hearing the click of the lock, the caregiver rushed to the phone and called an ambulance, the police and Dr. Ryan.

The police were the first to arrive. The upset caregiver quickly led the two uniformed officers to the locked door.

“Hurry! Do something! She can’t be outside the iron lung for too long, she will die!”

“What’s the boys name?”


“Are there any weapons involved?”

“Weapons? No, no weapons in this house.”

One of the officers stepped close to the door and pounded with his fist.

“Ernie, this is the police. We are going to bust the door down. Step away from the door.”

He stepped back and kicked at the door. The door bounced but didn’t give. The second kick swung the door open amid splintering and cracking of the doorjamb

They all three rushed inside to be confronted with Penelope sitting in the sidecar/wheelchair.

The chair whirred and moved forward a few inches.

‘It’s all right, officers. As you can see, I am quite all right.’

They blinked at the seven-inch square screen that was attached on the top front of the wheelchair in stunned amazement as it typed her words.

Padded rods supported her all around her upper torso except for the area across her chest, which held an oblong translucent casing that seemed to be pushing her chest up and down. A tube ran from the device to the side of her mouth. Two padded objects supported her head, one on each side of her head, attached to a wider padded rod climbing up her back and behind her head. Underneath her armpits were another set of padded devices letting her arms hang down limply over the sides of the wheelchair. Only her upper torso was visible; her legs hidden underneath the encasement.

The paramedics arrived with cases in hand followed by Dr. Ryan. They all stopped to take in the almost comical device with the small woman sitting inside. Dr. Ryan, a young, dark haired man, pushed his way toward the police officers.

“I’m Miss Glasgow’s Doctor, Daniel Ryan. I need to take a look at her.”

The officers stepped aside and Dr. Ryan knelt, opening his bag.

Ernie had been loitering in the background and now stepped forward, turning the screen on a swivel toward the Doctor.

“Aunt Penny is talking to you.”

The doctor looked up at the tall, gangly blonde-haired boy, with the ice-blue eyes set in a round angelic face. He could have been his aunt's son instead of nephew. She had the same fine blonde hair and blue eyes. Ernie tapped the screen.


‘So nice of you to come, Doctor Ryan. Would you please tell these people to leave? I have some personal issues to discuss with you.’

He pulled out the blood pressure belt and proceeded to wrap it around her limp arm. He looked at her blank expression. Her spinal cord below the back of her head had almost been completely severed in the accident. Twelve hours of surgery had repaired a few of the nerves, but the damage had been too severe. The doctors did not expect her to live. The paralysis was complete up to the smallest nerves in her face. She couldn’t even blink her eyes and she slept with eyes wide open. Every hour eye drops were applied. In the hospital, it was determined that she could see, hear and her brain was unusually active. Surprisingly, all her internal organs worked except for the lungs and the oesophagus. A semi-permanent shunt was placed through her stomach so she could be fed three times daily.

He pumped up the blood pressure belt, looking over the gadget she was sitting in with amazement.

“Where did you get this thing? I have never seen anything like it.”

‘My Ernie built it.’

The paramedics had placed their cases on the floor and were whispering in the corner while the Doctor finished his examination. He stood and dismissed the paramedics.

“Your services are not needed here. Miss Glasgow’s vitals are normal.”

They left, leaving the police officers and the caregiver. One of the officers spoke to the Doctor, eyeing the motionless, expressionless Penelope. He noticed the two sensors stuck to each side of her temples and the small amount of spittle running down her chin from one side of her mouth.

“Seems there is no more to do here, unless Ms. Glasgow wants to press charges.”

The wheelchair whirred as she turned it toward the officer. He watched the screen as the words laboriously typed out.

‘I appreciate your concern, officer, but Ernie did what I wanted him to. I am perfectly fine. There will be no charges filed. Except maybe for my broken door.’ If she could have chuckled, she would have.

The officer looked from the Doctor to Ernie, whose expression was almost as blank as his Aunt's.

“All right, you folks have a good day.”

The officers left, passing the caregiver, who was standing with arms folded across her chest.

Penelope rolled her machine toward the caregiver.

‘Mrs. Hodges. You are fired.’

Mrs. Hodges unfolded her arms and puffed up her chubby five foot two stature in indignation.

“You can’t fire me! Only Mr. Culpepper can.” Carl Culpepper was the estate attorney, and had been for twenty years.

Penelope turned the chair to the Doctor.

‘Would you be so kind, Doctor Ryan, to call Mr. Culpepper and relay my wishes.’

“Of course, Penny.”

Mrs. Hodges turned in a huff and left the room.

The call was made. Mrs. Hodges was replaced with a younger more attentive nurse and the night nurse remained.



*        *        *



Over the next few weeks the Glasgow household was flurrying with activity. Engineers and Doctors came, marveling over the invention that Ernie had built. Ernie himself was subjected to a battery of tests until it was concluded his IQ was well over three hundred. He graduated high school at thirteen years of age, passed the SAT with flying colors, enrolled in the community college and was whisked from one interview to another at local TV stations. Soon he was featured on CNN as the next Einstein.

Dr. Ryan made regular visits and soon became close to Ernie. And because of that the Doctor was becoming puzzled over Ernie’s sometimes-erratic behavior. He noticed when Penelope was asleep the boy was a regular thirteen year old, playing games on his x-box, whining over a loss, declaring his hunger, and pouting if things didn’t go his way. When Penelope was awake, his demeanor changed. Ernie’s adult-like manner and speech mystified the Doctor. The expression on his face would change to become somber, thoughtful.

At age fourteen Ernie went to court with the Doctor and his Aunt to declare his emancipation. The court granted his petition. Now he could stay with his aunt. He would get his engineering degree soon. He never studied. He didn’t have to. Every day the mail came in bundles from different high-tech companies that wanted Ernie Glasgow for their own.

The Doctor was on his way to the Glasgow house when his cell phone rang.

“Dr. Ryan here.”

The high-pitched hysterical voice of the nurse blasted at him.

“Oh, Doctor, It’s terrible. I couldn’t stop him! Miss Penny’s dead. It was horrible! I couldn’t stop him!”

“Calm down, Nurse Wilson. Take a deep breath and tell me what’s going on.” He was maneuvering his car in a right turn and juggling the cell phone at the same time.

“He killed Miss Penny and the police are here and Ernie is missing. It was just horrible.”

“Who killed Miss Penny?”

“Ernie did.”

The shock felt like ice water had been thrown over his whole body.

“I’m five minutes from the house.” He clamped his cell phone shut and threw it on the passenger seat, then accelerated the car, his mind muddled with what he had just heard.



*        *        *



The police had an easy time finding Ernie. He was at the high school gym, playing basketball with some other boys around his age, laughing, having fun. Nobody would have thought to look at his calm, smiling, angelic face that he had just killed his aunt. The other boys looked on in mild surprise as the police handcuffed Ernie and placed him under arrest. The only thing the police could get out of him during questioning was “She was always in my head, telling me what to do, what to say, where to go. Always here”. Pointing to his head. “I just wanted some friends, just wanted to do what I wanted to do.”

His face fell in his hands and he cried, so loudly and forlornly. He wanted things to go back to the way they were. He wanted his mother and father back. He wanted to go home



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