The Haven of Rest Retirement Center, like every repository of the worn out, afflicted and abandoned, rippled with currents of unrest among the gentry. On this sunny summer day, critical mass was building.
Almost daily, after the noon slop had been consumed or shoved aside, the topic of escaping the joint continued in the parlor. The five old men sitting in a corner by the front door hooting and hollering, or sometimes whispering secretly, were mostly ignored by the nursing staff until it was time to head them off for their afternoon nap.
Clardy Thomas, a retired dentist was the shortest of the bunch; Skeeter Windham, a rawboned old cowpuncher with liver spots on his head was the tallest. Jose McCormick had a full head of dark hair, compliments of his Mexican mama. Randall Smith, bald headed and butterball fat, and Herman Woosterman, missing a right foot, joined in on the scheming when not hindered by constipation or other important matters.
For sure they would be in the lobby Thursday mornings. That’s when the beautiful, blouse-stretching Ms. Vivian Hotchkiller scattered a vapor trail of Flowerbomb Extreme passing through on her way to the dining room to sing and entertain. She always parked her Thunderbird convertible near the front door, came inside tossing keys onto a lamp table, left her Taylor guitar case on a chair and beckoned for them to follow her to the dining room. That they didn’t do, though Randall would have trailed her like a bird-dog after quail if Herman wasn’t clutching his arm.
Trouble was, they could never figure out how to make their get-away. That is, until Clardy got the idea.
“Boy’s, it’s simple,” Clardy whispered, nodding toward the lamp table. “You see those keys? Next Thursday we scoot. All we need is a diversion to make everyone look the other way when we leave.”
It was Tuesday before Herman volunteered. He was too turtle-slow on his walker to keep up, he decided. Besides, Skeeter had called “Dibs” on the front seat. Randall, on second thought, said he had better not go. His daughter wouldn’t like it one bit. The other’s agreed; they were in. They would wear clean duds and scout up some traveling money.
And that’s pretty much how it happened. Ms. Hotchkiller was lustily leading a chorus of I’ll Fly Away when Randall, way down the west hall beyond the dining room, started screeching. “Help! Help! Hermann’s fallen.”
Clardy snatched the keys, Skeeter punched 4-3-2-1 on the keypad unlocking the front door and Jose backed the door open, bowing and waving them out with a sweeping flourish of his right arm. The joy of fresh air enveloped them as they piled boisterously into the fire-red dream machine.
Now these fellers knew they were going to get caught. They just intended to live every moment to the fullest until the jig was up. They were prepared to go to prison for life. After all, they reasoned, that had to be better than the Haven of Rest. It was a win-win, situation.
Except, the desperados crashed and burned. Not literally, but after all, habits are hard to break. The evidence indicated they visited Braum’s and then drove to Pinnacle Park and stopped under a shade tree to consume their bounty of ice cream .
There in that balmy clime, the sand man snuck up on them. When Officer Tucker spotted the get-away car and crept up, Smith & Wesson 9mm in hand, they were sawing logs, oblivious to the world. Skeeter’s false teeth were on the dashboard. His right hand clutched a spongy waffle-cone oozing strawberry cream onto the floorboard. Clardy had eaten most of his, chocolate it appeared, from the stains on the front of his khaki pants. Jose’s hair was windblown, his blue silk shirt unbuttoned to his silver dollar belt buckle. Peppermint chips were stuck in his curly chest hair.
Ms. Hotchkiller, after getting her car back, refused to press charges, much to the chagrin of the escapees. OfficerTucker, ignoring Clardy’s appeal that he should at least be arrested for driving without a license, said he wasn’t going there. The jailer was too good of a friend.
Life is back to normal at the Haven of Rest. The corner conversations continue. Ms. Hotchkiller keeps her keys with her and the door-lock combination has been changed. As soon as the last strands of Swing Low Sweet Chariot fade away, it will be nap time.
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