“Little Old Ladies” Prompt
RETURNING THE TOYS
Noonish, 2004 Fort Worth, Texas
March 10 — another semi-normal day at Cherrywood Villa, an assisted-living and memory care facility. The able-bodied stroll down the hall in groups, lured by the aromas of chicken-and-dumplings and home-baked yeast rolls in the French Provincial-decorated cafeteria. From the east and west wings, aides roll the wheel-chair bound and position them at tables for two and four. The Alzheimer’s Gang, as the Memory Wing residents are called, are awaiting their turn to eat when sirens begin whooping. Chaos ensuing, no one misses the five residents, including one on a walker — hobbling out the emergency exit. They certainly have no clue that Mabel, Mavis and Maude, Gladys, and Daisy – upstanding denizens of Cherrywood have commandeered Hazel Greenwood’s grandson’s vintage Volkswagen.
As they rush out, Mabel herds her passengers into the cramped kiddy-sized car.
“Daisy, you ride up front with me. Mavis, hurry Maud up. And Gladys — where the heck’s Gladys?”
“Yoo-hooo! Here I am!” Running as fast as she can, huffing and puffing, pendulous boobs jiggling, Gladys catches up with them and settles her well-upholstered chassis into the back seat.
After folding her 5’10” frame into the tiny car, Mabel buckles up herself and straps in Daisy, a mid-stage Alzheimer’s patient.
Mabel releases the clutch and starts the engine. “We all in? Everyone buckle up, now.”
Mavis, a flapper-throwback, with her bobbed, red hair and cupid’s bow lips, scoots as far away as she can from her sister, Maud.
“You’re clear, Mabel,” she chirps. “Gun it!”
Pink, plastic sacks crisp from years of storage balanced on their laps, Mabel and Daisy, up front, and Mavis, Maude, and Gladys, squirm, scrunched up close to each other in the back. Soon, the back seat becomes a battlefield of dueling elbows. To make it worse, Gladys seems to have bathed in Estee Lauder’s “Youth Dew”.
“Somebody roll down the windows, will ya?” growls Maud, as she scoots away from Gladys. “Gladys’s perfume is gettin’ to me!”
Although Mabel and Gladys had originally said only four could go, they relent when Mavis insists she cannot leave without Maude.
“After all,” she explains, “we are conjoined twins.”
Mavis, whose doctor has pronounced her condition “terminal”, sniffles from the back. Gladys passes her a crumpled tissue.
“I’m sure glad we’re finally doing this,” she blubbers, dabbing her eyes. “It’s been on my conscience for years. Now that I’m about to — you know – I want to be wearing a robe of white for the the Good Lord.”
“Oh, can it, Mavis,” Maud grumbles. “Gettin’ that nonsense was all your idea to begin with.”
Mavis turns her head sharply, meeting Maud’s judgmental gray-eyed glare.
“You think I don’t know that, sister dear? Why, every day of my life, since our sleepover at Daisy’s, my heart has been weighed down by guilt.”
“Hmph,” snorts Maud, as she gazes out the window. Beside her, Gladys unzips a black satchel-handbag roomy enough to stow a toddler and pulls out a round, red, poinsettia-decorated tin and opens the lid. Peeling off the plastic wrap, she passes it around.
“Any of y’all want any peanut brittle? My granddaughter, Nessie, gave it to me at the Christmas party.”
Mabel peers into the rear-view mirror. Here we go, again. Gladys has been trying to palm that sticky stuff off on us since last January. Damn crap sticks to my dentures.
“Um, Gladys? That stuff’s a year old, by now.”
“I know,” she says with a sigh, as she plunges in her chubby hand to pull out a piece of brittle the size of a pie plate. “But it’s so good. Mmmm!”
Mavis narrows her over-tweezed eyebrows at Mabel. “Reckon this place will still be there? I mean, like, what if we go all that way only to find a parking lot?”
Clutching the steering wheel in a death grip, Mabel keeps her eyes on the road.
“Shoot, yeah,” she mutters. “It’ll be there, all right. It’s only been – what — forty or fifty years, at most?”
Soured by Maud’s ever-present bitch-face and her arms crossed at her chest, Mavis elbows her. “Whatever is wrong, now?”
“Told you I didn’t wanna go, Mavis. Didn’t back then and I don’t now.”
“Oh, Maud,” snipes Mabel. “You never want to do anything or go anywhere. We’d have left you back at the home, had we any choice in the matter. Now shut up and quit’cher belly-achin’.”
“We’re gonna be late for school!” wails Daisy, off in her own little world, until now. “My parents will ground me til I’m thirty if I get caught, again.”
Used to Daisy’s Alzheimer’s-induced ramblings, the other three ignore her.
“Whatever got into us, that night, anyway?” asks Mabel. “And why Longview, of all places?” She shakes her head and laughs, in spite of herself. “Parents dern near tanned my hide, they did.”
“For the fun of it, probably,” says Gladys. “You’d just gotten your license, hadn’t you?”
“Yeah, I think you’re right. But how in the world did we sneak out of Daisy’s house without her parents knowing?”
“My parents are gonna kill me when they find out,” Daisy whimpers, wringing her hands.
“Remember when these things used to be called ‘marital aids’ ?” Mavis says, giving Maud a good-natured nudge. “There we were, silly teenage girls looking for thrills. Then, that night, we found that stash of True Confessions magazines under Daisy’s bed. Lo and behold, there they were. A place in Longview actually sold them. Never mind it was a two-hundred-mile drive. We just threw on our clothes and skedaddled.”
She chuckles. “Curiosity got the better of us. Remember what fun we had when we got those gizmos home and set ’em all off, at once?”
They are almost to Tyler when red-and-blue lights flash in Mabel’s mirror. She pulls over to the shoulder.
“Aw, crap! Game over, ladies.”
“Oh, God,” Daisy murmurs. “My parents will kill me.”
“Okay, everyone. Act natural,” Mabel hisses, as the trooper approaches the vintage Bug.
“ Good afternoon, ladies,” he says, scribbling something on a pink slip. “Know why I’m stopping you?”
“Um, yeah, but we’re bringing them back,” blurts Daisy in her little-girl voice.
Feeling defeated, Mabel sinks her forehead into the steering wheel. Sheesh, Daisy. For a quiet, little lady, you can be a real loose cannon.
“Them?” asks Officer Wilson. He removes his Baden-Powell-style cover and mops the beads of sweat jeweling the top of his bald head. “What are you ladies telling me?”
“Why don’t you tell us?” Mabel asks.
“Y’all know what the speed limit is, around here? I clocked your car doing eighty in a sixty-five mile-an-hour zone. What’s your big hurry, anyway?”
Quick, Mabel. Make something up.
Gladys leans forward and lays her manicured hand on Mabel’s shoulder. “Officer, if I may? We’re hurrying Daisy, here, to a hospital. She got sick on the peanut brittle I brought along.”
“Oh, Daisy, bless your heart. You don’t remember?”
“She has Alzheimer’s”, Gladys explains in a stage-whisper, shaking her head.
“Oh, well, why didn’t you say that, in the first place? Follow me. I’ll escort you there.”
Oh, shit, thinks Mabel, grimacing. We’re knee-deep in ‘gators, now.
“Thanks for your offer, sir, but we have another stop before we swing by the hospital.”
“But, I thought you said your friend, here, had an emergency.”
“She did – er, does, but….”
Wilson’s smile fades. “Okay, ma’am. Fun’s over. I need to see your license and registration.”
Finding an official-looking document in the glove box, Mabel hands it over. Wilson scrutinizes it.
“One minute, please,” he says, as he walks slowly to his cruiser and opens the door. Her heart down to her knees, Mavis watches him key information into that little computer of his.
“Oh, dear me!” Gladys says, fanning herself. “What are we going to do?”.
In about five minutes, Wilson returns. He is actually smiling.
“Sorry for the trouble, ladies. We’ve been looking for four fugitives from a Fort Worth nursing facility. But I see, here, there are five of you.”
He tips his hat. “Y’all drive careful, now, y’hear. And take care of your friend.”
Incredulous with relief, Mabel starts the engine. “Longview, here we come!”
“Shouldn’t be too much farther,” Mavis says. “As I remember, the store was on the edge of town, back then. Off the Loop, I think..”
But, as Mabel, Mavis and Maud, Gladys and Daisy pull into the still-familiar, gravel driveway with a Taco Bell on one side and a Shell station on the other, they gasp: the adult-toy store/”peep show” from the late 1950’s is now a Toys R Us.
Mabel turns around and grins. “Girls, the store’s gone. We are home free. Now, whaddya say we go play with the real toys!”