Friday, February 4, 2011

La Ciruela Pasa

Aunt May and Eleanor finally reach the Geezer Xanadu known as the "Sunshine State"...

    "An hour later, we were back on the road.
    As it was my turn to drive, I fiddled with the radio, trying to find a station that wasn’t country or offered some preacher ranting about how the Devil listens to rock and roll.
    Hmph, I grumbled, “How ‘bout slipping the Devil a helping of Interstate Surprise?  That’ll take care of things.”
    Ignoring my complaints about the radio, Eleanor blindly reached into the back seat to fish out a pack of cigarettes.
    I glared in her direction.  As you know, cigarette smoke gives me headaches.  To make matters worse, we’d rolled up the windows after the sun had gone down and the heat of day vanished.  There was no way I was going to put up with sitting next to a blue-haired chimney!
    As I started to protest, Eleanor popped a death stick into her mouth and lit it with the garish disposable lighter she’d picked up at South of the Border.
    Only, instead of a Virginia Slim, she lit up one of the bottle rockets we’d bought at Joker Joe’s Fireworks in Hardeeville, South Carolina.  Instantly bursting into a flash of sparks, the little firework whistled as Eleanor screeched.  With a shriek, she whipped her head to one side and flung the now-roaring flare into the backseat.
    I immediately swerved around a monstrous hog truck and careened onto the breakdown lane.  Accompanied by a wailing Eleanor, our tires squealed in protest as the Chevy pirouetted down the shoulder of the road. 
    Struggling to regain control, I watched, fascinated, as the headlights swung through an arc of mangrove swamp and panicked motorists desperately trying to avoid two old ladies-one with her face in flames-screaming from an out-of-control mini-van.
    With an abrupt bump, we finally screeched to a halt against a guardrail.  My heart rattled like it was trying to burst free and I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles shone white.
    I turned to look at Eleanor, who’d stopped wailing and now held her face in her hands.  Slowly rocking back and forth, she whimpered that she’d burned her face off.  As I leaned towards her, I was terrified she was right.
    Suddenly, I caught a whiff of something burning behind me.
    Looking over my shoulder, I saw one of our suitcases glowing like one of those charcoal briquettes in a hibachi.  The bottle rocket had somehow gotten lodged beneath a canvas bag and started it smoldering before winking out.
    I quickly grabbed the nearest thing I could and immediately doused the bag with warm Diet Dr. Pepper.  The fire went out, but I was sad to see that the soda ruined our sacks of boiled peanuts.  Hmm, but the more I thought about it, though...they were boiled peanuts...a little more liquid shouldn’t harm them all that much.
    Confident our car wouldn’t burst into a bottle rocket itself, I turned back to Eleanor.  She’d stopped whimpering, but still held her face in her hands.
    “C’mon,” I said as I reached out, “it can’t be that bad.”
    She shook her head, convinced she was hideously scarred.
    “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “it was only a little fire.  How bad could it be?”
    Between you and me, nephew, I was afraid she was going to look like that Freddy Kruger fellow.
    Slowly, she dropped her hands.  With a nervous breath, I peered at her face, prepared for the worst.
    Only, instead of shocked sympathy, I laughed.
    The only things that were damaged were her eyebrows, which had been burned completely off.  That, and a faint brown tinge to the blue wisps of her hair were the only signs that a handheld pyrotechnic had ignited under her nose.
    I collapsing into uncontrollable giggles as an indignant Eleanor huffed that she failed to see what was so funny.  “How would you like to have to draw your eyebrows on?” she snipped.
    Still shaking with laughter, I turned the car around and pointed it back towards Florida.
    Long story short-I know, too late!  Ha! Ha!-I giggled at the thought of Eleanor needing to paint on her brows all the way to our destination of St. Augustine.  Incidentally, what better place for two old broads to settle down than in the country’s oldest city, right?
    Even though it was well past midnight when we got there, the staff was all set to check us into our new home of La Ciruela Pasa. 
    You wouldn’t believe how peaceful it is here.  The night manager, Paulie, assured us it would remain so.  Except during Bike Week.  And the Daytona 500.  Or whenever the jets from the Naval Air Station weren’t night flying.
    Plus, Paulie told us that the adult bookstore across the street was only open on weekends.  He also informed us that we really had to watch where we walked during alligator mating season.
    So, here we are, Eleanor and I, enjoying our golden years amongst fellow travelers in the later stages of life.
    You and your family are always welcome to visit.  Just remember to give us a heads up.  We want to make doubly sure you’re here for one of La Ciruela Pasa’s special nights: bingo, karaoke, or teeth swap.  They’re all great fun.
    Plus, Eleanor will need time to paint on her eyebrows.
All my love,
Aunt May”
    Wow, I thought, as I set down her letter.  What an adventure!
    Turning to my wife, I said, “You should read this.  Looks like she’s all set down in Florida.”
    Without taking her eyes from CSI: Miami, she nodded.  “That’s great.  So, she found a nice retirement community.  What’s it called?”
    I scanned the letter and found the name at the bottom.  “La Ciruela Pasa,” I answered.
    My wife suddenly pulled her attention from the television.  “What did you say?”
    I repeated the name.
    “You know what that means, don’t you?” asked the four-year Spanish student.
    I shook my head.
    Her face wrinkled into a frown and she said, “The Old Prune.”
    Time for a road trip of my own.

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