#AtoZChallenge, April 13, 2018, Llama Drama
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
Laura Evans parked in the first available spot at the Twilight Bells Senior Residence and leaned her head against the steering wheel. She dreaded these visits. Tom’s dementia continued to worsen. He no longer recognized her, but she continued to visit every day.
She swiped at the corner of each eye, took a fortifying breath, and opened the door.
Cool, wet air met her, one of the few times during the year when the Arizona heat didn’t knock her off her feet. They’d moved to the retirement village five years earlier for Tom’s health. His asthma cleared, but his mind slowly degraded.
A cluster of people blocked the side entrance. Fear zapped through her. Had someone escaped? Was it Tom? She raced toward one of the nurses.
“What is it? Is Tom okay?”
“Mrs. Evans, it’s good to see you. Your husband is in the courtyard with the other residents. Did you forget we have a petting zoo today?”
Laura’s heart shuddered to a normal rhythm. “Yes, I’m afraid I did.” How could she forget? She’d talked about it with Tom for weeks.
“He’s with the llamas, they seem to like him.”
Laura hustled through the residents and their families, searching for her husband, but she didn’t see him.
Maybe he got tired and went to his room.
She ran along the corridor, an inexplicable panic edging under her skin.
His room was empty.
Where was he? She returned to the courtyard and took her time scanning the crowd, sure she must have overlooked him.
Laura snagged an attendant by the arm.
“Have you seen my husband? Tom Evans?”
He gestured to the crowd. “He could be anywhere. Have you checked his room?”
“He’s not there. It’s your job to watch everyone.” Anger simmered at their neglect, or maybe it was anger that she had to deal with his disappearance, with his illness, with the little things that used to be his responsibilities.
“Check the kitchen. The staff had special treats set out.” The attendant turned his back on her.
Laura’s fist clenched, but she made her way to the center of the facility because she didn’t know what else to do.
A half dozen residents sat at tables, none of them Tom. She opened the door to the kitchen, though why he’d wander inside escaped all logic.
“Have you seen my husband, Tom Evans?”
One of the cooks, a woman with kind eyes and a hairnet, took her arm and led her out. “Ma’am, we don’t let residents back here. Have you checked the courtyard?”
“Of course I’ve checked the courtyard. It’s a zoo out there, and I’m aware of the pun. People going in and out, animals running around—he could get out without anyone seeing.”
“Mrs. Evans, you need to calm down and check the front desk.” The cook patted her arm.
Laura wanted to scream, but it wouldn’t help find Tom. She spun on her heels and tramped toward the front desk.
Something had happened. Nurses ran out the doors while others herded residents inside. The noise level had increased, everyone talking at once.
“What’s happened?” Tom was hurt, she knew it.
“The llamas got loose,” someone shouted.
Had he let them out? What was going on?
She stepped once more into the courtyard. The setting had changed drastically. Half the occupants hung over the side of the wall, their attention centered on something outside. The other half clustered in a group, some moaning, some crying, all asking questions.
This isn’t helping. She spun and marched to the reception desk.
“My husband is missing,” she said, trying to catch someone’s attention.
“Ma’am, we have two wild animals missing. They’re running up and down Eagle Way Boulevard.” A nurse pushed past her.
“What’s more important? Two animals that shouldn’t have been brought here in the first place, or a human?”
No one listened. The novelty of runaway llamas outweighed the responsibility of taking care of the residents.
Laura strode to her car and started it. If none of these idiots would look for Tom, she would.
Easing out of the parking lot and into traffic, she watched for signs of her husband wandering around. He couldn’t have gone far. Working in increasing circles, she expanded her search, avoiding idiots with lassos and pickup trucks who thought they lived in the Old West and wanted to try out their skills in llama lassoing.
A half-hour later, she crossed the main street and headed home. She didn’t know why she hadn’t thought of it before, but she’d call on her neighbors to help in the search. Amy Zimmerman would be home from her real estate office; Lois and Jill would be in their garage refinishing furniture. She’d have plenty of help.
As she turned the car into the alley behind The Mart, she heard the distinctive thwump-thwump of a helicopter. A quick glance upward verified the local TV station had joined in the llama hunt.
Laura hit the remote to her garage door opener. As she pulled in, she noticed the open door to her enclosed patio.
Oh, great, now I have to worry about burglars. Aren’t llamas and missing husbands enough?
She grabbed a nine-iron from Tom’s golf bag in the garage and edged around the patio door. Should she bring in reinforcements? No, she had enough anger brewing to bash in any burglar’s head.
She toed open the door, the golf club raised.
Standing against the wall was a llama, chewing its cud.
Standing next to it was Tom.
Laura dropped the golf club and ran to him.
“Tom, are you all right? How did you get here?” She rubbed her hands down his arm as if to reassure herself he was flesh and blood. “Where did you find the llama?” And what would she do with it?
“Laura?” Tom looked at her, his eyes clear and free of confusion. She’d not seen him like this in over a year. “I couldn’t find the key to get in.”
“It’s in a new place.” She reached behind the decorative clock on the wall and withdrew the house key.
“I don’t understand.” She touched his face. “Are you all right?”
“I think I’ve been in a fog for a while, but I’m fine now.” He caught her hand in his and turned it to kiss her palm.
“But how?” Did she believe in miracles?
He looped his free arm around the llama’s neck. “I was petting him and woke up.”
She didn’t understand, but in Twilight, Arizona, strange things happened.
“It’s a funny thing about llamas,” Tom said, taking the key from her and inserting it in the back door. “They’re never where you want them to be, but they’re always where they’re needed.”
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Thank you so much!
Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, April 14, 2018, Meals on Wheels
Twilight’s Meals on Wheels’ #1 Volunteer experiences difficulty helping himself.
Until then, blessings,
p.s. Laura and Tom return on April 26th in Water, Water, Everywhere
Twilight, Arizona now available on Amazon
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