#AtoZChallenge April 30, 2018. One-Double-Zero
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.
For two reasons, guilt always washed over Amy Zimmerman when she visited her father-in-law at the Twilight Bells Senior Residence. One, he no longer was her father-in-law because his son had died months earlier. And two, she couldn’t tell him the circumstances of his son’s death without sounding crazy. So she pretended Alan had stepped out for a pack of cigarettes one day and never came back instead of him turning to ice then melting before her eyes.
It didn’t help that within a year she’d fallen in love with a local golf pro, and they lived in sin together until she could have Alan legally declared dead.
I’ll not think about it today. Today was Anders Zimmerman’s one hundredth birthday, and she wouldn’t do anything to spoil it.
“Do you have everything?” she asked her lover after they’d parked the car at the nursing home.
Bob Burton peered into the gift bag he’d taken from the back seat. “Voice activated TV remote, gag coffee cup, Kona coffee, personalized fifth of malt whiskey, and a gift card. That’s it, right?”
As she couldn’t give Anders peace of mind about his son, Amy nodded. “That’s it. Is Julie here yet?” She scanned the parking lot for her daughter’s rental car. She’d badgered and applied a mother lode of guilt to get her daughter to fly from Savannah with her husband and daughter to celebrate her grandfather’s centennial.
“I see the Explorer.” Bob nodded to the SUV parked near the door. “They’re probably inside.”
Amy hurried into the building and the recreation room. She wanted to see her daughter and granddaughter again, and she wanted to get the celebration over so she could not think about the guilt.
Still mobile at his age, her father-in-law stood near the windows talking to his great-granddaughter who, at age two, considered him both an oddity and a wonder. Julie held the baby who tried to play with the older man’s glasses.
Anders looked up when he spotted Amy and smiled. “My favorite daughter-in-law,” he said and glided forward to hug her.
Amy hugged him back, maybe a little too tightly. She ached to tell him what had happened to his son, but no one knew the secret, not even Bob.
“You mean your only daughter-in-law.” Alan had had two sisters but no brothers. “How are you, Dad?”
“Not too bad for someone who turned one-double-zero this morning.” He nodded to Bob, who’d hung in the background. “I’m as spry as I was when I was eighty.”
“Maybe it’s time you caught yourself a hot eighty-year-old,” said Paul, Julie’s husband.
“There you go.” Anders slapped Paul on the back. “Look what the home has done for me.” He gestured to a large wooden banner hung over the window. “Bill Pratt made it. He used to paint barns and landscapes, but his arthritis is too bad for him to hold anything but a three-inch brush. What do you think?”
Amy admired the banner. Neat red lettering spelled out “Happy One-Double-Zero” on a six-foot-long plank of barn wood.
“Impressive,” she said.
“One-Double-Zero,” Anders repeated, the pleasure in his voice pressing against her heart. “He wrote that down to my specifications.”
“Very nice, grandpa,” Julie said, jiggling the baby. “What kind of cake did you ask for?”
“A big one,” Anders joked.
Friends and other residents flooded the room. Amy and Bob retired to a corner out of the way of the traffic, Amy amused at her father-in-law’s zest for living.
“Why do you suppose he calls it one-double-zero?” Bob asked as he sipped some awful red punch.
Amy set down her cup. “Anders always liked to make word jokes. When the kids were little, he’d make up outrageous names for things. SPAM-getti for spaghetti. Bowl-ag-no for bologna. Pee-rates for pirates. You know, he’s had a great life.” She wished for the thousandth time Alan was alive to see his father celebrate.
Bob nudged her. “He’s getting ready to blow out the candles.”
Two staff members had entered with a sheet cake blazing with one hundred candles. Amy glanced at the nearest sprinkler head, waiting for it to drench the guests.
The staff had set the main table up under the windows, the banner an attractive valance. Anders stood under it, grinning, as the staff set the cake in front of him.
“Happy birthday to you,” someone sang.
Everyone joined in before the short song ended.
“Happy birthday, dear Anders, happy birthday to you.”
“Happy 80th birthday for the 20th time!” someone shouted.
“I always wanted to live to be one hundred.” Anders bent to blow out the candles.
“Happy one-double-zero,” Paul cried. Holding his fussing daughter, he stood next to Anders. As he jiggled her, his elbow caught a corner of the wooden banner.
It swayed then the knot of twine fastening it to an eye bolt in the ceiling unraveled.
Before Amy could cry out or leap forward, the banner peeled away from its horizontal position. The end swung down, and the banner crashed into Anders, knocking him on the back of the head.
He sprawled face first into his birthday cake.
The second end came loose, and the board fell across his neck like a guillotine, the red lettering stark against his white golf shirt, spelling out his years in life.
Please feel free to share this story using the icons on the left sidebar.
If you’d like to automatically receive future posts in your email, subscribe to this blog using the box at the right.
If you’d like to receive my monthly newsletter where I share exclusive material, including not-yet-released excerpts, fill in the box below.
Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon
Visit Amazon to buy the complete Twilight volume.
Don’t want to wait until April 30th to read all twenty-six Twilight stories. For a limited time, they are available on Amazon for 99¢. From Arizona Heat to One-Zero-Zero, read and enjoy twenty-six stories set in the strange retirement community of Twilight, Arizona.
Purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CF7SN9M
That’s the end of the Twilight stories for 2018’s AtoZChallenge. I’m so happy you could join me as I shared the wacky, sometimes unbelievable antics of the citizens of Twilight, Arizona. Please keep returning to the blog (subscription box on right) as I return to my regular schedule of three times a week (mostly). Thank you so much!
Blessings to you,