Episode 6: Saving Seats
On the morning of June 20th, twenty-two alarm clocks went off at precisely 4 AM at the Serenity Senior Living Center in Carmel. William Ketring forgot why he had set his alarm and commenced to beating it with his cane until it was in pieces. He could still hear ringing (from the other alarms on his floor) and vowed to get his hearing aid batteries replaced.
The other twenty-one residents who had set their alarm clocks began to assemble in the hallway in various states of dress. The Russell sisters, Melinda and Sylvia, wore winter coats. Sydney Morton entered the hallway naked, but he did have a plastic grocery bag tied to his walker. Inside the bag were a roll of duct tape and a role of police caution tape. Melinda Russell blushed ever so slightly, but Sylvia was unfazed. She had seen Sydney naked before.
Melinda called out, “Are you all ready?”
“Is it time for breakfast?”
“No, it’s not time for breakfast. We’re going to reserve our spots, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” someone shouted.
“So, let’s stop talking and get to reserving,” shouted Sydney.
Melinda asked, “Are you going out like that?”
“There’s no time to waste. Besides, I’m not ashamed of my equipment and most you you have seen it anyway.”
Melinda couldn’t bring herself to look at his 83-year-old equipment, so she looked away and announced, “Alright everyone, let’s go.”
Nearly everyone followed Melinda. Bobbie Newman forgot what they were doing and turned right when the rest of the group turned left. They made for the lobby. She headed towards the cafeteria. The five seniors behind her followed her lead all the way. In the unusually dark cafeteria, they settled into their usual chairs and waited for someone to set the tables. It would be two hours before they were discovered.
Meanwhile, nobody seemed to notice the attrition in ranks as they made their way out into the parking lot, south for a block and a half and onto Carmel Drive. Here the picked they took the caution tape that Sydney had provided and began to wrap it around two trees. From there, they stretched the tape twenty feet to another tree and a yellow gas line pole. Thus, they made a rectangle between the sidewalk and street in yellow caution tape, held up by duct tape.
And with this singular act of conquest, a section of prime parade route became theirs. Myra Franks, the strongest and most mobile of the group, began barking out instructions. “Unfold these chairs I brought.” Members of the group lined up in front of the wagon Myra brought and she handed each person a chair.”
“Sydney, your bare ass better not touch one of my chairs. I expect you to be fully dressed when the parade takes place.”
“I know, I know. Carmel Police already told me I couldn’t come to the parade naked last year. Or maybe that was a few years ago. Anyway, I’ll throw on a Speedo or something.”
Myra replied, “Sweet Fancy Moses, nobody wants to see that either. Don’t you have any pants?”
“None that I care to wear. Make you a deal. I’ll wear my robe.”
“No deal. It’s likely to be 85 degrees out on the 4th of July. You’ll be out of that robe before the Carmel High School marching band has played a note.”
He thought about arguing further but decided against it. Myra was the only woman in the senior home he couldn’t shock, intimidate, or outwit. She had worked her entire adult life in a warehouse, from loading and unloading to shipping manager later. Myra was tougher than most of the men she worked with and had to be as usually the only woman (save for a revolving door of receptionists the company hired).
“Alright, alright. I’ll wear pants. But I won’t wear underwear.” He walked away with his chair and placed in on the grass between the road and the sidewalk. To test Myra, he started to sit.
“Sydney, don’t even think about it.” Myra had eyes in the back of her head.
With all the chairs emptied from Myra’s wagon, their mission was complete. Some of them hugged each other, the emotion of the moment getting to them. Nobody hugged Sydney, all though Sylvia may have gotten precariously close to his equipment during the chaos.
Of the sixteen seniors that made it out to the parade route, all but one made it back to the Serenity Senior Home straight away. Sydney was stopped by the police, but after seeing his nakedness and his equipment, they decided it best not to arrest him, but guide him back to the senior home.
That same evening, Jeanie Norwood crept silently into the bedroom of her closest friend, Sarah Jones. Sarah’s husband was out of town and Jeanie knew how to disable the alarm from countless times taking care of the cat when the Jones family vacationed in the Dominican Republic. It made Jeanie feel superior knowing that Sarah was still planning to go to the DR next Spring, what with all the people getting sick down there. Assuming her husband’s year-end bonus was in the same ballpark as last year, the Norwoods would be vacationing in Saint Croix this year, thank you very much. Of course, Sarah might not be taking a vacation at all, given what Jeanie planned to do next.
The high school social studies teacher stood over Sarah and wondered who would be her euchre partner next week when the Motivated Moms of Carmel School Kids got together at Monon Coffee. Maybe Hillary Weems. Hillary’s older daughter was a middle school cheerleader and that could open doors when the time came for her own daughter moved from elementary school next year.
Yes, Hillary it is, she thought. I’ll float the idea on Facebook tonight. Or maybe after Sarah is arrested. Mustn’t seem too eager. That might call attention to me. Well, let’s get on with it. She placed a pillow over Sarah’s head, not to smother her but to keep her from identifying her if the needle woke her up. With a swift maneuver, she stuck the needle in Sarah’s arm and held the pillow while she thrashed momentarily. The sedative worked quick. And soon, Sarah was dead to the world.
Dead is what she deserved, Jeanie thought, but this was much more delicious. She was tired of keeping up the Sarahs in this town. So, now she was ready to assert her will. With a second needle, Jeannie loaded Sarah’s arm with enough heroin to fail the drug test that all of the employees of The Greyhound Clinic were going to have to take tomorrow morning.
The failed drug test and the heroin Jeannie had left in Sarah’s office that afternoon would be enough to get her fired, arrested, and out safely out of the Motivated Moms of Carmel School Kids. And Jeanie was certain that such shame would keep Sarah from showing her face at the July 4th parade. But just to be sure, Jeanie had taken her chairs and replaced them with her own anyway. This was, after all, the Carmel, Indiana 4th of July parade.
Sarah slept soundly so Jeanie paused to think about why she was here. She deserves to die, she reasoned. She took my spot. My spot! Sarah Jones knows my family has always staked out the 12 feet of prime real estate in front of Fraction Bank for the Carmel 4th of July parade. Six years we’ve had that spot, she raged. And that was after working our way up from four horrible years in from of Taco Bell. Jeanie still hadn’t forgiven her husband for the chalupa incident. What kind of a jackass gives a toddler half a chalupa?
Her husband missed the Indiana Pacers float featuring the Pacemates (the only float he had really wanted to see) as he was changing a chalupa filled diaper (it came out as it came in) in the Taco Bell bathroom. This incident became a source of tension in the Norwood marriage that routinely bubbled to the surface over the years.
And yet with all this history —all of which Sarah was privy to, she had callously set her family’s camping chairs in the very spot where Jeanie and her family had always claimed. It was a prime spot. To the left was Councilwoman Cecilia Davis’ family, and to the left was the granddaughter of Town and Country Real estate mogul, Vincent Van Dorn.
And Jeanie would not relinquish this spot for some upstart wife of a probate attorney who had her eyes on an invitation to the Van Dorn family Labor Day Gala. Jeanie always got her invite at the 4th of July parade. Hand-delivered, in a linen envelope. Sarah would not be intercepting Jeanie’s linen envelope. Her friend was always jealous of Jeanie’s invite. And since Sarah was younger, prettier, and had a more handsome husband (though less accomplished), Jeanie always feared she might be replaced by Sarah in the social pecking order.
Convinced that she had successfully sabotaged Sarah’s status, Jeanie slipped out of the bedroom and downstairs. Through the kitchen, she made her way to the garage to let herself out. A full moon illuminated the kitchen through a giant bay window in Sarah’s breakfast nook. Jeanie caught sight of a linen envelope. It was opened so she slid out the card and turned on her phone to read the message. Sarah already had her invite to the Van Dorn Labor Day Gala.
Jeanie cursed, tore the invite to shreds. Realizing she had created evidence she had been there, she picked up the pieces and stuffed them in her pocket. Of course, she forgot to take the back of needles she had set down to read the note. And a piece or two of were missed on the kitchen floor. She opened the kitchen door that led to the garage, reset the alarm and left. Jeanie’s rage had made her careless. Her fool proof plan was starting to unravel.