Written by Carolyn Ward
(A Runner-up entry in the Travel for Seniors Writing Competition, which included fictional as well as factual articles.)
The Lofton Home for the Elderly in Tunbridge Wells was a dank, grey building, with small dirty windows and a hard-scrabble garden. The residents were usually occupied with watching Jeremy Kyle or playing pinochle, but today was different.
Marla winked at Albert, their unofficial leader. He was the one who had come up with the plan He walked across the lounge to fetch her a cup of tea, nodding to Colonel McAdams, who had worked logistics and transport. In turn he squeezed the hand of the lady beside him, Bella Lewis, who had covered bookings and admin. They watched the clock. As soon as the time was right, all hell was going to break loose.
In the office, Marina and Kelly, the nurses on duty, sipped their coffees and pondered last night’s bar crawl. ‘I have NEVER drunk tequila on a Wednesday before,’ said Kelly mournfully, shaking out another Anadin. ‘Yes you have!’ scoffed Marina. ‘When we went to Mexico!’
At the word ‘Mexico’ some of the residents started in alarm. Was the game up? Bella looked at the Colonel who shook his head. The clock was ticking. ‘Is everyone ready?’ he whispered.
At precisely ten, there was a loud rumbling and then a gigantic crashing sound as a tank was driven through the front of the Home. Marina and Kelly screamed in alarm, ducking for cover from flying glass and bricks, coughing from the dust.
‘Sound the alarm!’ yelled Marina, smashing the red button with her fist. The button linked the home to the police and the hospital, but no bells rang. ‘What’s happening!?’
Soldiers hopped out of the tank and quickly directed it backwards. ‘Is this an attack? Are we at war?’ Kelly shook her head, regretting the tequila even more. The nurses watched in amazement as the tank backed off, and a minibus reversed neatly into the hole it had left in the building.
Then a hobbling line of residents cheerfully waved goodbye to Lofton Home for the Elderly, treading carefully over the wreckage and were helped by the grinning soldiers up into the minibus. They saluted the Colonel, who handed them a thick envelope.
Marina started to cry. ‘Matron’s due in ten minutes… she’s not going to be pleased…’
When all sixteen residents were safely in the minibus, the soldiers piled their cases into the boot.
‘Hey!’ yelled Marina. ‘You can’t take them! Where are you going?’ She ducked down behind the desk as a large light fitting fell down.
The minibus revved its engine and drove off in the direction of Birmingham. ‘Everyone got their passports?’ asked Bella, a huge grin on her face. ‘Goodbye Tunbridge Wells. Cancun here we come!’
There was some singing, and egg sandwiches were passed around. The Colonel chatted to the driver, another soldier from his old squadron who had been delighted to assist. They were booked into the world-famous Moon Palace hotel for two weeks, on a special OAP deal.
‘Sun, sand and a ruddy good book!’ said Ada, pulling out her knitting. ‘I’m not sure they’ll let you have those needles on the flight, dear,’ said Bella doubtfully. Ada had sharpened them for a ‘cleaner stitch,’ and they flashed in the sun.
‘I can’t wait to see the Mayan pyramids!’ Bessie was flipping through a guide book. ‘This is the trip of a lifetime!’ ‘It’s certainly cost us enough,’ grumbled Thomas. ‘How will we afford breakfast?’
‘It’s all inclusive!’ Bella whipped her head around. ‘Remember? I told you Tom? The restaurants are open all day and night.’ ‘And what about the bars?’ asked Tom. Albert chuckled.
The airport was ready for them, upgraded check in and use of the first-class lounge. The soldiers helped with their luggage, and then it was gins and tonics and a wander around the duty free. Tom and Albert split a bottle of brandy, and the waitress fetched them both a glass. ‘Put that cigar out!’ she told Tom, who rolled his eyes.
They flew business class, Bella’s redirecting of their care home fees easily covering the airfares. Leaning back and taking in the view, they had champagne with their salmon.
‘This is the life!’ sighed Ada. ‘I don’t think I’m coming back!’
‘The Colonel has some contacts out there,’ said Bella quietly. ‘It may be a possibility, as converting pounds into US dollars and then Mexican dollars allowed us some…creativity. We might have enough to stay at the Moon Palace forever.’
‘Ai Caramba!’ said Ada, and everyone raised their glasses. ‘Top her up, eh!’ called Tom to the pretty stewardess.
POSTED 12th APRIL 2018 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of CAROLYN WARD. The third photograph is courtesy of PIXABAY.