The Dragon in the Lobby (1)

by cheri block

Mother and I entered the burial mound through the front door, guarded by a magnificent and proud blue dragon. We’d come to take a tour of the facilities and see the hoard—a maze of small apartments, a popcorn machine, game and card tables, a library with large print books, and a Bingo and puzzle room—all lovingly accented with fresh blue and orange flowers. There was only one problem: the temperature, which was humidly hot, an environment designed both for the health of the residents (whose skin was thin) and for Alonzo, the greeter and door dragon.

“Excuse me, can you direct us to the General Manager? “ I asked, fanning myself in an effort to divert the dragon’s hot breath over my shoulder. It was at that time I noticed his gold vest, dapper purple pocket hankie, and  shiny name tag fastened to his chest scales, which read A-L-O-N-Z-O, printed in bold capitals. (I thought to myself, those letters must be 210 point font.)

Such a basic question, asked so simply and directly, was clearly the wrong thing to do.

Alonzo heaved a long wheezing and bronchial sigh (which waxed off the hair on my legs), circled his mat several times like a restless dog, and plopped down (with a thud!) on the blue braided rug, singed on the edges from his fiery words and noble intentions.

“I’ve been protecting this mound and its hoard for 325 years. Not one goblet, coin, or jewel has been lost under my watch,” Alonzo explained, his voice a seasoned tenor, his resolve an impressive must. “I am who you are looking for!” he barked hoarsely in the way dragons do, when the heat of their vocal chords meets the moisture of their mouths and tries to exit through their phalanx of their sharp teeth.

“Now what can I do for you two? “His blue tail with its spiky chards, slammed down on the lobby floor, in a deliberate act that launched Mother and I up at least two feet. But mother was the smart one and in this case, the lucky one. She held onto her walker like a trapeze artist and fell back to the lobby floor with grace and balance.

I, on the other hand, picked myself up off the warm dirt, wiped the dust from my iPhone, and adjusted my  hat.

“We’ve come to this mound because other folks say it’s a good place for old people. Mother is old although her spirit is young,” I felt the need to say.

“Would you like a tour?” Alonzo asked, ignoring my assessment of Mother.

Before we could even say yes, three residents of the mound wheeled past and one old geezer buzzed by like a dragonfly driving an electric cart that was decorated with a flag from his home state of Indiana.

“Hey, hey, Bill, slow down before you kill someone, “Alonzo directed, in a tactful but firm manner.

Were Mother and I in the wrong story? Had we fallen down a rabbit hole?

[This work is registered at the U.S. Copyright Office 2010]

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in My fiction, The Dragon in the Lobby: a fairytale about Assisted Living and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The Dragon in the Lobby (1)

  1. Some years back our Board had to deal with a complaint from the family of a resident in one of our long term care facility. The electric wheel chair of their father had been taken away from him for a whole day.
    The investigation revealed that two residents had been sanctioned on that day. They had been racing their chairs down the long corridor on the upper floor and had collided with the food charriot and it’s attendant. Nobody was hurt but they had their driving permit suspended for a day.
    The family relauctantly accepted the explanation but found the measure harsh.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Paul,

      Someone or something co-opted my blog today. Also, my mother had a stroke today! We think she will recover with little damage, but I have to say that things have been stressful.

      Thanks for providing some humor!

  2. Kayti Rasmussen says:

    Hilarious! I have not met “Alonzo” as yet. I’ll come prepared.

  3. sledpress says:

    Oh dear, I think I will have to share this with one friend and a couple of clients who live in nearby “senior residences.”

    Re: wheelchair racing: my friend, around 70, has a unit just down the hall from where the management of the residence opened a “bistro” at the end of the main social room. Light food and drinks to order. At the grand opening, the first drink was complimentary, and my friend — returning from elsewhere late in the evening — turned down the hall to her apartment and tripped over someone’s pants.

    Some things don’t change…

  4. Fantastic! You’ve said so much in such an easy, whimsical but frighteningly serious way. If you don’t mind I’d like to share this with some of my friends who do work with older adults.

  5. Cheri says:

    I’d be honored if you shared it.

    • Thanks! With full attribution, of course. Hope your mother is OK.

      I think we use the same blog theme and mine got co-opted too. Violated is more like it. I have no idea how to make it look like it used to–did we used to have those big square bullets in all the lists? Do you know how to make them go away?

      • Cheri says:

        I poured a small glass of merlot, had a good cry, and turned on my computer. There is front of me was my blog. It had had a stroke too. Things were gone.

        I fiddled with the widgets and finally went looking for the theme to reinstall. It was a big mess, a perfect match with the challenges of the day.

        Here is what I am left with. A different theme. My picture won’t go into it. Oh well.

        Words will have to be enough.

        Thanks for your well wishes.

  6. jenny says:

    I’m sorry. I just read your awful news. I hope that your mother recovers fully.

    I read your story yesterday and laughed at the combination of walker and trapeze (such a funny image).

    Endless rabbit holes. Just as you begin to adjust to life behind one lookingglass, down you go to some other (un) reality.

    • Cheri says:

      Thank you. Your last sentence characterizes my life this summer. I feel very naked in terms of my insight about the world my mother is entering. But it is fun to write about it, so I shall.

      Better than paying a therapist. 😉

      • jenny says:

        You write that you feel “naked” in terms of your insight. My husband (who has many smart things to say about the creative process and an inflated confidence in his wife’s talents and prospects) regularly tells me that I’m going to have to “get naked” if I want to write. So I think you’re in a good place.

        I’m reading. It’s making a good serial novel.

  7. wkkortas says:

    Stinkin’ dragons.

  8. wkkortas says:

    See? Dragons just lead to folk songs and three-part harmony.

  9. Sage Dragon here, Alonzo. I’ve arrived to take Queen Joan for another ride and I’m taking her Princess Cheri with us.

    First stop, Paris, France where they shall buy berets. Maybe a beautiful scarlet red color for the Princess and bachelor button blue for the Queen. Then, to the Louvre! There I will slow down and they can peak into the windows at the beauty and the gaiety of a thousand years.

    Second stop, Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany. Oh the ride will be fabulous and Cheri will hold her mother tight and gently kiss her cheek because her mum’s excitement at the magic of its sight will be as large as a child’s glee! But, even if she should tumble, I would swoop around and catch her as I do all the falling stars each night.

    Third stop, Siena, Italy, this holy little city known for its quiet nights of prayer and wine and wall mounted beauty. I will find a cave nearby to nap while Princess Cheri, and Queen Joan find a suitable little table to relax and enjoy the descending darkness, the pasta and the right to just be.

    Oh, one more thing, Alonzo. For the flight they will both be needing the cozy warm capes I keep in my backpack. The hoods, you will notice, are lined with golden fleece, quite rare in these parts.

    Okay then, let’s get this adventure on the road.

  10. Cheri says:

    Oh my, Sage Dragon,

    Your timing is perfect (as usual). That’s why I have a special place in my heart for all dragons.

    Mother has been a falling star today, but the Golden Fleece in our hoods, shall propel us tomorrow to Siena where true meaning of life might be learned.

    So much of the distractions of the life experience are unimportant, Sage Dragon.

    You wise old gal.

  11. Cheri says:

    My husband would suggest to get naked and write (with other motives in mind…)


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