How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
Norma Jean and I eased into the back of the rented purple Chrysler Sebring convertible. I strapped her in, more or less. Her pointy ears twitched at the sounds of Fort Lauderdale. Black lips flapped in the wind on I-95, the road that stretched from northernmost Maine to southernmost Florida.
Perry snarled, “Why the frick couldn’t we have just flown into Key West? What a miserable frickin’ ride this is going to be.” A tennis ball couldn’t fit between our car and the dump truck in front of us. I tried not to dwell on his aggressive driving techniques.
Seated next to him, tying a trendy chiffon scarf around her perfect hair, Tammy snapped, “It’s all Oh-Donna’s fault. She just had to bring the dog. That was the closest I could get us. No airline flying into Little Cuba or the Maragaritaville place had any animal tickets left.”
I said, “Key West is way too far south. We need to meet up with Mike in Miami Beach, at the hotel he works at.”
Tammy said, “Why didn’t you just get directions to his place or the funeral home or where ever Mom is?”
“Eww!” I picked a bug out of my teeth. I flung it at the back of Perry’s noggin. “Because Mike and Momma live on a little island. There isn’t any bridge. We’ll have to take a boat.”
Perry said, “So we’ll go charter a boat. What marina do we need to leave from?”
“I’m not sure. Like I said, we’ll call Mike from the hotel.”
Oh no. I can’t take Norma Jean into the Fontainebleau. Even if they do allow small pets, she’s no lap dog. Shoot. “We have a problem.”
Perry barked, “Now what?”
“Norma Jean. I can’t take her into the hotel.”
“Sure you can. She’s a companion dog. You have a disability. By law, no one is allowed to ask your disability.”
“But I don’t have one of those little doggie vests to identify her as such.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
I hugged Norma Jean’s left leg. It trembled. Why couldn’t she have come back as a Labrador Retriever or a German Shepherd? That would be convincing. But a Great Dane?
Tammy said, “Nobody will ever believe that big clumsy dog is for a blind person. Oh-Donna, here, put my sunglasses on.”
“No. I’m not blind. There are other types of disabilities.”
Perry drove up under the portico at the hotel. I squinted across the street at the site seeing ship moored on the Intracoastal Waterway. Some day I’d like to take a cruise around Miami, getting up close and personal with the backs of the stars’ homes.
We waited in line nearly ten minutes, only to be told we were at the wrong entrance. This was just for the valet parking of previously registered cars. We had to drive down to the next portico to check in first, by the colorful flags. I covered my eyes in embarrassment at the spew of foul words my brother muttered in front of the dutiful employee.
Perry floored it, then slammed his foot on the brake as we traversed the short distance. He nudged the car forward and told the valet “We’re checking in. And I’ll need a wheelchair for my sister.”
The older Latino said, “Yes sir. Evan, we need a wheelchair.” as he opened the door. Perry groaned out of the driver’s seat. A young woman opened Tammy’s door. She seductively stepped out, scanning the scene.
The perky valet flipped the black leather seat up before I could move. I gasped when Perry reached in and picked me up. He flopped me into a wheelchair. Norma Jean leapt out and sniffed it. “Nice doggie. Nice doggie,” the valet timidly said as she pushed me up the ramp and into the lobby. Norma Jean followed.
Tammy and Perry went through the revolving door with the bell captain and our luggage. Perry waddled over to me and told Miss Perky, “That’s fine. She can wheel herself. Oh-Donna, give me your purse.”
”Oh-Donna, give me your purse. He snatched it from me and fished out three dollars. He gave one to the valet that pushed me and palmed two to the bell captain.
“Give me my purse back!”
I stretched but he dangled it high. Norma Jean growled and snatched it from him. I recovered it and wiped her drool off, onto the arm of the wheelchair.
While Perry and Tammy were registering, I took in the ambiance of the hotel. Beautiful crystal chandeliers. I gazed over at the lobby bar and recalled having a drink with Momma there. Giant photos of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. were hung in front of the windows overlooking the rock grotto pool. Oh Momma, You’re really gone now. Forever.
Hanging television monitors displayed old Rat Pack footage of concerts and skits the gentlemen in the photos performed in forty years ago. Norma Jean commenced sniffing. She sniffed her way across the lobby, down the steps to the bar and started jumping, trying to get to a T.V. that displayed Frank Sinatra singing “Strangers in the Night”.
I wheeled myself as fast as I could but was stuck at the stairs. No one was seated at the bar, thank goodness. Norma Jean never-the-less was attracting attention from patrons at the tables, who were turning their heads with quizzical expressions. By the time I spotted the handicapped ramp, Perry finally stomped over, seized my dog by her pink collar and dragged her back to me.
“Control your dog Oh-Donna. Come on. Our room isn’t ready yet. They’re holding our luggage. You go make your contact with the randy janitor or whoever. Let’s get this over with.”
With Norma Jean at my side, I wheeled myself across the tropical carpeted lobby. Perry and Tammy followed me, but kept their distance until I stopped at the unattended concierge desk. Nothing was there but a display box of tourist maps on the high black granite counter. My shoulders were all ready fatigued. How do the poor frail people do this all the time?
A uniformed hotel security officer approached. I gripped tight to Norma Jean’s collar. Please don’t throw her out.
“May I help you folks with something?”
I let my breath out and said, “Yes. We’re acquaintances of Mike Taurus, one of your bell hops. His friend passed away. Chloe Payne. We’re her children. We need to get a hold of Mike, to find out what to do now.”
“I’m Fred Rollins.” He shook everyone’s hand. “I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Chloe was a lovely lady. Come on over to the security office and we’ll try to get in contact with Mike. He’s in a horribly bad way. Poor old guy.”
Tammy and Perry marched like little soldiers behind Mr. Rollins. My arms ached propelling the damned low end ouch maker chair across the carpeted floor. It was a step up from the one at the hospital, but worse when you factored in there was no volunteer pushing me. Norma Jean sniffed her way across, staying beside me this time.
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