The Battle of Lakeside Lodge
By Sean Bracken
It was Sunday evening in Lakeside Lodge retirement home. The afternoon had been busy with visits from family and friends. Now sons and daughters, grandchildren and even some family pets had all gone home. What was a happy afternoon for many, only served to remind others of their loneliness and isolation. These were the few who rarely, if ever received visits from anyone. The sounds of laughter and conversation that filled the lounge, only served to remind them of how neglected they were.
The home was back to normal now and the residents were assembling for dinner. The dining room was a hive of activity. Some were sitting, waiting to be served their meal, chosen from a menu offered to them at breakfast every morning. Others preferred to serve themselves from the buffet counter. The daily menu tended to be boring and repetitive. The buffet usually held better options and more variety.
Peter Murphy was returning from the buffet counter, his tray laden with sausage and chips for himself and a roast chicken dinner for Helen Troy. Helen had come to live in the home about two months before and from day one Peter had held an irresistible attraction to her. The feeling had become mutual, now the couple were seldom seen apart. Peter regarded Helen as ‘His Girl’.
As he walked back to the dining table, Peter saw Charlie O’Shea plonk himself down beside Helen, occupying Peter’s seat. As he sat, Charlie put an arm around Helen’s shoulder and leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek. Peter was incensed. He threw his tray in the air and charged at Charlie with as fast a shuffle as his new hips would allow. Sausages, chips, mashed potato, chicken, veg and gravy soared through the air as Peter grabbed Mrs. Frederick’s walking frame. He thrust the frame at Charlie’s huge pot belly. Charlie reacted too quickly and parried Peter’s thrust with his cane.
“Take your hands off my woman you dirty rotten lecher.” roared Peter, as he regained his balance and lunged once again with the walker. This time Charlie was too slow and Peter connected with the huge tub of lard that Charlie called his stomach. Charlie fell down, landing on his equally massive backside,
Meanwhile, an aerial barrage of sausages and chips rained down on the next table, while the chicken dinner headed in the opposite direction. One sausage splashed down in Celia Smiths tomato soup. Celia, a lady on the wrong side of eighty and a little senile, laughed out loud.
“Oh goody, a food fight” she said, grabbing half a dozen bread rolls and tossing them randomly in every direction. In moments the sedate dining room had become a battle field. Barrages of Brussels Sprouts were answered with volleys of sliced carrots. Blobs of mash and gravy stuck to the ceiling and slowly dripped down on the combatants.
Martha, the cook, hid behind her counter, while young Sally Jenkins, a student care worker bravely inched her way to the door in a futile attempt to raise the alarm. George Mooney, a wrestler in his younger days, noticed her as she made her way through salvos of chicken drumsticks and stuffed tomatoes and stepped in to block her path.
All eight members of the bridge club, called ‘The Snobs’ by the other guests, managed to escape the carnage, through the kitchen, out into the main corridor and down to the administrators office, It was Madame Polonaise's day off, so the office was deserted. Tony Parker, always a nosy old coot, began to rummage around the room, prying into cabinets and desk drawers, It wasn’t long before he discovered the liqueur cabinet. Soon, the bridge team were downing scotch, vodka and brandy. It was Vera Jones that spotted the lump of hash, along with a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers, hiding behind a few bottles of wine. With a practised hand, she had several joints circulating around the group in no time.
Half drunk and half stoned, Tony Parker declared that he was returning to the fray.
“It’ll be cool Guys” he said. “Come on, let’s go back and join the fight. God knows if we’ll ever get another chance to have so much fun.”
Back in the dining room, Charlie was still on the ground, wriggling from side to side, trying to manoeuvrer his body into a position where he could stand up. He was as helpless as an upside-down tortoise. Peter, meanwhile, had pulled Helen Troy under the table to shelter her from the ongoing barrage of food. He lay on top of her, in order to provide further cover from the dinner fusillade. Helen, thinking that Peter was being amorous responded with a kiss to his lips. Startled at first, it didn’t take Peter long to return the kiss. Passions were aroused. The sounds of battle faded into the background as Peter and Helen brought themselves close to the point of no return. Needing privacy, the pair scuttled under the tables, out the door and down to Helen’s bedroom, not to be seen again until breakfast the next morning.
Doctor Byrd, a retired dentist, led an assault on an upturned table, lobbing hard boiled egg grenades over the table, at the people defending it. The defenders returned fire with every scrap of food they could scavenge from the floor. Overwhelmed by superior firepower Dr Byrd withdrew to another table, conceding defeat. He pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket and waved it in a token of surrender.
Sally Jenkins sidestepped around George and followed Peter and Helen out of the room, As she crept out into the hall, the bridge club members passed her on their way back to rejoin the fight. They bore gifts of half a dozen bottles of booze and what was left of the hash.
In a panic Sally made her way to the admin office, never thinking of calling the duty nurse and her assistant, who were working on the upper floor, feeding and tending to bedridden guests. Instead she dialled 911 and asked for the police. By now the poor girl was distraught and her description of events was, to say the least, exaggerated.
Back in the dining room, the bottles of spirits and several hash joints prompted an immediate ceasefire. Former combatants shared swigs from the bottles and freely passed the joints around. Soon the room was filled with a thick haze of smoke. Everyone agreed that it was the most exciting and enjoyable evening they’d had in years. But eventually the alcohol and hash began to take effect. One by one the elderly residents drifted off too sleep with a contented smile on their faces.
The police reacted very quickly. Fifteen minutes after Sally’s call, two van loads of armed Gardai, dressed in full riot gear arrived. The police snaked their way down the corridors, moving from wall to wall, on high alert. When they reached the dining area, one officer risked peeking through the open doorway. Expecting a full scale riot, instead he saw a room full of perhaps fifty or sixty elderly people. Half of them were fast asleep, the rest in various stages of drunkenness. The unmistakable smell of weed pervaded the atmosphere. The room itself was in a shambles. Up-ended tables, which had been used as barricades littered the room, clumps of beans, mash and gravy slithered down the walls. The burgundy carpet was a mess of ground in sausages, sprouts, chips and other food.
Martha’s quiet sobs could be heard coming from behind the buffet counter. Charlie was still wriggling around on his bottom, unable to stand. Mrs. O'Malley's wig, which had been dislodged by a flying turkey leg sat on his chest.
The battle of Lakeside Lodge, or as some people called it, the Helen Troy War, was over.
The residents of the home never forgot that night. None of them had had so much fun in years. The main topic of conversation for months after, revolved about how to break into Madame’s now firmly locked office. Everyone wanted a fresh sample of her hash and booze.
Six months later, Peter and Helen were married. Old Charlie was grooms-man and young Sally was bridesmaid at the wedding.
And they all lived happily ever after. Well, for a few good years after.