Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Westward Ho!

Mr. Hall shivered.  The Lakeshore Limited was running late that night- the first class passengers with rooms had to wait for the front half of the train to load and then move forward because there were so many cars the station platform couldn't accommodate them all at once.  When they finally settled in, Mr. Hall heaved a deep sigh of relief.  "I'm going offline for a little while," he said peacefully. "Make me a martini."  Mrs. Hall happily obeyed, and just to be hospitable, made one for herself as well.

 The next morning, bright sunshine poured into the roomette. "I slept like an angel" cooed Mr. Hall.  He finished his ablutions.  "Must be your clean conscience," muttered Mrs. H. through the lifting haze.  Mrs. Hall was generally not conversational until she had tossed back a cup or four of the black stuff.  "I'll meet you in the dining car."  The train zipped along at a fairly brisk pace as the Halls enjoyed their morning repast, and it was no time at all before they were gathering their bags and heading down the platform into Union Station.   The air was warm and bright, with a southwest wind blowing at what appeared to Mr. Hall to be about forty knots.  It blew the happy travelers into Ogilvie Station and onto the northwest commuter.

Their hostess for the weekend, Mrs. Pranitis, met them at the track.  "Welcome, welcome, welcome!" she said as they piled into the family runabout.  The old homestead never looked so good.  The occasion of their visit was to celebrate with Mr. Leo Pranitis, raconteur and host extraordinaire, his natal anniversary; and having determined he first graced this terrestrial plane Anno Domini MCMXXVIII, it was decided this was No Small  Event.

While Mr. Pranitis attended to his daily routine, Mrs. P. and the Halls hit the local shopping center, Woodfield Mall.  "I have no idea what to get for him, and you've given me no help at all!" cried Mrs. Hall. "I'm really at my wit's end."  ("A short run to be sure," whispered Mr. H.) As is usually the case when this happens, they ended up looking at all sorts of things that would be simply wonderful for the Hall, and entirely inappropriate for the occasion at hand.  "How about a little heavy reading?" said Mrs. P. as she hoisted a ceramic book.  They toddled on home empty-handed.
 Right on schedule later that day, Mrs. Hall's brother Rick and his charming wife Gail Perry, showed up.  Chock full of good cheer and a huge basket of individually wrapped delights (much to Mrs. Hall's very obvious chagrin!) they descended on the little troupe and the birthday really started to liven up in earnest.

  As the evening wore on, Mrs. Hall asked if Mr. Pranitis would like to try one of their signature martinis.  In a jiffy the travel bar was produced, strips of lemon peel appeared and in a moment, the glistening pale golden beverage was before him. He sipped, a look of contentment washed over the pater's visage, and he dissolved happily into the fabric of his recliner.  Mrs. Hall swung around to Mr. Hall and whispered, "Lightbulb!"

The next morning was the Big Day.  Mrs. Hall grabbed Gail's arm (and her attendant vehicle) and excusing themselves on a pretense, flew out the door to the nearest liquor emporium.  Rows of bottles usually overwhelm Mrs. H.- not a few times she had to be drawn back away from the flashy labels and exotic distillates, to the task at hand.  But with luck and a little bit of cunning, they were able to secretly squirrel away the bootle in the bar, just ahead of the dinner gong.

Seafood had been the request of the evening, with the only indecision facing them being whether to get one dozen oysters or two to begin.

(While photographic evidence could not reveal how sweet the oysters actually were, it did manage to capture the neighboring diner's opinion of patrons slurping bivalues by the cartload.)   An hour later, all that remained were empty carcasses and full tummies.

 Wiping the lemony residue off their faces and hands, the merry band broke out into "Happy Birthday" and a good measure of the restaurant and staff chimed in.

 Their chariots deposited them back and it was time for Rick and Gail to hit the road home.  Hugs went all around, and as soon as everyone got out the door, Mrs. Hall piped up now would be a good time for a soothing cup of tea.  Mr. Pranitis rose to get some, then thinking better of it, decided instead to go to the bar.  There followed a brief happy exhortation from that direction of the house, and the Halls, in the other room, chuckled and patted themselves on the back.

Next episode: revisiting old places and new faces.  Stay tuned!

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