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"Exactly how bad can a mid-life crisis get?" #8
By Daily Florence Posted in Grace, Uncategorized on May 22, 2022 0 Comments 20 min read
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Start this story from the beginning!


It was at least 2 pm before I rose from my hammock the next day. Gladys was nowhere to be seen but eventually I found her sitting with Eric in the Zen garden. I rubbed my eyes as I wobbled over the river stones and made my way up to the rustic bench on the raised platform.

‘I’ve had the worst sleep of my life,’ I said as I plonked myself in between Gladys and Eric on the bench and continued to rub my eyes. ‘And I’m so hungry I think I could eat a valerian sausage.’ I looked out across the sunbaked Yosemite and blinked as I tried to focus my eyes. ‘Valerian sausages, it’s as if I’ve begun adapting to hell already,’ I whispered. ‘Are you …’ I slowly inspected Gladys. She was sat next to me on the bench with her eyes firmly shut and her hands resting on her lap. I raised my voice to a shout and leant towards her ear. ‘DON’T TELL ME YOU’RE MEDITATING.’

Gladys’ eyes sprang open. ‘Grace, what the hell is wrong with you?’

‘Wrong with me? You’re the one meditating. What the hell is wrong with you? I leave you for five minutes with Captain Flakealot—’

‘I can hear you.’

‘Put a sock in it, Eric! And you end up meditating. And there I was thinking I was bad for contemplating a valerian sausage.’

‘Actually,’ Gladys said as she put her glasses back on, ‘it’s really relaxing.’

‘Yoohoo, yoohoo,’ a voice carried up from the Yosemite park below us. We looked over the cliff at a line of people who were walking along a path in the distance. Eric waved down to them.

‘Are they the guests from the lodge?’ I said, turning to Eric.

‘Yeah, they’re on a peace march.’

‘I thought the lodge was quiet.’ I leant forward and cupped my mouth with my hands and shouted back to them. ‘Not very peaceful if you’re shouting yooh—’

‘Shh, Grace. What are you doing?’ Eric said.

‘Well it’s not, is it?’

‘Eric, ignore her,’ Gladys said. ‘She’s a right grumpy gorilla when she first wakes up.’

I folded my arms. ‘That is about the least funniest thing you could say to me right—’

‘It’s not as if you got almost attacked by some nutter in a gorilla costume, is it?’ Gladys said, staring right at me.

‘A gorilla costume? Where did you get that from? It looked just like a real gorilla from where I was stood.’

‘Oh, come on, Grace. No way, absolutely no way! You honestly think there’s a six-foot gorilla loose in the Yosemite who is eating squirrels? Or the ghost of a dead Hollywood executive haunting us?’

I gripped my tummy and stared into the distance. ‘Well, when you put it like that, yes, yes I do.’

‘Codswallop, Grace. Someone is winding us up, and Eric and I have decided we want to get to the bottom of this … you know, solve the mystery.’

‘I’m not sure I do. I mean, the ghost thing I could just about cope with, but the fact there’s a gorilla on the loose.’

‘Grace, we can do it,’ Eric said. ‘Think about it. If you were going to steal squirrels, what would you do with them?’

‘Hug them.’

‘Grace, no. If you were an evil squirrel hunter. What would you do with them?’

‘Flippin’ hell, the circus has sent in a squirrel-stealing gorilla!’

Gladys threw her hands in the air. ‘No, Grace. Taxidermy. Victoria, the sour-faced crab you tried to axe. That’s the only logical explanation for where they could be going. We think someone is stealing them to run Amos off the land.’

‘But it’s not High Mistress Breeze,’ said Eric.

‘But we don’t know that right now, do we?’

Eric scrunched his mouth to one side. ‘It can’t be her, though. I just don’t believe it.’

‘But we have to be like Columbo, remember? We can’t just say who it is and isn’t because we like them. We have to keep an open mind, right?’

‘I suppose,’ Eric said with a sigh. ‘But if that’s the case, then you, Gladys, have to keep an open mind about ghosts and gorillas too.’

Gladys pointed her nose in the air. ‘I will bloody not. There’s no such—’

‘If I have to, and you expect Grace to, then you have to,’ Eric said.

‘Fine, bloody fine.’

I gripped my head as Eric and Gladys continued to disagree about the existence of ghosts and gorillas, and breathed in deeply. Just before I felt my head about to explode, I leapt to my feet. ‘This is just about the worst thing I think I’ve ever heard,’ I said. ‘I’ll never sleep again.’

‘Grace, there’s more,’ Gladys continued. ‘Now Donna and her stupid aura have gone missing.’

‘The annoying guest Donna?’


‘I mean, well, I’m okay with that if you are?’

‘Well, now you mention it,’ Gladys said. ‘No, that’s not the point, Grace. She’s not been seen since breakfast yesterday. High Mistress Breeze called the police earlier and they’re investigating. She seems really upset about it, especially after Gopzilla went missing last year.’

‘We’ve already thought of a plan,’ Eric said. ‘You, me and Gladys all get to know the other guests and everyone at the Squirrel Reserve and work out who’s behind it all. What’s happening here might be connected with what’s going on at the Squirrel Reserve but we don’t know right now. Since the ghost of Gopzilla only arrived yesterday, we reckon it has to be connected to someone here … unless it was actually a ghost.’ Eric winked at Gladys.

‘More to the point,’ Gladys continued, ‘if we want to find out more about the guests, then we’re going to have to take part in the activities.’

I dropped my hands to my side. ‘You mean yoga?’


‘And peace walks?’

‘Them too.’

‘No way. This is too much. Why can’t Eric just do it by himself?’

‘Me? I can’t, can I?’

‘Can’t you?’

‘I’m the resident life coach/ tourist guide. I have to sit around here and wait for people to ask me to do stuff. Usually people come and ask me for marriage guidance or I have to direct them to oak trees that will cleanse their souls. I have to just stay here and wait. You two are literally the most fun I’ve had in ages. Grace, Grace … where are you going?’

‘I can’t do this!’ I shouted as I stomped towards the lodge. As I was midway across the stream, Gladys shouted something to me that caused me to lose my footing and slam my light-up trainers into the ankle-deep water.

‘That’s because she gives up on everything.’

Her voice carried through the garden, rendering my body completely frozen for a few moments. I turned back to Gladys, but she was sat on the bench with her back to me, facing the Yosemite. Of all the things to say to me, I could barely find the words to answer her. Instead, I stomped back to the lodge, in my now soggy trainers, and slammed the door to the gratitude room behind me.

Five seconds later, I tore back out of the gratitude room and into the Zen garden. ‘Fine!’ I screamed to Eric and Gladys, as I pointed sharply at them. ‘Fine, but only because I love squirrels. Not because of anything else, so get that straight.’

* * *

I scowled as I peered over Gladys’ shoulder. She was hunched over the activity book on the front desk, signing us up to everything that the Hardcore Mind, Body and Soul Lodge had to offer.

‘Chanting session, tick, greenstone facial massage, tick, finding your aura, tick, night peace march, tick …’

When Gladys had finally finished, she turned back around to face my upside- down mouth. I couldn’t be sure but I could swear she was smirking. ‘I know you hate this stuff,’ I said. ‘Ever since that gorilla turned up last night you’ve been so moody.’

‘You mean, when the person in a gorilla costume turned—’

‘Whatever. Ever since then you’ve been in a right mood. It’s not my fault that a ghost and a gorilla showed u—’

Gladys leant towards me. ‘Grace, for the love of God! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GHOST, AND NO GORILLA.’

I lowered my voice to a lingering gurgle. ‘Then bring on the healing meditation, because I will sure as hell prove you wrong.’

Gladys used one finger to push her glasses up her nose and locked eyes with me. ‘I cannot wait, Grace Squirrel, so bring it on.’

Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe the cheek of Gladys, calling me a grumpy gorilla when she was a fine one to talk. All over a ghost and gorilla too, I mean, could she get any more stubborn? There was absolutely no way I was losing this one though. I was going to spend the next few days finding out everything I possibly could about the rest of the guests and prove her wrong. Situations like this, I would like to add, are exactly why squirrel pads were invented. I dug mine out of my bag, found my squirrel pen, and stomped off in the direction of the next healing meditation session.

‘Wrong way, Grace.’

‘I knew that, I bloody knew that!’ I shouted as I doubled back and stomped towards the Zen garden.

Tuesday morning: Healing Meditation with High Mistress Breeze

Everyone in attendance except Lion Heart, High Mistress Breeze’s husband. Nobody said anything. One whole hour of nothing. An hour. Who does that? Gladys didn’t open her eyes once—the lengths she’d go to prove a point. I nipped off about five minutes in and then returned at the end. Pretty sure no one noticed. Must try harder.

Tuesday tea time in Gratitude Room

Everyone in attendance. Fried tofu for tea. I’m sure Gladys hated it too but she was so sly she never once gagged on it. Anna McHappy from Scotland whipped her guitar out and sang a self-written song. It was so bad that her husband, Scotty McHappy, sat next to her the whole time with one hand covering his face. Can’t remember the exact words because I had my hands over my ears, but the chorus was so catchy that everyone kept joining in for a sing-a-ling. Needless to say, the noise level rose on the chorus so I heard it. It was pretty catchy though, so I couldn’t help but join in the last bit. It went like this:

‘Is this really my life, la, la, la, the sex is so mediocre that I get more enjoyment from doing the dishes, ohh, ohh, I’ve installed a wine pump in the kitchen, stopped shaving and discovered all I care about is my next prescription, la, la, la. Maybe I should invite my husband’s secretary to my birthday party next month, month, month, at least he’d turn up, since they’re always so busy together. Is this really my life, la, la, la.’

Once over, everyone clapped, all except me and her husband who both sat shaking our heads and looking down at the floor. I mean, honestly, white noise sounded better. I literally could not believe that, out of all of us, only me and Anna’s husband had some taste in music —what were the chances. 

High Mistress Breeze was very impressed with Anna’s song though and spent five minutes encouraging us all to express ourselves whenever we wish. Gladys stuck her hand in the air and said she’d write a poem for everyone before she left, which made me very angry cos I know she hates poems.

Tuesday evening: Peace walk with High Mistress Breeze

Everyone in attendance. Nobody said anything. It was very dark and I was so scared. All I could think about was gorilla ghosts. I tried to link arms with Dotty and Delilah from Australia but they unlinked arms with me and ran ahead. Those two are so up to something. And they were in the Z Club. Must keep an eye on those two.

Wednesday morning: Chanting session in the Zen garden

Everyone in attendance except Lion Heart. We all sat in a circle and took turns shouting out chants which we would then all repeat twenty times so that the words sunk in and we believed them. Most fun I’d had in a long time. It went like this:

High Mistress Breeze: ‘Let’s begin our chanting session. On the bang of the gong, someone shout out a chant and we will repeat twenty times. It is important that we keep to the rhythm and let our energy flow. Don’t stop for any reason, just keep the chanting going and our auras will gently intertwine in this beautiful circle and we will become one. Eric will guide us with his gong. I will start.’

High Mistress Breeze: ‘Love is within us.’

Everyone chants: ‘Love is within us. Love is within us. Love is within us …’

Eric bangs gong.

Dotty and Delilah shout in unison: ‘We are what we think we are.’

Everyone chants: ‘We are what we think we are. We are what we think we are. We are what we think we are …’

Eric bangs gong.

Me: ‘Drugs are for pugs.’

Everyone chants: ‘Drugs are for pugs. Drugs are for pugs. Drugs are for pugs …’

Eric bangs gong, really hard.

Chad from New York: ‘Money isn’t everything.’

Everyone chants: ‘Money isn’t everything. Money isn’t everything. Money isn’t everything …’

Eric bangs gong.

Chad’s wife, Mia: ‘Organising is hot.’

Everyone chants: ‘Organising is hot. Organising is hot. Organising is hot …’

Scotty McHappy: ‘Should I be sorry for earning a living?’

Everyone chants: ‘Should I be sorry for earning a living? Should I be sorry for earning a living? Should I be sorry for earning a living? …’

Eric bangs gong.

Anna McHappy: ‘I think I fancy the postman.’

Everyone: ‘I think I fancy the postman. I think I fancy the postman. I think I fancy the postman …’

Eric bangs gong.

Me: ‘This is so much fun I could wet mysel—’

Eric bangs gong, really hard, repeatedly.

Felicity cuts me off: ‘Good parenting means—’

Poet cuts his mum off: ‘Letting teenagers get tattoos.’

Everyone chants: ‘Good parenting means letting teenagers get tattoos. Good parenting means letting teenagers get tattoos. Good parenting means letting teenagers get tattoos …’

Eric sniggers and bangs the gong.

Barry from London: ‘Finding yourself is—’

I cut him off: ‘Only appropriate if you’ve lost a leg.’

Everyone chants: ‘Finding yourself is only appropriate if you’ve lost a leg. Finding yourself is only …’

Barry throws me a filthy look and shouts over everyone’s chant: ‘Other guests are really annoying.’

Everyone chants: ‘Other guests are really annoying. Other …’

Scotty McHappy shouts over the chanting: ‘I think I fancy my secretary.’

Everyone chants: ‘I think I fancy my secretary …’

Eric bangs the gong.

Anna shouts over everyone: ‘I wish her luck finding your peni—’

Eric bangs the gong repeatedly.

Felicity shouts over everyone’s chants: ‘I’m never having anymore—’

Poet shouts over her: ‘Botox.’

Mia shouts over everyone: ‘How about we organise our minds and just …’

Someone throws a tuft of grass in Mia’s mouth and I roar with laughter.

The chanting turns into one big screaming match.

I stand up and shout: ‘I’ve lost my vibrator!’

Except for a single cricket springing past us, there was total and utter silence.

High Mistress Breeze: ‘I think that some of us need to work on our inner peace. Let’s call it a day’.

Gladys turns her hearing aid back up. ‘What did I miss?’

And so it went on: endless healing sessions, meditating and chanting, until one evening when Gladys, myself and Eric met for an Operation Squirrel team meeting on the white rustic bench in the Zen garden. But rather than talk, we all sat silently with sullen faces, staring out across the Yosemite and contemplating what our next move would be. Donna still hadn’t turned up and we were all still none the wiser.

‘Don’t think I can take any more,’ I said.

‘Oh please, we’ve hardly got started.’

‘Gladys, I know you can’t stand this—’

‘Enough!’ Eric butted in. ‘That is enough. The pair of you, just take a break from arguing, will you?’

‘Fine,’ I said. ‘I need a break from this though. You know, get out of here.’

‘That’s it!’ Gladys sat bolt upright. ‘We do need to get out of here. We’re looking in the wrong place. What were we thinking?’

‘What do you mean?’

Gladys grabbed my squirrel pad from my hands. ‘Let me have a look at that thing again, Grace.’

‘I’ve gone over everything so many times, Gladys, you’re not going to—’

‘That’s it … there.’


‘Lion Heart, High Mistress Breeze’s husband. Every morning he’s not at any of the activities.’

Eric grabbed the squirrel pad. ‘She’s right, he’s not there. ‘

‘Maybe he likes to sleep in?’ I said.

‘Or maybe he’s up to something,’ Gladys said with a scowl. ‘I say we follow him.’

‘Fine, unless you want to go to another greenstone healing session, Gladys?’

Gladys scowled at me. ‘Tomorrow morning, we’re getting up early.’

‘We should really buy some coffee for this.’

‘I’ve got some maca tea?

‘Eric, put a sock in it.’


I don’t know if you have tried stalking anyone recently, but it’s really rather difficult, especially when you have a partially blind eighty-year-old and a kaftan- wearing flake in tow. Gladys’ idea of hurrying up is holding onto her cardigan rather than putting it on, and as for Captain Flakealot, well, I honestly don’t know where to start with that attention-seeking turnip. 

Gladys and I peeped out from the inside window of the lodge as Lion Heart jumped into his car and drove away, meaning that the next stage of Operation Squirrel was well and truly under way.

I arm-farted the code word to Eric, who I couldn’t seem to pinpoint anywhere in the foyer.

Gladys scowled at me. ‘Grace, what the hell are you doing?’

‘Arm farting the code word “go” to Eric.’

‘How is he supposed to understand that?’

I scowled back at Gladys. ‘Well, duh, how do you think the Germans communicated with each other during World War Two?’

‘Grace, you’re not seriously suggesting that Alan Turing decoded arm farts, are you?’

‘Who’s that?’

Gladys stood up and shouted over the foyer. ‘Eric, hurry the bloody hell up before I kill her.’

Eric appeared and we flung the heavy double doors to the lodge open and tore towards the mini-van.

It was full-on action stations as we tore across the carpark. My feet pounded the gravel, sweat dripped from my forehead and my feet whipped up a cataclysmic cloud of dust behind me. As I arrived at the mini-van, my body slammed into the door as my hands fumbled for the handle. I reached down, secured my sweaty grip, ripped the door open and screamed, ‘Get in, Gladys, go, go, go … Gladys?’ I looked back over the pebble-dash carpark, just as the dust was clearing, towards the front door that we’d just bolted from, and spotted Gladys straightening a couple of pot plants.

‘You have got to be kidding me!’ I wailed. I raised my voice and shouted, ‘Gladys, will you please, please hurry up!’

‘Coming, all right, coming … hold your horses,’ Gladys said as she shuffled towards me.

‘And where the hell is Eric?’

The double doors to the lodge burst open and Eric stepped out giving Beyoncé a run for her money. He was wearing a pair of gold-rimmed shades, a gold silk kaftan with matching shorts that glistened in the sun, far too much gel in his hair, and, by the looks of it, had been overly generous with the fake tan.

‘Eric!’ I shouted. ‘Eric, what the hell are you doing? That is just not necessary. Even James Bond didn’t look that fabulous.’

Eric walked arm-in-arm with Gladys, and five minutes later we all sat in the car and clipped our seatbelts on. I turned to Eric who was adjusting his shades in the mirror. ‘Well, now we’ve lost him, haven’t we?’

Eric smiled. ‘No, no we have not.’

Eric was absolutely right—Lion Heart drove slower than my epilator; however, my epilator was less painful than the five whale-sound filled hours we took trailing behind Lion Heart on our way to Hollywood.


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