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The Key ©


           A white Suburban pulled to the stop-light and sat idling next to a small banged-up Datson station wagon.  The three middle-aged women inside were laughing wildly.  Their laughter caught the attention of a maze of teenage faces in the Suburban. With a somewhat annoyed interest, the teens noticed that the ladies were wearing party hats and their laughter seemed to be centered around the noise-makers they were blowing.  The light turned green and the Suburban squealed into oblivion leaving the three ladies looking after.
           "Huh?"  Edith frowned as she turned to Francine.  "They must be in a hurry to meet the new year."
           "They'd better slow down or they're not going to see the new year."  Francine's square jaw was set and her large dark-rimmed glasses sat low on her nose.  She watched the disappearing Suburban through the lower part of her glasses with her chin lifted and her eyes squinted.
           Edith ignored her and instead, blew obnoxiously on her noise-maker.  Dee Dee was sitting in the back seat and was blowing on something that sounded like a tweety-bird with a sore throat. A horse-chirp and a giggle . . . a horse-chirp and a giggle.  "Do you know what this reminds me of?  Asked Dee Dee.
           "Did you get everything on the list?"  Francine asked.
           "You worry too much.  Of course, I got everything on the list.  It reminds me of my grandma's garden when I was little.  She had all these ugly ole horny toads that she ordered from Sears & Roebuck's."
           "I just don't want to get clear up to the cabin and find out we forgot the noise makers, or anything important, like that.  You know what I mean?"
           Dee Dee turned around and leaned over the back of the seat and started pawing through sacks.  "Let's see, we've got drinks, chips, dip, tomato soup. . . candles, what you got in your sack up there,  Francine?"
           "I got two dollars, three. . . three dollars, who'll give me four. . ."  Chided Edith.
           "Cut it out,.Edith, did you remember the extra blankets?"
           "Yes, and a heating pad and. . . "
           "What are you going to do with a heating pad if everything goes black like they say it might?"
           "We got batteries and a boom box.  Please Francine," laughed Dee Dee, "Let's just have fun and forget to worry about what might happen at midnight."
           "Betcha you didn't bring any fruit juice, huh?"
           "There's a little store about half way up the mountain.  We can stop and pick up some last minute things, if you like."
           "Now she tells us.  We need a plan.  Dee Dee,  start with the list and go through all the sacks . . . here, better yet, give me the list.  I'll read, you dig.  Where's the olives?" 
           "Right here, and eggs, and bacon.  Hey, we got orange juice!"
           "I want grapefruit juice."
           "Oh, look at the deer!"  Edith slammed on the brakes, throwing Dee Dee head first into the sacks of groceries in the back.
           "Help!" She hollered, with her hinnie and feet in the air.   "I'm stuck in the condiments and cornbread.
           Francine twisted around, half crawling into the back seat and pulled on Dee Dee's feet.  She was laughing hysterically and Edith was searching the rear-view mirror, trying to figure out what was going on.
           "Oh, who opened the potato chips," moaned Dee Dee.
           "Mmmmmm. . . barbeque frosted hair.
           "Ouch!  Don't yank.  The back of the seat is hard and my love handles are sensitive."  Dee Dee's hair had been drawn up in a twist, but came tumbling down when she finally up-righted herself.
           The ride up the mountain road this time of year wasn't all that spectacular, at least not until it snowed, but hopefully, that wouldn't happen . . . it wasn't forecasted.  A last stop at the store and off again.  Just as they were pulling out, a white Suburban, coming from the other way, pulled in.
           "Ladies, notice the white Suburban . . . I wonder if it's the same one we saw earlier—  "
           "Naaa . . . couldn't be.  What would a bunch of teenagers do clear up here?"
Edith was shaking her head.  "Does everything have to be logical to happen?"
           "I love long week-ends." Dee Dee hollered from the back.  "We can sleep in for three whole days, girls, and no kids!  How about that?"
           "Where is Michael this week end?"
           "He's spending the week with his dad.  Now that he has his license, Dad told him he could drive his new rig.  I heard him on the phone to his girl friend.  He's really excited."
           "Is there wood at the cabin?"
           "Yes, and an electric heater too."
           "You guys are going to feel real funny if something happens."
           "What can happen?  We've been through this over and over Edie.  What can happen?"
           "Well, you know.  Anything can happen. . ."
           "When midnight comes, nothing's going to happen.  Trust me."
           "You're too practical, Francine.  I'd laugh if something did."
           "I don't care if something does.  How many drinks do we have with us?" 
           "Maybe we'll get to stay up here for a week," chirped Dee Dee, "And sleep in . . . for a week."
           "We're here guys!  Oh look, a squirrel . . . over there."
           "What are tire tracks doing in the drive?"
           "I don't know . . . apparently, someone's been here."
           "The door's locked.  You have the key, don't you, Dee Dee?"
           "Francine, you're supposed to have the key.  Tell me you do. Tell me you have the key."
           "I don't have the key.  I hate snow.  I hate snow.  Why did you bring me up here?  You said there wasn't going to be any snow.  What are we going to do now?"
           "Quit complaining and give me a boost through the window.  Francine, stand still.  Come on . . . stand just a little taller, ok?"
           "I'm standing as tall as I can.  Can't you reach it yet?"
           "Another inch, push, just another inch!"
           "Your heel's poking my shoulder blade!"
            Dee Dee yanked and pushed. 
           "Push," urged Edith.
           "I am—there, I've got it!"   The window opened.  With one leg up, she hollered over her shoulder.  "No one ever told me it would be so difficult to break into a mountain cabin.  I'm in, race you to the front door."
           Edith and Francine ran around and up the steps, leaving a trail of snow all the way inside.
           "Burrrrrr--- Turn the heat on."
           "Oh, this is nice, small, but nice.  Edith and Francine both turned at the same time.  "Do I hear a vehicle outside?"
           "What did you say? " Dee Dee was already in the kitchen checking out the frig.
           "Dee Dee, I think you'd better come check this out," hollered Francine.  "I see three boys and three girls.                    "Dee Dee!"
           The ladies heard foot steps on the porch and a key turning in the lock.  The door opened just as Dee Dee came through the kitchen door.
           "Michael!"
           "Mom?"        
                                                                                                                              
By Sheryl Hamilton Chaney