The Dorkelson's Tabloid Vacation
A screwball comedy novella
by Brad Sondahl c 1990


In a canyon behind Grandma's house, Peg the horse whickered nervously. A mountain lion licked its lips, and snarled almost noiselessly.

Next door to Grandma's, in his secret basement laboratory, the mad veterinarian, Doctor Splicer is being addressed by his assistant. "So, Doctor, do you think you have the formula right this time?" sniveled Max, the four footand four-footed furry laboratory assistant.
"Yes, Max, and I'm just dying to find someone to try it out on," said Dr. Splicer.

On the other side of Grandma's house, some new neighbors are ready to meet the world. "It will not be long, and first contact will be made," said Commander E2 to Vortex. "Make sure to control your stomachs in case the sight or smell of them causes you to blanch or grogel."
"We got some bandanna handkerchiefs," said Vortex. "If only we had some hoolahoops. Our reports indicate they are all the rage..."

Chapter One: Getting to Grandma's

"I'm bored," said Brogan Dorkelson. "How long is it till we get to Spokane?"
"We've still got three hours. Why don't you eat your little bag of peanuts?"
"I'm saving it for Grandma." Melody said,
"Grandma doesn't want peanuts. She can't chew them."
Brogan was growing hysterical quickly. The stewardess shot Don Dorkelson an anxious look, as she passed by with a drink.

He tried, "How about a little plastic cup of pop?" It was no good. Brogan was about to go critical.... "Wait, I'll tell you a story about what's going to happen at Grandma's..."

Melody said, "I know what's going to happen at Grandma's. I have to finish my paper for school. It's going to be just like home."

"Yeah," wailed Brogan, "BORING!"

"Well," said Don, "This is the story of what might happen when the Dorkelson family went to visit Grandma. You see, Grandma wasn't there when they got to the airport. And that was just the first complication."
"Now don't get the children worried," said Alice Dorkelson in a nervous tone. She didn't like flying, and she could sense the general air of hysteria in the children as well...
Don said, "Well, it wasn't really any big problem, she had just forgotten."
"Like usual," said Melody.
"Exactly," said Don. " So what do you think the Dorkelsons did?"
"Found Grandma!" said Brogan. He was a very logical six year old.
"That's right," said Don. "But it wasn't that easy."
"Why not?" said Melody.
"Umm, because it wouldn't be much of a story that way. No, there were complications. Like, how would they get to Grandma's house without her car?"
"They could walk," said Brogan. "Or take the bus," said Melody, "or a taxi!"
"Yes, but Don's wallet got stolen at the airport."
Alice dropped her magazine and said, "What!"
Don said, "No, no, remember, it's just a story.... So, that complicated things some more."
"Mama has her purse," said Melody.
"But she didn't have much cash, only about $5.00 .The Dorkelsons use a lot of credit cards."
"Well," said Alice, "Didn't Alice have any credit cards along?"
"Sure--all the same ones that Don had," said Don. "But they had to call all the credit card companies and cancel their cards when they got lost."
"So what did we do?" said Brogan?

Well, it turned out that the kid working at the Derby Rental Car booth had just the car for the Dorkelsons.

"It looks a bit beat up..." Don Dorkelson said.

"Listen, mister, this here Catalina is a real survivor. I'm going to run it again this Sunday night out at the Speedway."

"But will it run now? We have to drive clear out to Shadow Glen, outside of Millwood.

"Heck, that's my neighborhood! It'll get clear out there on this free complimentary gallon of gas. And don't worry about getting it back to us. You just call wherever you end up and we'll send a tow truck, if necessary."

"I guess we'll have to take it... We're a little short on funds right now..."

Don's daughter Melody piped up, "Yeah, because somebody picked my dad's pocket right here in the airport and took all his credit cards and Grandma was supposed to meet us but she didn't."

Brogan said, "If we'd have brought my bike like I wanted to, we could've ridden it to Grandma's."

Melody said, "All of us on one bike? You've got to be kidding..."

"Yeah, right," said the kid. "Well it's ten bucks and you can keep it till Sunday night."

Don handed over the ten dollars. "What did you say you were going to do with it on Sunday?" "I'm taking it to the demo derby, dude! Sunday at the Speedway! It's the Interstate Fair. Just call the number on that card and I'll pick it up anywhere."

The doors on the hulk were wired shut, so the Dorkelsons climbed in through the windows. Don turned the ignition key. A very slight groan came from under the hood. The kid said, "The battery must be down. It just needs a jump--I'll get my car and be back in a jiffy." "Wow," said Brogan, "no back seat, no radio, no windows!"

Alice Dorkelson looked reassuringly at Don. "I don't care if it doesn't even have an engine, as long as it gets us to Grandma's.

"And Grandma is there when we get there..." Melody added. "And she has an encyclopedia so I can look up stuff for my report."

"What report?" said her mother. "On John Phillip Sousa, for social studies."

"What does Sousa have to do with social studies? He was a musician."

"I don't know.I had to pick somebody... It's got to be five pages long and it's due on Tuesday."

The kid from Derby Rentals wheezed up in a contraption remarkably similar to the one the Dorkelsons weren't yet driving .He soon had both hoods unwired, and the jumper cable connected. The car started with a shudder that seemed to Don like the car was begging to be put out of its misery. "Just don't shut the car off till you get where you're going, and you should be fine. And remember to call that number if you have any problems." The kid drove off in a cloud of blue smoke.

Don said, "Two days for ten bucks. I guess you can't go wrong..."

Brogan asked, "So where do you think Grandma is?"

Grandma was in her red late model sports car, heading for the bank with a modestly dressed young woman who was wanted in five states for forgery, embezzlement, and heinous swindling of sweet little old ladies. "I'm certainly glad you could help us on this investigation, Mrs. Dorkelson. The bank has had such trouble with its employees. It's so hard to get good help nowadays."

"I always say, them that does, does best by themselves," said Grandma, slightly testily.

"Just so," agreed Norma Smith smoothly.

"And I'm sure you'll do just fine by yourself in helping us to catch the dishonest bank teller. Now you remember exactly what to do?"

"Of course. Er, that is, I... What were we talking about? I keep thinking that there was something I was supposed to be doing this afternoon..."

"You go in to the third teller from the left, and tell her that you want to withdraw all your savings in cash. If she raises a fuss, you'll know she's the one we've been worrying about. Just stick to your guns and they'll give you the money. And I'll be waiting right outside here to keep it safe when you exit."

"Guns?" said Grandma. "You don't expect me to rob it?"

"Hahaha, of course not. But we need your help to catch the thief. Now here's the bank. You know what to do..."

Melody said, "Say, Dad, that red brake light is on. What does that mean?"

"Oh, that means I probably forgot to put off the emergency brake when we started going. Nope, it's not that... I guess it means we have trouble with the brakes." He put his foot down on the pedal. "Whoops, no brakes!"

"Thank goodness we're on the freeway instead of a regular road with stoplights," said Alice, looking on the bright side. "At least we can coast to a stop on the shoulder..."

"Hey, look!" said Melody, "Construction ahead--form one lane." "Well, here goes nothing..." He took his foot off the accelerator and their car gradually slowed as lines of traffic began to converge. Unfortunately the bumper of the car in front was rapidly approaching them. "I'm going to drive on the shoulder!" He swerved off onto the shoulder, which was narrowing into a barricade in the immediate future. "Well, there's always the ditch!" he said, as the car veered off into the grass and slowly settled to a stop. There was a period of stunned silence.

Alice said finally, "At least Derby Rentals offers free towing."

"Wow," said Brogan. "Can I ride in the car when they tow it?"

"So, what do we do now?" said Don.

Melody said, "Look, there's Grandma's bank... She took me there the last time we were here. We could probably walk to Grandma's from here."

Don said, "That's great, let's just get somewhere where we can call that kid so he can tow away this wreck."

"I never knew you could be cheated out of anything for ten dollars," said Alice.

Melody shouted, "That looks like Grandma's car there at the bank!"

"Well, there's lots of cars like Grandma's around," said Brogan. "And it's sure not Grandma sitting in it..."

  (This book is continued and available on Kindle)