Since we haven’t got to go on a vacation this year, I’m goin’ to let you read about one we took 19 years ago. Well, it really wasn’t a vacation, but we were out of town, so close enough.

This past week I had to go to Chicago on business. There is a trade show up there that I attend every year, and I usually attend it alone.

But this year, I took my wife Janet with me. She had never been to Chicago and I figured it was time to show her some culture.

I knew I would have to work for a couple of days, so we went a couple of days early so we could see some sights.

Now to tell you the truth, I’ve never taken the time to see the sights before. The other times I’ve been up there, I flew in, did my work and flew back home, so I didn’t know what sights there were to see.

That is, with the exception of the Field Museum. I’ve always wanted to go to that place, because that’s where they’ve got the Tsavo Lions stuffed.

Those are the man-eatin’ lions that ate a 160-somethin’ people before they were killed. If you saw the movie, “The Ghost and the Darkness,” you know which lions I’m talkin’ about.

We left our hotel, and climbed into a taxi cab. “The Field Museum,” I said to the driver. He said somethin’ back in Swahili, or some other foreign language.

“Sounded like he said he swallowed a cat,” I said to Janet. She poked me in the ribs.

“Don’t start,” she warned.

“What?” I asked.

“You know what.”

Now I don’t know what sort of driver’s ed course they teach in whatever country this feller was from, but I’d be willin’ to bet that the turnover rate for instructors is pretty high. If my face wasn’t smashed up against the side windows when he turned corners or up against the plastic divider between us and him when he stopped, then I was curled up on the ledge in the back window like one of those dogs with the wobblin’ head when he accelerated. The only thing I remember about Chicago is that it’s a blurry city.

“Rusty,” said Janet. “Did you leave our will so the kids will be able to find it?”

Finally, he stopped.

“That be six dollar,” he said in broken English.

“Here’s seven,” I said. “You can use that extra dollar to fix the hole in the seat.”

“Hole?” he questioned. “What hole?”

“The one my rear end pinched into the seat when you barely missed that pedestrian back there,” I answered.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothin’,” I said.

We walked into the museum. Man, what a place. From where I was standin’ I could see the bones of a huge dinosaur, a couple of stuffed elephants and a bunch of other stuff.

Man oh man, I couldn’t wait. I paid for our tickets, grabbed a map and we took off.

“Hey buddy,” I said to some official lookin’ guy. “Where’s the lions?”

“The Tsavo Lions?” he asked.

“You mean you have others?”

“Oh yes,” he said and pointed to a sign. “Follow that sign, and you will not only find the Tsavo Lions, but other lions, and many other stuffed animals.

“Whoo wee!” I said, and looked at Janet.

“Rusty, I don’t want to spend the entire day looking at dead animals.”

“We won’t,” I said as I dragged her toward the exhibit, “but I’ve just got to see those lions.”

As we walked into the dimly lit room, you could see the lions off in the distance.

They didn’t look as big as I had imagined. They didn’t have big bushy manes, and snarlin’ faces. As a matter of fact, they were kind of puny.

“Is that them?” Janet asked.

“That’s what the sign says,” I said. “Man, you’d think after eatin’ a hunnerd and somethin’ people, they’d be a little fatter. They don’t look too mean either, do they?”

“Come on,” said Janet. “There’s something I’d like to see.”

“Maybe they shrunk after all these years,” I said.

“Forget the lions,” she said.

“But they are famous,” I whined.

“Come on!”

I reluctantly followed. I looked back every once in a while hopin’ the lions would grow.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The Egyptian exhibit,” Janet answered.

“Cool,” I said.

The first thing we saw was a bust of some Egyptian pharaoh or somethin’. His nose was busted off, just like the Sphinx.

“Isn’t that beautiful,” said Janet.

“Beautiful?” I said. “It’s busted.”

“The face reminds me of someone,” she said.

“Looks like Michael Jackson to me,” I said. She rolled her eyes.

Now, I like to look at things and move on. Janet, on the other hand will stare, and read whatever they’ve got written.

“Come on,” I said.

“Rusty, you have no patience.”

“Patience? I ain’t got time to have patience,” I said.

“Look,” said Janet. “Why don’t you go ahead, and I’ll catch up.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll meet you under the dead dinosaur in 30 minutes.”

“As opposed to the live dinosaur?” she said sarcastically.

“You know what I mean,” I said. “Hey look,” I pointed before I left. “That looks like your mummy, har, har.” Janet rolled her eyes.

I rounded the corner to make my way out of the exhibit, when somethin’ caught my eye. It was a big coffin carved out of rock. You had to climb up on a step to look down in it. I climbed up and looked down. It looked like a deep bathtub.

That’s when I got an idea to scare Janet. I knew she would have to look down in the thing. I looked around to see if there was anyone around. There wasn’t. I vaulted over the side and squatted down and waited.

I was snickerin’ to myself, thinkin’ about the look on Janet’s face when I yelled “Boo.” Then I heard her comin’. Then I heard her step up on the step. Just as I saw her head appear I jumped up.

“Boo!” I yelled. It wasn’t Janet. Oh, Janet was in the room all right, but she hadn’t made it over to the rock coffin yet. The head I saw belonged to some teenage girl, whose hair was now standin’ straight up. She screamed bloody murder and took off runnin’.

I looked at Janet. She had her jaws clamped shut so hard that I could see those little muscles on either side stickin’ out. She started shakin’ her head side to side.

Well, I didn’t waste any time. I knew I was about to be in trouble, so I vaulted back out of the coffin and I hooked ‘em out of there. I hid out in the Indian exhibit, in a big earthen wigwam ‘till I figured the coast was clear. I found Janet who, by the way, was not speakin’ to me, and we got out of there.

“Man, that was a close one,” I said. Janet looked at me with one of her looks. You know the kind. It’s one of those that say, “I’ve married an idiot, and I don’t know what I can do about it.”

“What?” I said. Finally, she broke her silence.

“Why did you scare that poor little girl?” she asked.

“I wudn’t tryin’ to scare her,” I said. “I wuz tryin’ to scare you.”

“Rusty,” she said through clenched teeth. “If you would just direct your energy toward good, instead of idiocy, can you imagine where you would be today?”

I looked up in thought for a moment. “Yeah,” I said. “Reverend Rusty.”

“Lord, help us,” said Janet.

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.