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This Story Appears in Ernie's World the Book

"Sea Algae Body Wrap?" I held up the spa treatment guide. "Sounds like the early bird special at a sushi bar."

I was deeply involved in the creative process—stretched out in my office chair, eyes closed, head back, mouth open—when the phone rang.

Finally, Spielberg has found me, I thought. Or maybe it's Lucas. I threw half a cup of water in my face.

"Ernie Witham, Writer, at your service," I said. "From Santa Barbara to Hollywood, no job too big."

"It's me," my wife said. "What's that dripping sound? You didn't throw water all over the place again, did you?"

"No. Not all over the place..."

"Never mind. I just wanted to tell you that I decided I don't want any gifts for my birthday this year.

Birthday? I scanned my Jennifer Lopez calendar, but nothing was written down.


"Sorry, dear. I was just wondering when I'll find time to take back all those gifts I already bought."

"Uh-huh. Look, what I do want is a weekend getaway."

"All right! The new Disneyland?"

"No. Two Bunch Palms."

"Two Bunch Palms? Do they have rides?"

"No. We don't have rides," the entrance guard informed me, after a four-hour drive to the desert. "And I think the other guests would appreciate it if you didn't wear those giant mouse ears during your stay here."

Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa, for you non-enlightened types, is an exclusive hideaway located in Desert Hot Springs, California, where the wealthy and powerful, famous and infamous, and those just plain overworked—like me—are embraced by a magical, serene, natural desert oasis, designed to rejuvenate the body and let the spirit soar.

"Sea Algae Body Wrap?" I held up the spa treatment guide. "Sounds like the early bird special at a sushi bar."

My wife shushed me. "It says here that we are supposed to speak softly to ensure harmonious tranquillity."

"Okay," I whispered, grabbing the television remote. "I'll just 'center my cheeks' right here and experience the game."

"It's center your 'chi', and you don't have time for the game. I've signed us up for a Shiatsu massage."

"Shiatsu? Those little dogs? I didn't know you could train them to do stuff like that."

My wife sighed—one of the worst sounds a woman can make. I've learned over the years that I'm only a couple of sighs away from a night on the couch, which in our present room was only four feet long.

Quickly, I slipped into my Gladiator swimsuit and matching robe and followed my wife to a stone building that, according to the brochure, had been built by Al Capone.

Now that was cool. He probably offed a few people out here in the desert. Maybe even had some hidden loot that I might find. I was starting to feel better about this whole wellness thing, when a muscular young man approached.

"Hi, I'm Lance," he said, "and I'll be your masseuse today."

"Hi, I'm Ernie," I said, "and no you won't."

My wife nudged me. "Stop fooling around," she said. "You'll be late for your mud bath."

Lance took me by the elbow. "I'll be gentle. Plus, I'll even throw in a free olive oil and rosemary scalp massage. Rumor has it that it was one of Capone's favorites."

"Well, I guess if it was okay for Al..."

Turned out Lance did have magical fingers. So, an hour later, completely relaxed and smelling a little like an Italian antipasto, I headed for the mud bath, while my wife went to the color therapy gazebo.

"We use green clay and peat moss to make our mud," Tanya explained. "It helps remove toxins and hydrates the skin."

"I won't start to grow grass anywhere, will I?"

She smiled. "Not as long as you rinse well."

Two hours later I finally finished showering and joined my wife in the grotto—a large outdoor pool of 100-degree mineral water.

"Isn't this place great?" my wife asked, looking up through the palm trees at the endless desert sky.

"Yup, I'm stress-free and I haven't thought about work all day."

Just then another couple swam slowly by. Man, that looked just like George Lucas. I scrambled out of the grotto.

"Where are you going? It's almost time for our paraffin treatments."

"Start without me. I gotta whip up a treatment of my own. A movie treatment."

Hmm. Spa Wars. Yeah. That has a nice ring to it.