Her new room wasn’t ready yet when she returned to the Inverness. That was just fine, she told Jordan, shivering in waterlogged clothes. She left the lobby and went past the bar, which was unmanned and off-limits by way of red suede stanchions. Teeth chattering, she poured herself two coffees in the self-serve lounge and tried to do a little work.
Nothing from her boss. No email. No check-in. No “don’t bother coming in Monday.”
Between refills of the hot motor oil the café had to offer, she began researching funeral parlors. Most were closed, unavailable to book.
Like the dead had nowhere to go, either.
Continue reading “Accommodations, Pt. 2”
Andi checked in laughing.
“Room at the inn?” she joked of the desolate lobby. Her voice, smoky and worn for someone in her late twenties, bounded off marble. Chandelier crystals tinkled overhead.
“Might be able to squeeze you in.” The man at the desk smiled before raising a paper mask over his mouth. It puffed and contracted between words, like a lung. “You’ve got your pick,” he said, scratching at his scalp through tight, short curls. “If you want a view, we’ve got rooms with a view. If you want to be close to the pool, say the word. Heck,” he snorted, “if you want to sleep in the pool, I’m not gonna stop you.”
“Just something quiet,” Andi said. She adjusted the duffel bag on her shoulder, twisting brown tendrils of her unruly hair in the strap. “Not facing traffic, if you can. A little private.”
“That’s easy,” the clerk said. His soundless fingers bapped at a rubber keyboard. “There’s only one other guest in the hotel tonight. Only guest we’ve had all week.” He yawned, pulling his face covering taut. “He’s way up in the penthouse. I’ll put you…” He drew close to the screen, nose an inch from the monitor. “Hmm. In a central room on the third floor. Insulated, near the gym.”
“Sounds good,” Andi said. She pinched the metal clip of her own mask at the bridge of her nose. “Only two of us, huh? In the whole hotel?”
“It’s been a slow season,” the man said.
Continue reading “Accommodations, Pt. 1”
Ryan E. Felton
Charlie didn’t like it at all when we told him they were building a new house on the vacant lot.
He loves to play out there, you know, with the neighbor kid. Tall grass and rock pits and ditches for hide-and-seek. Big hills to tumble down, dirt clods to throw, lots of space to ride bikes.
But now they’re gonna mow it down, pave it, put more houses back there. I’m a little sad, too. Continue reading “Taken Root”
I met the devil at the Crossroads of America.
I was fourteen. The last week of October that year, my father rounded up me and Mom and one carryon bag, stuffed with only a change of clothes for each of us and some toothpaste. We were confused, to say the least, at Dad’s sudden gusto for an impromptu road trip, and my mother balked at first: how could she explain this to the others at work?
“You’ve got sick days, don’tcha?” Dad had said. “Use ‘em or lose ‘em?”
I knew she was in the hole, as far as leave time went. She’d used up all her own (and a bunch more the other girls at work had donated to her) the year before.
But I kept my mouth shut. Being gone on Halloween meant I wouldn’t have to explain to my friends that I didn’t want to go trick-or-treating. I wouldn’t have to turn down any invitations to costume parties. All Hallows’ Eve had lost its luster for me.
We were aimless. Stopping at greasy-spoons for lukewarm meals, taking sulky photos at hokey tourist traps and bathroom breaks at rest stops – sleeping in pest-ridden motels or, some nights, in the car. Mom and Dad had both taken up talking in their sleep in recent months. Their uncensored consciousness spewing up restless laments, angers, melancholies. In the mornings I’d swear to them, bleary-eyed and hoarse, that I’d slept just fine while I took big chugs of Dad’s dark roast.
They barely spoke all this time. But that wasn’t new.
On the thirty-first of October we crossed the state line into Indiana. Dad shook me awake to announce our arrival, almost giddy.
“Here we are, Gert,” he said. “Crossroads of America.” Continue reading “Projection”