Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chapter Twenty-One

Portland, Maine

I love cheap motels.  This one, however, was over the top.  Sometimes when I travel I sit and watch other guests; today, the lobby of the old motor inn looked like the bar scene from Star Wars.
A fat harridan berated her husband for not getting enough ice.  A small older man walked a hairless … I have no idea what that was. The wrinkled desk clerk patted her bouffant hair and peeked over her glasses in my direction. I smiled weakly in return and fled.
I escaped via the covered walkway, took the key out -- an actual metal key -- and entered my room.  I sat on the bed – the mattress was older than I am.  The bedside table had a magic fingers machine - still just a quarter, an amazing value given inflation.
I leaned over and turned on the TV. It had no remote.  I switched amongst the three broadcast stations until I found the game.  The reception was so bad it appeared to be snowing in Miami.  I fetched the bag of supplies and withdrew its contents:  a purple tent-like gown, thread, a pack of upholstery needles and Velcro. 
I thought it would have taken many more calls to find a store that sells burqas in New England. But no, apparently they're a hot seller for Burqas-R-Us or whatever the store was called.
I had no idea what I was doing, but leaned back against the Naugahyde headboard and dove in, anyway.  I turned the gown inside out and began to glue squares of cloth, rough cut with my Leatherman, to the inside of the gown.  I almost glued one upside down, got pissed at myself, found a sharpie in my bag of supplies and drew arrows indicating "up."
The Pats were getting their asses kicked on TV.  I could care.  After the lockout, public hand wringing, and endless carping on ESPN, the millionaire players had reached agreement with the billionaire owners.  The only ones harmed by the deal were the public.  We the people, with our unalienable rights were conscripted to pay for huge municipal stadia so millionaires and billionaires could squabble over the concession fees, licensing, and video game images. Same shit, different day.  Is this really the pursuit of happiness? 
I went back to the set and switched the channel to PBS, where some enthusiastic artist was demonstrating how to use a scraper to paint mountains.  I liked his technique but felt his work lacked emotional depth.  Maybe he should work on black velvet.
My stomach growled so I stepped over to the bathroom counter where I had a carton of last night’s low mein stashed in the ice bucket.  Two cubes of ice remained, the rest water, all chilling the carton.  When I opened the carton I found something like congealed shag carpet inside.  Yum.  It actually tasted better than yesterday.
The spork broke. Damn!  First we're debt slaves for football stadia; now our country can't even make a quality spork!  I finished the low mein using the stump of the spork, cussing to myself as I sat back down and watched blue-green pine trees being layered on the landscape.  This guy is good.
I sat back to my seamstress task.  I could barely see to thread the needle and kept poking my thumb with the damn thing.  I had to finish this tonight, since I was leaving for my rendezvous early in the morning.  So I put the entire operation about an inch from my eyes. I finally got it. Damn, I lost it again. I took a deep breath, held it and repeated my efforts -- finally getting the needle to stay threaded.  I nearly cried in relief.
To make the actual sewing work, I had to hold my mouth funny, tongue out to the side. I don't know why, but it helped. Soon I was lost in my work.  The Velcro wasn't hard to sew but it was abrasive and rubbed my thumb raw.  In the background I could hear some local PBS executive begging for money. Jesus!  Do they ever stop panhandling?  I finished the big parts and moved to the fringe.  The station had Deepak Chopra braying at us all to give.  Great, if I'm a tightwad I’ll have sucky karma.
My eyes hurt from straining, my back from contorting to keep the work in the best light, and my tongue ached from ... I have no idea why my tongue hurt. But it did.
There, done. 
I shoved the leftover materials back in the bag.  I packed everything but the gown.  I even double-checked beneath each bed and in the drawers – I wouldn't be coming back this way.  I sat for a moment and reflected on what I was embarking on tomorrow.  I got up and rechecked my ticket – 5:30 a.m.  It was 10:37 p.m. now and I knew I needed to hit the rack. 
Instead I went to the door, opened it and stood outside my room for a moment.  My breath made a mist in the night air.  A harbor bell clanged.  I would have about 300 yards to walk in the morning.
I turned back inside, locked the door behind me and slipped the chain in place.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, I opened my wallet and withdrew the only photo there.  Moira, Deb and Tonka smiled at me.  We exchanged fond gazes for some time before I put the picture back in its place.  I looked at my backpack, then at the gown.  I stood up, pulled the contraption over my head and went to check my reflection in the mirror. 
I looked like a purple sofa.
Well, it does bring out my eyes. 
Still, I think it makes me look fat.
I took it off, turned the lights off and sat in the dark.  I did not sleep.


  1. Excellent - I can't wait for the next installment!

  2. reader feedback helps more than you can know 'ratty' - thank you