Saturday, December 13, 2008

Orange Shine 622

episode 1: Bonanza
"It's me or Bonanza, cherrypie," I said, sipping the last of our Cuervo. "'N' never the twain shall meet."

I didn't look up, but I knew she was standing at the doorway, half of her illuminated in sunlight, the other half merging with the darkness of our cheap motel room.

We had scribbled verses all over the walls, in lipstick. Hers, obviously. She was wearing Orange Shine 622 those days - Room Service blew his load when she playfully puckered at him in the dull yellow light last night. Most of the things written were purile, and that's another reason I didn't want to stray from the glass on the table. But some of it was good.

Woke up with my hand around the empty glass. I guess she decided Hop Sing was the better lover, so I picked myself up and strolled into the afternoon sunlight. Car was gone, obviously. I decided I hadn't taken a walk parched and hungry in desert sun in a long time, so I hit the road.

Walked to my CPA's office. Cynthia doesn't come in on Saturdays, I guess, so I just stood, waiting, as a couple went over their personal income with one of the agents. Couple's kid was sitting in the waiting space with me. He was poring over the magazines there, and I laughed, remembering how important the print on all those cereal boxes used to be.

Woman walked in. Slim, pale, in the afternoon light. She stood there for a while, looking around, pretending to be 'doing something' on her cellphone. She looked at me once, swollen eyes, and then hurriedly went back to her phone. I love it when people don't know how to respond to a direct stare and impenetrable smile. "You pickin' up, maam?" asked the agent, looking up from the couple. "No," she said, nervously, "I'm filing." Threw a quick glance my way, and then she shivered back to her mobile device. Damn, you must've had a fucked up night, I laughed to myself, but she was beautiful in her own way.

Something in my stance must have given my impatience away, because the agent excused herself from the couple, saying, "Hold on, he's just picking up. Let me take care of him, one sec". I wondered what the hell kind of vibe I must be emanating. You walk into a place, don't say a word, and people still know what you want. How does that work?

Got my tax papers, and was very, uh, emotive, in my response of gratitude. "Thank you so much," I said, staring deep into the agent's eyes. "Have a great day!" And with that, I turned around and walked out of the office, nodding at the nervous woman and smiling at the nice kid.

episode 2: Room Service Spends a Night Out With Puffy Eyes
"I'm quitting Joe. You can take your cheap motel and shove it up your midget behind!" said Room Service.

Joe climbed onto the table and leaned into Room Service's face. "Yeah, what're you going to do, freak? Polish shoes at the bus stop?"

"Silence, Joe," said Room Service, pressing his forehead into the little man's face. "I'm going to spend a night with one of your customers! How's that? How do you like that, Tattoo?"

Joe bunched his fists. "I told you never to call me that" he screamed. "I'll sue you, motherfucker! It's in the terms of your contract. You may NOT fraternize with clients."

"Clients!" laughed Room Service. "Clients. They're fucking customers Joe, not clients. And just watch me - ", he said, stepping away to the door, "- I'm walkin' outta here, and I'm going to spend a night with one of your goddamn customers!"

As he walked out, he could hear Joe hissing away like a steam engine.

"Why, hi there Puffy Eyes," said Room Service, walking up to a woman who was packing a small suitcase into her car. "Orange Shine 622 shouldn't be wasted on mere walls", he said, smiling.

Puffy Eyes gave him a sour look and turned back to her suitcase, struggling.

"Now let me help you with that" said Room Service, putting a hand on her back and relieving her of her suitcase. He expertly swung the suitcase sideways, then up, placing it neatly into the trunk.

Puffy Eyes looked down at her feet. "T-Thanks. Thank you." Then she looked up at him and smiled, reaching for her purse. "Now, uh, yes. How much should I - I mean, what's the -"

"I don't want your money," said Room Service. "I want..."

She stared at his face. Room Service looked - well, he looked kind of confused - but, not confused. As though, he was staring into some bright, unknown mystery. "Yes?" she said.

"I want - I want to take you to the Lollipop Stand at the city park" said Room Service.

"I'm sorry?" said Puffy Eyes. "You what?"

"The Lollipop Stand," Room Service repeated. He turned to look at the motel lobby door.

Joe was advancing from the darkness inside. The little man had a large leather belt and a keen eye set perfectly on Room Service's face.

"Let's go, c'mon, there isn't much time" said Room Service, taking Puffy Eyes' hand and shoving her into the car.

"You can ride shotgun," he said feverishly, as he ran around to the driver seat.

"What?" exclaimed Puffy Eyes. "What the hell- where are you taking me?"

"To the Lollipop Stand, honey. We're going to the Lollipop Stand and I'm going to spend the goddamn evening with you!"

episode 3 (Conclusion): the mover
Flailing the belt over his head, Joe ran after the car, his tiny legs carrying him close enough to lash out onto the rear bumper. He yelled as his belt came down, each stroke causing Room Service to slam the gas pedal down as far as he could.

Joe chased them out of the driveway, and then, as the car sped off down the hill towards the town center, stood there, screaming and cursing at them, the belt making wild arcs in the air as he swung it around angrily. Finally, as the car disappeared from view, Joe dropped his arms and turned back, thick eyebrows frowning as he walked back to the lobby.

In the lobby, Joe threw the belt aside onto a couch, and walked to his seat behind the front desk. Slowly, his angry stride loosened, and the angry frown on his face relaxed into a calm, glowing smile.

Humming, he reached up to unlock the top drawer of the desk, opened it, and pulled out a large bottle of shiraz. Then, shiraz in hand, he climbed up his chair and settled back, plopping his short legs on top of the desk. He uncorked the bottle, took a deep swig from it, and set his head back, closing his eyes and letting the warm smile on his lips spread across his whole face.

A couple of minutes later, one hand still holding the bottle of shiraz, he leaned over and grabbed his thick ledger. Joe placed the ledger on his lap, and, taking another swig, turned the pages lesuirely. He stopped at page fifty-eight, took another swig, and set the bottle onto the desk.

"Well well well," said Joe, chuckling to himself, "looks like we took care of that one. Room Service is good to go". He traced a finger across a profile photograph of Room Service, sans uniform. It was taken on the day he'd signed up, in the kitchen, a mundane montage of motel cutlery gracing the background. He cupped his close-shaven chin thoughtfully for a moment, wondering if the boy would be alright. Then, shaking his head dismissively, he took another swig of the shiraz.

"No, I've set him up right," he mused. "A man who blows his load over Orange Shine 622 in place of a healthy tip has no business in the Hospitality Industry. With that Puffy Eyes though ... boy could go places" he grinned.

"Time to move on to other custome - *clients*. Ho ho ho. Yes. Other clients" said the midget, savouring the phrase. "Who else to change next, I wonder..." mused Joe, thumbing over the rest of the pages.

"Will it be Henrietta, the fish-monger's girl?" He looked at the picture of a large-boned, bespectacled youth, holding up a halibut in one hand, and a meat cleaver in the other. There was a note scrawled next to the picture. "Doesn't like men who drive station-wagons" he read to himself. "Well, then." He turned to the next page.

"Ah, old Klaus Schmermer, the Hunchback of the New Rochelle ... Post!" exclaimed Joe, bubbling with laughter. He smiled as he read over his notes. Schmermer was 62 years old, had been married for 43, had four grown children and eight grandchildren, and was still breaking his back for a clerk position at the Post. Further down, he saw a brief note from a conversation he'd had with Schmermer, down Napolis Lane on a Sunday morning. Joe had cycled into town for some wine, and spotting Schmermer, rode up beside him.

"Why, hello there Klaus. Don't often see you out on a Sunday morn'" Joe had said, riding beside the lanky, but slouching man.

"Workin' overnight, Joe," said Schmermer, "on account of the costs of a last minute story that had to get into publication."

"I see, I see" said Joe, looking onto the road in front of them. "Time to retire by now, don't you think, Klaus?" said Joe, sucking a tooth at the back of his mouth.

"Oh, ho ho", laughed Schmermer, without really laughing. "Not just yet, Joe, not just yet."

"You got kids. Hell, you got grandkids Schmermer" said Joe.

"Now there Joe," said Schmermer, straightening up a little, his weak smile stiffening. "You can't change people. Let 'em be and let 'em do as they will. I'll be doin' as I do, in my own time here. You just run along and do what you be doin'."

"True enough, Klaus," Joe had said, a warm, dreamy smile slipping onto his face. "True enough. I'll be seeing you around, Klaus - hopefully not on a Sunday too soon, you hear?" he said, speeding up, and cycling away around the corner.

Now Joe traced his finger over Klaus' photograph, the warm smile again over his face. A drop of wine spilled down his chin as he wondered what would happen to Klaus - what would happen to his reality - his existence - when he changed his life. He took a pencil from his pocket, and placed a small tick at the corner of his page.

He turned the page over. "Miss Melanie Dupree" said Joe aloud, raising the bottle of chiraz in the air in mock cheer. "Unchecked nymphomania leading to poor life decisions and consequent personal catastrophe" he read from his notes. He looked at the picture - a blatantly anorexic form wrapped in an even tighter leather outfit, lying spread-eagled over the floor. She had a tattoo on her exposed belly - a phallus motif arrow pointing downward with the small marquee 'All Winners Lottery' printed above it. Joe briefly wondered if she was into midgets. Then, shaking his head, he turned the page. "Maybe later..." he said to himself.

He went over the next few pages, taking a swig of shiraz now and then. Finally, he turned all the way to the end of the ledger. There, on the last page, he traced his finger over the photograph and started smiling again. There were no notes, only the photograph of a young girl in her late teens, possibly early twenties. She was wearing a college jersey and smiling brightly with her chin on her knees. Joe's finger traced around the photograph, circling it gently, and then drew next to her face, staying there.

He turned his eyes to the photograph next to it, attached onto the inside of the back cover. For a moment, Joe's smile faded. It was a black-and-white photo of a syringe, lying on the floor. The carpet was a dark color, but across it there were tiny specks of white powder, spilled around, almost carelessly, one could say. At the bottom, on the right corner, there was a name, 'Sgt. Pilkner', and a signature. Printed below the signature in red was the label 'EVIDENCE'.

For that brief moment, his warm smile entirely gone, Joe wondered if he should pull the picture out. Pull it out, and throw it away. Let it be gone. But then he shook his head slowly, and said, as he had a thousand times before, "No. No, this is my reminder. This is why I will always try to change them."

Joe closed the ledger and tossed it onto the desk. Then he took another swig of wine, and laid his head back, waiting for the warmness of the smile to spread over his face.

No comments:

Post a Comment