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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hell is the Paradise Motel

A knock on the door awakened me and, cursing, I tossed back the threadbare and scratchy sheets. “A moment,” I hollered when the knocking came again. I looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. 9:06 it read, then its illumination flickered and the time read 7:29. I tapped it with the edge of my hand and it flickered again and the numbers 11:79 appeared. I cursed again.

At the door, I peered out the fisheye peephole. In the hallway stood a man, a stranger, dressed in jeans, a button-up shirt, and a cheap sport jacket, no tie. He knocked again and whistled patiently. I rubbed my face and opened the door.

“Good morning,” said the stranger thrusting his hand toward me.

“What time is it?” I asked him. 

“Time?” he repeated back to me.

“Yeah. What time is it? You woke me up and the clock in this room isn’t working. What time is it?”

“Morning,” he said to me, as if this should have been obvious. I rubbed my face again.

“What do you want?” I asked. “I’m tired.”

“Want? Why nothing, except to see if I can bring you any breakfast?” He smiled and I hated him.

“Breakfast?” I sighed. I had hoped to be on my way already. The waiting was interminable. The airline had arranged for this room when my flight was delayed and said that they’d call as soon as alternate arrangements had been made. How long had I been waiting? Hours? Days? I couldn’t tell. And this grinning idiot had woke me up for “breakfast?”

“Yeah. They serve a pretty swell breakfast here at the Paradise Motel. Can I bring you anything?” 

“No. No.  I don’t want anything,” I said and started to slam the door on him, but stopped.  “No,” I said again.  “I take that back.  I need a phone.  My cell phone is dead.  The charger is in my bags, which are God knows where, and the phone in here doesn’t work. Is there a phone in your room?”

“Phone?” repeated the grinning idiot. “Who would you wish to call?”

“The airline, dammit! Not that it should matter to you.” I sighed and rubbed my face again. God, I was tired. “Sorry. I’m sorry.” I said to him. “Can I use the phone in your room?”

God help me, but his smile stretched even wider.  He nodded and said, “Sure.” I excused myself from the door, pulled on my trousers, wrinkled as they were and opened the door again. The man led me down the hallway to his room. The fluorescent lights overhead flickered and hummed. And there was a smell in the hallway, like socks and burnt hair.

“What’s that smell?” I gasped.

“It’s the Mandadapus,” he said as if that should have meant something to me.

“What’s a Mandadapus?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Mandapus. Their son, Sacchidananda, finally arrived and they are preparing a celebratory meal. Mrs. Mandapus has been up for hours cooking. They’ve invited everyone to join them this afternoon. You should come.” He said this as he stopped in front of his room and opened the door without using a key.

“You don’t lock your door?” I asked.

“What would anyone steal from me?” he asked and motioned me to enter. I stepped through the door.  “The phone is there,” he said pointing. “I’ll leave you to make your call. Are you sure I can’t bring you anything from the breakfast spread?” he asked. I shook my head and he and closed the door behind him as he left.

I sat on the edge of the bed and picked up the handset of the phone. I fished out the crumpled computer printout with the airline contact numbers from my pocket and began punching the numbers into the dial pad. A high pitched tone played and then a recorded message: “We’re sorry,” a bland voice said, “that number is not operative at this time.” I slammed the handset back down into its cradle. The handset cracked under the force of the impact and I could hear the recorded response through the tinny speaker, “We’re sorry; that number is not operative…” I slammed the handset down again and again until it stopped.

I sprawled out across the stranger’s bed and pushed the heels of my palms into my eyes until I saw a blur of swirling light. From somewhere nearby I could hear the noisy rattle of the ice machine and the sound of hotel elevator traveling up and down between the floors. Upstairs, I could hear children running back and forth in the hallways. Screaming and laughing. I muttered every curse and blasphemy I knew.

Just then the door opened and the man who’d awakened me entered the room. “I broke your phone,” I said and sat up. I pulled out my wallet.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said.

“No,” I said, “Let me give you something. The hotel will make you pay for damages or something.” I looked for the cash I knew I had, but it was gone. All of it. I had at least four hundred dollars in cash, but it was all missing. I screamed and hurled my wallet to the floor.

“Don’t worry about the phone,” said the grinning man in his ugly sport coat. “And try to relax.  Come join me. We can sit by the pool until the Mandadapus are ready. The Paradise Motel has a very fine pool.” 

He stood in the doorway waving me to join him, but I pushed past him into the hallway. “Leave me alone,” I shouted. “Just leave me alone!” I stormed back down the hall to my room, but realized that I could not remember which one was mine. The doors all look the same in hotel hallways. I removed the keycard from my pocket, but it there was no room number printed on it, just “Paradise Motel” printed in a faded pink. 

I shoved the key card into the nearest door, and the door flung open with my weight. It wasn’t my room. Inside was a group of women, sharing a bottle of wine and laughing.   “Where the hell am I?” I shouted at them. The grinning man put his hand on my shoulder and drew me back into the hall. He apologized to the women. I heard them offer us a glass of their wine. He thanked them, and politely refused before closing the door. “Where the hell am I?” I asked him. “Where’s my room?”

He motioned for me to follow a little further and opened a door. My door. I stormed in and kicked at the wall until I’d broken a hole in it. “Why don’t you join us?” the man said to me when I finally stopped kicking. “There will be food and music and …”

I interrupted him. “I don’t want anything from these people, I don’t even know you. I don’t want food.  I don’t want wine. I don’t want to sit by the pool while other people’s children splash me with over-chlorinated water. I don’t want anything except for you to leave me alone until I can get out of this place!”

The man’s infuriating grin finally faltered. “But, friend, you are …”

“We’re not friends!” I shouted and pushed him out the door. “Leave me alone!” I slammed the door shut and fastened the security chain and turned the thumb bolt. From the hallway he knocked again. “Leave me alone” I raged. “Leave me alone!” I grunted and pushed the dresser against the door. “Leave me alone!”

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