Friday, June 8, 2018

Al's Settings Reflect His Soul

During the night, when sleep restores the body and soul, the cries of an infant haunted Al. Past midnight the infant cries were comingled with a little innocent girl, running with her arms outstretched, vanishing just a few steps in front of him. Near daybreak, soaked in sweat, he woke again and felt that his mind, sanity, and life were vanishing, just like the child in the red mist.

            He checked out of the motel around eleven and continued his mindless journey. He needed the protection of a blank mind and cold heart. He couldn’t allow himself even one thought of Sarah and his lost child. Just outside of Harrisburg he found an old four-story hotel stuck between the freeway and an industrial park.

          As Al pushed open the dirty salt eaten door the old man at the front desk looked right at him. The hotel rate sheet hung behind the old man.  Al reached into his front pocket, pulling out some bills, and said, “I’ll pay for a week.”  The old man grabbed the cash. As he did Al noticed his fingers stained a raunchy yellow and brown from unfiltered cigarettes. The raunchy colors of his fingers were a close match for the color of his shirt and the stubble on his face. “Suppose you really don’t need a receipt, do ya?” the words coming out of the old man like a belch.

            “Can you tell me where the nearest party store is?” Al asked.  “Yea,” the old man answered, “You can get your booze at a place a couple of blocks away, near an empty warehouse. Yea empty, just like everything around this god forsaken place.” “Thanks,” Al said, and turned on the grimy floor and went out the door.

            Al found the party store just as the old man said. The shelves were mostly bare except for booze and wine. As Al cradled three bottles of his faithful friend one slipped and the bottles bounced against each other.  The man behind the counter could have been the twin of the old man at the hotel. His stubble was peppered with gray. His sky blue shirt was missing a button at the top and his t-shirt was stretched down and frayed.

            “Ya’ need anything else?” asked the old man. Al answered, “No, this is it. Thanks, just tell me how much.” The answer back was unexpected, “Nope, this isn’t all you need. But expect that’ll come later. Give me twenty bucks for the three bottles and we are even.” With the old man’s comment swimming in his head, Al reached into his shirt pocket. Pulling out a tangle of bills he stripped a twenty out of the mess, put it on the counter and headed out the door. With the door open Al heard the old man, “Expect I’ll be seeing you again.”

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