After a 13 hour drive across Arizona and part of the Mojave Desert, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way home to Los Angeles. I was seriously tired and the only motel in sight was the Xxxxxx in Barstow, California. Or maybe it was Victorville. I don’t know. Delirium had set in and I was too tired to care, so I stopped for the night.
It was a weird place. The office wasn’t attached to the motel. The barracks, uh, I mean the sleeping quarters were actually across a road and down a little hill. In the dark of the night, you couldn’t even see them from the office. Creepy.
Through a tiny slot in a thick security-glass with a crackling speaker I paid for the room. $64.00 for a roadside motel. Seriously? I thought Xxxxxx’s were in the $20.00 range. $30.00 tops. Highway robbery. I had no choice though, I was too fatigued to travel any further.
Getting back in my car, I drive across the road, down the hill, and park. I immediately spot some undesirable looking strangers loitering about. Great.
Keeping my eye on this one fellow, who’s keeping his eye on me, I cautiously get out of the car, and quickly open the trunk to grab my stuff. Before I can finish gathering my things I notice he’s coming out of the shadows and walking toward me. He’s quite unkempt; dirty white t-shirt, unshaved stubble, clumps of motley whiskers on his face, and he definitely needs a belt because his britches were hanging way too low. If he wasn’t wearing boxers I would’ve been able to see the entirety of the crack in his behind. Luckily I had slipped my stun-gun into my pocket as I’d gotten out of the car.
Now I’m thinking that if he gets any closer I’m going to have to play Quick-Draw McGraw and zap him with 100,000 volts of white lightning. But then the image of me doing the electrocution dance as I accidentally shock myself flashes through my mind. That would not be good so I decide to leave well enough alone as he stops within arm’s reach. Standing a little too close for comfort and reeking like weed, he opens his mouth and asks if he can borrow a cigarette. Borrow? What, are you going to return it to me when you’re done with it? And besides, do I really look like I would inhale carcinogens into my lungs? Are you kidding me? Who even smokes anymore? I politely say sorry. He mumbles something then slithers back into the shadows.
With belongings finally in hand, I head toward the stairs. Waiting in the darkness beneath is a scantily-clad women. She’s wearing way too much make-up, a pink tube-top, a too-short leather mini-skirt, black thigh-high boots, and is pretending to talk on her cell phone. I hate to profile someone, but I have to be blunt — she was a hooker looking for a street lamp to lean on. Please don’t make eye contact. Please don’t make eye contact. Dang! We made eye contact. As her skanky-thin lips part to make a proposition, my eyes tell her everything she needs to know. No way in hell! She goes back to her fake call as I make my way up the crumbling staircase and to my room.
I open the door and wow! Not what I expected. I’m actually pleasantly surprised. Kind of a retro-mod, Spartan room with faux hardwood floors. These roadside motels get a lot of foot traffic and the carpets are usually worn and filthy. But the hardwood floor really works. Great idea. Since the room had this whole minimal thing going for it, it really made it look and feel much bigger and cleaner than a Xxxxxx usually is. Everything was fresh and fairly new. And for a moment, I forgot all about the Bowery outside.
I put my bag on the bed and was quickly brought back to reality as I noticed that the bedspread was quite stained. Gross! How could anybody justify putting this filthy fabric where someone is going to slumber? Ick! I cautiously pulled it off and examined the blanket and sheets underneath. Okay. They were clean. No bugs. No pubes. I was good.
I took a shower — letting the hot water pound the tension out of my stiff shoulders. Then, feeling fully relaxed, I got ready for bed.
I laid my head down and just as my eyes closed, I heard noises coming from the red-light district below. I crawled from beneath the covers and discreetly peeked through the curtains. Of course, there was a parking-lot lamp shining directly on my little white face making it stand out like a beacon in the night. And as luck would have it, standing at the base of the light pole were three unsavory characters with hoodies over their heads looking like something out of The Omega Man.
Now let’s be clear. I don’t have anything against hoodies. I wear them all the time. But when it’s almost 90 degrees in the middle of a hot summer night, you don’t really need to cover your head with the hood. As I observed the three figures the inside of one of the hoods glowed. I thought — Ah, maybe Mr. Stubble Face should go borrow a cigarette from them.
I withdrew my shining face from the curtains and realized that no matter how tired I was, I would not rest well. No indeed. I grabbed my stun-gun, tentatively rested my head on the pillow, and waited for the mutant hordes to break down the door.
Before I knew it, the only thing coming into the room was the sun brightly streaming around the curtains. I slept. I slept through the whole night. I immediately got up and peered out the window. My car was still there. It had not be graffitied and the tires were not slashed. The parking lot was empty; no hookers, no hoodies, and no Mr. Frisky Whiskers. I breathed a refreshed sigh of relief and got ready to hit the road.
Home sweet home was just a few hours away.
Lon Casler Bixby is a professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.
See his writing here — www.amazon.com/author/loncaslerbixby/.