October 7th, 1974. 9:30 PM
The garish sign outside Ed & Lucy’s Moto-Lodge promised a Swimming Pool! Family Fun! Color TV! But the pool had been drained for the season, I wasn’t there with my family, and I wasn’t having much fun.
The hotel/motel was nestled at the north end of a town whose name I don’t remember – and that’s probably because I never knew it. The décor was noticeably 1950s kitsch, and though it had an obvious feminine quality. I felt strangely comfortable here, as if it were more a home of than a way station for weary travelers. Though I wouldn’t have chosen to decorate my own house in such an eccentric way, it had a sense of comfort about it, as if I had a wife – albeit a highly nostalgic lady she would have been – who wanted to make sure I was comfortable after a hard day’s work.
I’d had a string of bad luck lately. First there were two flat tires in as many days, an explosion I had inadvertently caused resulting in the destruction of a biker’s garage, his prized possession named Lolita, and considerable amount of damage to two of his friends’ motorcycles. Then there was also the damage done to my head which, though not as serious, was definitely contributing to the lack of fun I was currently experiencing at Ed & Lucy’s Moto-Lodge.
I don’t remember the explosion proper, just the feeling of being lifted off my feet. Then I was at a hospital. Besides a knot on my head, a black eye, and various randomly scattered superficial cuts and bruises, I received a clean bill of health and was sent on my way. Silver Jones, who drove me to the hospital, kept telling me not to worry about the loss of Lolita because, as it turned out, the bike was the only possession that he bothered to insure. He then told me repeatedly that all my injuries were the result of the blast, and that he was in no way inclined, nor were the other angry members of his motorcycle club, to seek retribution for the damage.
Each time he mentioned this, however, he followed it up with, “Now, are you sure you don’t remember anything?”
I had reasoned that after destroying a customer’s property, things would have to start looking up. But it didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that this was not the case. Though I had always taken good care of Shirley, it appeared the two flat tires weren’t the only trouble she would give me. The day after the accident I learned, in a rather inconvenient way, that she was in need of a new fuel pump.
Okay, not that big a deal, right? I found a garage, had it fixed, and it only cost me a day. Well, less than 24 hours later it was a head gasket. Perhaps Shirley had some empathetic reaction to my own injuries, and in her own way was trying to share my pain. Then again, perhaps I’m just having an unusually long period of really awful luck.
I was lying on the bed watching television, (the one thing Ed and Lucy had promised their customers that I could actually partake in,) switching the ice bag I was holding between the bump on my head and my black eye. I wasn’t following the program that closely, which was about a rich woman who solved crimes – she wasn’t a detective, mind you, just rich with plenty of time on her hands. So it happened that each week her friends found themselves amidst a lot of criminal activity. My mind was wandering as I thought about how I was going to make up some missed appointments that had resulted from my and Shirley’s woes when I saw it: this character had a telephone in her car! A telephone in her car!
This wasn’t some futuristic spaceship show; it seemed to be taking place in the present time. I know Hollywood people make up all kinds of stuff, but I really had to wonder if such a thing were possible. To be honest, all I could really see was the red handset and the coiled cord that extended somewhere below the dash. Besides, even if it was real, this gal was extremely wealthy, so I’d probably never be able to afford one. But I sure could have used a phone in my car this week.
I was so obsessed about the mobile telephone unit I hadn’t even realized it had started to rain. When a clap of thunder echoed somewhere off in the far distance, I turned my attention to the change in weather. This is nice, I thought. Nothing like lying back, and listening to the rain.
Sometimes boring nights, even if one is in a bit of pain, are the nicest nights of all.
Then I fell asleep.
I dreamt I was back in Seattle, and Sage from Cincinnati was chasing me with a big rubber mallet. She kept screaming at me to stay still so she could pound the dent out of my aura.
October 7th, 1974. 10:45 PM
I wasn’t sure whether it was a knock at my door or an extremely loud clap of thunder that woke me, but it woke me with a start. After looking around and getting my bearings, I heard a knock.
About two seconds later, however, one of the loudest crashes of thunder I’d ever heard smashed somewhere overhead, and it came with a flash of lightning that lit up my room in a strange blue color that caused harsh, eerie shadows. So quite honestly, I’m not sure which sound brought me from my dream, but the point was moot as there was still a door to be answered.
I figured it had to be the tow truck driver telling me Shirley was finished. Sure, that didn’t make any sense; why would he be working so late and come out in this weather when I could just go pick up the car tomorrow? Did I order room service in my sleep? (Did this place even have room service?) Considering the homey feeling they were going for, that might be a possibility. But the only way to figure out who was looking for me at this time of night was to answer the door, which I did.
Standing just outside the threshold, holding a limp newspaper above her head to protect her from the rain, was a woman of extraordinary good looks. I instinctively threw a glance over my shoulder, wondering if somehow someone had snuck into my room without my noticing, and that’s who she was there to visit.
“Mr. Louviere? Sam Louviere?” She was probably in her late twenties. She looked up at me with vast blue eyes that somehow took the ugly yellow light from the bulb above my door and reflected it in ways a diamond wouldn’t be brave enough to attempt. Those eyes sat on perfectly sculpted cheekbones, which were framed with a cascade of blond curls causing little glitters of light wherever they caught raindrops. Her lips were shaped in a natural pout that would instantly make any man want to take her into his arms and protect her.
“Yes, I’m Sam Louviere,” I said, sidestepping quickly out of the way as she walked into the room. After closing the door behind her, I ran into the bathroom to grab a towel.
She thanked me in a voice which, had there been a piano playing nearby, would have sounded more like lyrics from an old standard than the simple act of courtesy it was. As she handed the towel back to me, I had to remind myself to breathe; it was almost as if some preternatural force was at work for a quick towel-drying of this lovely lady’s hair hair made her appear as coiffured as if she’d just come out of a high-priced salon.
After taking her coat, I offered her a seat on the sea-foam blue patent leather chair and took a seat across from her on the corner of the bed. She set her purse on the amoeba-shaped coffee table.
“So, how may I help you?” I asked. Before she answered, she tilted her head down, then brought her eyes up to meet mine in a gesture that made her seem vulnerable and in desperate need of…well, me.
“I heard you sell beads.”
“That is what I do, Miss…” I suddenly realized I hadn’t asked her name. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” I didn’t even realize I was saying that, but as I was, and at that moment I was incredibly proud of myself. I had always wanted to be in a situation where that phrase would not only be fitting, but I would remember to say it. It seems in all the old movies where there’s a sophisticated man wearing a tuxedo with a white tie and holding a martini, inevitably a gorgeous woman will come up to him and mention him by name. You seem to have me at a disadvantage, he always says. which is so much more debonair than simply querying, And what is your name? Yes, only men of class, culture, and taste say things like that.
And I just had.
“Excuse me?” She had no idea what I meant.
“And what’s your name,” I said deflating.
“Oh, yes, of course. How rude of me. My name is Celia Andrews,” she cooed. And she actually did coo! “Since it is true you sell beads, I would like to buy some.”
“Well, I do have my sample case. If you’d like, we could…”
“I do apologize for coming here so late. It’s just that it’s my niece’s birthday tomorrow, and I’ve put off getting a gift for her. I thought I might make her something pretty, and then when I heard there was a bead salesman staying here, well, it just all seemed too perfect.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Something is a little bit too perfect. It wasn’t just the fact that a ravishing young lady showed up at my door unannounced. There was something more. But what was it?
Well, first off, how did she know I was in town when I didn’t even know what town I was in? She could be a friend, or even the wife – no, let’s stick with a friend, or sister, maybe – of the tow truck driver. Yeah, that was it, nothing to be concerned about.
I was just lying to myself, and I knew it. How could she have possibly found out that I sold beads?
The only stroke of luck I’d had over the last three days was about 15 minutes after Shirley shut down in the middle of nowhere and a tow truck came along. That was really a godsend. Just as I had done the obligatory opening of the hood, and checking for whatever might be wrong without knowing what to look for, a truck came by. A scruffy man who introduced himself as Craig towed Shirley to his garage and then gave me a lift to the motel.
In small towns like this, men are very wary of strangers, and everyone is always wary of a salesman. So when asked what I sell, I always say something masculine so as to not get on the bad side of one of these Good Ol’ Boys. Selling parts for combines or turbines is my usual line. Manly men like to hear that. Anything a man can control, anything that makes him feel powerful, always ends with that same syllable: bine.
(if for any reason you doubt me, if you ever get the chance, ask a concubine.)
So the only person I’d spoken to in this town – other than the hotel desk clerk, and that couldn’t really be called a conversation -- thought I sold parts for combines, (or was it turbines?)
Whatever the case, it wasn’t beads.
You’re just being paranoid, I thought. A couple flat tires, some car problems, and one lousy explosion, and you’re suddenly wary of everything. The lady is just here just to buy beads. What could be more innocent than that?
“All right, so a niece’s birthday, huh?” I reached for my case and set it on the coffee table next to her purse. “Does she have a favorite color? How about a favorite animal? I have quite a variety of charms.”
“Well, she’s a teenager,” Celia laughed. “You know how they are. Right now she’s going through her ‘gloom and doom’ phase.” She then leaned close, and put her hand on mine as I was unlatching the brass clasps. “So something, oh, I don’t know…different, if you have it.”
Her voice was so alluring that for a moment I honestly believed that if I didn’t have what she was looking for I could will it into existence.
“Together we’ll make something even better than you hoped for,” I assured her.
“I do believe I came to the right man,” she smiled while giving my hand a slight squeeze before focusing her attention on the case.
“Well, let’s see what we have here.” At the very moment I pulled the display case open, the loudest boom of thunder I’d ever heard reverberated through the room. The white-hot glow of a million flashbulbs crackled around the room, lighting my guest’s face from a thousand different angles in the span of a second.
At the same instant the electricity went out and Celia gasped quickly stood up. I stood also, and using the bright lightning flashes to navigate, I made my way around the small table and instinctively put my arm around her waist, pulling her close to me.
Her arms went around my neck, and she buried her face in my chest as if trying to hide from the deafening sound and blinding brightness.
Two seconds later the lightning and thunder had subsided. The only sound was rain hitting the roof, and we were enveloped by complete darkness.
It wasn’t until then that I noticed how nice her hair smelled, which made me realize just how tight I was holding her.
…….to be continued.
© 2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd