Writing 101 Day 6: Second attempt
This assignment deals with character description.We’re supposed to describe people we recently met. Now that ought to really freak some people out. These assignments are given to us on a daily basis and that leaves only a limited amount of self-editing time. These are my “within less than a day Scribblings.” For that reason, the following story (and others found within this blog,) may read much better at some future date. Please add your comments to areas that I can improve upon, etc.
Note to my readers: Just because the following story is to strange to be fiction doesn’t mean it really happened . . . recently, anyway.
Another Lodge of Legends Mystery
by Lenee Cobb
My name’s Friday, Gal Friday at the front desk, the one checking people in.
It was Christmas Eve and I came on duty for the swing shift at a local establishment catering to tourists that had a bad rep. for drug-dealing and hourly rates. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out which of my co-workers was making the arrangements. It was easy for her to do working the front desk here. She’s been making cash deals for the up-scale rooms. I got her canned. But this story is not about her.
The hotel sat back from the main highway, out of sight and out of town and because we were now short-handed, not only did I have to work Christmas Eve, I also had to work the night after Christmas Eve. But first things first.
On this Christmas Eve, it’s snowing outside and since I came on shift at seven, the snow’s continued to accumulate. It’s about six-inches deep and ten o’clock. A young man with an imperfect complexion comes in the lobby, tall and skinny fellow, carrying a small backpack wearing a fake-fur-lined jean jacket wearing blue jeans and sporting tennis shoes, asking for one of the fancy rooms. He even gives me the exact room number. Offers cash. You know what I’m thinking.
The policy states that we have to make a copy of the driver’s license for cash-payers. I ask for his and it’s routine for him. He digs inside his beat-up backpack, pulls out a worn leather billfold stacked with cash and hands his license to me, asking if I could give him a deal.
I snatch his license off the counter and excuse myself in the back room to make a copy while I think about it. My ex-co-worker would have made him a deal. She’d have rented him a $200 room for $150 and record the room rent for $100 in the books and stash the extra $50. The owner said we can wheel and deal to a point, but expenses have to be covered. He’s Korean, ex-secret service, a man who’d rather make a few bucks than none, but honesty and no drug dealing means something to him. He often feigns he doesn’t understand English when folks make fun of his accent. They don’t know how lucky they are that he’s calm and collected, understated. They haven’t seen him leap over the front counter with lightening quick Jackie Chan moves after they’ve walked out of the lobby. The man stays in shape. Stupid bigots have no idea. But this story isn’t about him, either.
So while I’m in the back room, I look at the license to check the name and face against our list of people we’re not supposed to rent to, people who have damaged the rooms in the past or done something to get themselves on the list. The name on the license says Charlie Brown. I read it again. Yep. Charlie Brown. But you should know I live in a small community where most folks are related to each other in some way and Charlie Brown is no exception.
I know Charlie. Not well, I haven’t seen him since he was just a little kid, but it’s him all right. He’s my husband’s cousin, one of them, anyway. I hand him back his license and say, “Hi Charlie,” and remind him of how I know him. He understands when I tell him I can’t make him too good of a deal, but we come to a reasonable agreement. It’s late and snowing and he’ll probably be the last person needing a room tonight. He lives about 20-miles away and I understand why he doesn’t want to drive home. The most dangerous stretch of highway in the whole state is that particular 30-mile stretch.
I say, “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown,” and he smiles and waves as he makes his way outside, back into the swirling snow to walk up the slick hill towards the furthest building from the lobby, the one closest to the woods.
I’m on swing shift again and the snow’s melting. There’s been a rush on rooms and the place is running about 95 percent full. All the expensive rooms are occupied. About nine-thirty a woman with broom-yellow frazzily hair rushes into the lobby and up to the front desk demanding I rent a certain room. Her eyes are watery-blue and bloodshot. Her hands flutter from the counter top to inside the pockets of her white ski jacket with purple chevrons across the shoulders, back and forth. I tell her the room’s occupied. She doesn’t take that too well and although she stomps back outside, I got a bad feeling about her.
Five minutes go by and she struts back in, “Look,”’ she tries to smile, “My son rented that room last night and left his back pack in it and I really need to get that back to him.”
“Sorry, ma-am. No backpack has been turned in to the front desk. Ah, ma-am, what was the name of your son?”
She looks flustered. “Charles.”
“Hmm. And your name is?”
Her face mottles. I notice freckles that weren’t there a second ago.
“You see,” I say, “I happen to know Charlie’s mother and you’re definitely not her.”
Charlie’s mother passed away a couple years ago. She was a wonderful woman, my husband’s aunt, and fellow artist to me.
Now the frazzily-haired woman’s nostrils flare, her eyes widen and then she turns and sashays out of the lobby once more. My bad feeling about her is getting worse, and I’m beginning to worry about what Charlie might have gotten himself into. I walk to the back room to double check if Charlie’s backpack is in the lost and found. Maybe I missed it earlier when I came on shift. It’s not there.
Ten minutes go by before the desk phone buzzes and I notice the call is coming from “that” room, the one Charlie rented, the one that woman wanted to rent. Room xx. The caller says, “Is this the front desk?”
“Yes, how may I help you?”
“This is room xx and you need to call the cops!”
The woman’s voice shakes and I can hear pounding in the background. “What’s the matter, ma-am?”
“There’s some woman banging on our door trying to get into our room. She’s claiming her son left his backpack in here and there is no backpack in here. At first she knocked on the door and we opened it, you know? Then she tried to come inside and we wouldn’t let her and now she’s freaking out trying to break down the door. ”
I tell her I’m calling the cops and to keep the door locked till she knows the cops have the woman in custody while I dial 911.
Although I tell the dispatcher the room number and give an apt description of the perp and request the responding cops come onto the property without lights and sirens, you know that’s not how things pan out. No, not here in this small town, anyway.
They arrive within ten minutes, lights flashing and sirens blaring and instead of going around the buildings to catch the perp off-guard, they drive right up to the front lobby and stride inside as if their very presence dispels all wrongs automatically. Four officers in all: two from the city in blue uniforms, one on the short dumpy side and the other tall and dark-haired and two from the county in khaki and forest green, one wearing glasses and both looking in descent shape.
I find it hard to believe that even after my describing what was going on in the back building at that very moment they all insisted I tell them over again what “exactly” was going on. I get to, “It began last night, Christmas Eve, when Charlie Brown rented the room.”
Tall and dark rocked back on his boot heels, stuck his thumbs inside his belt loop and guffawed. I’d say laughed but it wasn’t, it was guffawed, dorky and backwoods hillbilly-like, acting as if I was just so, so stupid, saying, “Charlie Brown huh. Christmas Eve, huh. I’ll just bet you fell for him paying cash too. Ha ha ha.”
Oh, than man grated on my nerves and I wanted so much to kick him in his ever-lovin’ chins. I wanted to be a female Jackie Chan in action but the poor woman renting room xx needed help, and I did not want to be arrested, so I tried to slap him with my one-brow-higher Clint Eastwood-like stare before I turned and addressed the other officers. “It was too Charlie Brown. I know Charlie.”
Tall and dark rolled his eyes at his comrades and snorted. “Yeah, right, lady.” He blew an air puff out his lips and shook his head.
I took a deep breath. Addressing the other men I said, “Charlie Brown happens to be related to my husband and I knew his mother before she died and if any of you have lived here for over 10 years, you probably know Charlie’s folks too.”
The officers gave tall and dark some serious frowns, squelching his assholelevity, and then they got to work.
Needless to say, the frazzle-haired woman escaped arrest; Lord knows she had plenty of warning and time to make her escape. Charlie? I still don’t know what the hell he got himself into but I can tell you this, when I finally arrived home and told this story to my husband and son, this is what I heard.
My son, who happened to be a class-A juvenile delinquent at that time, said that all the kids in town had a nick-name for one of the officers that showed up. “We all call him tall, dark, and stupid. We love it when he’s on duty. We get away with a lot of shi—-I mean—-stuff when he’s on duty.”
As far as I’m concerned, the teens called it right.
But, you might ask, just who the hell was this story about and where was my character study?