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Insanely Inane Thoughts

If fate doesn't make you laugh, you just don't get the joke.

The Motel

A Short Story

Rushabh sat down on the rickety chair as tiny rivulets of sweat streamed down his face. The wooden chair groaned and swayed in protest, threatening to dislodge him with artful disdain. He shifted his weight to the side bearing the stronger legs and let out a sigh. The empty pail of paint rattled against the wooden frame.

The chair merely groaned.

He stared at his motel, which so direly needed a coat of fresh paint. The afternoon sun blazed down on the jaded red building seemingly setting it ablaze. A lone crow sat by the ledge and stared down impassively at the architect.

“Sweat and blood has gone into this place,” he mumbled with a smoke dangling from his lip. His eyes blazed with hope as he stared into the letter that fluttered in his hand.

It was a letter seeking to buy out his dream.

“Maybe there is still hope,” he said as his eyes fell on the silent crow. It nodded appropriately.

~*~*~*~

Samar had lost his way thrice before he had taken the right route. The car hobbled over pebble-ridden road and he cursed repetitively. He still couldn’t figure why his boss wanted to buy this godforsaken piece of trash. His boss called it a “future” investment. If only the boss could realize that this place had no future, he thought darkly.

He looked through his windshield as a rustic motel loomed in the horizon.

“Christ, even the motel is blushing in shame,” he exclaimed as the dull red frame filled his line of sight.

He let out a derisive laugh as he passed a board that read: “Welcome to the Red Motel”.

He drove into a beleaguered looking driveway that led to an expansive parking lot. The lot housed an array of cars that belied the motel’s standing. Most of the cars seemed to be serving as a lodge of their own to dust particles and bird shit.

“That’s odd,” said Samar as he got off his car. The motel didn’t seem like The Five Seasons, so to have so many cars parked there took him by surprise.

He was still looking at the cars when he felt someone’s presence behind him. He turned and almost knocked the old man off his feet.

“You nearly startled me,” said Samar to Rushabh. He simply smiled back at Samar.

“Anybody staying at the motel?” asked Samar.

“Not really,” said Rushabh, his smoke still dangling from his lower lip. He had a strange smell permeating from him and that hit Samar hard. His face was covered with crinkles and stubble roamed on the vast expanse that was his face. His hair was unkempt and nearly white. His eyes took cover behind a pair of optics that seemed as old as the man himself.

“Are these cars yours then?” asked a surprised Samar.

“You could say so,” said Rushabh, enigmatically. He was staring hard at Samar and he made no bones about it. Samar felt a little queasy and then the crow cawed.

Rushabh’s eyes tore away from Samar’s as he looked for the crow. It was nowhere to be seen.

“You lookin’ for a room?” asked Rushabh as he scanned the outback for the crow. A listless breeze ruffled the dead leaves but the trees stood resolute.

“Not exactly. I’m from Soli and Soli,” explained Samar. The old man stared blankly at Samar.

“You know, the firm that is interested in buying your motel,” said Samar as he waved his arm towards the motel.

“Ahhh yess, that firm.”

“Do you mind if I take a look around?” asked Samar almost wishing that the old man would say yes.

“No no; go ahead. Be my guest,” said Rushabh as a smile took over his face. It revealed a few busted teeth and a gold tooth that glinted almost malignantly in the blinding heat.

Samar took the lead and walked towards the motel. Rushabh walked slowly behind him, studying Samar. Samar was the typical 20-something yuppie that dominated the city scene these days. He wore a smooth blazer and may have had been wearing a tie earlier in the day. His hair was styled in the spike cut fashion that was so much in demand amongst the youth and an earpiece adorned his ear, quintessential in the day and age of instant communication. Glares hung snugly from the breast pocket of the blazer and Rushabh thought that he could detect a slight waft of cologne. He smiled, knowing how terrible he must have smelt to Samar. But he had more pressing issues than smelling good.

Like reviving the motel.

~*~*~*~

Samar walked up towards the entrance but something else caught his attention. He stopped mid-way and headed off towards one of the motel face. He looked at the wall and then touched it. A flake of paint fell off the wall revealing a patch of concrete.

“It needs a touch of paint,” old Rushabh remarked from behind.

It needs more than paint. It needs burial, thought Samar.

“You are right. It does seem like a coat of paint would spruce up the place. Also, the shade of red is kind of dark. We should go in for a brighter shade,” said Samar.

“I’m not too sure of that, young man.”

“Listen Mr.Rushabh. Since our firm is going to take over your motel, I don’t think that what you are not so sure of would be entertained,” said Samar, a little too brusquely.

“I never said that I’m going to sell this place,” said Rushabh, his gold tooth glinting in the sun.

“What?” asked a thunderstruck Samar.

“I’m still thinking about it,” said Rushabh, his smile widening at the brash young man’s reaction.

“Look. The very fact that someone is willing to buy this, if you will excuse me, dump should be reason enough for you to sell it. Tell me one thing, in the last three months, how many customers have you had?”

“None,” said Rushabh, his smile still in place. Samar eyes wandered perversely towards the gold tooth, bringing out unwarranted revulsion from his part.

“How many customers have you had in the past one year?” continued Samar, trying to go for the jugular.

“Five,” said Rushabh, his eyes going back to the motel. The crow still wasn’t there.

“Don’t you think that having five customers over a period of twelve months should be reason enough to sell?”

“You don’t seem to understand, Mr. Samar.”

“Then help me understand,” said Samar.

“This is all I have left of my dream. Sweat and blood has gone into this motel, Mr. Samar,” said Rushabh passionately.

“For which you will be soundly compensated for, Mr. Rushabh.”

“It isn’t always about money.”

“The money makes the world go around, Mr. Rushabh. Besides, have you heard what we are quoting for this place? It’s insanely high for this place –“

“I know, Mr.Samar but-“

“And I think the boss might be willing to hike the price by a little,” said Samar, trying to lure in Rushabh with the prospect of more money.

“Mr.Samar, do you think that a man who has so many cars would really be in need of money?”

“Look, Mr. Rushabh. All we are trying to do is popularize this place. The location isn’t so bad, what with the expressway being half an hour away. Once we get hold of this place, we can get the roads done and voila, your dream motel will be making thousands happy. The only difference being, we will be running it,” said Samar, trying to be as persuasive as he could.

Rushabh’s eyes narrowed behind the soda glass; a tiny bead of sweat ran over it. The smile was yet to vacate his face. Samar couldn’t help but hate this old man who was in need of a dental check-up.

And maybe a bath, he thought as his nose quavered under the stench.

“If we go in, we might be able to avoid the storm,” said Rushabh as the air stilled around them.

Samar looked at Rushabh; it seems like the heat has taken its toll.

“I don’t think it will rain here; ever,” said Samar as the sun scorched the parched land.

“I have been here long enough to know, son. If you don’t think it will rain, then the least we can do is go in for a nice, cool drink. Does that sound good enough to you?”

He didn’t wait for Samar’s answer and proceeded to hobble towards the motel. Samar looked at the lobby; it looked prohibitively dark and unwelcoming.

Well, what the hell; thought Samar as he followed the old man. I’d have check out the interiors anyway. And if it were any better than the exterior, at the very least, one wouldn’t feel to preserve the motel just for the sake of gross incompetence.

~*~*~*~

Sweat and blood, thought Rushabh as he entered the motel. His motel.

And guests weren’t welcome.

~*~*~*~

The first thing that struck Samar as he entered the motel was how red everything was. The walls were red; it didn’t look like it had been wallpapered but hand painted. Again, it was the dull red that had emanated so mournfully from the walls on the outside. The furniture had the same somber look but then again, they were sparsely spread about the sprawling lobby. The front desk had a register, which was again red.

A red telephone.

A calendar with all the dates marked in red with whites peeking out of the corner.

My eyes hurt, he thought as his eyes adjusted to the carnival of rouge. He then felt Rushabh thrust a glass into his hand. It felt cold and inviting. He took a sip and savored its taste.

It was a glass of watermelon juice.

~*~*~*~

The lobby was surprising clean. It was almost an antithesis to what lay outside. But it did seem to lack a certain something.

People.

There seemed to be no attendants, bellboys or waiters. And yet, everything seemed neat and orderly.

“Are there no hired hands in this motel?” asked Samar as he sat down delicately on the red couch.

“No, son. There had been some people helping me out before but now, there is no one,” said Rushabh as he sat down opposite to Samar. The cane chair swayed under his weight but he steadied it. The smoke still hung loosely from his lip and then Samar noticed it.

The smoke wasn’t lit.

“They quit?”

“Well, let’s just say that couldn’t help me more than they have already have.”

An uneasy quiet descended on the motel as the breeze picked up on the outside. It ran through the windows howling and the wind chimes beat out melodious tunes.

“The storm’s comin’.”

The heavens thundered in consent.

“You sure seem to know this place,” said Samar with grudging respect. The old man merely sipped on his juice.

“So, how do you manage this place all by yourself?”

“It’s not hard, son. With not many people to worry about, all I can worry about is this place.”

“So why haven’t you sold this place yet? Having an income that’s next to nothing must have made you think about selling this place,” concluded Samar as he looked keenly at Rushabh.

“You don’t sell your soul because it holds no meaning to you, son. This place is my soul.”

“I understand, sir. But one cannot survive in this world on soul alone. You know, to look after the body in which the soul resides, and for that you need money,” said Samar gently. “Everything boils down to money, sir.”

“Maybe for you. I already have more than what I need,” said Rushabh curtly.

“But what about your kids and wife, sir?”

“They are no longer alive, Mr.Samar. So they wouldn’t really need the money.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”

“They gave all that I had asked of them for this motel, Mr.Samar. I’m not sorry but proud. Besides, that happened a long time back,” said the old man without bating an eyelid.

It seems like he wasn’t too fond of them, thought Samar, a little surprised. From what it seemed, the old man lived alone and felt no need to change that situation. The door banged with the wind and Samar looked towards the door, startled.

It had started raining. Samar hadn’t noticed the drizzle and by now, the sky was laden with tears that ran down its cheek like a raging river.

“Christ! How will I be able to get back home in this weather?” Samar exclaimed aloud.

“You are quite welcome to stay back till the rain lets up, son. The motel would be more than happy to have you here,” said Rushabh with twinkling eyes.

“I better call up home and let them know that I’d be late,” said Samar as he punched out a number on his cell phone. He listened to his phone and got no response.

“Don’t you get network here?’ asked Samar angrily. How the hell will anyone set up a lodge without having a mobile network range in that place, thought Samar. He would have to try and dissuade his boss again.

“You can try the phone, son.”

Samar walked up to the phone and picked up the receiver. There was no dial tone. Shit!

“There is no dial tone, sir,” said Samar tersely.

“Let me check, son.” Rushabh looked over the telephone and repeatedly banged at the telephone. “Seems like the phone lines are dead. It must be the storm.”

“This motel is a wonderful place, sir. Are you still certain that you are not willing to take the ball and run when you have a chance to do that?” asked Samar trying to drive home his point.

“Sorry, son. A lot of hard work has gone into this place, you know sweat and –“

“Blood. I know, I know,” said Samar, exasperated. The old man smiled benignly at him although he thought he detected a crazy glint in his eyes. But he didn’t think too much of it as the gold tooth stared at him again.

I need to get away from this dump, said Samar morosely as he looked outside the window. The rain only worsened.

He looked back at the old man who had hobbled away to what seemed to be the pantry. The red door slammed behind him but it didn't bother him anymore.

If the old man says sweat and blood one more time, I may just have to kill. Even then, the gold tooth will still look up to me, fixed in a morbid smile, thought Samar.

He took out his pack from the blazer and lit his smoke. He looked at the pack and smiled. He was smoking a Marlboro Red.

~*~*~*~

“How’s your meal?” asked the old man as he served another piece of roti to Samar.

“It’s delicious,” said Samar as he enjoyed a hot meal while the sky continued to cry outside. The room would have been chilly if not for the old-fashioned fireplace that burned with a sense of loyalty. The red glow went very well with the motel.

“Can I ask you a question, if you don’t mind?” asked Samar as he gulped down the hot stew.

“Go ahead, son.”

“Why is everything in the motel so red?”

The old man smiled but thankfully, the gold tooth was smothered under the masticated food. Samar thought he knew what the old man was going to say so he said it before him.

“Sweat and blood?” asked Samar; the red stew ran down his chin.

The old man’s eyes crinkled up and he sipped on his red wine. He looks positively senile, thought Samar.

“Sir, in case the sale doesn’t come through, I thought I should let you know that you have to paint your motel again if you want to attract more customers. This place will pick up business in a few years time but you need to bring in some changes now.”

“I know, son. I know. In fact, I will be giving the wall a fresh coat of paint soon enough,” said the old man. He smiled again but Samar looked away.

He knew that the gold tooth was looking at him.
He excused himself and went away to wash his hands. He washed his hand in the red handwash and then wiped his hands dry on the red towel. The basin, however, was white.

Will miracles never cease, he asked himself as he fidgeted with his hair while looking into the mirror. He checked his cell phone again for network. There was none.

Samar walked upto to the window and peered outside into the darkness. The rain hadn’t let up. He sighed at the prospect of spending a night in the motel. He returned back to the lobby and found soft music floating through the air.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he muttered as soothing strains of Lady in red hit his ears. This guy is a nut, he concluded.

“Nice song,” he said with a laugh as he searched for Rushabh.

The blow came from directly behind him, cracking his skull and staggering Samar. He clutched his head and in the same moment, turned around to face the attacker. Although blood was flowing profusely from his skull, he could make out the man with the gold tooth coming at him with a shovel in his hand. In the few moments he had before the fatal blow, he noticed that the shovel was red.

He didn’t know if it was red with paint or his blood.

“No one can take this place away from me. No one,” hissed Rushabh as he savaged Samar’s limp body with ferocious blows. He continued to pound on the body; the sky stopped sobbing.

~*~*~*~

The sun beat down mercilessly on Rushabh as he squatted by the wall. Sweat poured off his back like tiny glaciers sliding off a mountain. He wiped the sweat off his brow and dipped the brush into the pail of paint.

Samar’s eye looked on towards the old man before the crow plucked it out; just as it had on the other eye. It gobbled up the eye in one swift motion and cawed appreciatively.

The old man looked towards the crow and smiled. “There is always hope, young friend,” he said as he continued to paint the wall.

He looked at Samar’s lifeless head for one, last time and smiled. The sweat rolled into his mouth and glistened over his gold tooth.

“Sweat and blood, Samar. Sweat and blood,” he said as he applied another coat of red paint over the crumbling façade. Samar's body had held enough to pain the front wing, he noted happily.

Just like his wife.

~*~*~*~

Samar’s car began to lodge dust and bird droppings; just as the other cars did in the parking lot.
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