30.6.12

Chapter 11: Merciful Heavens

See previous posts for Chapters 1-10 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."



Harold blinked slowly at the steady stream of light coming from the shining bauble constellation overhead, and then lowered his gaze to the expansive swirl of ice cream marble below. So this is what it feels like: The lap of luxury. He was uncomfortably enamored and too wary to smile, but his heart grew large with hope. Maybe this was it. There was a small chance he’d taken the right exit to the pleasure palace. Heretofore, he would have been thrown out of a place like this.



He placed his hands into the lined pockets of his new linen pants, which they purchased at a store call “MAN.” It was ermin to him. It also hang heavy.



Sheila waited at the black mottled marble counter, elbows propped, leaving faint oil smudges on the finery.



I can’t believe I’m doing this.



The concierge approached.



“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she thought and tightly clutched her wallet. Harold had demands all right, yet she’d long fantasized about staying at the Mercy Hotel. The mere notion had won her over instantly, the mere notion of holing up at the city’s best hotel to write the best of all possible novels, a heart-wrenching and hilarious tour de force starring the dejected now linen-clad Harold.



The concierge parted his thin lips.



“Yes, how can I help you.”



I can’t believe I’m doing this, but this is the time. Now is the time. It’s an investment, it’s an investment. “King Of The Drifters” (that was the working title) is going to be brilliant. It’s going to have screenplay written all over it.



“I’d like two rooms please. Preferably, your least expensive.”



He raised his eyebrows a little.



“Hm, all right. You’re sure you want two.”



“Yes, thank you.”



“How many nights?”



Sheila heard the soft flapping of Harold’s new leather flip-flops in the background. (Remember, it was unseasonably warm.) He eyed his own feet with envy.



“Um…” She winced. It had to be two. No, that’s the whole bank account!



“One – no, two.”



“Credit?”



“Yes, please.”



Yeow. I’m insane. I’m totally insane. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that insanity worked well for literary endeavors.



Sheila pushed up her sleeves, looked behind her at Harold awkwardly shuffling, then smiled a genuine smile. This was it. The opportunity to capitalize. The golden plastic card emerged from her wallet. In exchange for a swipe she got a set of shiny keycards to the castle.



Harold had chosen to hang back on purpose. The place made him nervous, its sleek surfaces sexy and streamlined. He could see his reflection on one of the glass tables in the seating area and didn’t recognize what he saw. He too was amazed by his own opportunism. When he said he had demands he was still unclear what he’d meant by that. The voyage was taking shape as they went along.



“Put me up in a nice hotel and I’ll talk some more,” he’d said. It was Sheila who seemed to guide the rest. She had a fantastic vision of her own. His rags to “MAN” makeover was only a small part of it.



As he cautiously sank into the white plush sofa he was aware of his role as but a sidecar in this novel writing business, which is why he didn’t concern himself with divulging the absolute truth. He found it remarkable enough that his scraggly face reflected back at him from a piece of high gloss European furniture.



When Sheila turned and began walking towards him, unnerved herself, he was reluctant to peel himself from that lap of luxury that felt like the smoothest fabric he’d ever touched. And he was sure he’d leave a dirty mark when he rose, but when he looked down the spot was clean. I could get used to this, he thought, and was more hopeful about and dedicated to the success of “King Of The Drifters” than ever.



Sheila passed him a black plastic card that looked like the invitation to some secret society. But it was no secret. The opulence was real for him now.



“Here,” she said. “This is for you – this is where you’ll be sleeping for two glorious nights... Now, don’t lose it. Please. God knows how much it’ll cost to replace it. I mean, it’s just plastic, but still.”



“Nope, I’ll keep a’hold of it. Promise you that. This is – this is beyond my wildest dreams.”



Mine too, she thought. She felt like a famous author except for the fact that she’d only written a few sentences.



“All right. Our rooms are down the hall from each other. Go shave or something. I’ll be in the bar on the top floor – I think it’s called The Aviary. Nice, right?”



“Yeah...This is really the life.”



“Well, this is where I’m going to start and finish this damn novel, with your help of course. Join me at the Aviary when you feel like it. I’ll be there for a while, and hopefully the stream of consciousness will flow.”



Harold kind of raised his eyebrows.



“Okay...Well, I’m truly grateful to ya for this vacation. I’d be at the St. Mary’s right about now.”



“I know...”



And she would have been at home alone in low light.



“...So let’s make the most of this, all right? I’ll be on the top floor, at the Aviary.”



401S. Harold read the gold lettering on the card. They boarded the mirrored elevator and Sheila took the responsibility of pushing the glowing buttons. 4 and 17. Harold looked from side to side and all around, and saw themselves everywhere. Sheila was dressed down and modestly in a black t-shirt and jeans. For all anyone knew they could be high rollers on a casual day. It was tough to tell. Mercy was like that. You could sidle up to the bar next to a screenwriter in sweatpants. No excuses necessary with success or the nerve to blow most of one’s back account on a whim.



“This is your stop, Harold.”



DING.



The doors parted for the “MAN.” He inhaled through his nostrils and stepped through.



“See you in a while. Enjoy yourself too much.”



He nodded, in a stupor, then tried to walk down the hushed hallway with purpose.



CHA-CHINK.



The gateway to pleasure opened to a soft sumptuous bed, to a giant-sized jacuzzi tub in which for him to stew, to so many reflective surfaces that he began to ignore his own difficult reflections, his difficult days that were supposed to fuel the novel.



He wanted forever to be in that room, and for a moment, it was.



“Merciful heavens,” he whispered.



He slowly pulled the hotel razor down his face. The excess lather fell down into the voluminous sink bowl.