Picture Perfect 57
Dan stood at the door of the Wickham Arms. It brought back no memories. After studying the pictures his Dad has taken around the Arms and in particular the one of him and Timmy on the front steps, he had expected the actual location to have some resonance. Maybe the storm washed it away.
“Mr. James?” An elderly woman came to the door.
“Yes.” He put down his suitcase to open the door.
“We were expecting you much sooner.” She smiled. “A spot of rain usually doesn’t slow our guests down.”
“When the sea rushes up to meet you it is wise to a pause to let it recede.” Dan answered.
“Or sink where you stand your ground.” she replied. “Come in. I’m Jane Poitier. Some of your crew has arrived. Least those who are staying here. Some of them have opted for the modern comforts of the Comfort Motor Inn.”
“I’m sure they’ll be happier there.” He signed the register. “Larry Clarke speaks highly of your hospitality.”
“A charming young man.” She handed him a skeleton key with a large oval fob. “You hang that here when you leave”
“Another key! Same as the Proud Tartan. It’s always been some sort of card.”
“Like them I believe strongly in tradition. How is Mrs. Clarke?”
“Larry’s married? He didn’t mention her when he drove me here in fact.”
“No, his mother. His folks own the Tartan. I guess he didn’t mention that either.”
“The short cut he used took up all our attention. Not much time for talking.”
“Short cut?” She asked.
“Some skidoo trail through them there hills. Moose something, he called it. Then a logging road.”
“The young fool.” she said. “Reckless. Too many reckless people these days. He’s lucky he did’t get the two of you killed. More than one has gone down the ravines along there.”
“He knew what he was doing as you can see, I’m here. A little rough for wear. Things have changed a here at the Arms. The reception used to be right by the door, there.” He pointed to a spot that was now occupied by a sideboard covered with plants.
“We took over the Arms about fifteen years ago. It had fallen on hard times and was closed for a few years before we reopened it.”
“You don’t know what became of the Greens.”
“No. You’ll have number 36. On the third floor. It’s a bit of a walk up. No elevator but we do have…”
“The dumb waiter?”
“I can remember going up and down in it as kid when my folks stayed here.”
“We’ll have none of behaviour now young man.”
Dan couldn’t tell if she was joking.
“Yes ma’am.” He tossed his suitcase into the dumbwaiter and sent it up to the third floor. The stairs up to the second floor were as wide as he remembered. Carpeted now. The bannisters had been replaced so there little chance of the initials he and Tim had carved would still be there.
The turn to the second floor wasn’t as sharp or sudden. His mother always had a problem negotiating that turn. The squeaks were gone but the stairs to the third floor were still as narrow. The stairway window was now clear glass. The previous yellow stained glass never illuminated much. A large white globe was suspend on the ceiling.
The third floor had been two apartments on either side of the hall. Now they were redivided into three separate rooms each. At least he supposed they were separate. His was at the end of the hall.
He got his luggage out of the dumbwaiter and rolled it down to his room. The Arms was familiar and totally different at the same time. The same doorframes but new doors, new colours. The window at the end of the hall looked out over a back garden. Yes, the garden was still there but the empty lots beside it was now one of those red brick bunkers.
His room was bigger than he expected. Queen bed, one bedside table, comfy chair, tiny desk triangled in a corner. It looked large enough for a laptop but little else. Tiny bathroom with a shower stall. Rosebud soap by the sink, which was also triangled into a corner. Not enough room to swing a wet towel.
The closet was a fair size and he took his clothes out, shook the wrinkles from his jeans and shirts as best he could and hung them. He turned the shower on. Hot water without waiting and good pressure. He turned it off and undressed, tossing his socks, undies & tee-shirt into the shower. Laundromats where not on the itinerary.
He looked in his toiletries bag for body wash & shave cream. After the past couple of days of being on & off the road he longed for a hot soak. He needed a shave too. He adjusted the mirror on the back of the door. No bruises on his butt from the mountain ride. His hands needed something though. They were rough and scraped from pushing those logs to move the tree. There were scratches on his forearms from grappling with them.
There was a loud knock at his door. He opened it without thinking to grab for a towel. It was Larry.
“You dropped this in the truck.” he handed Dan his cellphone. “It started to beep or I would have been back at the Tartan before I noticed it.”
“I was … just going to take a shower.” Dan took his cellphone. He moved back so Larry could enter the room
“So I see.” Larry said. “How is the butt? Black and blue?”
“No.” Dan wrapped a towel around his waist.
“It’s still not too late to rectify that.”
“Larry!” Dan felt his face redden. “Wasn’t the three hundred bucks enough?”
“You are saying you aren’t even curious. Are you sure you are gay?”
“Oh I’m sure. But if that was going to happen between us it would have by now.”
“I am not your type?”
“That’s not it but …”
“You are total top?”
“No but …”
“I am too country boy for you. Is that it.”
“Fuck Larry! You sound like one of those straight guys who is positive every queer he meets is after his dick. Sure that every queer is fucking every queer he can get his hands on.”
“Is the part where you slap my face and push me out the room.”
“It sure ain’t the part where you kiss me to show me the error of my ways with your manly brutishness.” Dan tried to make a joke of the situation.
“I’m not sure what’s going on here. Between us. I’ve never been that sort of person.”
“I see.” Larry took the one step from the bed to the door. “You aren’t angry with me?”
“No!” His cell buzzed that a text had arrived. “It’s work calling.” He glanced at it and it was from Stephanie. It was an “?”
He showed it to Larry. “You see – the show must go on. But not until I take a shower.” He watched Larry go down the hall, locked the door and turned the shower on full.
In the lobby he was surprised to see Stephanie chatting with Larry.
“Seems likes you’ve had your own adventures while we were having ours.” Stephanie said.
“Yes. He’s heading back to Port Elgin now.”
“Ah … yes. I won’t have to take the Moose Trail. Roads are better.”
“Thanks again for getting me here, in one piece.”
“My pleasure.” Larry shook his hand. “Can we keep in touch?”
“Sure. Send a receipt to Baxter’s Bits for the three hundred dollars.”
Larry went out quickly.
“What was all that bout?” Stephanie asked.
“He didn’t risk his life to get me here for free. I gave him three hundred, cash.”
“I get that part but there seemed to be more to the story than that.”
Dan ignored her question. “Did the war room arrive intact?”
“Oh yeah. Baxter is waiting for us. He sent me to pick you up.”
“Any word on Glaucia?”
“Serious. Even if she survives there’s little chance she’ll ever fully recover. Head trauma.”
He went out the to the far end front porch and Stephanie followed him. “How’s Baxter? I thought he was injured too?”
“Bad enough but not enough to hold him back. He is heartsick about Roberto.”
They went to Stephanie’s rental. Larry was wiping mud splashes off the doors of his jeep.
“Thanks again Larry.” Dan said as he got into her car.
“Anytime.” He got inot his jeep & drove away.
“You sure know how to pick’em.” Stephanie said.
“I don’t pick’m, he showed up when I needed him. If I picked them they wouldn’t turn out to be … stalkers.”