Caught, 1.B.5, 700 words

Twill sees an operating theater in the luminous valley floor. It is empty and bright. The lights hum. A sheeted table is bare. He picks up the sheet to look at the table, perhaps recognizing it. A thin white mattress is covered by another sheet, fitted. He doesn’t recognize it. The chalk road falls away into a great, broad bowl. Light swells from the windows of the final motel before the precipice. Adrift in the soft shoebeaten chalk court the pad foundation of a scraped outbuilding grounds two steel chairs, one for want of seat, side by side facing opposite directions. A bled, bland mosaic and territories of melanomatous linoleum foster the uneasiness of a shipwreck. Lengths of baked steel pipe zag out of the bare concrete to breach the absent partitions. Twill eases the leg of a chair into the tail of a wavering pipe and watches it like seagrass against the sky. He pulls the poised chair against the tired elasticity of the pipe and releases it tumbling into the white air, to the white chalk with an assumed puff. The chalk train of a man walking across the court toward the office rises. He is presumably the motelier. Twill slides for the other chair that he threads similarly into the pipe awag. “Ahoy,” he musters vaguely toward the shuffling motelier. “What are you doing there?” barely reaches back to him with the floating, tossed chalk itself, into which Twill launches the cocked chair. The motelier changes course toward the pad, retrieves both chairs and drags them back to their original tête-à-tête upon the apocryphal parlor before speaking again. “Get off my house.” “This is no house!” “It was. Back then,” pointing with his maroon watchcap toward the chairs. “Do you have any real rooms?” “Of course I do. Meet me at the office.” Twill leaves him in the dust and leans against a post in front of the building watching night swallow the motelier’s path. “I’m the night manager.” “Might I take a room?” “Of course you can.” In the arcade with a key marked ONE Twill opens the door tenderly with two fingers. Murky plumes smudge just outside the door. The wall over the beds is paneled in mirror squares. A man in loose chambray is standing in the room. A warm beard covers his lips. The eyes, first inhuman in the gibbous lamplight, grow narrow and empathetic as Twill recognizes his black and less black irises and turns off the lamp. He sits on the bed against a heap of all pillows and sleeps. Midnight and blood are darkness; blood is secret. The sharing of blood is the most public moment of life’s most neglected secret, its fragility. A weak knock that nevertheless tosses the burglar chain in a jingle precedes a strangled voice identifying the knocker as the day manager. He falls silent following his salutation. Through the peep the form of a white face with lines of grizzle beneath a maroon watchcap strangely diminishes. He looks precisely like the night manager. Twill pulls the door to chain length. The day manager is ensorcelled by green iridescent insects standing centered before the door and says “When you came last night you left no deposit with me.” “You said you were the day manager.” “I am. I’m also the night manager. You said you’d pay in the morning. I need the payment at this time.” “It is still night.” “It is not, it is morning. I need the payment at this time.” Bugs plumb his mouth. He spits out papery wings. “I don’t have it.” “You were going to leave before dawn without paying.” “Maybe I can work to pay the payment? I can be your night manager.” “No you cannot. I am the night manager,” says the day manager, “you can straighten rooms. Can you straighten?” “I suppose.” “Of course it would take you more than a day to recoup this payment. You may stay here at a reduced rate until you are even with the accrued payments.” “I guess I don’t have a choice.” “Very well, come to my office in the morning.” He slides back out of the arcade into the darkness.

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