HOMER AND LOLA
The glass eye of the Red Dog Perfume Lamp stared back at Homer. Reaching to the night stand, he fumbled until he switched it on. Eye glowing red, it stared at Homer, him staring back, waiting, sniffing for it, getting nothing but that waxy smell. Got to wait, he told himself.
Sprawled on top of the tangled sheets in the impossibly yellowed long johns, he tweezed fuzz from his navel through the ever-widening buttonhole. Rolling what he delved between thumb and forefinger, he flicked it across the room. “Two points.”
“What’s that, sugar.” Lola stirred. Any closer to the edge, and she would have flopped off the bed. Propping up, she caught her fingers in her matted hair.
“Nothing,” he said, watching the eye.
“What’s the time?” She shook her head, full of the morning fog.
“Can’t say.” Homer dug more lint, waiting for the perfume.
“Need to do that, huh?” She crinkled her nose, watching him dig. “Think it’s like grooming?”
“Look who’s all Miss Highbrow.”
Sitting on the bed’s edge, Lola fished her bodice off the floor and wriggled into it, looking around for her stockings.
“I got the perfume lamp on,” he said, thinking he could go again.
“Got someone waiting, sugar,” she said, reading his meaning, longing to get out of there.
“Hell of a night.” He sniffed for the lamp again.
“Loved it, but tick tock – gotta go.”
She didn’t answer, eyes scanning the floor.
“Me, I got my second wind.”
She fastened the buttons. “That your first wind you were passing all night?”
“Funny.” The buttonhole was near big enough now for a rodent to slip through.
“Really, got someone waiting,” she said, rolling a stocking over a foot, thinking black coffee would bring her back to life.
Homer thought of his own appointment. The job he was pulling with Willis, would leave him set. He could have a Lola any time he wanted.
“You got Lola’s fiver, sugar?” The wine must have made her stupid, forgetting the golden rule: getting paid up front.
She held the pump with the heel up.
Getting to his feet, he grumbled, remembering the last time he crossed a hooker. “Alright, but I hardly remember a thing – over so quick.”
Not quick enough, she thought, forcing on the shoe, looking at this man in his long johns.
He reached past the empty bottle for his jacket draped over the chair, took out his wallet and tossed the bills on the bed. Then he headed to the bathroom, not bothering to shut the door. Planting his feet on the cold porcelain, toes curling up, he took a poor aim and murdered Singing in the rain. He sang through Lola lifting his wallet, letting herself out.
The morning air felt sweet in her lungs, but not as sweet as the steaming shower she was heading to. Walking under the Paradise Motel sign, she rifled the wallet folds, taking the bills, tossing the ratty leather down. A snapshot fluttered out, skewered by her heel: a photo of Homer and some red-haired woman. Shaking her foot, Lola rid herself of it.
She nearly ran into Polly coming out of the office with a poker in her hand, grey hair up tied in a bun.
“Hey Lola, my back’s aching like a son-of-a-gun. Don’t need you making work for me, girl.”
Looking at the trail she left, Lola took two of the bills and held them out to the old woman. “Sorry, Polly.” She stuffed them into a liver-spotted hand. “But I got to make tracks.”
“What’s this, then?” Polly said, looking at the bills.
“One’s for your troubles, the other’s for the fella that’s gonna come busting out of room 4 any minute.” She hurried across the parking lot. “Tell him compliments of Lola. Tell him it’s for the pocky warts.” She crossed the two lane, swaying her hips to a southbound White. The trucker threw on the brakes, pulling his rig to the shoulder, stirring up the dust and gravel, stopping thirty yards past her. The driver called back, asking how far she was going.
“Far as you want, sugar.” She got up on his running board, all smiles, climbing in when he opened the door. Off they went, the driver doing his best to steer with Lola in his lap.
Buttoning up, Homer stepped from the bathroom, wiping his hands on the seat of his flapping johnnies. Whiffing the scent of the perfume lamp, he thought, “What a waste,” picking up the phone – time to call Willis. The operator asked for the number, and he reached over, patting his jacket pockets.
The door flew open and Homer stormed out, boiling mad. Spotting his wallet in the gravel, he slammed the door and crossed over to it. “Two bit floozie,” he shouted to the dawn. Balling his fists, he snatched up the wallet, looking around for Lola, thinking what he’d do to her. Breeze fingers sent the punctured photo of his ex tumbling over his foot and toward the road. Stooping, he hurried after it, cursing every step, gravel cutting his soles.
Polly stabbed at a cigarette butt, watching Homer with his back flap open, the man cursing his head off.
“You might wanna close up the hatch there, fella.”
“Mind your own,” Homer called to her.
“And you might want to watch what’s coming out of your mouth. You’re offending both ways.”
“Who told you to look, you sour bitty?” He smoothed the edges of the photo, tucking her back into his wallet. Looking up and down the empty interstate, he kicked at the gravel and limped back to his room. He tried the knob, rattling the door.
“Trouble?” Polly said, leaning on the poker, enjoying this.
“Damn door’s stuck.” He rattled the knob again, huffing at it.
“No, it ain’t stuck.” Polly stepped closer, reckoning she could handle this one.
“What the hell do you call it then?”
“Call it locked.”
“But my key’s …” Homer pointed inside.
“That’s trouble then.”
Homer crossed his arms, controlling the rage he felt. “Could use your help, I suppose.”
Polly smiled, in control of the situation. “Fellow runs around cussing with his drop seat down; now, he needs my help.”
“Bet you got a key.”
“Let me search my biddy brain; no, can’t say I do.”
Homer held the flap with his free hand, rattled the knob with the other, thinking what to do. “Maybe I can pick it with something. Got a screwdriver, an awl, or such?”
“Eldon wouldn’t want you messing with it.”
“Eldon, he the manager?”
“This Eldon got a key?”
“Sure he does – to all the rooms.”
“And where do I find him, ma’am?”
“At the office most likely.”
Holding the flap, he started for the neon sign by the office.
“At the other motel.” Polly poked at a taffy wrapper.
“Foreclosure, boy picked it up cheap. Now he’s got two.”
“When’s he due–”
She ignored him. “Nice plot of land in Florida besides, place called Two Egg.”
“Two Egg, not eggs. Can you believe a name like that?”
“Hard to, ma’am, but, I really got–”
“Eldon says if a hurricane ever rips it up, they aught to change it from Two Egg to Scrambled. That boy makes me laugh,” Polly chuckled and turned away, loving this day.
“Yeah, that’s a good one,” Homer said, watching her spear the ground.
Polly turned back to him. “And if that ain’t breakfasty enough for you, they got another place down there called Spuds.”
“Spuds.” Homer leaned against the door, looking through the glass at the Red Dog lamp.
“Two Egg and Spuds. Them Florida boys was probably hungry when they named them places.”
“Yeah, Eldon’s done pretty well in these times. Can’t understand why he’s never taken a wife though, good looking boy like that.”
“This other motel …”
“About two hour’s ride straight north, can’t miss it, the Seahorse Arms.”
“And when do you expect him back here?”
“Let’s see – left early, so should be back in, say, couple of hours, three, four tops.” She scanned the ground. “‘Course, if Dolly’s fixing her dumpling stew …”
Homer rattled the doorknob with both hands, feeling the pressure rise, thinking what crazy Willis would do.
“That boy and his dumpling stew …” Polly said, holding up two fingers, “are like this.”
Homer looked at his fist, then at the glass, then at the Red Dog lamp inside.
“Not much for greens – always left them on his plate.”
“That right?” He wiped the back of the fist across the beads of sweat.
“Could tell Eldon to eat up his greens till he turned purple when he was a youngin – a genuine meat-and-potato type, that boy.” Polly watched Homer slide down the door, his bare butt on the splintered step. Maybe she could show a little charity and fetch her ring of keys. Maybe she could give him the dollar Lola left for him, tell him about the pocky warts. And maybe that’s a pig, not Doc Lee’s Chevy whizzing by. She clucked and speared some tinfoil, loving this job, loving this day.
Dietrich Kalteis is a writer living in West Vancouver, Canada. His work has appeared in Foundling Review, Tryst, Verdad, One Cool Word and others. His screenplay MILKIN' DILLARD has been optioned to Bella Fe Films, Los Angeles.