Slight of Hand



From Chapter 1

Nobody knew where they came from. All anyone wanted to know was--when were they leaving?

They’d arrived like a cloud of hornets late Sunday afternoon and taken over the parking lot and most of the motel rooms. I’d heard them come in-- "Rowrrrrrrgh. Rowrrrrrrgh. Rowrrrrrrgh," --one after the other. I’d jumped up from my futon, where I’d been relaxing to the strains of Miles Davis, and looked out my window at the string of bikes gleaming below me in the sun. The bikers’ helmets gleamed too—every color of the rainbow. My first reaction was a rush of excitement; the second—a stab of irritation, as I realized that this was the end of peace and tranquillity at The Oakview Motor Lodge.
Here it was Monday morning, and the "Satan’s Apostles" (the name embroidered in red across the backs of their leather vests) showed no signs of moving on. In fact, Jack-the-Night-Clerk told me in an awed whisper, "They’ve signed up for the whole  week!" It had been an unusually warm May, and the flat roads and balmy climate (70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky) of south Jersey seemed to agree with them.
The first time I ran into one, face to face, was this morning. I’d shuffled down to the lobby--glassy-eyed, before my morning coffee--to pick up my copy of the Bayfield Bugle. I was reaching for it on the counter where Jack always leaves it for me, when this thing comes up next to my elbow and wakes me quicker than six cups of coffee and a cold shower.
It was bulky, hairy, noisy and multi-colored. The bulk was muscle, bulging out of a torn tee-shirt and battered jeans; the hair--body-hair, springing from the arms, chest and legs as well as long greasy locks sprouting from the head; the noise--bracelets, necklaces and anklets of heavy metal (yeah--like the music, only more so); and the multi-colors--tattoos over every visible surface--red, blue, black, purple and green.

He was asking where he could get "a decent cuppa coffee," implying that the motel offering wasn't up to his standards (or anybody else's, for that matter). Without thinking (I wasn’t awake yet, remember), and before Paul Nelson, the desk clerk and owner, could get the words out, I blurted: "The Blue Arrow."

He turned, and I was treated to the full frontal view. Hair, tattoos, metal.

"Where’s that?"

I mumbled directions to the local diner.
"Thanks." And he clanked off into the sunset (or in this case--sunrise).
Paul looked at me. I shrugged. I'd been a motel tenant for only eight months, but long enough to take most things with a grain of salt. The thing about motel living was, everything was temporary. Nothing lasted very long. You'd just begin to get in a snit about something, and "poof" it was gone, down the road to the next motel. That was one of the things I liked about it. I grabbed my paper, a cup of the motel sludge, and retreated to my apartment. By redecorating and moving in a few pieces of my own furniture, I'd raised the space where I lived from two-star motel to "half-decent apartment."


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©2004 Robin Hathaway