"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.
Jerry woke up with the hotel phone bleating. He had been dreaming of cleaning the garage. That recurring dream was his happy place for the last week. He dropped the receiver on the end table as he fumbled with it. The clock radio lit up with eight-o’clock, which was always set five minutes fast by the staff.
Jerry mumbled into the phone, “Yeah, hello?”
“Sir, this is the front desk. Do you have a little girl with you?”
“No. My wife has her in her room. Why?”
“Well, we found a little girl lost on your floor. We’re calling all the rooms to see where she belongs.”
Jerry’s mind switched on and he sat upright in bed, praying for what the hell just didn’t happen.
He entered his wife’s room, where the stay-open bar held the door ajar, and stood inside in disbelief – in his underwear. Except for the bathroom light, the rest of the room was dark, quiet and empty, save for Sarah’s soiled diaper laying on the bathroom floor. She always took it off in the mornings when she woke up –half way through potty training at two-and-a-half. Jerry and his wife had separate rooms and for good reason. He hated their fights that never ended well and hated their daughter’s exposure to them. On this family trip to his side’s family-reunion, it made sense for all involved to sleep separate. All Jerry had at that moment, with increasing dread, was the low hum of the hotel wall-heater and a silence of his missing family.
Jerry stood in the lobby wearing a crumpled pair of jeans and yesterday’s t-shirt. Sarah sat on a tall chair behind the counter. She looked at her daddy with a furrowed brow, munching on a continental muffin, with her eyes moving back and forth from daddy to police officers to daddy while wrapped in a warm towel. The police peppered Jerry with questions and he slowly burned with anger as the picture grew in his head of what just happened. Where is your wife, sir? When did you last see her? Do you often fight? When was your last fight? You were unaware of your daughter wandering naked for two hours in the hall? Oh, separate rooms, I forgot, sorry sir. Unless he answered the questions, he would not see his girl.
Jerry answered while looking at his daughter – her hair a long nest with scared blue eyes peering through. Her hands held the muffin – knuckles pink from knocking on doors hoping mommy would open one. Finally, when a pilot on layover opened his door, instead of shouting like the other occupants from their beds that they didn’t want housekeeping, she stood naked and sadly said, “I want my mommy…” He called the front desk for someone to come up and get her. When the front desk called the rooms on floor four, it turns out someone noticed her at six in the morning, but they never thought to call and report anything.
The family dysfunction had become a police report, soon to appear in the local paper. Jerry tried to keep everything civil no matter what but she hated him. She felt trapped with someone who didn’t care, which Jerry knew was far from the truth, but she lashed out against his efforts to heal and solve. He traveled for work, provided everything he could and tried to make the best schedule possible. Now she was gone, and he had resolve for the future fueled by her recklessness. Now he had to pick up pieces and do the best he could without her. Sarah was his first piece to pick up and he hugged her against his shoulder, hoping she would not remember something this intense. Secretly he knew she would.
(Author’s notes) April 11th, 2016. Indianapolis, IN.
Real life sucks, especially when you have a family with little girls back home. I’ve met and worked with guys who died the next day in plane crashes and that affected me less than this real event. I don’t know the reality of the family’s private situation, but a teeny girl knocking on my door after wandering naked for apparently two hours is a heart-breaker. How could nobody else call the desk about that and how could someone just walk out on their family and this cute as a button little girl without any problem abandoning her to who knows what wackos are in hotels? I had problems sleeping that next night and the next day, until I wrote this down. I had issues.