Updated: Mar 18
No Vacancy is a story a few of us built together on my author Facebook page. I supplied the picture and the first paragraph, then others joined in. I took those efforts and turned them into the story you'll see below. It was a lot of fun!
The contributors were: Sharon Redgrave, Larry Kurtz, Shilo Niziolek, Sabina Orzari, and Stacey Sannar. Thank you all!
Jimmy rumbled into the motel parking lot, the last strains of Bob Seger's “Turn the Page” blasting from the radio. He cut the engine on his Harley, pulled off his black helmet, swung off the bike, and stretched. Just like in the song, he was feeling strung out from the road. He needed a place to rest and get out of the cold. When he spotted the small motel in the middle of nowhere Nevada, he decided it would work just fine.
The building had a faint air of seediness; some paint peeling here and there, but the small strip garden in front of the office was well-tended with healthy looking succulents and cacti that could survive the wide swing in desert temperatures. The small, pink neon sign over the door had lost the top half of the first “f”, so it appeared to read “Orfice.” A small chill ran up his back, but he gave it up to the dropping temperature of the lonely desert.
As he entered the office, a lady with the face of a bulldog and a glint of mean in her eye was turning in a room key. She plopped a motorcycle helmet on her head and snarled at him while digging at her front teeth with a toothpick.
Maybe I don’t want to stay here, Jimmy thought, then shrugged. Better than falling asleep in a ditch somewhere!
Behind the front desk was a doe-eyed teenager, eyes framed by thick orange glasses. Jimmy tried to joke about the weather, but the girl just popped her pink bubble gum and slid the key across the counter, never saying a word or cracking a smile. He took the key and headed up to the second floor, counting down the numbers until he reached room 27. The 7 hung upside down by one lone screw. He sighed, expecting that when he opened the door, he’d find the room in equal disrepair.
The stale scent of years’ worth of cigarette smoke hit him in the face when he pushed through the door. He inhaled, hoping to pull some of that old nicotine into his own lungs. He pulled a half-empty bottle of bourbon out of the leather saddle bags he’d thrown across the ratty, white bedspread, and searched around the chipped enamel sink for a plastic-covered motel cup. Nothing. Irritated, he kicked the plastic garbage can.
Why’d she do that to me? I gave her everything she wanted. Or thought I did. Sure, I’m not perfect, but I’m a good guy. The only thing that kept him sane and stopped his mind from spinning was getting back on the road again, but he was beat. He knocked his stuff off the bed and onto the motel room floor, then dropped onto the double bed with his cowboy boots still on. He twisted off the lid on the bourbon and took a long swallow. He was jarred out of his reverie by the ringing of his cell phone.
“Why the hell are you calling me when you’ve framed me?” he asked. “What more could you want?”
The voice on the other end of the phone, once loved, now only grated on his nerves. Every dream of their future together had been dashed by her lying, manipulative ways. Why couldn’t she just leave him in peace. Let him live his own life. The farther he got away from her, the better.
Several hours earlier, he’d stopped for coffee and a pee break in a backwater town. When he came out of the restroom, he thought he’d seen her little red Porsche parked across the street. Of course, it couldn’t be. He’d left that woman a thousand miles behind.
“Jimmy, just let me explain,” her soft southern accent purred through the line.
“Explain what? How you set me up to take the fall for the shit you and your boyfriend pulled? Just leave me alone, Joanne. Forget you ever knew my name. You’ll never get another red cent from me.”
Jimmy reached down and pulled his saddlebags back up onto the bed, checking for the bulky manila envelope. Yep. The money was still there. A half a million in crisp dollar bills. He didn’t have one shred of guilt about taking the money from Joanne and her bank-robber boyfriend.
“I didn’t set you up, darlin’. Everything I did was for us. I miss you, Jimmy. Please come home.”
A loud pounding echoed on the flimsy motel room door. With the phone still pressed to his ear, he swung off the bed and pulled the door open. Joanne stood on the landing, a pleased smile on her ruby-red lips and a pistol aimed directly at his heart. The haunting chorus of “Turn the Page” was the last thing that echoed through Jimmy’s mind.