Posted by Barbanne on February 16, 2000 at 15:54:53:
GIRL IN ROOM 311.
Someone always has to be it.
You know how whenever you play games, someone always has to go he, or be it. Like everyone else just joins in the game and has fun and laughs themselves sick, but not the one who is it. Its not like the one who is it is particularly picked on or anything. No, its just that without an it you can't have a game. So the it person is like a non person, only needed to make the fun work. Usually people take turns to be it. No-one could always be it. If you are it, you can join the fun next time and stay a player until being it comes around again.
Except when I play.
I'm always it.
The others say "You won't mind being it will you?" and I think, "But I'm always it. Why am I always it?" And while that's whizzing around and around and I'm thinking of a clever answer, they say, "Knew you wouldn't mind. She's it guys," and the game starts and I'm it again.
I hate being it. I want to be just like the others and run around and get told I did something clever or funny or just right for a change, but I'm always only ever the one who is it.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm invisible or something but that can't be so. No, when its time for breakfast, lunch or dinner then I'm found easy enough.
"Keep the water glasses full dear."
"Take this through to Miss Evans honey."
"Will you take Mister Jackson's dinner to his room?"
"Clean that table now lass."
"That table needs relaying."
Once, when I was little, the hotel had like half a dozen waitresses. Bright, pretty, young, happy girls. But they faded away like the fortunes of the hotel faded away. Now we are lucky if we have six people other than our regulars in of a Saturday evening. Auntie Jane cooks and folks say to me "You're Jane's niece aren't you?" and Jane's niece gets to wait on table because she is cheap. She's also twelve years old and so plain she just melds into the background. So they just get on about their business and I do everything that nobody else wants to and so they say, "Get the kid to do that."
I'm a permanent it.
Guess I always will be.
I read the magazines in the foyer when I have nothing else to do and in them I see places I shall never go to and clothes I shall never have and I dream about growing up and I see all the other girls, the pretty girls, twirling through life in twinkling tuille and there I am, stuck with round thick glasses and dressed in mouse coloured drudge and cursed with intelligence. Other girls meet boys and have friends and giggle and just come out with dumb stuff and the boys laugh and go red faced and can't wait to race them off.
Me, when I am faced with somebody, I'm so busy thinking four lines ahead in the conversation I should be having that I just come out with "err," and "ugh," and they think I'm some sort of retard when all along I'm so busy seeing what should be happening that nothing happens.
I can't even imagine me with a boyfriend. I'd say "err," and "umm," and think of brilliant conversation that he doesn't know exists and he'd be thinking of sex.
Whatever sex is.
I'm really hazy on this point.
The other kids at school talk about sex all the time and having babies and stuff. I have no idea how babies occur. One of the other kids said that to have babies a boy has to give you a poke. What sort of a poke. With his finger? with his elbow? In the tummy? In the eye? I think maybe it has something to do with down there. Between my legs. Well down there has proved very disappointing. I had my first period just recently and if having sex is like that. If it hurts and messes like that, forget it.
I guess I'm a dud, a dork and a drip. I wonder if telling you you are a dud often enough can make you into a dud.
I guess it can.
I'd like to be smooth and cool and in control, like Clint Eastwood in his poncho and dusty duds and silent, slit eyed authority.
Except I'm a girl. And my duds are like shorts and a tee shirt that have been washed and worn to the edge of extinction and instead of slit eyed and authoritative, I'm wide eyed and gullible with a capital G.
Billy and Sam, Auntie Jane's boys, they're like fifteen and sixteen and they think I am God's gift to them. If they want someone to fall into something or dumb right down, or if they want to scare someone witless, I'm always available and I always do. Whatever they want me to do. I do it because I am a dork.
Most all of the guests we get in the hotel are boring. I mean they are so ordinary that you can't evince the slightest interest in who or what they are. Except that without exception they can find spiteful things to say about the kid who serves them. No wonder I realised early on that I am a certificated loser.
The girl was different.
She checked in late one evening and the first time I saw her was when she came down for dinner just on closing time. We close at nine pm and by then I am really looking forward to escaping to my room and losing myself in my fantasy world of books and thoughts. I reckon nine pm closing should mean nine pm closing but Auntie will always cook someone a late dinner and that means I have to serve it.
She came in and sat by herself near the window overlooking the garden, except the garden was mostly dark except for the little patch you could see by the light of the one lamp that sort of lit the path. I knew she was different as I took her a water jug. For one thing she was about twenty some I'd think and most of our guests don't think of coming here until they are approaching geriatry. I mean once the hotel was the smartest resort in the mountains, but then along came the twentieth century and people decided to go places where airplanes and fast trains could take them and we sort of became genteel but redundant. They tried selling us as "colonial" and "an echo of the past" Some echo! Lets face it, the hotel was last year's. Along with button up boots and bustles we had slipped into history. Another thing was the way the girl was dressed. She had on a little black dress with string shoulder straps and a low squared off neckline and the tops of the cups of her bra peeked out of the top of her dress. And from what I could see, that bra was cinnamon coloured and all lace. It was very fashionable in the latest magazines I had read and NOT what guests at the hotel wore. When I went into the kitchen to get her soup, Auntie and Maud, Maud helps out with the cooking and washing up, were peeking at her and saying "Can you see that. Half her underwear is hanging out." Well, I wouldn't have said half her underwear was hanging out. I would have said she looked pretty smart and cool, and alive! Besides Auntie and Maud didn't realise but when she had sat down her dress, which was pretty short had ridden up and heaps of creamy thigh flesh was on view.
I was sort of jealous. Except it was an imaginary thing. I didn't wear a bra under my waitress uniform. Didn't need one. Despite inspecting myself closely in the bath room and touching and teasing my nipples nothing much seemed to be happening for me, although Billy told me I was starting to show. I think that was related to my bust to be.
When I get breasts they'll be lopsided or something and flat or shapeless or something. You couldn't bet enough.
The girl was really pretty and called me Miss and treated me like a waitress and didn't call me kid once. She had short, black, razor cut hair and beautiful big grey eyes with heaps of makeup that made them look even bigger. Her mouth was full lipped and glossy and I reckoned she must be some famous model who had come here by mistake. My eyes are coloured Ugh I think because whenever I ask what colour they are people say "Ugh" and then lapse. And my hair is long but mouse coloured and I am plain! And freckled as if being plain to the edge of ugly wasn't enough to bear.
The girl didn't say much, just "Thank you Miss," when I put each dish down or removed the plates. I hovered because by the time I served her mains the dining room had emptied out and only she and I were in there. I guess I was hoping she'd say something to me. But she didn't. She ate distractedly and looked out into the little pool of light in the garden and when she had finished she went to her room.
She was on the third floor in room 311.
Not that we couldn't have put everyone on the one floor, but we kept the rooms clean and made up as if any time now a zillion guests would arrive.
She stayed in her room except for meals for the next two days. I was hoping to talk to her, she being the only person of even vague interest to stay there for yonks, but I saw nothing of her and at meals she ate in that distracted way and said nothing.
I stopped in at "Jolene's".
"Jolene's" was a diner in town and although Auntie was maybe the best cook in the district, she didn't cook the sort of stuff they did at "Jolene's". Nobody ever explained to me who Jolene was or where she went because for all my short life as far as I could remember "Jolene's" had belonged to Martha Grimshaw. Martha was way old. I'm not sure just how old, not antique like the hotel guests, but old. Forty even. She perched on a stool by the cash register and took delight in collecting the customers' money and being sharp with people she disliked. She disliked me and she was awfully sharp with me, calling me kid and Miss Smartypants and that gel frum the hotel, as in, "Landsakes, don't know how that gel frum the hotel can bear to mingle with us folks down here." Stuff like that. But she had this waitress Nancye and Nancye is nice to me and scoots me down to a booth at the back where Martha Grimshaw can't see me and gives me coke and sometimes 'spiders' with heaps of icecream floating in orangeade and even a hotdog or a burger. Auntie reckons hotdogs and burgers aren't food and we see nothing like that on the hotel menu. I guess they are greasy and sloppy but they taste like yum!
I slid into "Jolene's" and with Nancye's help settled down in the back booth with Nancye, who was on her break, and a hotdog on a roll, dripping with melted butter and spicy red sauce and sweet chilli, mixed together. Nancye was asking me about school because what with my waitressing and with my trips downtown, she worried I wasn't doing my homework and stuff. I told her no worries, I was cruising through my school and it was the truth. I did really well in all my subjects, except mathematics slowed me down some, but I didn't intend being a mathematician so as long as I kept passing that was cool.
Martha called Nancye to get a bunch of drinks for some tourists who had come in looking frazzled and as I munched the last of that hotdog and sucked butter and sauce mix off my fingers I gazed out of the window, which was none too clean, and there was the girl from room 311 making a call in the phone booth outside "Jolene's."
Now I wondered why she hadn't called from the hotel, we had phones aplenty, just nobody to use them usually. So I was looking at her and noticed that although she only had jeans and a shirt on she looked way smarter than town called for. Then I noticed that she was looking really worried and very whitefaced and that whatever she was talking about it wasn't going well and she had a look in her eyes like she was being hunted and was real scared. She was biting her knuckles and messing with her hair and I reckoned she wasn't enjoying this call one bit. I think why she was making that call here on the street was she didn't want anyone knowing about it and that struck me as strange.
I finished up and slipped out of the diner, finger waving goodbye to Nancye and scuttling past Martha's stool. She was mucking with her nails and didn't notice me. As I got outside the girl was coming out of the phone booth and I flashed my beamiest smile at her but she just looked at me like she didn't see me and then she turned and hurried off.
She had tears running down her face.
She was crying.
The girl didn't come down for dinner that evening.
Miss Evans was in great form. She arrived in the dining room flushed in the face and I just knew she had been taking her medicinal Southern Comforts and of course everything was wrong with her meal. The soup was cold. I carried it out and then back in again and she opined that was "much better." Her oven baked potatoes were overdone and I whipped them outside and covered them in fresh gravy and she asked me why I didn't get it right the first time and then her cremed bananas were soggy so round they went and when I bought them back I asked could I bring her an iced cold comfort and she sparkled up and flew through her sweets to get slurping on that long cocktail.
I was run ragged by then and although none of the other guests were any trouble they took getting around to.
Auntie said "Go to 311 and see if the guest would like an in room meal."
I said "If she wanted an in room meal she should have asked for it."
Auntie said "Just go!"
She always wins.
I went up and knocked at the door.
It was ajar which surprised me.
I knocked again. Nobody answered.
I pushed the door a bit and peered inside. All the lights were on, well lots anyway and I couldn't see anyone.
I called, "Miss? Excuse me Miss?"
I came in and the room was made up although the bed looked laid on. I went in and there were clothes scattered around. "None too tidy Miss," I thought. The bathroom door was open and the light was on. I called "Miss? Hello?" No answer. I wondered if maybe she wasn't well or had had an accident. I looked into the bathroom.
She was bent over the tub which was full of water and she was naked except for brief cinnamon coloured lacy panties ( mine are sensible "full' cotton tails by Bonds) and her head was in the water and her ass was up and what I was looking at was mostly ass and panties disappearing between the full, pink, rounded cheeks. I noticed she had a pimple on her left buttock and a rash in the crack where the panties had vanished. Her hair was floating on the water and I knew she was dead, but I pulled her head up by her short hair and her eyeballs were wide open and staring without seeing and they were wrinkly from being in the water and water was cascading off her face and I dropped it and just made it to the toilet before I puked my guts.
Up came hotdog and two kinds of sauce and the stuff I had swiped as I went in and out of the kitchen snacking on yummies Auntie was preparing. I heaved myself empty.
The girl was dead!
Truly dead and naked and, and...................yecchhhhhhhhh!!!!
I raced down three flights of stairs, sick clinging to my apron top.
I'm clumsy too. Did I tell you that? Clumsy and stupid and if its there to trip over, I will trip over it! The carpet runner on the third step from the bottom has been loose for a while and it sort of rumples up some. I hit it at full flight and caught my shoe and somersaulted the last bit, landing stunned and winded at the feet of Mister Jackson who had just come out of the parlour headed for his room. He looked at me lying there cross eyed and whirly brained and a slow smile lit his face, "Enjoy your trip?" he asked.
"She's dead. Drownedead." I mumbled.
Auntie came and Maud, and I hobbled back upstairs with them saying "She's dead," over and over. When they saw she was indeed dead, the police were called and I was hobbled back downstairs and Maud cleaned sick off me and we all waited while I told how I had found her over and over.
Donny and Steve arrived and decided it was too big for them and the detectives from the city were called. It would take a full two hours for them to arrive and I told my story to Auntie, Maud, Donny and Steve and a growing number of guests who were hovering around.
When the detectives did finally arrive I was pleased to see that one of them looked a lot like Clint Eastwood and I thought "He'll be a real detective then." The other guy looked more like Danny de Vito and I guessed he must be Clint's sidekick. It seemed though, from what I saw, that they were about equal. As well, they had heaps of technicians with them and after talking to me as the finder of the body and asking me if that's how she was when I found her, (did they think I maybe found her in bed and tipped her, ass up, into the bath) they all trooped up to measure and photograph and fingerprint and my fame went with them.
Suddenly I was twelve years old again and plumb useless and a little kid. I didn't help this perception by suddenly becoming so tired that I napped off once or twice and Auntie put me to bed and I snored off like kids do.
While I was racking up zees the detectives must have seen all they wanted and the technicians measured and photographed and fingerprinted all they needed and that poor girl's soggy body got hauled out of the tub and put on a stretcher and taken downtown to the morgue. Not our morgue, that would be Shadwell's Funeral Parlour, but the real morgue at the coroner's office in the city.
The hotel went back to quiet. Maybe it would be briefly famous again tomorrow, but for now it was its usual quiet where the only really dead guest was gone and the rest just looked dead.
Thats how it was when I woke up.
Really quiet, and dark. Stygian, black dark.
I wanted to pee and got out of bed, my room is on the third floor five removed from 311 where that poor girl had been killed. I wandered sleepily down to the bathroom and used the toilet and flushed and washed my hands and came back and crawled into bed. I couldn't stop seeing pictures of that girl's dead face in my head. Her short black hair fanned out on the water, her eyes open and gazing at nothing, her mouth slack and flubbery lipped as water sloshed out of it. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed her away.
She wouldn't go.
Every time I shut my eyes I could see her. I squeezed them tight shut but she was still there and tears kept dripping out from under my lashes and slid down my nose.
And then I knew someone was in the room with me.
I sat up like a jack in the box and my breath started coming in short panting gasps and I felt dizzy and faint. I was going like "Urb urb urb.......," and suddenly a hand gripped my mouth and my heart stopped altogether. I could smell his fingers and my eyelids were fluttering and I was thinking "Faint. Faint. Faint. If I faint he can do what he wants and I won't care." But I didn't faint and a raspy voice said, "Where is it kid? I know she gave it to you so give it to me and I won't hurt you."
I go "Erlllb, erbllub, erlllllllbbbbbbb.......," on account of he has my mouth held shut and I can't make any other noise.
"Give it to me kid," and his other hand starts squeezing my neck.
Now I go " Urrrk, errrrrrrrrrrrkkkkkkk, errrrrrrrkkkkkkkkk............," and think "please faint brain, please."
"I'm gunna hurt you kid."
He relaxed his hold on my mouth and I screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaammed!!!!!!!!!!
The lights popped on and Clint Eastwood was there pointing a gun in a two hand hold and shouting, "Let her go you scumbag!" Danny de Vito had another guy in an armlock and Donny and Steve were peering past him and the guy let me go and backed up with his arms in the air and Auntie was calling "Let me go to her." Just then my brain got my delayed message and I felt icy cold and prickly and my eyelids were fluttering and I fainted out cold.
I spent the rest of the night after I came to, having cups of tea and shaking and just on dawn Doc Jepson came and gave me a needle in the bum and it was goodnight nurse from then on.
Days later we found out the girl had been a drug courier and she had been holding out on these guys and they had killed her for it and then couldn't find what she had had and had seen her and me by the phone and knew I waited table on her and decided I must have it. It turned up in a railway locker in the city and that was that.
The kids at school reckoned I was amazing and the whole thing was awesome but I was too inept to milk it and they soon lost interest. Miss Evans gave me two days off before she started in again abusing me and criticising the meals.
I'm still plain and four eyes and dorky and flat chested and freckly and they need someone to keep the score while the boys play the girls at baseball and I'm it.