Thursday, April 18, 2013

106. "the last chance"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by roy dismas and konrad kraus

*Associate Professor of Mid-Victorian English Literature, Assistant Shuffleboard Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Poems from the Poop Deck: 197 Previously Uncollected Ballads of the Sea by Horace P. Sternwall, with an Afterword by Lowell Thomas; Olney Community College Press.

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Well,” said Hyacinth Wilde, “it’s been so pleasant chatting with you, Miss Flanagan, we really must do it again sometime.”

“Call me Flossie,” said Flossie Flanagan.

“Flossie it is then! And thank you so much for picking up the tab at the Automat!”

“No problem, it’s on the Federal-Democrat — expense account.”

“Lovely. And now — yawn — I simply must retire.”

“It’s early still,” said Flossie. “How’s about a cocktail, Hyacinth, if I may call you Hyacinth.”

“Of course you may, Flossie, but, really, darling, I must have my beauty sleep.”

“After drinking four cups of that mud they call coffee at the Automat? What you need is a nice stiff cocktail, Hyacinth, to send you on you way to Dreamland.”

“Oh, I simply couldn’t, Flossie.”

“Sure you could.”

“Oh my goodness no, I’m simply all done in, darling.”

“Y’know, Hyacinth, if I didn’t know better I’d suspect you had a little midnight tryst going on.”

“Midnight?” said Hyacinth. “Tryst?”

“Yeah.” Flossie tapped her cigarette ash into that large chipped vase near the entranceway. “A midnight tryst with a gentleman.”

“Oh, heaven forfend! I’ll have you know, darling, that Hyacinth Wilde does not ‘do’ midnight trysts with gentlemen! If a gentleman wants to share my company he can take me out for dinner and dancing the way a true gentleman should.”

“So, in that case you’re free to have a nightcap with me.”

“My you’re a persistent girl!”

“In my profession you’ve got to be persistent. Come on, Hyacinth. One drink won’t kill you.”

“But —”

“Unless you really do have a date, and then of course I quite understand.”

“But I don’t have a ‘date’! Or a tryst!”

“Then let’s have a drink. Just us girls.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Come on, I’m buying. Or the Federal-Democrat is buying, anyway.”

“Well, maybe just one.”

“Now you’re talking. Let’s head into the bar then, shall we?”

“Well, all right, but just one, mind.”

“One and done,” said Flossie.

The two women crossed the lobby, and Roland the night clerk seemed to rouse suddenly from a waking dream.

“Good evening, Miss Wilde. And Miss Flanagan.”

“Hello, Roland,” said Hyacinth. 

“Hiya, Roland,” said Flossie. “And how is your evening going?”

“Just swell, miss, thank you very much.”

“Catch you on the flip side, pal,” she said.

The two women headed on into the Prince Hal Room, and Roland sank once again into his reverie, dreaming of that motel he hoped someday to own. Perhaps just on the border of Death Valley? Wouldn’t motorists want to stop and rest up before plunging into the parched wasteland of Death Valley? Perhaps he could also have a gasoline pump, and a small shop, in which people could stock up on provisions, just in case their cars should break down in the middle of the desert. He could call his motel The Last Chance Motel. The last chance for the weary traveler, before heading off into that burning and merciless hell…

Nolan came out of the hallway leading to the restrooms just in time to see Miss Wilde and Miss Flanagan entering the Prince Hal Room. And what were those two fillies up to? Perhaps the Flanagan girl was doing one of those personality profiles that people liked to read about actors and actresses, even ones as empty-headed as that Wilde girl.

He strode over to the desk, where Roland looked, as usual, to be sleeping with his eyes open.

“So, Roland, did ya hear the Commies have landed in force out by the West Side docks?”

“Pardon me?” said Roland, blinking.

“I said did I miss anything while I was in the john?”

“No, nothing at all, Mr. Nolan.”

“Nobody unusual coming or going?”

“No, nothing unusual.”

“Try to stay awake, tonight, Roland. I’m gonna head into the Prince Hal Room for a while. You see anything suspicious while I’m gone, you let me know.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Nolan.”

And Nolan headed toward the Prince Hal Room.

Suddenly Roland remembered Jake the bellhop coming back into the hotel just a few minutes ago, carrying a paper sack. He had said he was running an errand for a guest, although Roland hadn’t asked or cared what Jake was doing. After all, the bellhops and elevator operators were always doing little extra jobs for the guests, even on their off-hours. What did Roland care? But should he have mentioned Jake’s reappearance to Mr. Nolan? Whatever, Nolan was already gone, the double doors of the Prince Hal Room swinging shut behind his slow massive body.

What did it matter? 

It didn’t matter, and so Roland returned to his gentle reverie…

The Last Chance Motel.

Was that too morbid a name? 

Perhaps “The Death Valley Motel”?

No, that was just as morbid.

And, anyway, what difference did it make what the motel was called if it was the only motel around for miles and miles and miles before that awful approach to Death Valley? He could call it the Dead Man’s Motel, the Gateway to Hell Motel, the Abandon All Hope Motel, and it wouldn’t matter a whit, people would still stop there as long as they had nowhere else to go.

So the “Last Chance Motel” it would be.

The last chance for them, for the weary travelers. 

And the last chance for Roland.

The last chance.

(To be continued. Be sure to tune into Philip Morris Presents: Tales of the Hotel St Crispian, Tuesdays at 9pm (EST) on the Dumont Television Network, hosted by Orson Welles. Music by Tony Winston and his Winstonians, featuring Shirley De La Salle, with the June Taylor Dancers.)

107. "somebody uptown"

and today's musical number, featuring Miss Dorothy Dandridge:

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