mortimer peeked around the corner from behind a potted plant and watched as stan crossed the lobby to the front door. it looked like roland was asleep on his feet - as he often was - but mortimer knew that roland had not lasted as night clerk as long as he had without the ability to wake up at the slightest movement of anything within twelve feet of him.
and sure enough, just as stan passed him roland turned and said something to him. probably just something like "good evening, sir".
because stan kept on going out the door and roland went back to staring straight ahead across the deserted lobby.
so stan was away safe, in his "disguise", at least for now.
what time was it, anyway? mortimer looked up at the clock on the wall to his right. three thirty-three. jeez, was it that late?
only twenty-seven more minutes and his shift would be over. that's if jackson showed up on time, as he did not always do.
there were four elevator operators at the st crispian. two of them, jackson and grobbs, worked forty hours each, mortimer worked five fourteen hour shifts from two in the afternoon to four in the morning, and old julius still came in and did about twenty hours a week. mortimer often filled in for the others, and one of the bellhops or desk clerks would fill in if they had to.
it had been kind of an exciting night, as nights went at the venerable hotel st crispian, with stan coming back and all. and jake disappearing for a while, and flossie flanagan from the federal-democrat showing up … time went by when there was excitement in the air, that was for darn sure.
he never did get that key to room 603 to miss wilde, what with miss flanagan showing up. but stan was gone, so everything must be o k. now he just had to tell miss wilde that stan had gone to the automat...
mortimer eased himself back on to his stool and yawned. i should be able to stay awake for about twenty-five minutes, he told himself…
stan laughed. "stop looking back at the ship," he told mortimer.
but mortimer looked back, across the diamond-twinkling red sands of mars.
the spaceship, which was also a white castle diner, was still there.
"i just hope it's still there when we get back," mortimer heard himself saying.
"that's not the right attitude, mort," bosco told him as he padded along beside him, "adventure! let the wind and the sand take us where they may!"
"that's the spirit," stan agreed. "the spirit of adventure!"
mortimer sighed and looked down at his shoes, which were also copies of the new york federal-democrat with stan's picture on the front page, and were filled with sand.
the three of them trudged along under the green sun (or was it a moon? or earth?)
bosco was mortimer's old dog, who had been run over by the ice cream man's truck when mortimer was seven years old. here on mars he was as big as a rhinoceros and had wings on his side, and stan and mortimer could ride him if they had to. but stan insisted that they both walk for now, even though mortimer's shoes were filling up with sand and copies of the federal-democrat and leaves from the potted plants in the lobby.
stan himself was dressed only in a loincloth like tarzan, with a big sword slung across his back.
and bosco looked as cool as an april day in central park, just moseying along like gene autry singing a song about lonesome little dogies.
so why did mortimer have to wear his elevator operator uniform, with his shoes all filled with sand? he was having a hard time keeping up.
"hey, guys, stop!"
but they ignored him and kept moving forward.
mortimer sat down and tried to take his shoes off. but he could not get the laces untied.
suddenly the sky turned dark.
mortimer looked back at the ship and it was taking off! it had turned into a fudgsicle, the fudgsicle mortimer had rushed outside to buy on may 18, 1915 when bosco had been run over by the ice cream man.
and now mortimer (with no sand in his shoes) and stan and bosco were racing across the darkened sand under heavy black clouds to a castle that was also a diner and gas station in the desert in mongolia and the subway station on 14th street.
the rain came down just as they reached the shelter of the castle/diner/subway/st crispian empoyee's locker room.
two queens were sitting on thrones above the grill and the pie rack.
the two queens looked down on mortimer and bosco and stan. they kept changing colors and the thrones they were sitting on, which were also stools at jimmy's bar on the bowery where mortimer sometimes went on his days off, kept changing colors too.
mortimer and bosco and stan sat down on the stools. bosco had changed to about human size and he was wearing a red and orange zoot suit with a wide brimmed hat and a long keychain. stan was still in his loincloth with his sword across his back.
the queens looked like diamonds. the first one and her throne kept changing from black to silver to purple and then black again. she was jennifer goldberg, who sat beside mortimer in fifth and sixth grade (the last ones he attended).
the second queen was flossie flanagan, the lady reporter who had visited miss wilde and told him he looked like alan ladd. she kept changing from green to blue to red, and her throne above the pie rack from gold to white to pink.
jennifer goldberg glared at mortimer and spoke first:
"listen o wayfarers and listen well, for what i am about to tell you must stay in this dimension and never reach the philadelphia phillies - "
mortimer felt something behind him. he turned around. jake and cary grant had entered. jake was wearing a zoot suit like bosco's but black and blue checked. cary grant was dressed to bomb tokyo.
jennifer continued: "we are the last of an ancient race, that once ruled numberless galaxies… our mighty ships sailed endless dimensions, as easily as the racing form blows down third avenue… and everything we touched turned to conquest, gold… and love…. "
at the word "love" mortimer saw/felt something in the shadows behind the refrigerator in the corner of the diner….