And The Rest

“Good evening, sir. Checking in?”

The smile was friendly and the greeting sounded sincere, even if it was the fiftieth time she’d said it that day.

“Yes. The name’s Butler.”

“Gosh, you look hot. Is it that warm out?” Her hands flew over the keyboard.

I wiped the sweat out of my eyes, ignoring the stinging and praising the gods of air conditioning.

“It is when you have to walk a mile from the station. Where are all the taxis?”

“Oh, Digby’s tiny. They’ll all be in Exeter. Is that B-U-T-L-E-R?”

“Yes.” Was there another way to spell it?

“I’m afraid we don’t have a booking in that name. When was it made?”

“I don’t know. Last week sometime. The company made it. Is it under RB Limited?”

Her manicured fingers click-clacked on the keyboard. How did women type with nails?

“Sorry. Do you have a confirmation letter?”

I fished into my bag and pulled out the print-off of the confirmation email. I’d been here too many times before, stranded at hotels that had not heard of me, or that wouldn’t let me put food and drink on the room without a credit card.

“Oh, I’m ever so sorry. I know what’s happened. This was last Monday, and we had a power cut. The computer must have lost it.” She seemed genuinely sorry, so sorry I felt sorry on her behalf.

“So, does this mean you’re going to throw me out into the blistering heat, devoid of room and board?”

“Oh no. No, now I’ve got the confirmation I can enter it all in, and we’ve got plenty of rooms. Do you mind if I take a photocopy of this?”

“No, feel free. That’s the main reason I always print a copy out.”

“A seasoned traveller, eh?” she said with a smile, and I suddenly wished I was single and twenty years younger. She turned and disappeared into the back office. Make that thirty years younger.

A five hour train ride in unseasonably warm weather on a Sunday, no taxi at the end, no hotel booking. What a wonderful end to the weekend. Still, I wouldn’t want to be bored. Bored. I tried to remember what that was like. The receptionist bounced back behind the counter and handed my sheet of paper back.

“No problem, Mr Butler. Just bear with me while I just enter that into the system.” She stared at her photocopy as she rattled the keys in front of her. “Three nights, yes? There we go.” She turned to her printer as it chattered out a room card for me. “Room fifty-nine. That’s on the ground floor over there. Oh, and to make up for the muddle, here’s a ten percent discount card on drinks in the bar.”

“That’s very kind of you, but I’m not that upset.”

She leant forward conspiratorially. “Actually, we’re giving all residents the discount today. I just thought you’d feel better if you thought I was treating you as special.”

She giggled, and I couldn’t help chuckling back.

“Thanks. I’ll try to feel special. What time does the restaurant close?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, the kitchen’s closed on Sundays. We can do you a sandwich. Well, normally we can do you lots of sandwiches, but we’re waiting for a delivery. I’m afraid we’ve only got cheese or cheese and onion. Sorry.”

I wondered how many times she’d said sorry that day.

“I’ll go freshen up,” I said, “then I’ll decide on how to satisfy my epicurean appetite.”

“Um, yes, okay.”

I turned and made my way towards my room, cursing myself. ‘Satisfy my epicurean appetite?’ What sort of sentence was that? Could I make myself sound any more creepy? Idiot!

I phoned home, reassuring my wife I hadn’t been kidnapped and sold into slavery or succumbed to any of her other fears. I sniffed at my T-shirt and winced. I stank. I stripped off and ran the shower. The hotel had fixed a liquid soap dispenser to the wall and I soaped myself, adding the inventor of the hot shower to the pantheon of gods that contained the air-con deities.

Afterwards I stared at my god-like image in the mirror. Well, my glasses were in the bedroom and the mirror steamed up, but I was pretty sure it was god-like. I thought of some of the peculiar gods worshipped in far-flung rain forests. Best not to be too particular about exactly which god.

Yes, I deserved a ninety percent beer, even if the best accompaniment was a cheese and onion sandwich. Besides, I needed to dazzle the receptionist with my rapier-like wit to make up for ‘satisfying my appetite’ disaster. I grimaced into the mirror and squinted. No spinach on my teeth. Not surprising, as I’d last eaten spinach perhaps six months earlier. Maybe a dab of after-shave behind my ears.

With wet hands I picked up the bottle by the damp lid. It slipped, bounced off the edge of the hand basin and crashed onto the tiled floor. I looked down at the shards of green glass though the fug of chemical attraction. Other gods played chess with my life, and they weren’t all as benevolent as the air-con and shower gods.

Gingerly I binned the shards I could see. I took a giant step and placed my bare foot safely on the carpet in the bedroom. There would be other shards, I knew, too small for the naked eye, but too big for the naked sole. I dried myself off and dressed.

Approaching the reception desk I smiled apologetically.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Sir?”

“I dropped a bottle of after-shave on the bathroom floor. I’ve got the worst of it up, but there are little splinters of glass on the floor. Do you have a vacuum cleaner or something I can borrow?”

“No problem, sir. I’ll get my colleague to clean it up. Room fifty-nine?”

“Yes. I’m so sorry.” I wondered if I could match her tally of apologies.

“No problem. Is there anything else?”

“Yes. A cheese and onion sandwich and a pint of beer, please.”

“Certainly. I can’t leave the counter to make the sandwich until my colleague, um…”

“Comes back from clearing up my mess?”

“Yes.” She smiled. “Where are you sitting?”

I pointed out the table I’d occupy. She looked at my old and feeble hands.

“I’ll tell you what, sir. Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll bring your beer over to you.”

I slunk over to the table. Thirty years younger? And the rest.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

One Response to And The Rest

  1. snodlander says:

    Filed under fiction as about 5% didn’t actually happen

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