By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA
After seven straight hours of hell driving through griddle hot Houston, we arrive in the dark at La Grange, Texas. We are George the parrot, Mouse the dachshund, and Lorry and me. I am road blind, sun blind, weary unto death.
So we stop at the first motel we see. It's quite a ways off the main drag. The signs around the place – some neon, some not – say, Well Come, Frens! Tired though I am, I notice that the motel spells it Bait on some signs and Baits on others.
Time to crash.
We have resigned ourselves to do nothing but sleep. The room is a small broken-down adobe on a side alley where scrawny dogs slink into the shadows away from our headlight glare.
Okay, so it smells like my uncle Willie's unwashed underwear – this rundown room that is to be our overnight home away from home.
So we pay fifty bucks for an eight by eight migrant shack with no windows – they are all boarded up and painted blue to scare off the werewolves and witches.
Are we the bait of the Baits Motel?
Lorry opens the fridge and it is blue with mold. Well, at least the color is coordinated with the boarded-up windows.
And on top of a 1950s b/w TV there is an insouciant cockroach picking his teeth. The TV doesn't work. The AC unit wheezes and coughs with such cacophony, we turn it off and endure the paint-blistering Texas heat.
Lorry states facts: "I will not undress in this place, nor will I get under the covers even if attacked by tarantulas!"
"Of which there must be many," I add.
George cackles from his perch: "What it is."
"Yes," I reply, "but what is it?"
"What it is," he answers.
In the bathroom there are two tiny towels stolen from Motel 6. Lorry sniffs them. "Mold and more mold," she says. We decide, after all those hours of sweaty driving, to take a shower, for better or worse. The shower must have been a storage unit for coal, either that or another mold garden. The cockroach joins us, we jump out leaving the cockroach to dance by himself. We dry ourselves with our crummy, sweaty T-shirts.
Surprisingly the bathroom, so-called, has a tiny window and it is open a crack. I crack it wider and see some old men crouched around a steel barrel emitting fountains of evil-smelling coal smoke. I try to shut the window but it won't shut. There is an explosion of laughter from the old men. They're telling jokes. George thinks this is really funny and he starts laughing, very gratingly, with them. They are silent for a moment, then they laugh even louder than George, and George laughs louder than them, and Lorry says, "Let's get out of here."
But we don't. We decide instead to try to beat the odds, and sleep. After all, Mouse, the dachshund, is happy on her sheepskin bed. George is still chuckling with the old men of the smoking barrel, and as they say, we're all in this together.
I suppose, by lying down on top of the moldy-smelling mattress in our clean clothes, we have passed the dharma test. Life is suffering. We suffer, they suffer, we all suffer.
All except Mouse who is snoring, treading the light fantastic, having dreamy dreams of happy fleece.
All except George who whispers, "What it is."
And, finally, in his bleariest Baits motel voice, "Nighty night."