The heater made the room too hot. Waking with a glow of sweat he cracked the window too far and slipped back into bed. Better cold than hot. The morning was pleasant cold; in the hills, trees and water the cold wasn’t as hard. Shocking cold was gone, this cold simply woke you and promised the sun would change everything for the better if you could get to it. Camping cold, that sleeping bag/tent moment full of dread but pregnant with promise. The water sang as he peed into the bowl. How many billions of men had listened to that sound this very morning. Who was peeing on trees, or in the shower or God knows where. He liked a man doing an average, everyday thing.
Putting on his pants he hops on one foot, off balance. Change and keys jingle and clink, there’s a moment of fear he may fall. It’s another day and he only has two things on his mind, breakfast and a ride upstream. Sitting on the bed he sniffs one of yesterday’s sock. Good enough, but laundry day was here. He needs to stop at a laundromat and buy a packet of soap so he can stomp on his clothes clean in the shower tonight. It was time to play Maytag man. For the first time in a long time he looked forward to the day and forward to returning to the town and the room. Usually he gets itchy fast and wants to be off, or returns only because it’s where he knows there’s a berth. This feeling was warmer, familiar. For some reason this place was safe harbor. Home base in a game of tag. Feeling like he wanted to stay close enough he could hurry back he finishes dressing and steps out the door; which won’t stay closed as he steps out. He closes it. It pops open. Closed. Open. Pull. Soft scrape of metal on wood. Pop. Swings inward. Open. Mumbling. “Now you’re just trying to piss me off.” A hard, sharp pull and slam. The door stays. He jingles the knob. Things seem tight. To the bike. Quick check. Leg over. Helmet on. Clean start up and with the chunk of first gear he’s gone.
The ride to the Riverside is quick. The blue Corolla is on the far edge of the lot. The bulging full lot. What the fuck day is it? It must be Saturday or Sunday, the place is packed out. He’d park in the employee’s area and sit at the counter but there isn’t one. Yesterday he had walked in and been lost without chrome and red leather stools with a long counter and a pie case. It was some kind of converted building that didn’t start as a diner and no one had ever stuck one in. A tree without a trunk is a bush and a diner without a counter is a restaurant. Perhaps it was that lack of a diner’s heart that give the different vibe he had liked. A parking lot full of people liked it as well. The majority of plates were local; which he liked. Not a lot of tourists is a good sign.
Where to wait? Not feeling like standing around waiting for a senior citizen to finish gumming a waffle to death he turns the bike around and heads back to the motel. Hustling a little bit as he makes the turn into the motel lot he sees his room’s door standing open but no housekeeping cart. Rolling up hot he skids the rear wheel a bit as he stops then flicks down the side stand, parks up and dismounts. With one hand on the door he carefully pushes it open, making sure he isn’t leading with his head. The room is empty. He checks behind the bed. Nothing. Closet empty. A sound from the bathroom. A rustling behind the cracked door. Softly turning to face the door he listen. Sound like someone is shaking out a towel. Maybe it is housekeeping.
Shaking stops. Motion. Soft rustling again. Step toward the door. One hand with a gentle push. Rustling stops.
A small dog holding one of his socks sticks it’s head around the door.