Part Four – Rats and Chocolate Brownies.
Back in room 202, I started to feel rushed and anxious. I considered taking another Vicodin, but decided to wait until after the drive. I emptied my pockets and tossed my phone on the newly made bed. As I tossed the phone I knew immediately that it was going to take an ugly bounce and hit the floor on the other side of the bed. Frustrated, I walked around the bed to pick up my phone. Somehow it had bounced a few feet under the bed. “Jesus”, I thought, “Don’t tell me it’s going to be one of those days.” I had to lay flat on the floor to get my arm in a position to reach the phone. I could just touch the phone with my outstretched fingers, it was intact, but I noticed something unusual under the bed. I turned on the flashlight app on the phone so I had some extra light. There were fresh scratches under the bed. I rubbed my little finger over one of the scratches. It felt rough and deep. My mind immediately went to the noise that woke me up early this morning. I shuddered and thought of how big a rat would have to be to make these scratches. I needed to let the front desk know about the scratches, but I had already lost fifteen minutes, so I decided to wait until after the drive. I quickly undressed and put on my thermal underwear. I had come prepared for bad weather. “Layers.” I said to myself as I slid into a pair of hiking pants. I put on a red flannel shirt, looked in the mirror and thought, “The Brawny paper towel guy has let himself go.”
I was putting on my hiking boots and had already laced my left boot. As I was stuffing my other foot into the right boot I heard a knock on the door. I hopped to the door and looked through the peep hole. It was the elf. I stomped down and felt the right boot slide the rest of the way on my foot. “How did she know what room I was in?” I thought. I didn’t remember telling her. I opened the door and without waiting for an invitation she slid past me and into the room.
“You ready?” she asked.
Confusion was on my face like an overlooked smear of mustard.
“Come on, don’t you know?” she asked, “I’m a twenty-five-year-old blonde, all I had to do was bat my eyes.” answering her own question. She smiled impishly and placed a hand on her hip.
“It figures.” I said, trying to bend over, and tie my right boot.
“I’m kidding.” she quipped, “If you must know. I called the front desk and told them that you were my father and I had forgotten your room number. I guess they felt sorry for me.”
I fell back in one of the arm chairs and continued working on my boot. “That’s even better.” I said, slightly annoyed.
She looked like she had dressed properly for the trip, although her jacket looked a little thin. She walked toward the bed and took a small sandwich bag out of her jacket pocket and threw it on the bed. “Here’s my ticket to ride.” she said, “You know what you older people used to say? Gas, Grass, or Ass, no one rides for free.”
“That was way before my time.” I replied as I walked over to the bed, boot still untied. I picked up the sandwich bag and held it out towards her. Two small chocolate cakes were in the bag. They looked like those mini brownies that you can buy at a truck stop. “Is this what I think it is?”
“Hey, do I need to remind you where we are?” she said, “We’re in Colorado, it is legal.” She took the bag from my hand, opened it, and offered me a brownie.
I paused for a moment. “Come on, old man.” She said showing that same impish grin and shaking the brownie in my face.
“You’re the devil.” I said, as I took the brownie from her hand. “I haven’t done this in over twenty years.”
“It’s not as bad as those.” she said, as she nodded toward the pill bottle on the nightstand.
Hoping to change the subject, I bit into the brownie and was immediately sorry I did. The brownie had the consistency of sawdust. “This is god-awful.” I mumbled as I tried to chew the brownie. Before I finished the first bite, I quickly popped the rest of the brownie in my mouth. It didn’t get any better.
Not really my choice for desert.” She said, “But they get the job done.” She took the other brownie out of the bag and popped the whole thing in her mouth.
I pulled two water bottles out of the mini-fridge, offered her one, and began to rinse my mouth. The water helped a little, but I still had bits of brownie stuck in my teeth.
“Let’s get started.” I said as I grabbed my down vest and gestured to the door. She didn’t say a word, but walked to the door. “Hold on a sec.” I said and waved her back. I still had not tied my boot. I sat down in the chair again and re-laced the boot. When I was satisfied, I stood up, grabbed my backpack, and held the door open for her. As we down the stairs my mind briefly went back to the scratches under the bed. “Rats”, I shuddered.