Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hate to Wait--A Short Story

The short story below, written in 2001, was my first attempt at fiction since perhaps 7th grade.  It may be a bit rough, but I hope you enjoy the effort anyway.  I based the premise on a dream I had once in a hotel room.  If you do read the story, you'll understand the significance of that fact.

I must warn you.  This story is a bit dark...and at a couple of points maybe a bit gross.  Read on, if you dare.  Mike

Hate to Wait
Dan Curley woke at 6:00am, just like every morning.  It was very important to him to keep
a consistent schedule because everything works better when you’re consistent.  This particular morning he felt rather crappy.  He’d been out drinking with clients the night before, and he’d had at least one too many.  He was hungover, his head throbbed, and his mouth was sticking together, but he got up.  He forced himself.

He sat on the side of his bed in his boxer shorts, rubbed his face, and looked around.  His wife was still asleep.  She lay there, breathing deeply, and smiling with contentment.  Most men would think this a good thing, and would leave the little woman alone, but not Dan.  It ticked him off!  If she were still asleep, he would have to wait for his breakfast.

Dan got off the bed and began to rummage around.  He banged a few drawers and threw some shoes loudly into the closet.  He bumped into the bed and knocked some pictures off of his wife’s curio table before she finally stirred.

“Mornin’,” she mumbled.

“You finally awake?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” she replied with a yawn.

“Good,” he said.  “You better get movin’.  I don’t wanna wait for breakfast.”

“I know.  I know.  No waiting for Big Dan.”

“Don’t call me that!  You know I hate that!”

“You hate everything, Dan.”  With that she scurried out of the room. 

A few moments later, as Dan pulled together the last of his clothes for the day, he heard the toilet flush and his wife’s footsteps heading for the kitchen.  This was good.  Maybe he wouldn’t have to wait for breakfast after all.

As he stepped out of the bedroom toward their only full bathroom to take a shower, he saw the door close.  Kristen, his sixteen-year-old daughter, had beaten him in.  This really honked him off!  She took forever in the shower and spent what seemed like an eternity in front of the mirror.  Lately, she’d made it her goal in life to beat him to the shower in the morning.

“Kristen, let me in first.  I’ve gotta go to work.”

“Sorry, Pops.  Beatcha again.”  She replied.  “Guess you’ll just hafta wait.”  A little giggle leaked through the crack around the door.

She wasn’t coming out.  She’d beaten him and he would have to wait.  He hated to wait.  He hated lines.  He hated waiting rooms at doctor’s offices.  He hated anywhere where he had to wait.  Of all the things that Dan hated, he hated waiting the most, but wait he would.

He rubbed his face, again.  His head was beginning to pound.  He hated hangovers, too.  The night before, he’d taken two prospective customers to Bambi’s Palace, a strip club on the other side of town.  Despite the fun time Bill and Ron, the customers, thought he was having, he hated that too.  Oh sure, he liked the girls.  He liked to look at their bodies and lust over their youthful figures.  He got his jollies just like most other men.  He just didn’t want to be there with those losers.  Outwardly, Dan gave the impression that he really liked these fellows.  He laughed at their stupid jokes and looked at their stupid family pictures.  He made them feel special.  All the while, he despised them.

He did it because it was his job.  He was a salesman for an industrial supply chain.  He traveled a territory and did the wining and dining routine.  He put on the smiling face, but he hated his job too.  It felt like waiting tables.  Dan hated to wait.

Rather than stand outside the bathroom, he busied himself with preparing his necessary supplies and clothes for the next few days.  He was going to be on the road for the better part of the next week.  Hotel rooms would be his home, restaurants his kitchen.  That suited him just fine.  His wife was a nagger, and her cooking left a lot to be desired.  The one thing in life he seemed to enjoy was being away from his family.

Kristen finally emerged after almost a half an hour and Dan pushed past her as she came out.  He gave her a sour look and grumbled about how long she’d taken.  He jumped right at it and was completely showered and shaved in less than fifteen minutes.  He had this routine down to an art.  As he came back out, Kristen ambled back in.  She wasn’t even close to being finished.

Kristen didn’t speak much to her father.  She knew that he didn’t really like her.  He never spoke to her unless she’d done something that he especially disapproved of.  He never took an interest in her education or her sports.  He didn’t know who her friends were.  She felt alienated from him and she resented him for it.

Dan went downstairs and his day got worse.  The breakfast wasn’t ready.  Jan, his wife had burnt the toast and spilled the eggs on the floor.  She’d started over.  He had to wait, and he hated it.

“You’re such a klutz,” he said.

“Thank you, Sweetheart.  You’re such an encouragement,” Jan replied.

“Just hurry up.  I need to get going.”

Jan said nothing more.  She finished up the second breakfast that she’d fixed for him that morning and sat it in front of him.  Then she wandered off into the family room to watch a morning news program.  She was just as alienated from Dan as her daughter.  She used to love him, about a million years before when he had been young, handsome, and very sweet.  Now, that sweetness had turned sour and she was biding her time.  She wouldn’t leave yet, but leave she would.  As soon as Kristen was grown and on her own, Jan would move on.  She needed this awful man at the moment, so stay she must, and stay she would.  She didn’t mind waiting.

Dan finished breakfast, loaded his car, and left without a word to his wife or daughter.  He just hopped in and sped off.  He thought life was better in the car.  He was away from his ball and chain.  He popped a couple of aspirin without water (He thought chewing them made him tougher.) and headed south.

He needed gas, so he pulled into the Food-n-Fill.  His frustration immediately resurfaced because of a line at the pump.  He would have to wait.  After a few grueling minutes, he finally reached the pump and started to fill his tank.  He couldn’t get the pump to work, and as he stood there looking dumbfoundedly at the nozzle, a voice sounded over the intercom.

“You have to prepay,” the voice said.


“You have to prepay.”

He mumbled some crude words to himself as he trotted off toward the attendant.

Most people didn’t have to prepay, only Dan Curley.  Julie, the attendant, had been the target of several of Dan’s outbursts and she went out of her way to make his life difficult.  She knew he had very little choice for fuel.  The only other station in the area was five miles in the other direction.  If he was in a hurry, and he always was, he would have to come in the Food-n-Fill.

When Dan got inside, his pressure gauge registered a new high.  There were four people in line ahead of him.  He stood there, waiting, rocking from foot to foot for nearly ten minutes before he finally got Julie’s attention.

“Come on!  I’m in a hurry!” he nearly shouted.

At that, Julie slowed down.

“Oh, sorry,” she lied.  “I’ve gotta change the receipt roll in the register.  It’ll only a minute.”

She loved to see him squirm.  She felt a particular satisfaction if she could force the veins in his neck to stand out.  They were way out this morning.  Steam was practically puffing out of his ears.  He paid her and mumbled some obscenities as he rushed out the door.  He’d get her back.  He didn’t know how or when, but he knew he would.

He pumped his gas and got back on the road.  As he merged onto I-65, his frustration level returned to its normal level, which is a few notches higher than most every one else.  He had 200 hundred miles to go and only three hours to do it in.  He had to buzz, but that was his normal mode of operation anyway.

Ten minutes into the trip, traffic halted and Dan popped his first gasket of the day.  He began to cuss out loud and wave his arms wildly.  He honked his horn.  He cursed the windshield.  He had to wait.  He hated to wait.

When he got himself under control, he turned on the radio and learned that there had been an accident about a mile ahead at the mouth of a new construction zone.  This would be slow going.

Eventually, traffic began to move just a bit and Dan began to try to improve his position in the line.  He darted in front of traffic moving up on his left.  Then, moments later, darted back into the right lane as it began to move.  He gave a guy in a red Camaro the finger, when the guy took exception with his horn to one of Dan’s more daring moves.  They exchanged some more pleasantries and then were separated by the moving traffic.

The balance of his day was much of the same.  He reached his first appointment twenty minutes late and had to wait to see a man that he could have seen right away, if he’d been on time.  He had to wait fifteen minutes to get a table at lunch.  He had to wait another half an hour for a new customer who had taken another salesman into his office just before Dan came in.  This especially frustrated him because he was on time and the other guy didn’t have an appointment.  Of course, he just stuffed this because, after all, this guy was his customer.

He reached his hotel after having to wait forty-five minutes for a table at dinner.  It seemed that was all he had done all day.  Wait, wait, and wait.  He hated to wait.  The front desk attendant was sorting some papers.

“I’ll be right with you, Mr. Curley,” she said as she looked up.  She’d recognized him.  How could you forget someone as disagreeable as Mr. Daniel F. Curley of 1173 Freemont Court, Mandalay, Indiana 47775?  Thank you very much!

“You’ll be with me right now,” he demanded.

“Yes, sir.”  She said and dropped her papers.  Unlike Julie at the Food n Fill, Fran needed her job.  She couldn’t afford to displease even a client this nasty.  Her boss just wouldn’t understand.

“I want that corner room again.  The bigger one with the double beds, smoking, of course.”

“I think that one is taken, Mr. Curley.”

“Look, you homely little high school reject!  I want that room.  Do you understand what I’m tryin’ to get into that little brain of yours?  Huh?”

“But, Mr. Curley…”

“Don’t ‘but’ me sweetheart!  I don’t care what your excuse is, just get me what I want, and I don’t want to wait another minute for it.  NOW!”

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I was mistaken.”  Fran was near tears, but she refused to show it.  She wasn’t mistaken, of course.  The room was already spoken for, but that party hadn’t arrived yet.  They had to be more reasonable than this jerk.

“Of course, you’re mistaken.  You’re a walkin’ mistake.”  Dan wouldn’t let up.

Fran couldn’t hold it in any longer.  Her eyes began to tear up and her mouth to quiver.  She held it together long enough to get Dan checked in and then began to cry bitterly.

“Oh, by the way,” Dan said, as he began to walk away, “Make sure that you inform your stupid little housekeeping pests not to come in my room if the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is on the door.”

“Yes, sir,” she struggled to say.

“Don’t screw that up,” Dan continued.  “Last time it was ignored and I was woken from a dead sleep for a stupid nighttime turn down.  If you screw that up, I’ll have you fired!  You got that?”

“I’ve got it.”

Dan didn’t realize that that last instruction was the worst mistake he’d made all day.  Oblivious to the events that were to transpire in the upcoming hours, he headed for his room.

“You know, you’re just not a nice man,” a small woman, also a guest in the hotel, offered her assessment.  “I suspect one day you’ll regret that.”

“Who pulled your chain?”  Dan asked, and went on to his room.

He opened the door, placed the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outer handle, and pulled his bags inside.  Finally, he could relax.  No more ignorant clerks.  No more slow-minded, speed-deficient waiters.  He could kick back, watch TV, and not have to think about anyone else but himself for the next eight hours or so.

He heard a buzzing.  Looking around, he let out some more crude words as he realized he was not truly alone.  A housefly had entered with him, and he followed it around the room with his eyes, annoyed at the extra trouble.  He’d have to find another hotel the next time he came here.  Between the incompetent help and the flies, the place was going to the dogs.  He rolled up some work papers into a makeshift fly swatter and chased it around.  He couldn’t catch and kill it, but he cornered it in the bathroom and locked it in.

Dan undressed to his boxers, pulled back the covers, adjusted the room temperature, and turned the tube to HBO (hoping for something that showed a little skin).  Now that he had the room adjusted, he accessed the whiskey bottle that he kept stored in his duffel bag.  As he pulled it out, a small bottle of tranquilizers slid out.

“Oh, well.” He said, “I might as well.  It’s been a tough day.”

Popping a few pills, he chased it down with the whiskey.  He poured another glass of the stuff and lay back on the bed.  Oh, how nice it felt to just zone out!  It would be more perfect if it weren’t for the slight tightness he felt in his chest.  He might have been concerned, but it had been a long day.  He was just really, really tired.  He sipped some more whiskey and then closed his eyes for a few seconds.

A short time later, out in the hallway, Maria began the nightly task of turning down the bed covers.  Maria was a good worker but not all that bright.  She sometimes neglected to pay attention to the signs hanging on the doors.  She had walked in on several embarrassing situations.  Most people didn’t complain, and those who did, Fran would pamper until they were satisfied.

After Dan had checked in, Fran had to take a few minutes to gather herself.  By the time she had, more customers had arrived and she had gotten herself swamped with check-ins.  She nearly forgot to warn Maria about Mr. Curley.  Realizing what time it was, she panicked, darted around the counter and sprinted down the hall. 

Fran rounded the corner just in time to see Maria knock on Dan’s door.

“Maria, no!” she screamed.

Maria jumped and spun around.  She looked like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“Oh, Fran, you scare me to death,” she said with her unusual accent.  “Why you not want me do my job?”

“I do, Maria, just not that room.  Come on.  Let’s get back around the corner before he opens the door.”

Inside, Dan heard the knock and opened his eyes.  Anger welled up and coursed through his veins.  He would have both the maid’s and the desk attendant’s jobs before the night was over! 

In the two seconds between the knock and when he opened eyes, several thoughts flashed through his mind: That little dipstick maid was trying to get in to turn down his bed.  He would get her and that stupid clerk fired this time.  He was a good customer.  He deserved better treatment than this.  He was in the sales business and he knew good service when he experienced it.  He wasn’t experiencing it now.  No, this was last straw, the one that broke the camel’s back.  He would get them.  He wouldn’t wait until morning.  He’d get up right now, and finish the job.

He tried to yell at the door.  He couldn’t.

He tried to get up.  He couldn’t.

He couldn’t move.  He couldn’t turn his head.  He couldn’t speak.  It was like his brain, while aware of everything around him, had forgotten every motor skill.  He couldn’t even move his eyes.  He could see, but only straight-ahead, and he could hear.  That was all.

His sudden anger just as suddenly turned to terror.  What was wrong with him?  Did someone drug him?  Was he in some kind of coma?  His mind was racing, trying to get a grip.

He tried to force a word, a sound, a grunt.  Anything!  Nothing would come.  He tried to move his little finger.  Nothing!  His little toe.  Nothing, again!  Panic overwhelmed his mind, and he blacked out.

Out in the lobby, Fran and Maria were leaning on the check-in counter and discussing the jerk in the corner room.  They were both thankful that Fran had intervened when she did.  Both wished that Mr. Curley would change hotels in the future.

At home, Jan and Kristen enjoyed a nice evening together.  They ordered pizza and rented a movie on DVD.  They curled up together on the sofa, more like friends than mother and daughter, laughing and enjoying an evening of peace.  Both blurted out wishes that Dan wouldn’t come back.  Both claimed to be joking.  Both were lying. 

Some time later, he woke again.  He was flat on his back.  He could see light flashing off the ceiling from the TV that he’d left on for company.  The volume was low, so he could only hear murmurs.

It must have been a dream, he thought.  He had to go to the john; his bladder was full, so he tried to get up.  Again, he couldn’t move!  Again, he tried to scream for help and nothing came out!  Again, he panicked and blacked out.

When the night shift clerk came in at 11:30, Fran warned him that Mr. Curley was in the hotel.

“Oh, no.  Not him, he’s such a horrible dude.” He said.

“At least he’s asleep when you’re here.”

“Yeah, well, sometimes I’m still here when he checks out in the morning.”

At that, Fran wished him luck and left for the night, free of the fear that Dan Curley would come screaming out to the counter to complain about some minor inconvenience.  “Ya know, if he died tonight, it wouldn’t be too soon for me,” were her parting words.

Jan and Kristen had gone to sleep.  They always slept better without Dan at home.  It was just so much more peaceful.

When he woke for the third time, he knew it wasn’t a dream.  He was immediately aware of his predicament, and started looking for a way to get help.  That line of thought didn’t last long because there wasn’t anything he could do.  He would have to wait for help to arrive.  He hated to wait.

As he lay there looking at the same spot on the ceiling, he became aware of his other senses.  He realized he could hear so many little things when not distracted by looking around, and he tried to pass the time by deciphering each sound.  He could hear the TV and people passing in the hallway. 

Then he could hear smaller things.  He could hear the hum of the combination heater/air conditioner and the wind blowing past the windowpanes.  He could hear his Swiss-made watch ticking on his wrist.  He could even hear the fly buzzing around in the bathroom.

The one thing that he suddenly realized he couldn’t hear was his heart.  Surely, if he could hear watches ticking and flies buzzing, he ought to be able to hear his own heart. 

A wave of renewed concern swept over him, and he wanted so much for that sweet little maid to walk in on him now.  She was such a cute, innocent little girl, if only she would realize that she had forgotten his room.  He began to wish it with great intensity and longing.  He wished it so hard that he hoped he could make it happen.  He wanted to see her beautiful face more than anyone else’s in the world.


The buzzing of the fly was getting louder, and louder, and louder.  It was out.  It wasn’t trapped in the bathroom anymore.  It had gotten out somehow.  But, how?  He knew that he had latched the door.  Maybe, it crawled under, or maybe there were two.  Buzz, buzzzzzzzzz.  It was irritating him, penetrating his mind, and driving sharp needles into his brain.  Just when he thought he would lose his mind completely, it went quiet.

It was on his nose.  He couldn’t see it.  He couldn’t even do that cross-eyed thing and look at it.  He could only feel it.  It was a little tickle on the tip.  Oh, he wanted to brush it off so bad!  Then he could feel it moving around, exploring the oil-filled pours of his skin.  It was probing him for tiny morsels to devour; and when it found one, it would puke on it and suck it back up.  He had to get it off!  He couldn’t take it.  Inside he was screaming, but outside he was as calm as a cool, spring morning.

The fly moved down over the end of his nose, and fluttered around on his upper lip.  It flew off briefly and then landed on his eyeball.  Dan watched the dark form scamper here and there; unable to even blink to drive it off.  Drawn by its instincts, and since there didn’t seem to be any apparent danger, the insect moved into Dan’s right nostril.  His whole body was on fire!  He could feel it moving around inside his nose.  It was probably laying eggs.  He began to mentally plead with God: Oh, God!  Please help me!  Please!  I’ll do anything, just please help me!  Finally, he blacked out for a third time.

The young man behind the hotel counter finished the third chapter of the hot, new novel he’d just picked up.  There wasn’t much to do but wait for morning.  Then again, he wasn’t in any hurry, he didn’t mind waiting.

Jan was dreaming that she was on a pleasure cruise to some Caribbean island, alone.  No, she wasn’t alone.  She had a man with her.  It was a different man, a new husband.

Kristen was dreamless.  She was simply resting, cuddling an old, tattered teddybear.

Dan awoke to buzzing again.  This time so loud, it was blowing his eardrums.  It was too loud to be the fly.  It was the alarm, and he couldn’t turn it off.  It just buzzed, and buzzed, and kept buzzing. 

At least he couldn’t feel the fly anymore.  It must have finished its business and moved on.  When he got out of this, he would have to have his doctor take a long look inside that nostril.  He didn’t want any maggots crawling out of his nose.

Oh, the buzzing!  Please stop the buzzing!

The bladder that he wanted to empty earlier was now at total capacity.  Worse yet, he now had to take a bowel movement.  He couldn’t move anything else, but his bowels could move themselves.  He soiled his bed, and his bladder released.  A weird combination of humiliation and relief swept over him.

The buzzing finally ended.

He lay there for another hour, and watched the light gradually increase in the room as the sun came up outside.  It was morning; his rescue was close at hand. 

He vowed to change.  He would be a different man.  He would love his wife and his daughter.  He would be kind, patient, and even friendly.  He would leave tips and open doors for people.  Oh, his life would be different.  He would change.

Suddenly, he sensed the presence of someone else in the room.  He hadn’t heard the door.  How did he get in without his being aware of it?  He couldn’t hear him.  He couldn’t see him.  He couldn’t even smell him, but he knew he was there.  He didn’t know how, but he knew.  Then, just as suddenly, he could move.

He felt the power flow back into his body, and he lifted his arms and looked at them.  He sat up on the side of the bed and rubbed his face.  Finally, he looked over and witnessed the spectacle of the presence standing in front of his window.

He couldn’t see the face.  It was hooded under a black cape.  There were bright red eyes peering at him from the darkness, and an odd, thin tongue flickered in and out of the light.  The cape hung down and covered all but his hands and his feet.  The hands were bone white with long, slender fingers and blood red nails.  The feet were hooves like those of horses or cattle.

“Hello, Dan Curley.  I am so sorry to keep you waiting,” said the being with a hint of sarcasm.

“Who, uh, who are you?”  Dan’s fear was evident in his voice.

“Me?  Oh, I am your humble escort.”

“Eh, eh, escort?” He stuttered.  “To where?”

“Oh, I think you know.”

“I don’t think I want to go anywhere with you.”

“Well, I get that often.  But, you do not actually have a choice in the matter.  You see, you have a meeting with your Maker, and He does not like to be kept waiting.  No, no, no.  He does not like to wait at all.”

Dan stood to run.  Maybe if he made it to the door, he could make this thing go away!  As he turned, he looked down and saw feet still in his bed!  He spun and saw his own face staring up from the pillow!

“What’s going on?” he demanded.

“Oh, you are a dense one, are you not?” was the escort’s reply.

“Am I dead?”

“Now, your eyes are opening.  Come now let us go.  It is time for your appointment.”

A white, slender hand extended out, caught Dan by the neck, and pulled him in.  The cloak enveloped him, and a feeling of overwhelming dread came over him.

“By the way, if you liked last night’s accommodations, just wait until you see your next room!  Ah, but you don’t like to wait, do you Mr. Curley?  Well, that is fine.  There will be no more waiting for you.  No, your time has arrived.”  They left together, as the escort bellowed in laughter.

At home, Jan and Kristen woke rested and with an unexpected renewal, eager to face the future.

No one ever missed Dan Curley.


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