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October 4, 2018

38. A Sticky Situation at Comfort Stay

Eli Sanders is the owner and executive operator of a small boutique hotel, Comfort Stay, of which I am the front office manager. I say small boutique hotel but really its just small. Its average. Really the hotel is only one floor, 52 rooms in all. Its just off the interstate but New Mexico a lot of things are just off the interstate. Or in the middle of the desert. Or both. Our online ratings are mediocre but I don’t think anyone checks our online status/credentials when booking a few nights at Comfort Stay. Its privately owned, so that’s nice—Sanders calls all the shots.

Sanders calls me into his office. His executive chair is splitting vinyl and retains the rank smell of his soft rump. “We need a new General Manager,” he says in a monotone voice of gruffness. His huge double chin amplifies his tone. His sausage fingers can barely bend but they’re interlaced nonetheless. “Sanchez found a mouse in the honey but as long as no one gets sick we can just ignore it. Either way, he’s got to go. Been on my nerves for months and this is a great excuse.” The mouse in the honey is nothing to do with Miranda since he is Head Landscaper and Head Chef and Head of Housekeeping all at once. Sanders doesn’t get along with too many people and somehow he gets along with me. It’s a mystery since I don’t even like Sanders. So I nod and agree Miranda has to go.

Miranda is called into the break room to meet Sanders who has requested I be there as well, for security reasons or something. Johnathan Miranda is his full name and he hates we use his last name like we do. I look down in Sanders’ trash bin and see a half-finished bag of chips. I think to myself, I’ll sneak back in and finish those off. I have a thing for trash. Not in a gross way or anything. Sometimes I dig through full trash bags for the thrill of it. One man’s trash..., they say. I know just when to let a trash bin get give full enough that Sanders won’t yell at me for not changing it but that it has enough treasure to rummage through. Of course it’s disgusting but I bet I’ve nabbed over twenty bucks in ones and change through our hotel trash cans.

“The mouse in the honey was the last straw, Miranda. Take your belongings, this is your last day. We’ll pay your next stub in advance as some sort of severance,” Sanders says dryly and halfhearted.

Miranda’s face reddens and he visibly clenches a fist. He turns and kicks a waste bin as hard as he can and cracks the plastic. We can still put a bag in the broken frame. Miranda is gone.

“Good riddance,” Sanders says, mostly to himself. Sanders opens a bag of chips and devours them without looking up at me. Another bag of Crunch Deluxe for me to finish off later. He often opens the front of the vending machine with his keys and takes from the lot without paying. I excuse myself and go to the bathroom. I wonder if there even was a mouse in the honey.

A few days later Sanders has me post some signs around the water fountain and front desk. We’re under a State Drought Advisory. I see a man in a full tuxedo run by outside. Folks in average clothes running around are a mystery. In jogging clothes makes sense but people running in jeans and suits and dresses look like they’re being chased and running for their lives, I think. Wonder where this guy is going. There isn’t much for a few miles in that direction.

I see Miranda in his car in the lot. It’s been three days since Sanders let him go.

Then the power goes out. This happens semi regularly in part because of poor wiring  and in part because we don’t always pay the bill on time. Luckily most of the tenants turn over before experiencing power outages two consecutive nights. Still, it does happen at least once a month or more. I go downstairs to manually turn our generators on and find some flashlights—same place I put them two weeks ago.

A few hours later Sanders tells me he’s got a good lead on the General Manager role. I tell Sanders I think I’m getting tunnel vision, maybe its stress, but he says our insurance doesn’t cover optometry. The new guy starts tomorrow. Maybe he can fix our electrical issue. I try to forget the vignetting on my vision.

“No, really. No, really. Really. Seriously,” the new General Manager says over and over. His name is Brian. Brian was incarcerated but since it was over seven years ago Sanders agrees to bring him on with a heavy two week probation. Brian seems like a nice guy. He used to work at a VHS and DVD rental store before his girlfriend turned him in for animal cruelty. He seems to care about our landscaping rather than just mowing the grass once a month like Miranda used to. And yesterday I got a real compliment on the continental breakfast from a guest.

“Anyway, I should clean up Room 47. Someone complained of stains on the ceiling,” Brian says. He and Sanders have been getting along nicely and giving me some space to try to do my job. “Have you seen the hedge shears, kid?” he asks and I say no. Why would I ever see or use the hedge shears? I’m the Front Desk Manager. He smiles and walks away with a fake looking limp. I think I like Brian.

“Eli Sanders! Today is your day to die!” Jonathan Miranda kicks in Sanders’ office door but its bounces back and Miranda has to nudge it back open more to keep his intimidating entrance. He’s waving Brian’s hedge shears and walking toward Sanders. I think he plans on killing him and my ears start to throb. My vision starts to fade. I’m not about to get in between those two. This is moving in slow motion and I want to teleport to the front desk and help someone check in to their room. Sanders has a perfect blend of pure anger and sheer terror pasted in his face. His armpits are dark and beads of sweat fall from every inch of his pink flesh.

Brian storms back in and pulls a Major League Baseball move and chucks something in the back of Miranda’s head. I think his skull has bashed open and piece fly everywhere but I its glass and Miranda falls hard. A total knockout. Something sticky is all over the back of his head with a bit of blood. I guess the glass did some damage. The floor is sticky too. Brian looks at me and Sanders and says he’s sorry and that guy seemed like he was dangerous with the shears and yelling and all. Of course he doesn’t know we just fired Miranda. He was refilling the honey at the breakfast bar and came back to this creeper waving shears so he just threw a good fast pitch of a jar of honey.

The police arrive and take Miranda in. Sanders, Brian, and myself have to give statements. The rest seems kind of a blur and I think Sanders is going to tell me to take the rest of the day off but then I see a line at the front desk finish another six hours, dazed at the events. I lay on the hood of my car and look up into the western night sky and all the stars are out, dripping in their sweet honey light.

This story was very much inspired by George Saunders—as seen in the hotel owner, Sanders.