It was a slow day at the hotel. I kept checking my walkie-talkie to make sure it was on. I went down to the laundry room.
“What’s up Mr. Moneybags,” Olivia said. She thought it was fucked up I got tips for doing a job that was much easier than hers. She was right, I guess. I made up for it by getting pizza and sodas for the laundry staff when I had a particularly good day.
“Shit,” I said. “Nothing at all.”
“Help me fold this,” she said.
We did a folding-the-sheet dance. Pretending it was like a tango. She laughed.
“Want a soda?”
“Sprite, please,” she said.
“Alice, soda?” I liked Alice. She told me once how she stabbed her ex-husband in the arm once when he was drunk and beating on her.
“I’ll take a Coke please, hon, thank you,” she said.
I felt good when Alice called me hon.
I bought the sodas and handed them out. I sat by the fan.
“It’s hot as shit in here,” I said. “Fuck.”
Olivia looked at me and smiled. I’d taken her out a few times. Ice cream. Stuff like that. I went to a dance club with her and her friends and then we sat on the beach for a while kissing and screwing around.
Alice was always teasing her about me, she told me.
“Alice what are you doing tonight?” I said.
“I told you I’m too old for you,” she said and laughed. “’Besides I gotta study for my mortuary school test.”
She said dying was a good business to get into. She didn’t mind working with the dead. “They just bodies,” she said. She said sometimes dead bodies would sigh or fart or make other noises to expel excess air while they were on the slab. She told me she got so scared the first time it happened to her she almost shit herself. Then she laughed. Her laugh made you want to laugh too. I thought how it would be good if the dead could at least laugh.
“What’s the test on?”
Olivia’s friend Jolene stopped by the door and waved and Olivia went out on a break with her.
“Different identification techniques, ways of determinin’ cause of death and stuff,” Alice said.
“Like what kind of techniques?”
“Like for instance, if you discover a body decomposing in the forest and you wanna know how long it’s been out there, well, one of the ways is to find the biggest maggot feeding on it. You can tell how old the maggot is then you can have a good idea about how long the body’s been out there.”
“Damn,” I said. “That’s smart.”
“Help me fold this motherfucker,” Alice said holding a sheet up. “You gonna dance with me too?”
I smiled. We danced. Like dancing skeletons.
The wedding party had reached the state of untucked shirts, barefoot dancing, stained white dresses and the rounds and rounds of sticky neon-colored shots. The guests were either sleepy or giddy either fighting or screaming with joy. The staff was dressed in all black and we all spoke to the guests in the most excited and happy tones while we held back the hate in our eyes. Knowing that this was all huge a mess to be cleaned up later. The bride was in the center of a circle of dancing girls. The groom was doing shots. I was picking up empty glasses and putting them on a tray. I was feeling in a sort of trance from some Percocet the bartender had given me earlier and during a lull in the action I’d snuck up to the roof to take a little puff.
I saw something shining in the red light at the edge of the dance floor. I walked over and bent down and picked it up. It was a small diamond. Nobody was looking at me. Nobody ever really saw the staff. I bent down, picked it up and put it in my pocket. It was a diamond. A rare jewel among the scuffed shoes and bare, dirty feet.
I wondered how much a little diamond was worth. Maybe a couple thousand dollars?
The song changed to one of those big choreographed wedding dance songs and suddenly everyone was rushing to the floor dragging someone else behind them and arranging themselves in rows.
I decided to take the trash out. Maybe I’d never come back. Take my diamond to a pawn broker and quit.
I had grabbed two big bags full of beer bottles and took them down the stairs. You could hear the happy screams and music booming from the ballroom. On the last flight of stairs, a woman wearing a flower print dress and no shoes was talking and crying into her phone.
There was no way around her.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I need to get to the trash. All these bottles.”
She kept talking / crying.
I considered the gentlest possible kick to the back. Just a nudge really. The bottles were heavy and the cheap plastic trash bags the hotel used were notorious for breaking.
“Hey, excuse me, sorry, I need to get by,” I tried again, a little louder.
She turned her head.
“FUCK YOU!” she screamed at me.
An impasse. A standoff. Stalemate.
“Hey, I have all these bottles, I gotta take em to the trash,” I said. “Just need to get by.”
“Where am I supposed to go?” she cried.
It sounded like a bigger, existential question – much MORE than just one of relocating her position down a few stairs to the landing.
“Just please move,” I said.
She glared at me. Then spoke into her phone.
“Hang on, some ASSHOLE needs to throw some stupid BOTTLES away.”
I moved by.
Yet another one of the pleasant guests of the world famous Palms Resort.
“Enjoy your stay,” I said.
“FUCK OFF,” she kindly replied.
I went out into the warm night air and lifted the dumpster lid and tossed the bags in and enjoyed the explosion of breaking glass. Sharp shards smashing as the moonlit waves broke over onto the shore.
A romantic evening of smashing.
I took the diamond out of my pocket. The moonlight and neon lights of the hotel sparkled and shot off the diamond’s fractal-like facets. It did something to me. Made me feel romantic.
I went down to the laundry room.
Olivia was there folding towels.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey, hey,” she said. “How’s the wedding upstairs? I love weddings.”
“Fucking stupid. The couple actually had a big fight before the vows and the groom stormed off so the bride married his brother instead,” I said. “Nah, it’s ok. Everybody’s drunk. Let’s go in the other room for a sec.”
She smiled at me.
“Bad,” she said. But she led the way into the room where the washer and driers rumbled and a smell of fresh, steamy laundry was in the air.
We kissed. And then I took out the diamond.
“Look I found this. You can have it.”
I dropped it into her hand.
She looked at it and smiled.
“It’s plastic,” she said. “You’re so stupid.”
She laughed. And smiled at me with a smile worth more than any stupid diamond.
Then we kissed some more. Tongues rolling around like wet clothes in the warm washers.
Mike Andrelczyk is the author of three poetry collections including Gateway 2000 & Other Poems. He is working on his first novel.