After we switched out the license plates, we got back on the road and drove out to Murfreesboro, Cloyd sucking down the water bottles like no one’s business. In a little while, we hit the city limits. It was fully dark by now, and I had to think about what to do.
The conference was tomorrow, and preparation would take all of five minutes. (All that needed to be done was to esure that the LSD was in the correct proportions and the vessel for transferring it into whatever liquid I could find didn’t have any holes in it.) I’d been to Murfreesboro before and knew that there was nothing to speak of in the way of nightlife. The closest thing to the hotel we were staying at was a sports bar renowned for attracting local assholes.
Cloyd pulled the car up to the front of the hotel (nearly running down the valet in the process—as good as Cloyd was at driving in the nearly-straight-line of the Tennessee interstate, he wasn’t anything to write home about when it came to turning the wheel) and slammed on the brakes. I reached over, turned off the car, and puked into his lap. “Sorry,” I said.
Cloyd’s nose twitched. For a second, I thought he was going to snap and come at me like a wild animal, but, Cloyd being Cloyd, his eyes got all big and he said, “Gosh, it’s a good thing I got me another pair of jeans in that bag, ain’t it? You okay? Not like a body to just puke like that for no reason.”
“Get out of the car,” I said.
He did, and I dragged myself out on my side. The valet ran over and helped me up. I leaned on the car, wiped my mouth with my arm, and opened the back door. I took out a couple bottles of liquor, my duffel bag, nodded to the man, and said, “I think you’ll find that the driver’s seat has some new decor on it. Try not to mess it up, as it took hours to prepare.”
The valet, spineless tool of the corporate world, nodded and walked to the driver’s side. As Cloyd and I walked into the lobby, I heard a string of obscenities that even I would not stoop to using.
Cloyd walked into the lobby, his eyes grew about three times their size, and he started darting around, shouting how amazed he was by the place and how it must have been a palace. The people in the lobby, sitting around in the large leather sofas and chairs, reading books and newspapers, looked up, scared. “Don’t worry,” I said, addressing them, “I’m his minder. He’s just on a lower dose of medication than normal. Completely harmless, though.”
I walked up to the check-in desk and waited to be addressed by the tall, stringy man wearing a blue button-up shirt and black vest. His nametag said Derreck. I’d never seen the name spelled like that, and I disliked him immediately. If I had to guess why, I’d guess it was because of the way his hair was gelled u into little spikes up top—like he was about to go clubbing instead of piddle away his mediocre existence behind the counter of a chain hotel. “Help you, sir?”
“Yes,” I said. “First off, you can do something about that valet outside.”
Derreck raised an eyebrow. The prick. “Oh?”
“Yes. The foul-mouthed one. I’m an associate of a mental health institute and I’m taking one of the wards out for the weekend—that’s him over there—and I want to know how you expect him to develop anything close to a normal sense of how to interact with others in society when one of the first people he meets goes around cursing all the time. The poor bastard can’t see the color red without getting a boner, and now he’s going to start shouting obscenities at women wearing red.” I leaned in and dropped my voice. “That’s how it works with the challenged sometimes—it’s not their fault, of course, they have human needs like the rest of us. Or do you not believe me?”
I could see the bastard’s nose wrinkle up. No doubt he smelled the mix of alcohol on my breath, but what was he going to do? I was a paying customer. “Do you have a reservation, sir?”
“You’re God damned right I do!” I shouted. A few people in the lobby turned away from their lie-spewing newspapers for a second—resting their brains on, no doubt, the most mental exercise they’d had for months. “What do you take me for, some drunk hobo off the street? The reservation’s under Herskovitz. V-i-t-z before you ask.” There was no way I was going to use my real name—or any of my other assumed names—like Yudavitch—with a corporate entity. It left a paper trail, and this way, the editor would assume he was a victim of identity fraud (which he was), and get all the money refunded by the credit card company. No one would be hurt—except for the credit card company and the hotel, but they were both corporate entities, and damn them.
Derreck started typing away on whatever piece of shit computer was on the desk in front of him. I turned around and shouted, “Damn it, Cloyd, did you puke on yourself again?”
Cloyd, still jumping up and down on the tiled floor, laughed and shouted, “Nope, you puked on me! Don’t you remember that? Only happened five minutes ago.”
I turned back to Derreck and whispered, “Compulsive liar, too. Of course, when the world is a scary place, the best you can do for yourself is to create a fiction, am I right?”
“Of course you are, sir.”
“God damn right I am.”
He tapped a button a few times and said, “Okay, Mr. Herskovitz, your room is number 78. It’s on the—”
“Seventh floor, I’d imagine.”
Derreck gave me a shit-eating grin and I really wanted to break the little bastard’s teeth. “Correct. Take a right off of the elevators, which are just to your left out of the lobby. Continental breakfast starts at six-thirty and goes until ten. The pool closes at midnight, and to reach room service, just dial twelve on your in-room phone. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“I think you know the answer to that, Derreck.”
“That’s right. I think if you explain the situation to him, that should be enough.” I walked off towards Cloyd, stopped, and turned. “Oh, of course, I’ll want either a written apology or proof that he’s been fired.”
One thing I learned from my father—who was renowned in my family for expressing his displeasure in hotels—was that you never wait around for an answer. I walked away, passed Cloyd, clapped my hands, whistled, and said, “Come on, Cloyd. This way.”
“Ooh!” Cloyd said, following obediently. “You mean we ain’t gonna sleep out here? But this place sure looks nice! Look, they got a plant like I ain’t never seen before.”
We crossed into the hallway, Cloyd dragging himself along the walls like some sensory-deprived infant, walked to the elevators, got in, and I pressed the number seven.
“Mr. Yudavitch, what is this thing?”
I turned to Cloyd and said, “you being serious?”
Cloyd nodded. He then told me his story. I won’t repeat it here, because the contents of what he said were enough to fill up a book on their own. Anyway, he told me the story through the time it took us to get into the room, me to unpack, and, about the time he made it to where he went to a dirt track race in the boondocks, I decided that I needed a drink. Cloyd, if everything he was saying turned out to be true, really needed some human interaction besides me, and the only place where both of our needs could be filled was a bar.