Segment 21: Troubled (1972)

written, edited, and produced by Viktor Devonne for 2 Night Stay
performed and recorded by Dick Jones



“You got any bugs here?” the small roundfaced boy chirped from the height of his mother’s elbow.

 The long-suffering father closed his eyes in mild frustration as he searched his wallet for the travelers’ checks, likely giving pause before he could criticize the topic conversation. Before his time would come, the woman behind the desk smiled and quietly replied directly to him, “No, young man, we don’t.”

The boy’s face fell, freckled and disbondent, as his mother attempted to explain to the concierge, “He’s recently gotten into… those.  You know how boys can be.  He’s eight.  He’s been just fascinated by the crickets at home.”  She searched for a sign of the girl’s name and caught her nametag just in time, “Thank you, Julie.”

Julie nodded, understanding, still looking at the young man instead of his desperate mother.  “My brother was the same way.  But, nope, little man, The Gilman’s never really had a whole lot of insects on the grounds while I’ve been here.  Just lucky I guess.”

The father snorted, “You hardly expect them to say so,” he blurted mostly to himself, scanning the walls for chips in the facade.  His wife gently dug a fingernail into his arm to quiet him and gave a pained expression of repentance to the woman.

Julie attempted again, “I’ve been here five years since I was eighteen, and I have to say it’s never been a problem.”  She looked at the boy again and added for his behalf, “Unfortunately.”

The boy perked up again with a new thought, and said more loudly, “What about rats?”

“Oh-kay!” said his mother, completely done with her son’s propensity for vermin; she forced a tight squint of a smile in the direction of Julie while pulling her son away from the desk and towards the general direction of his older sister to somehow occupy.  The tall mop-shaped girl recoiled in seventh grade disgust.

“You’re so weird, Ronnie,” the sister rolled her eyes, and pushed him further away from where.  He took the opportunity to examine the rest of the lobby, which was nearly empty except for an older kid in knit orange plaid pair of pants, on  all fours, who was poking at something under a chair.  Hoping it was perchance a rat, the younger boy closed in.

Julie by now had taken the checks from the father, who looked sternly ahead, past her, towards the row of room keys.  “You folks still just leave the keys out there on the wall like that?  Hardly secure.”

Julie glanced backwards and then returned to the father’s signature on the check, “It’s quite alright, Mister Fielding.  Our desk is never unmanned, and the keys are quite protected at all times.  I know it is terribly old fashioned of us, but we’ve never had an incident, and I guess the management still thinks it’s part of the old place’s charm.”  She smiled at Mr. Fielding somewhat less gently than she might to an eight year old inquiring about bugs.

Mr. Fielding snorted again with the weariness of a man who had yet to be surprised orsatisfied in so many of his late thirty years.  “Are we settled with this,” he gestured to the payment, “and may we head up to our room now?”

To anyone watching, which was to say no one, Julie’s smile was noticeably pricked by disdain, and she turned to the old fashioned wall of insecure keys.  “Yes,” she murmured, drawing her fingers towards a set before selecting ones to the very next.  “That was two rooms you said?  Adjoining?”

“I paid for two rooms,” the man’s voice was sour.

Julie turned again towards him, “Just confirming,” her voice a cheerful fuck off of a tune, “Would you like them next to each other or across, sir?”

“Across is fine,” the wife interjected, linking her arm with her husband, whose brow was furrowing into a crumbling mountainscape.  He turned his head to seeing his son and a stranger boy engrossed in some debate over the proper way to torture some small, as yet unseen, creature. 

Julie brought the first set to the desk’s top, and then selected a pair above them.  “These are both on the fourth floor.  Room 401 and 404.”  The four keys, etched with the corresponding two rooms, were quickly snatched up by Mr. Fielding.

He handed one to wife, and the other in the vague direction of the older sister, busy snapping gum and fidgeting with her almond shaped press-on nails in one hand, and holding the strap of a leash to a dust colored miniature schnauzer, who was trying tug itself free to examine or defile the ochre upholstered settee to the left.  She took the key, staring at the rubber strip emblazoned with the hotel’s name and a lions head.

“Oh,” Julie uttered, realizing Mr. Fielding had failed to declare Fido, “Will you be adding the pet deposit or?”

Mrs. Fielding instead replied again, “Oh, we understood you have a facility for them during the night?”

Julie nodded, pleased to engage with her second preferred member of the family, “Yes, it’s $10 per night.  But we can also have them held with us during the day if you go out or prefer them to not be in the room.”

“We’ll have him brought down after supper if that’s alright,” Mrs. Fielding said, now standing alone at the desk as her husband chased after their bug-obsessed son who had found the fireplace pokers a fair sword substitution, likely due to the older boy’s suggestion. “Are meals included?”

“As long as he doesn’t have any dietary restrictions,” Julie found the appropriate piece of paper for them to sign and handed it to her.

“Carol, can we please—“ Mr. Fielding called out, eight year old son in grasp and off the floor, and towards the stairwell.  He didn’t give a long glance to the shaggy haired youth who he whisked his son from.

“May I…?” Carol began and lifted a hand in quiet hopelessness towards her family, and Julie nodded again.

“You can bring that paper back with him, along with his certificate, when you want him lodged,” Julie assured, “But I will also need to add 25% to the room… in case of accidents while he’s with you.”

Carol sighed, attempting to juggle several numbers in her head as her husband grabbed a suitcase in one palm, his son roughly sideways under the other arm.  “We’ll handle that later, can’t we?”  He was already walking away towards the elevator as he asked.

“Surely,” Julie said to Carol, pushing her shoulderlength ash brown hair behind her ears and adjusting her matching Riveria eyeglasses on her nose, “Gerald will help you with your bags.”

“What percent do we owe for that,” griped the husband just loudly enough, huffing while finding the button marked 4.

“We’ll be fine,” said Carol, almost convinced.  “Thank you, Julie.” She took her own large bag, and her son’s suitcase in her hands, crinkling the pet papers in her hand as she maneuvered towards the elevator.  The daughter came out of her trance and rolled an eye for having to carry her own bag as the elevator dinged open.

The shaggy haired kid in the plaid pants stared silently as the family gathered their things and lumbered away.  The young boy waved at him.  The father turned to glare at him, but when he turned, did not see him anymore.  Satisfied, he pushed his child into the elevator.

Julie continued speaking to the family, whether or not they were listening, “I am here at the desk until seven, and then if you need anything, Mr. Farrell will be able to assist you.”  She motioned to the clock on the wall, which was coming on quarter past 3.  As she gestured, she caught a quick glimpse of the older boy discretely enter the dining room on the left of the stairs.

The wife nodded, distractedly, and the family shuffled onto the lift, the walls bouncing back their series of complaints while the doors closed.

“Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fielding,” Julie read from the register before closing it and giving a jaded grimace at a wife’s identity permanently tied as always to the husband.  Part of Julie was surprised Robert hadn’t called out for “Mrs. Fielding,” when he wanted her. 

“Hey, Jules,” came a voice nearby.  Gerald, not bothered in the slightest to be rebuffed by the Fieldings, “That kid made a point.  Why doesn’t this lace have bugs?  I’ve been here two years and never even seen a spider.”

Julie bent slightly at the desk, and found a folder for the day’s receipt; “She doesn’t like bugs or spiders,” she said somewhat distantly.

“What? Who?” asked Gerald, who was now resting his arms and chest against the desk. At six foot 3, he was used to towering over others.

Julie looked back up to him, and wordlessly gave a slight cluck of her tongue, and gentle batting eyes that said plenty in shorthand.

“Oh.” Gerald backed off for a moment, sheepishly and thought a second, “Well, then why do we have rats?”

“She likes rats, Gerry,” Julie said plainly, closing the register book and returning it to the precise spot she liked it, and confirmed all the pens were back in the appropriate container.

“Oh,” Gerald replied, as if it explained everything, and to generations before him, it had.

“Oh,” Julie looked back up and at the dining room door, which was still swaying ajar, “You’d better check on him and make sure he’s not into anything he shouldn’t be.”

Gerald resigned himself to this regular task, “He’s always into something he shouldn’t be,” he grimaced and started his way over.

Julie yawned, and found her Thompson novel on the floor beneath the desk.  She picked it up and leaned back in her chair, muttering “Dead people are creatures of habit.”