written, edited, and produced by Viktor Devonne for 2 Night Stay
performed and recorded by Nina La Voix
A man of indeterminate clarity entered the lobby. About 25, he was dressed in a finely tailored, beautifully crafted tuxedo jacket, an undershirt best suited for bedtime four nights earlier, and just about the most tattered yellow and white checked corduroy pants one could imagine any moment would slide off his taut frame. You however could not see his partially revealed backside, as he wore a large swath of burgundy velvet curtain for a cape.
He hobbled, noble as a king and waving an imaginary cob of corn, sweeping a small porkpie hat from the crown of his head. He delicately mimed a moustache above his bare lip and swooped low to meet the gaze of his proprietress.
“My dear wench,” his voice King Arthur, his gait Charlie Chaplin, “wouldst thou have a room for these weary bones?”
Betty Egan, who did not get paid enough for this, raised her eyes over the ebony rims of her glasses without moving her head past the book she was reading. Bent over the desk for the last hour or so, learning new words from William S. Burroughs, she adjusted herself into a straight line and slid the paperback down to take in the full scene.
“Sir,” she deadpanned, blinking slowly. Her lips formed a curt, no-nonsense brick-red frown.
“A-ha! Well met!” the man cheerfully exploded with recognition unknown to her. “Well met indeed!” He bowed gracelessly but with decent intent. “Maiden of the inn, I do request your services!”
When Betty woke this morning, it can be assumed, she had no expectation to wait upon Geoffrey Chaucer doing a bad impression of Stubby Kaye. Bemused, she straightened up, and took her glasses off as she sucked her tongue. Finally she spoke, “Sir, do you have a reservation?”
“A reservation?” the man said with a touch more volume than appropriate, receiving a number of glances from the dozen or so people in the lobby, sitting reading a paper or waiting for the elevator. The hotel was busy for the time of day, with all of the temporary residents of the room giving an observer the conclusion of each being part of the same insurance convention that weekend.
Betty stabilized herself on her heels, closing her eyes and heaving an unimpressed gust of sigh to the ceiling. “Yes, sir,” having no part of the game the man was playing, “A reservation for a room this weekend. I need your name.”
The man leaned back gently, perhaps taking in proper view of this insubordinate peasant who clearly did not know who he was. He clucked and pressed down on his chest, pulling forth a semi-wilted posy and handed it to Betty, who betrayed a momentary shyness at the gesture.
“Sir Edward Manly the THIRD,” the man proudly puffed, “At your insistence. I believe my cleric called forth early for a room in the house. With a fire, if you do so please.” Sir Manly extended a finger and swiped the desk gently, to then rub his thumb against. He gave a slight sound of pleasure upon observing the cleanliness of his night’s lodging.
Betty smiled, all but defeated, and reached for her ledger and flicked the pages to the date she desired. “Mister…” she looked up and gave a patronizing smirk, “Excuse me. SIR… Edward Manly…”
“The Third,” the man before her interjected absentmindedly, as he turned and twisted to look at the room. He bowed generously for the guests who were quick to turn away when they matched eye contact.
Betty, pulled at the bow of her white high collared blouse—she had been inspired by the recent photos of Margaret Thatcher–with one manicured finger as she found his name in the register. “Yes. We have you down for a 1pm check-in.” She gave a quick look at the clock to confirm he was right on time, if not in correct century or state of mind.
Sir Manly gave a boisterous huzzah of accomplishment, and the necks of everyone else retreated into their collars like embarrassed turtles. At least a few of them searched their conscience whether they should rent a room a hotel that would have such a figure also on the list.
The unusual man returned his hat to his feathery orange head of hair, and he twirled his cane like a veritable silent film star.
Betty gave another once-over to her visitor and with a newfound sense of hospitality—someone must have been watching–she warmly smiled and turned to find a key to match the room he would be staying in. She pressed the cold metal token into his extended hand. “Room 304,” she said a little louder than necessary, a performance.
Betty said quietly as she pushed the key forward on the desk, “How is that for you?”
Sir Manly gestured widely, “Delightful, fair m’lady!” He dashed for the key and held it up, “This shall be a grand visit I am certain!”
Betty’s face fell back to its traditional disdain. “Yes,” she groaned. More loudly, she went on, “Now, our bellhop is otherwise engaged. Shall I escort you to your room to make sure all is in order?”
“A true honor, it is!” Sir Manly said, somewhat losing his affectation and merging into cockney. He extended his arm in a crook shape to indicate convoy.
Betty rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth into a halfhearted smile. She stopped short when she made the turn around the registration desk. “Your… bags, sir?” Her voice went to gravel.
Sir Manly’s eyes widened. “Oh! To be… to be… to be fetched anon, of course! I never travel with luggage.”
Betty’s smile gritted that much more and she motioned sharply towards the stairwell. “I’m sure the gentleman prefers the simpler method of walking than using those newfangled machinations.” Her jaw was in danger of permanent clench.
Sir Manly swung his cape and headed forward. “Delighted!” he bellowed.
“Mr. Farrell,” Betty called to the small room to side of the desk, “I will be showing our guest to his room and will return shortly.”
“Mmm,” grunted a gruff voice from the open door. “Yes.” A man of nearly 90 came forward. His grey hair had long abandoned his scalp to further reside above his ears. His weathered face, partially obscured by large framed black glasses, showed signs of longterm disappointment. He stood guard at the register, his mouth making slow, involuntary twitches, and looked right through any remarkable activity before him.
As Betty and the strange man walked towards the stairs, the disquiet of the room slowly dissipated and congenial chat resumed.
Alone on the stairs and walking with a deliberate, labored pace, Betty snapped her head to her companion and growled, “What ARE you doing, Kenny?”
“You told me to come at 1 o’clock…” murmured the man who in more contemporary diction for an autumn in 1981.
“I DIDN’T ask you to talk like Walter Ralleigh and dress like, like….”
“Buster Keaton!” smiled Kenny broadly, “But I didn’t have the right jacket, so, I went with–.”
Betty’s hands went to Kenny’s wonky tie as she turned into an ice cold Faye Dunaway.. “Now you listen to me. You fuck this up and I will sell you the fuck out. None of us will get what we came here for, and I’ll deny ever meeting you.” Her hazel eyes narrowed, recalling the last six months it took her to get to this moment. “Dost… thou… comprehend?”
“Sure thing!” Kenny squeaked, his oxygen substantially limited. “You said eccentric after all!”
Betty let him loose and they walked up another stair, “I said ‘fucking crazy,’ you moron. People ignore crazy people. They don’t ignore eccentric people. Eccentric people don’t fly under the radar.”
Kenny sheepishly admitted his mistake in the semantics, “Right. I did sort of miss the boat on that one.”
Betty grimaced and pushed forward, talking to the air in front of her. “And where is your goddamn luggage? You’re checking into a hotel for a weekend, trying to not be suspicious, and you don’t bring a bag.” As they neared room 306, she pointed. “That’s his. You’re next to him.”
Kenny gave a thumbs up, “Great, do the rooms connect?”
Betty popped the key into the lock for 304. “No, this place is prehistoric; the walls are solid,” Betty grimaced, “You’ll have to use the hallway to get in unfortunately. But I chose the third floor because most of the convention guys are on the fourth and fifth. There’s only a few even on this floor occupied, and they’re all down the other hall.”
The door opened, and Betty stood to the side to let her wider, bizarre friend in first.
“Nice digs,” he exclaimed as he walked in a few feet and stood still.
Betty pushed him forward and closed the door, “Yeah, terrific, I’m glad you like it,” she huffed. She turned to face him, pretend presentation remote in hand.
“Ok, pay attention. I have a workman uniform in the closet for you already. Mister Gilberto has already called the front desk to say his sink is dripping.”
Betty sauntered around the room, mindfully adjusting the components of the room to her liking, from the blinds to the way the telephone was facing. “You’ll need to come to the lobby for the work order. It’s important that you come downstairs first. Hopefully no one will recognize you from your one-man-show at check-in.”
Kenny’s eyes followed her, his neck jutting forward and watching her mouth move. He found it easier to take direction that way.
Betty continued, as she fluffed the couch pillows, “Who did you register with? Did you talk to anyone?”
“Old guy,” Kenny said, “I called yesterday.”
“Right,” remembered Betty, “so it wouldn’t have my name attached to the booking. Did you use that stupid accent?”
“No, that came to me today!” Kenny said, his proud, innocent face catching the light through the window. Betty softened as she looked at him. She was hard on him, but he wasn’t great at consistency. The paint job he had done on her apartment earlier that summer showed he still struggled with attention to detail.
“Good. Your name on the worksheet is Leonard Talbitt. If anyone asks your name, you have to use that.” She lifted Kenny’s arm to find his wristwatch. “It’s 1:15 now and the convention’s got the ballroom from 5 to 10. You’ll need to lie low until then. ‘Sir Manly’ is in his room for the night. No going out even for ice. You got that? ”
Kenny nodded again. “Do we have time for a little… a little, uh…” Kenny trailed off, but pushed his midsection forward like a juvenile and swung his hips.
Betty’s eyes permitted a small twinkle as they followed his thrusting hips, “Don’t sell yourself short.” Her smirk was the devil.
“Well, not, uh, little you know,” Kenny laughed. He jutted forward, obscenely, his boyish charm on full display. He could go from zero to eight and a half in sixty seconds.
Betty shook her head, and marveled at her patience for such a stupid man, but he was making a good case for why she let him stick around. He was the plan, he was the fall guy if needed, but for right now, he was the break time special.
Letting the caramel-colored blazer hit the floor and the pussycat bow come undone, she pushed him backwards and watched him squeal in delight as he hit the bed’s marshmallow comforter. She stuck her index finger at him and her face went stern. “Don’t talk during it,” she said authoritatively.
A quick sink shower later, Betty had redressed, and was about to leave when she turned to Kenny, still naked in the sheets, and looking both amazed and proud of himself. Betty picked up the recently discarded purple Maidenforms that matched her bra, from the foot of the bed. “Another thing,” she said, hooking her thumb into them and stretching them slightly.
Kenny looked up from his primitive fascination of his own body parts and gave a vacuous smile, perhaps ready for a treat.
“Wear these when you do it,” Betty gave a naughty eyebrow arch and let them panties slingshot to Kenny, who caught them like a prize, and let out an unsophisticated giggle, playing with the feel of the satin.
Betty checked her bow in the full length mirror and came to the side of the bed. Grabbing Kenny’s slacked jaw for a moment, she gave him a quick kiss. “5 o’clock,” she repeated from before.
Kenny’s fervent eyes went to the clock radio.
“No. Right now its quarter to 2,” sighed Betty “You come downstairs at 5.”
Kenny nodded enthusiastically. “I’ll be there–and in uniform!”
Betty muttered, “That’s great, Kenny. You do that.” She made her way to the exit and struck one more pose from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for effect, and closed the door behind her.
Kenny stretched his lithe, angular body across the bed and smiled. So far, so good; this beat house painting.
Kenny called room service at about 3, and despite Betty’s icy response to Sir Edward Manly’s request, he still got his chicken wings.
From 3:30 to 4, Kenny stared at the shadows on the ceiling, which both looked like refracted light and ominous clouds made from smoke. His mouth fell open in wonder as he contorted his body in different positions to make out all the faces and imagery hidden in the ripples of plaster.
At 4:30, Kenny dressed himself in the dark workman’s uniform over the lavender underwear Betty gave him, as best they would fit. He dug into a pocket of his Chaplin coat and found a fake mustache that he had gotten from the magic shop, peeled the adhesive backing, and carefully placed it over his top lip more or less evenly.
He then practiced walking differently in the room for several minutes and talking at a lower register. “Hello. (cough) Hello. Hell-oh! I’m a workman working here on the third floor of the Gilman Hotel. I’m here to work on your pipes.”
In the hallway, he looked forward to walking by other guests to test out his new stance and voice, but none were around.
He walked with a slight dance down the stairs, feeling his Dick van Dyke fantasy. Catching Betty’s eyes from the front desk when he was in view, she nearly sunk into the floor. She mouthed, “Take that off,” and pointed on her face where his moustache would be, but all he did was wave.
He approached the front desk and spoke in an stilted and affected deep voice, “Hello, young lady,” his smile broad and stupid, “I’m here to fix your leak.”
“Don’t wink, don’t wink,” Betty thought. He winked.
Betty pushed the work order towards him, her lips tight and glare in full effect. “Room 306. Sink won’t stop dripping. Guest is out of the room right now, so if you can get it taken care of before 11.”
“Yes, ma’am!” he cheerfully growled in a voice he was having trouble sustaining. “I’ll get right on that!”
Betty swallowed quiet rage and craned her neck to see if Mr. Farrell was in proximity. “If I’m not back at the desk when you return,” she said more loudly and slowly and altogether more towards the side of her than at Kenny, “Mr. Farrell will take the finished work sheet from you.”
“Yes ma’am!” Kenny grinned, and took the work order and started to walk away.
“Sir,” Betty called out with quiet desperation.
Kenny turned, smiling, “yes, ma’am?”
“The key.” Betty held out the key for room 306 and furrowed her brow. Maybe she should’ve asked the man who put her new carpet in, instead.
Returning to the quietude of the third floor, Kenny strutted towards the room next to his own and knocked. Hearing no one inside, he took the key and let himself in. The room was dim from the blinds catching nearly none of the already fading outdoor light. Finding a light switch, Kenny then looked all around him.
The room, the layout similar to his, had the single chair draped in an empty garment bag, a series of notes and papers on the desk, and pairs of black linen socks scattered about. He put the work order paper down on the tall side table by the door, and moved in like a classic cat burglar, having studied the moves from reruns of Mission Impossible.
Finding his way into the bedroom, Kenny hummed the familiar theme to himself as he opened drawers and dramatically snaked his neck around. Soon he had found what he was looking for: a thin luggage bag, marked D.K., was stuck between the bed and the end table. Managing to pull it forward with only one major scratch on the leather, Kenny rested the bag on the mattress. About to go for the zipper, he heard the noise of a doorknob being rattled. His eyes turned to saucers and he instinctively held his breath, his body going in a stiff, straight line.
The sound ceased, and the doorknob went still for a moment, but soon the replacement was a quiet, irritating scratch of something in the keyhole.
The lights in the room flickered long enough for Kenny to look aimlessly upward, before they went out completely.
Now in the dark, Kenny dove onto the floor, his hand still wrapped around the bag as he began a methodical crawl across the floor, the sound of the bag providing a telling whoosh against the carpet every few seconds.
Kenny reached the bathroom, and he pulled himself up to reach the lever and nearly fall in, a small thud against the tile. He was about to struggle to close the door when he heard the sound of a latch opening and the room’s main door slowly creak open.
Kenny slunk into himself as best he could. His left arm was still outstretched, holding the handle of the bag towards the leaky sink. He was afraid to turn in any direction, which would no doubt make another sound. He did make note, however, that he had really scratched the hell out of the side of that bag, though.
For a few moments, it was eerily quiet. Kenny did not hear anyone enter, and he did not hear the door close. From his limited view on the tile floor, the hallway light gave a soft wash to the bed room, and the bathroom door was about six inches open. Twisting his neck, he tried to survey the rest of the bathroom behind him for any escape route.
The sudden change in light got Kenny’s attention as suddenly that soft wash no more and the sound of a door closing was audible. He held his breath again, his heart pounding against the floor at such a force he was certain someone would feel the reverb.
“Mr. Kelly?” came a low voice, just above a whisper, from the other room. Kenny pulled his lips inward and bit down on them. Another few moments of silence were interrupted by a rustle of paper.
“Mr. Talbitt,” the voice now said, still at the same distance at before, but louder and more confident. It was no longer a question.
Kenny squeezed his eyes tightly and concentrated. He had heard that name before, but he couldn’t remember where. Flashes of his sexual escapades came forward, and Betty’s voice from earlier came into frame, “Your name on the worksheet is Leonard Talbitt.” She looked pretty in that slice of memory; she always had the expression of being annoyed at herself that she was so turned on.
Oh, shit. Kenny was Mister Talbitt. He weighed his options for the splits of seconds if he should answer. He heard footsteps in the next room, moving across the carpet. Kenny was in the throes of contemplation regarding his boyhood days taking taekw ondo and what he might remember from it when he was interrupted.
“Mr. Talbitt,” said a man again, plainly and calmly, this time standing over him. Kenny lifted his chin upward as best he could without moving the rest of his strained body. He saw a youngish man, but older than him. It was pretty dark, but he saw what looked like dull brown hair on the top of an unexceptional frame.
His face was near expressionless, minus that of a slight curve on the left of his mouth, like he was biting the inside of his cheek. His nose, somewhat out of place on the rest of his face, slowly inhaled and his eyes, like stinging blue sapphires, stared cruelly downward. Kenny grunted, his body in discomfort from his pose, “Hi,” he let out.
Nearly simultaneously with his greeting, he felt his head snap backwards from the impact. He felt it in his upper back before his face, almost like the breaking of his nose needed to catch up with the rest of his body. The blood however had spread to his eyes, and he could feel something wrong with his mouth, like a tooth was loose, likely several. Without the time to attempt a second salutation, the center of his face had caught up with the pain and he recognized the difference between the impact of this unremarkable man’s shoe and the porcelain of the bathtub he was next introduced to.
His beautiful, soft face now felt like it was in separate pieces, and he could not tell if the room had gotten even that much darker, or if his eyes stopped working, certainly inconvenienced by the shattering of his orbital bone. He gagged as pressure was then placed on his throat. He tried to bring the rest of his body into the struggle, attempting to coordinate some flailing arm gesture into a proper strike attack. However, he was having a difficult time hearing and was so distracted by his body’s insistence to instead go to sleep.
When Mr. Talbitt was dead, the unremarkable man let him go, leaning back and letting the rush continue to flow through him like it had the time before. Feeling he was now alone, he let himself breathe at full volume, nearly gasping from the exhilaration.
When time had passed to make the scene less interesting to him, the man lifted his body off the tile floor and glanced around, eventually settling on turning the light switch on, which brought forth a full view of the carnage below. The man staggered slightly, his hands pulsing and head throbbing with his now dissolving passion.
He didn’t like looking at the people after it was over, so the man instead observed the rest of the of the room, seeing the sprawled out arm that hadn’t let go of a thin, scuffed up carry-on bag. The man gingerly kicked the bag on the floor away from the body and it made contact with the base of the toilet, the contents shifting slightly.
The unremarkable man pulled out some lemon scented wipes and dragged them across the rim of the tub and a part of the floor. He would take care of the door knobs when he exited. He picked up the work order and folded it into quarters and slid it into the back of his jeans, and then he left.