My brother Ed told me all about it. After he had to quit
his job with Indiana Porcelain Toilet because of the hemorrhoids, he and
the missus lit out for the hinterlands, looking for something low key to
earn a living with.
The Lucky Charm Motel squatted there in the middle of Iowa about six hundred miles from the nearest hippie and/or person with crooked teeth, surrounded by enough cornfields to feed a herd of Holstein for the next fifty thousand years.
"Not exactly a dump, but damn close, "Ed said to the missus as they sat there in their rusty '89 Taurus and stared at the For Sale sign. "Thing is I don't understand is why it's so dirt cheap. Gotta be a catch."
"Oh Ed, you're too negative. We're just lucky we can afford it. I say we buy it," the missus said.
Well there it squatted in post-WWII terminal shabbiness on U.S. 40 across from a discount gas station, a massage parlor, and a grain elevator about a half mile down-wind from the abandoned Federal Experimental Chemical Testing Center at Okunesh. There were nine cabins in a semi-circle, a splash of petunias and an algae-ridden fishpond out near the semi-abandoned highway. Ed stared wistfully at the dump. "Well we got to get something to earn a .living, Alma, "he said, wishing that his butt problems hadn't put them in the position of starting over at fifty, but so it was.
"We can just fix it up,Ed," Alma said." Why I can have some nice flowers out front by next week and you can do some painting, and it'll be real pretty."
"Sure, Allie, and we'll get rid of all the junk lying around like that rusty motorcycle over by Cabin Nine. Now who the snot would leave a rusty motorcycle at an old motel?"
"Search me, Ed. Anyway our little office up front is a real nice place to live."
"Yeah, if you're a cockroach breeder," Ed grumbled, getting back to his normal brand of pessimism.
"Ed! Cut it out!"
Well, their first customer was a chubby pharmaceutical salesman from Des Moines, Roscoe Plumley. A bubbly guy in a rumpled brown suit, he cruised in around 10 p.m. in the middle of a driving storm.
"Glad to find this place," Roscoe said as he stood there dripping. "There's not many of these Mom and Pops left off the interstates these days. I was about to give up."
"Just opened," Ed said, proudly, sliding Plumley's VISA into the little machine. "C'mon, I'll give you a hand with your luggage in all this rain."
It was the next morning after Roscoe Plumley went of to peddle Xantac that Alma said, "Ed, did you notice something funny about Mr. Plumley when he left?"
"Uh uh. What's that?"
"Well he was wearing brown shoes when he came in, and they were yellow when he left."
Ed laughed out loud. "I know you're nosey, Al, but you noticed his shoes? Get a life! Anyway so what? What the hey -- he just changed 'em."
"But, Ed, they didn't match his suit. He wouldn't have done that."
"Ah come on, Allie. Maybe they mildewed over night in all that rain.
"Ed, shoes don't mildew that fast!"
Anyways, the Ft. Dodge Bombers showed up the next night -- fourteen women the size of Babe Ruth; they were in town for the weekend softball tournament Ed heard the first firecracker go off before the Bombers were even out of the vans.
"We run a nice quiet place here," Ed warned Dusty Wangmyer, the head coach who had a chest you could have landed a 747 on. "Curfew's at eleven."
"Hell, Slim, we'll be out hitting the beer-joints at eleven. Don't have to worry about us," Dusty said. "Nice bunch of girls on this team." Ed gratefully accepted the check for $320 and smiled. "You, all, just have yourselves a good time."
"We aim to, brother," Dusty said, turning to yell at the vans. "Hey, girls we're in. Unload that beer!"
"You don't suppose they'll cause a ruckus, do you, Ed?" Alma said as the rest of the wide-striding, big-chested sluggers unloaded their coolers.
"Only if there's a male whorehouse in Okunesh and as far as I know, there ain't," Ed said.
That evening Ed and the missus went into town and watched the Bombers destroy the locals 35-6 and 41-1. In the second game, Dusty Wangmyer got in a heated argument with the homeplate ump about a close call. She stomped around, spit tobacco, scratched herself where men do, and threw her hat in the dust. Funny thing, though, the umpire was wearing yellow shoes.
"You see that damned ump, Allie?" Ed said. "He looks exactly like Roscoe Plumley. I thought he was from Des Moines."
"South Dakota I thought, Ed," Alma said, " but sure enough look there - yellow shoes."
After the game Ed went over to say hello to Roscoe and have a laugh about the fracas with the Amazon, but the umpire looked at him like he was a mental hospital escapee when Ed mentioned staying at the motel.
"You got me mixed up with somebody else, buddy," the ump said.
The Bombers came in roaring at 2:30. One of the big old girls stood on the roof of the van and sang "Crazy" and Dusty, herself, managed to fall in the little fishpond and it took six of the beefers to haul her out. After that Ed was pretty glad there weren't any other customers that night. It was about 5:30 a.m. after things settled down that the office phone rang. It was Dusty.
"You couldn't bring us over some Bibles, could you, Mr. Ed? Me and the girls are having sunrise services."
Ed couldn't believe his eyes a half hour later after he rounded up some mildewed Gideons. The Bombers, all clad in white dresses and ball shoes, were kneeling in the grass out by the petunias facing in the direction of the sunrise and praying out loud.
"You don't think that's weird, Allie?" Ed said to the missus at breakfast.
"No, Ed, I don't . A lot of people are religious. You just think in stereotypes. You see they weren't bad girls. And now they're a little remorseful after they got soused."
"You're telling me that drunken, tobacco-spitting cow that fell in the goldfish pond suddenly woke up remorseful three hours later and decided to get holy for no good reason at all?"
"I'm not telling you anything, Ed; I'm just asking you what's wrong with religion?"
"Never mind, Allie. Just never mind."
That's the way it went. The following Monday a dead ringer for Dusty Wangmyer was working at Brown's 76 Station when Ed bought gas, and later Ed bumped into another Roscoe Plumley look-alike selling lottery tickets down at the Super Convenience.
"Hey, it's not our fault, is it?" Ed said to Alma when he brought up the coincidences about the lookalikes.
"Oh, Ed, the look-alikes are all your imagination. Or maybe it's your hemorrhoids acting up."
"It's not imagination and it's not my butt, Allie. There's something weird city about this motel."
"Don't be silly, Ed!"
"Well, whatever I don't figure we're legally responsible anyway, so why worry about it? We've got to make a living and nobody's getting hurt."
It was later Monday night when Ed awakened to a banging at the door of the office.
"Hey, goddamit, open up!"
The biker at the door was a fearsome sight standing there in the yellow glare of a single bulb. He weighed over 300 pounds, stood six and a half feet tall, had black, ratty hair hanging down his back, and was wearing tire chains encircling the shoulders of his leather jacket that would have hung loose on a gorilla. His lips were a strange vivid red where they peaked thorugh the bird's-nest beard.
"We're all full up, sir," Ed lied through the door. There wasn't a single cabin rented.
"Bunch of horse shit!" the biker said. "Get me a room!"
Ed thought it over and said, "I'll see what can do." Then he scurried back to the door in his stocking feet, holding the guest register. "Ah here we have a cancellation. Cabin 9. $31 a night."
"Big time rip off, but I'll take it."
"Fine. Sign here. "
"I don't sign nothing." The biker pulled out a wad of bills the size of Nevada and slung $31 Ed's direction.
"Very good, sir." Ed handed over the key.
The Angel with his Harley-chick clinging to his waist went roaring over to the room, the gleaming black cycle throbbing like a restless bull in heat.
"Oh, Ed, that was scary," Alma said as Ed came back to bed.
"You go on back to sleep, Allie,"Ed said. "I'll keep lookout for a little while."
He awakened to sunlight streaming through the blinds. He was still sitting in an easy chair with a rolled up copy of Modern Maturity in his lap for protection. It was after lunch the Hell's Angels emerged from cabin nine.
"Hey, Allie,"Ed whispered, peaking through the blinds, "Get a load of this."
"What is it, Ed?" The missus squeezed in next to him.
"Well by Gosh, I can hardly believe it," Ed said.
Over night the biker had shrunk to dwarf size. All of four feet six, he barely reached the seat of the Harley, a tire of which had gone flat in the dark. The biker came striding to the office. The banging at the door was exactly waist-high.
"Hey, pea-brain, open up!"
Ed stared down at the biker, thinking he could dropkick the poor dope into the fishpond if he wanted to.
"Take a look at my bike!"
"You have anything to do with the flat tire?"
"Oh no, sir. I think it went flat on its own."
"Bull shyster!" The biker spit tobacco slime on the welcome mat. "Well I ain't got a spare. So gimme your phone!"
Ed watched in amusement as the biker stood on tiptoe at the desk and called a towtruck. Somehow he hadn't seemed to notice yet that he was no longer Hulk Hogan. An hour later the tow truck mosied into the parking lot. The big, slow female tow driver was a dead ringer for Dusty Wangmyer.
"Yeah, what's the problem here?" she said.
"Flat," the biker said, jerking his thumb towards the bike.
"Cost you $35 bucks for the fix and the road call."
"Bunch of crap!"
The argument ended with the towdriver reaching down and giving the biker a cuff to the side of the head before she drove off. The last Ed saw of the Harley people they were hoofing it towards town on foot.
At supper that evening when Ed and Alma drove into Okunesh for a Big Lou burger and a hot fudge creamy whip sundae with double nuts and whipped marshmallow, Ed was surprised to see what looked like the dwarfed biker emptying the trash behind Bigalow's grocery.
"Will you look at that, Allie. It's him."
"Scares me, Eddie," the missus said. "There's something real strange going on."
"Well whatever it is, I like it," Ed said. "Just so it don't start backfiring."
Later that same evening the Lucky Charm went crazy. Five cars stopped by nine-o-clock and a big, old Pontiac pulled up just at dusk. It was a couple and what looked like a head banger kid in the back seat. Hair white as an albino, the headbanger sat in the backseat swaying back and forth; then with some awkwardness, the kid struggled out of the backseat, grabbing his old man by the hand. The boy must have been eighteen Ed decided when he got a closer look.
"Just a place for the two of us and Junior for the night," the man said to Ed.
"I'm junior," the Albino said. "Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi."
"How's you?" Ed said, getting the ball rolling on the room rental, watching with one eye as Junior went over to the Coke machine, stood there eyeing it like it was a nuclear reactor, then dropped a nickel in the slot. Nothing happened. Junior began to cry.
"It takes quarters," Ed said.
"June always thinks nickels are quarters," the father said a little embarrassed.
"Hey, no problem," Ed said. "I'll get the boy a Coke." He unlocked the machine and got Junior a Coke.
"You open it?" Junior asked.
"Sure," Ed said, pulling the tab.
"What do you say , June?" the father said, handing Ed his VISA.
"You're welcome, oh mighty one," the boy said, grinning.
"Poor kid," Alma said after the Trelawneys headed for Cabin 9. "Some sort of retardation I guess."
"Seemed like a happy kid, though," Ed said, trying to put a good spin on it. Around eight the next morning Ed and Alma were sitting out front in the metal rockers, taking in some morning sun when Junior came busting out of Cabin 9. His head was bobbing back and forth with keen anticipation as he came bopping over, his size 14 tennies untied, white hair hanging in his eyes. "Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi" he said.
"Hi to you," Ed said.
"Look what I got,"Junior said.
"What you got?"
"Algebra book," Junior enunciated precisely. "Want me to do one?"
"Page 39," Junior said. "You pick one."
"OK," Ed said, "how bout this one -- 3X minus 10 over 5 = 4."
"X equals ten ," Junior said.
Ed took a minute and figured it out.
"Hey, Junior, not bad. Try again?"
A half hour later the albino had knocked down the right answers on one each of every problem between pages 39-115. That's when Junior Senior Trelawney came out of the cabin and yawned.
"Hey, Mr. Trelawney," Ed said excitedly gesticulating. "Come ove here a second. This boy of yours -- has he always been able to do algebra?"
"Please don't joke, " Mr. Trelawney said. "The boy can barely count."
"Well get a load of this," Ed said. "June, page 39 -- problem of your choice." Junior knocked off a binomial equation easier than spelling "cat" and his father broke out in a humongous grin, which was the beginning of six great years of motel keeping, including a fat girl that found a husband in Cabin 2, a drunk that kicked the habit in Cabin 6, and a politician who got a conscience in Cabin 8.
In the meantime Ed's hemorrhoids stopped bleeding, and back in '93 I think it was he and Alma even messed around together for the first time in eleven years. On the other hand, the bottom line is they never got rich at the motel or anything close, but then again they say there's more than one way to be rich in life.
Meanwhile just last year the EPA cordoned off the old federal chemical testing facility there in Okunesh, and the whole thing's due to be bulldozed soon. However, the new young lawyer in town, that Junior Trelawney guy with the snow-white hair, is leading a civic group that wants it converted into a nightclub for teens, but Ed and Alma they're staying out of the brouhaha. You understand it's back-breaking work maintaining a motel these days, and civic politics can be an awful hassle.
After all, there 's only so much uproar a body can stand, what with the outstanding Christian women's softball team in the country being in town, particularly when you're facing a twenty million dollar lawsuit from a dwarfed motorcyclist with sixty-eight tattoos on his nasty, little body, but then again like Ed always says, "If your butt don't itch, why bother to scratch?"
Copyright 1999 H. Turnip Smith
About the Author