Notes from my Knapsack – Granville Sentinel 10-10-13
A story on the way home (pt. 6)
(The sixth installment of an ongoing story)
"Ghosts? You must want Room 9."
That's what the cheery night clerk in the Buxton Inn had told him when he came in with his meticulous if hand drawn map he'd gotten over dinner at the other end of the downtown.
The cryptic label "ghosts" on a square with an "x" inside, on the southeast corner of Pearl and Broadway, had led him with his overnight bag to this remarkable structure.
It looked and felt, as he climbed the stairs, like a building that had been here 200 years, with a certain creaky solidity that you didn't feel in those identical hotels near innumerable airports with the same textured wallpaper over the same wallboard in the hallways with the same cheap table under a mirror next to a vending machine with the same slightly stale snacks.
This was . . . different. He followed the directions he'd gotten at the old fashioned front desk (a computer terminal the only barrier to imagining himself in any one of a number of eras past), to the head of the stairs and out onto an enclosed porch, through a door onto an open balcony around a courtyard whispering in the autumn wind.
Just a few steps along, and a room with a green door and a metal "9" on the frame; Nelson turned the key and stepped into the room.
Other than a faint hint of gardenias he could take or leave, it was a pleasant room if you were ready to see beds and restroom not arranged according to the implacable laws of modern hotel layout.
What had this room been in the past, he wondered? A common space for half a dozen men to sleep a fitful night until the stage left at dawn? A pair of rooms for a proprietor past? Or were the walls even arranged this way until this century?
He walked through the first room, a bed sized somewhere between standard and queen but more than a bit higher, into the second, where another bed different but much the same looked towards the two windows facing the street. This was where he'd sleep, and open up the bag on the bed in the first room next to the door to the small but serviceable bathroom.
Once the lights were out and before drifting off, he watched the occasional passing car's lights sketch the edges of blind where he'd nudged it aside, hoping for the glint of dawn to wake him. If this room was supposed to have particular creaks or groans from the two century old timbers, or if the light should have picked out a pool of shadow in one corner, it wasn't happening for him.
He fell asleep quickly, something that hadn't been true for weeks, and dreamed not of his recently deceased sister, but of their long departed father. It was neither sad nor angry, just a vision of his unfamiliar presence and well-remembered smile, walking out into the desert, pointing back over his shoulder.
Morning found him refreshed, and expectant, but he didn't know for what. Showering, he was glad the soap wasn't that gardenia scent they used in the room, but he was getting used to it.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think happens next at email@example.com, or @Knapsack on Twitter.