The night manager of the Bethlehem Motel tossed the cup of old, cold coffee into the trash can and gave a quick, end-of-shift report.
By dusk, every last room had been snatched up. But when he flicked the switch so the sign out by the highway could announce to travelers, “NO Vacancy,” nothing happened. The repairman had obviously not come as promised. The night manager said he marched straight over to the computer and fired off a strongly-worded email to the City of David Sign Company.
He spent the rest of the night, he said, glaring at that “lying sign” and turning away an endless parade of people. All night long, they kept tromping into his lobby, tracking up the place, asking for non-existent rooms, then asking could they at least use the restroom. He rubbed his eyes. “Government-mandated travel might be great for motel owners…it sucks for motel workers.”
By 9 he was out of clean towels. By 9:30 he was getting a steady stream of complaints about there being no hot water. At 10, he had to call Room 106—twice—to tell them to hold it down. Then, around midnight, once everyone was finally settling in, he could have sworn he heard a baby crying. “From somewhere out back,” he motioned over his shoulder with his thumb.
Around 1, the squalling kicked up again. Maybe it’s a cat? he thought. The night manager walked over to the housekeeping closet and grabbed a mop handle. He locked the office and slipped out the rear entrance to do a walk-around, have a smoke.
That’s when he saw them. They were running toward the motel, from over by the old self-storage place. Four or five high school boys, maybe frat guys from the college—it was hard to tell in the darkness. They stopped when they got to the vending machines by the pool.
He yelled an empty threat—about calling the cops. They busted out laughing and hollered back—all at once, the heavyset one saying something about angels, it sounded like, the others jabbering on about other things that made even less sense. They were drunk, or high—anyone could see that. One of them suddenly looked up at the moon, howled like a wolf and took off. The others whooped and jostled each other as they followed him around the side of the building.
“So…just another night at the office, I guess — a full house, a cat that wouldn’t shut up, and some crazy college kids doing God only knows what….I don’t know when I’ve been this tired.”
As he moved toward the door, he looked over his shoulder at the day manager. “See if you can get ahold of those sign people. Tell ’em we want that thing fixed today.”