Room 23


They were shacked up in a little motel off the I-65 when he found them.  Six days he had followed, looking for the battered beige Toyota in the parking lot of every low-rent roadside motor lodge.  Six days of fast food and too many cigarettes, freeway exits blurring together, the names of towns mashing into one another in his head.  Now at last, the beat-up Toyota was in his sight, parked right in front of room 23, and the breath caught in his throat.

That Toyota belonged to this third-rate car salesman who showed up one day in a cheap suit to take Lola away.  Lola and the ten grand she’d taken out of his bank account.  Looking at him, nobody would see anything but a loser.  He stank of stale sweat and twenty-five cent air fresheners.  His eyes were dead, as if even he could not look at his own life and see anything but fruitlessness and despair.  Fucker’s name was Dirk; anybody named Dirk just had to be an asshole.

It wasn’t that Lola deserved anything better.  She’d been a black-hearted, two-faced bitch when he met her, and he supposed she’d always be the same.  Always making eyes at any cat that came along, making wordless promises with her rouged-up lips.  She’d given him a lot of trouble in the years since he tried to take her away from a bad upbringing and worse prospects; never showed one little bit of gratitude or respect.

Oh, he’d tried to teach her better.  Lola just never learned.  He figured he’d given her enough chances.  The car salesman, he almost felt sorry for.  Even with a shithead name like Dirk, the poor bastard couldn’t have deserved for Lola to come into his life and get him killed like this.

The car door banged shut behind him as he started toward the Toyota.  He reached into his pocket, felt the hardness of the knife.  This time that slut was going to remember.  Not for very long, mind you, but for the rest of her life at that.

The splintering sound when he kicked in the door marked 23 was almost as satisfying as Lola’s horrified scream.  There she was, sitting on the bed.  Dirk was over at the table, smoking a cigarette.  He had almost expected to catch them at it, rutting in their cheap filth, but they were both fully clothed.  The TV was off.  What were they up to?  Didn’t matter.

Dirk jumped up, shouting something.  He put a fist in the bastard’s stomach that doubled him up on his knees.  That’d do for Dirk for a second.  He turned to Lola.  He was anxious to get to that two-timing little slut.  He turned his back on the wheezing car salesman.  Lola looked up at him in terror as he stepped up to the edge of the bed.  When the knife came out of his pocket, she smiled.

The first bullet whipped into his back, spun him around.  The second caught him in the side, just under his thrown-up arm.  He barely felt it ripping past his ribs as his head jerked back and he saw the knife fly from his upraised hand.  Crashing onto the mattress seemed to knock all the breath out of him, even though it was soft and not very firm.  That confused him.  So did that smile on Lola’s face; she was standing now, looking down at him disgustedly.

~ fin ~

John Underwood was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1983. He began writing at the age of six, and believes that after twenty-four years he is almost good at it.

He has been a college student, line cook, contract laborer, receptionist, grocery store clerk, bookstore clerk, restaurant manager, bartender, and a homeless person at different times in his life.

Currently, John lives in Bradenton, Florida with his wife Paola. He may be passed out on the beach.