With its inviting neon glow, a safe place to find a moment of peace, and the promise of a better tomorrow, The Pink Flamingo Motel has it all, for a price…
by: Nick Trapani
A pink neon image of a flamingo next to the word MOTEL appeared like an apparition through the gray fog.
Jason pulled his road-battered Toyota 4Runner to the curb and stared at the sign radiating through the misty droplets forming on his windshield. It would be midnight soon. A quiet peaceful night alone in a motel sounded appealing. He had had a few drinks at dinner, reason alone to not venture home to a sleepless, disagreeable, Carrie.
The light was on in the motel’s office. A pink aluminum awning covered its entrance. A white plastic chair occupied a space next to the door. Jason parked the car and walked into a cramped lobby/welcoming area featuring a retro pink velvet sofa against one wall. Chrome legged end tables with smoky glass tops bookended the sofa. Matching white ceramic lamps with pleated yellowish-white shades sat atop the tables. Facing a chest high counter, a sign sat next to a tarnished bell reading Ring For Service. Tapping his palm on the bell, the hollow-sounding ping brought a pleasant looking gray haired woman in a pink terry cloth bathrobe out from the hallway. She stepped behind the counter and welcomed him with a thin lipped smile.
Jason smiled back, “Do you have a room?”
“Yes of course, how many in your party?” She inquired. Her greenish-yellow eyes appeared watery and her pale gray face showed no signs of age – no wrinkles, no liver spots.
“Just me,” he said.
“It will be $55 for the night, checkout before noon. Coffee, tea, fresh fruit and pastries are served starting at 7:00 a.m.,” she said. “The cafe is just down that hall to the right,” nodding her head in the direction of the hall from which she had come.
Jason handed her a credit card. She ran the card and pointed out the window across the parking lot. “Room 16,” she said, handing him a key attached to a plastic pink flamingo fob.
Jason walked out the door, stopped at his car, and retrieved the bottle of fifteen-year-old scotch that he had bought that afternoon, thinking it might ease the pain of another evening at home with Carrie.
The dazzling reflection of the pink neon bird on the wet blacktop pointed him to his room. A white plastic chair sat next to the door in front of a bay window. He opened the door expecting a seedy old art nouveau interior, yet instead found a neatly appointed room straight out of an IKEA catalog. A folded card that read No Smoking sat on a blond, Danish style nightstand next to a queen size bed. The usual, nondescript motel room landscape painting hung above the bed. A large flat screen TV and a cable remote sat on the top of the matching Danish dresser.
Jason had called Carrie earlier in the day to tell her he would be working late. Her voice cracked “Jason,” in the same ratty tone of their morning row, her anger radiating up through the phone to his cerebrum. Feeling drained of any fight, without uttering a word, he had hung up.
Fetching a glass from the bathroom, he removed its cellophane covering, opened the bottle of scotch, and poured a full glass of the rich brown liquor. Stepping out into the misty gray night, he sat down on the lone white plastic chair. He heard the swooshing tires of a car, its headlights disappearing into the fog as quickly as they had appeared. Taking a mouthful of the scotch, Jason savored the smoky flavor sweetened by fifteen years of aging in a sherry cask. He felt its warming effect radiate from his esophagus to his stomach.
Four years ago Carrie had impulsively kicked off their romance on a Friday evening in one of those trendy afterwork cocktail bars. High ceilings and mirrored walls gave the illusion of the place being larger and more crowded then it actually was. She had picked Jason out of the crowd, glancing at him from the next table, looking away and then glancing again, drawing him in with her dark, sultry eyes. It was Jason she chose to be her one night stand, helping her through her most recent nasty breakup. Now four years later she was ending their relationship just as recklessly as she had begun it.
Back in the room, Jason gulped down what was left of his scotch, undressed and plopped down on the bed. Gazing out the window, the pink neon bird perched atop the roof of the motel stared back at him. He lay there thinking about how quickly things had changed and wondered if Carrie ever really loved him. One night she simply announced, “Jason, I don’t love you anymore.”
Feeling stunned and speechless he instinctively burst out, “What the fuck do you mean?” His face was reddened, his body on fire, and his heart pounding.
“It’s not your fault,” she had said, “I am just bored and need more from life.”
The arguments became frequent, and intensely vocal.
Jason refused to give up on them. Ranting and screaming, Carrie insisted he move out, that she wanted him out of her life. She lay in wait every evening, ready to take up where their arguments had left off the night before. She was determined to wear him down, just as she had done when she began her campaign to move in with him. She knew Jason was weak and it would simply be a matter of time before she got her way.
He lay there staring out at the pink neon bird, thinking that being alone was not such a bad thing. Maybe it was he that needed the fresh start, a small place of his own. Jason was never one for opulence. He liked things simple and uncomplicated. In this moment he was feeling relaxed and peaceful for the first time in months. Maybe I could be the winner, Jason thought.
Jason woke, rested, took a shower and put on the jeans and sweater he had worn the day before. He strolled across the parking lot and went into the small room called The Cafe, poured himself a black coffee, grabbed a danish, and sat down at a small table in the corner. The gray haired lady in the pink robe popped in and out, looking after whatever needed her attention. Four couples sat at the remaining four tables. They looked to be overnighters, folks passing through town to destinations unknown to even themselves.
He was struck by the silence in the cafe. The guests drank their coffee, staring straight across the table and into the eyes of each other. They seemed to be at peace, in love with one another, and in love with life.
Maybe it was the magic of the Pink Flamingo.
He went to the front desk, gave the key to the women, and thanked her. She looked up and said, “you’ll be back.”
Nick Trapani is a fiction writer who lives in San Francisco, California. Originally from Michigan, he studied creative writing at Wayne State University. He had been an outdoor writer for Sporting and Outdoor publications before moving west.