The Dusk ‘til Dawn Motel

Contributor: R. Jill Fink

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The ancient window unit air conditioner shuddered, growling out a low-pitched protest while the woman smiled up at the stained popcorn ceiling. She reveled in the peaceful, four-minute window after each weekly session of fantastic, frantic sex, but in about forty seconds it would be time to get up and go back to life outside of Room #21.

Someone had actually been paid to decorate the motel in orange, brick red, and yellow in the seventies, but no one had been hired to refurbish since that time. Warm colors made her ill. It didn't much matter; she kept her eyes closed the majority of the time she was in here for two reasons: One was to keep her mind off of the putrid decor, and the second was so she could escape to places like Jamaica, Paraguay, or Fiji while she pretended she was younger, more desirable, and without a care in the world. He gave her this escape, and she made the most of it.

Splashing noises coming from the tiny bathroom interrupted the staring contest she was now having with a speck on the wall above the dead television. He always took a quick, cold shower after their urgent and steamy interlude.

She’d always had a weakness for a man who flirted with danger, and Sheriff Eric Mandy was particularly attracted to married women. It was a perfect match. It might be forty minutes or three hours, but the time spent being this dirty was worth the thrill of it.

Married. She was a Pastor’s wife. The thought of it rolled around in her head. It was meaningless, but then it meant everything. There was no substance and certainly no longer any love, if there ever had been; he’d grown cold when he found out she’d cheated the first time. It had been a momentary lapse of brain function. Mistakes had been made, and promises to God had been broken. Life had to go on.

She sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the too-soft mattress, slipping them into her bright red espadrilles. There was no way she’d let her bare skin touch the filthy carpet. God only knew what manner of things lurked there in the matted, pumpkin-colored fibers. As a matter of fact, her shoes were always the last item of clothing she’d remove for Eric, but they were the first she’d put back on.

He had been particularly quiet today, but, when she thought about it, she realized that there were never many words shared between them. It was only about animalistic desire, and it was about doing what people do best: Getting what they needed to survive.

She was dressed and outside within another twenty seconds, checking the horizon for travelers coming from either direction on Highway 90. It was such a desolate area, but then again, you never knew. This far from town, there was only the occasional semi-truck or lost tourist in this God-forsaken part of northeastern Alabama.

As she opened her car door, she knew he’d be stepping out of the shower. He would grab the only towel on the shelf above the toilet and move out into the motel room, doing a half-assed job of drying himself with the tiny rag. He’d then scrub it over his dark crew cut before dropping it on the floor.

Over the past few months of their clandestine meet-ups at the Dusk ‘til Dawn, she’d noticed how he couldn’t resist stopping to look at himself in the mirror of the thirty-some-year-old dresser. He’d stand there, naked, and mock a muscle-mag pose. It was a habit of his; he loved to admire his broad shoulders and fairly decent biceps. He had the look of a serious, tough cop complete with a nice, square jaw and a thick mustache. His blue eyes were the color of deep water, and his wide, hairy chest lead down to a large-ish gut. He didn't care enough to go to the gym, though, because, according to him, he was “still popular with the ladies.” She took this to mean he slept with others, but she didn’t care to think about that sort of thing.

As she drove across the gravel lot of the motel, the sound of her car tires crunching on the rocks reminded her of hard cereal, specifically Grape-Nuts. She was almost out of her husband’s favorite, as a matter of fact, and he would throw a fit tomorrow if she tried to feed him grits and eggs instead of a breakfast food that didn't really have a damn thing to do with either grapes or nuts. She made a mental note to pick up some on the way home, along with some 2% milk.

She rolled down her window and floored the gas pedal, barking the tires up onto the hot, black pavement. The powerful roar of the boat-like Buick’s engine temporarily put the thoughts of the Sheriff, cereal and her flabby husband completely out of her mind.

Mandy listened to the car peel out of the lot and shrugged. He didn't know about her, but it was always worth the trip for him. He snatched his uniform shirt from the back of a wooden chair by the dresser and thought of the only two other things on the top of his list of desires besides sex. There was having money, which was always good, but more importantly, he wanted to put something in his growling belly.

Just for fun, he decided to shake down a shady pawn shop owner for some spare cash on the way back into town, but if he’d hurry, he could also score a hunk of free cake at the diner on Philips Avenue. Stella, the sassy redhead who ran the place, had a sweet pair of jugs and made an even sweeter three-layer Devil’s Food. The power of the badge was a wonderful thing.

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The author has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Media Design and has been published in The Dark Hoard, a horror anthology. She writes from central Florida and is attending Full Sail University for her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
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