You pay for you room. It's your bed. It's your sheets. It's your bathroom... but like some vaudeville act in a small town it's "for one night only".
Orange-aid sodium light seeps in around the smokey curtains. The storm that lorded over the town like a monster, blotting out the setting sun as we approached has broken and passed. Angry bolts whipping the ground with light and fury as we gazed out the windows of chinese restaurant we had been pointed toward by the young guys behind the motel desk. "It's right on the corner. It's like... in a shed, well a small building, you wouldn't know it was a cafe! But its good..." And it is. The owner and cook's kids watch us from the small kitchen. A small child slumbers on his mother's shoulder as she brings spring rolls and excellent sechuan chicken.
The storm punches the ground with its fists and we watch it move on, lighting up the night and exciting children in another town somewhere to the east... if there is one. We leave and the children from the kitchen come out and wave us off from the window, the lurid red "OPEN" sign flickering off as we round the corner.
And now the trucks pass the motel room on the highway outside. The wheels pffffssssssh in the wet and the engines clamour as they decelerate into the heart of town. The traffic lights that impede them casting their red, yellow and green glow onto the oil slicked and glistening road, swirling with the neons of the "no-vacancy" red motels, jiffy lubes, burger kings, chick-fil-a's and all night pharmacies... The kids have swum in the pool. Made five-minute-friends and taken turns seeing who can splash the roof. A slick haired guy hops from the sauna to the street for a quick smoke in the cooling air and is back into the sauna to sweat again. Some kind of ritual or pennance. In the spa, he chats with Lib and tells her how everyone else here is having fun. Wants to be here. Likes to be here. He'd want to be anywhere else really. A freak storm wrecked his house, and his neighbour's... and his neighbour's neighbours... "Red tape" he sighs. "Could be six weeks til we know whats happening" and offers her a Bud Light... an impossibly large woman floats by... "Could have been worse though - I was going to paint the house that weekend - don't have to do that now..."
The girls get fitful and we put them to bed. Lib writes about Salt Lake City. I lie on my back. Listen to the trucks outside... to the aircon... to the kids still in the pool. It should be closed by now. The outside door squeals and I imagine it's the man who didn't have to paint, sweat from the sauna chilling him as he sucks on a cigarette, in the orange light of the car-park. "Thank God for insurance," he had told us while drinking his Bud Light, his feet dangling in the pool, "thank God for insurance."
It's your bed. Your sheets. Your aircon and TV... you paid for it right? You get what you pay for though. One night only. In the cold steel grey of early morning, like a visiting circus, you pack up and move onto another town. The only people who get to stay longer are those who don't really want to...