Guest Blogger for the month of April is Meg Tuite. I’m so excited to feature her here because her writing is so frickin fantastic and I want to share it with all I can. It’s honest, brazen and hilarious. That’s what I look for in a writer — never mind a guy — a sense of humor. And Meg Tuite has it. Plus, she wrote me a super sweet Valentine’s Day poem and I’ll never be the same.
I get dumped out of a car in front of the Holiday Inn in the Holidome. My head wants to roll off its neck like a bowling ball into a gutter. If I could just suck down one beer in front of this garish hotel I might be able to cheerfully make it through. My boyfriend, Dennis, finds this all amusing and pretty much shoves me out of the car. He spends Sundays looking through the want ads circling potentially humiliating jobs for me. Fuck him! He’s got a drawer full of cash in his dresser. Dennis manages a few of the major bars on Rush Street in Chicago, while my friends and I drink for free. He thinks I need to get up everyday and get dressed. “Have a good time, Michelle. I’ll pick you up in a half hour,” he says with a smirk, and speeds off. I’m left outside in the wind.
I walk into a huge atrium with an old, gray piano player, large, fake plants and a migraine-fested palette of hot pink and turquoise pulsing from the walls, tablecloths and streaks of circus-sun hoofing it in from the skylight above. Stabs and pokes of memories of last night snicker at me with remnants of upside-down watermelon shots, the decayed molars of a coked-up corpulent hyena-guy, vagrant conversations with vagrants about nothing and wrists tied to the bedpost.
I attempt to walk a steady line toward the yawning, endless counter with businessmen in suits checking in and out. I look down to see what Dennis has dressed me in. It’s all black and looks washed and ironed. Dennis likes to iron, in his underwear, in front of the TV while he screams at football players. This image is usually a fond one. Today I hate him.
A lady, about eighty, with a hairball coughed up on her head, sits me down at a table in the employees’ lounge with papers to fill out. The lines on the paper are arrogant. They are smugly assured that my life will parade itself out with panties around my ankles and showcase me as a wrist-flicking puncher of time-clocks. Hairball lady whispers to Blue eye shadow lady that I have a college degree. They both nod and think this means something.
Dennis is ecstatic when the phone rings and they tell me I’ve got the job. He picks me up and swings me around. He takes me to breakfast and loudly orders a huge entrée. When the food arrives he lines his five beverages up side by side, OCD style–coffee, chocolate milk, orange juice, lemonade and apple juice. He chugs a few with a chaser of four ibuprofen. His barreling voice bombards deep into the ears of the waitresses, patrons and me. He gulps his drinks with his pinky up and lives with some kind of mayoral hard-on in his head. He gorges his plate of huevos rancheros. I study the mound of beans, eggs and green slop that he shovels in and suddenly see the inside of his intestines. I am sick now and can only drink coffee. I remember that I stole a hundred dollar bill from his drawer this morning while he was in the shower. I am starting to feel better about things.
Blue eye shadow lady measures me for my Holiday Inn costume. “How lucky,” the woman says. They had an employee who wore the exact same size. The woman goes in the back somewhere and comes out with two rumpled turquoise skirts with matching vests and two evil blouses. The blouses are neon stripes of flamingo pink and turquoise with fat bow ties attached to the shirts. Darts slash out on either side of the boob area. This particular fabric does not seem to wrinkle even when balled up. “Panty hose are mandatory,” she says. “A little tip for you, young lady.” Blue eye shadow winks. “Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be on your feet all day.” I look down at Blue eye shadow’s shoes. She is stacked in black stiletto heels at least four inches high. She clicks away from me and says, “See you Monday, Michelle. 6:45 AM, prompt.”
I work the seven to three shift at the Holiday Inn, Monday through Friday. I am set up at the front desk. I am forced to look over Hairball’s shoulder for a week to attempt to learn the trade. As soon as I arrive each day a line of cheap suits are waiting to check out. They smack their lips and look me up and down in my polyester train wreck and say “mmm, mmm, now isn’t she cute? Are you new on the job, pretty thing?” they ask. I huddle next to Hairball squinting and punching in codes and swearing to myself. I look up at a bald one and say, “Oh no, can’t you tell? I’m a regular, old veteran at this,” as Hairball tsk, tsks me, and has to void out yet another mis-punch on the cash register.
Heidi is the reservationist. She has worked in the Holidome for three years. She has her own office. She is chubby and sarcastic and hates this place as much as me. We become fast friends. She keeps a bottle of vodka locked up in her bottom desk drawer so Mrs. Feldenheim will never find it. Mrs. Feldenheim is a Nazi. She is the general manager of the hotel. She is about 6’2 and skeleton ugly with a long rod up her ass.
Heidi and I sit next to each other at the weekly meetings. About twelve employees are sitting in a conference room that sports the same antagonizing motif. I have gone through countless Advils just to make it through. Heidi and I have already snuck a few drinks before the meeting. Mrs. Feldenheim is pacing back and forth as she talks. She is proud of the Holidome. She thinks this is a career. She tells everyone how lucky he or she is to have these important positions. It is a tough job market out there and if everyone works with his nose to the grindstone (she actually says this) then everyone will be set for life. Heidi kicks me under the table. I start snickering. “You think this is funny, little smart mouth,” Mrs. Feldenheim asks me. I wait for her to continue and then punch Heidi back and sit more erect in my chair with my hands folded pretending to listen.
“You people need to take this seriously. I am now in the position I have always wanted to be in.” Heidi whispers to me, “yeah, like straddling some lounge act with a whip in her hand.” Mrs. Feldenheim continues. “I now have THIS many applications,” (she flings her arms out wide) “for THIS many jobs.” (She pinches her fingers together). Heidi raises her hand. “Mrs Feldenheim? I have seen most of the applicants. How many of them actually speak English?” Mrs. Feldenheim glares at Heidi as she kicks me again.
Dennis is pushing me to quit the job. It wasn’t his intention for me to enjoy it when he first shoved me out of the car at the Holidome. He assumed I’d drop it like I did the rest of the crappy jobs I’d had after a week or so. I was now going on three months without missing a day. It was approaching Christmas and everyone wanted time off except for Heidi, who was Jewish and needed the cash, and myself. I always hated the holidays anyway and I’d get paid double-time for working Christmas day. Dennis has a huge family and he loves the holidays, being the politician-in-his-pants kind of guy. He wants me all sparkly and by his side. I like pissing Dennis off. His job-hunting prank blew up in his face. Maybe when I finally quit this job, because it is only a matter of time, he will stop selling me out and let me pillage his dresser drawer, the penny-pinching ass, and live the life I was destined for. The nightlife.
Christmas day arrives. I check out ten suits at the counter. These are the really cheap ones that can’t afford to take off the holidays, or they’re having affairs and don’t want to go home. The good part is that five out of ten of them give me a bottle of wine as a present. They feel sorry for me and I play it up. I shouldn’t have to work on Christmas day. A few make passes at me and try to hustle me into meeting them for dinner or at another hotel. I am getting good at playing with their brainless heads.
Heidi is sitting up front with me today. She runs in the back whenever we need to open another bottle of wine. We go through at least three bottles before we stop answering the phone, “Holiday Inn in the Holidome, can I help you?” I’m the first one to change it. The phone rings. We are sitting up front laughing and telling stupid jokes. I pick it up. “Happy Holidays, Heidi and Michelle’s Hollow-Ass Holidome, can I help you?” Heidi is totally cracking up. The person hangs up. That happens a few times. There are a few people milling around. One fat guy keeps flirting with Heidi and me up at the counter. He thinks we’re actually going to take him on in a threesome. Of course, we lead him on for a while, because what else is there to do? The phone rings again. I am slurring by now. “Heidi and Michelle’s Hollow-Assface Holidome, can I help you?” There is silence. Then the booming voice of Mrs. Feldenheim sprays out of the receiver. “What the hell did you say?” Now, I am speechless. I look over at Heidi, smile, and says, “It’s for you.” Heidi starts singing some Hanukkah song into the phone and stops mid-line. “Shit,” she mouths to me. Her face turns a beautiful, ghastly white. I fall on the carpet and start rolling around laughing. This is too rich. My career at the Holidome has almost ended. Though, certainly not before Heidi and me book a flight to Mexico on Heidi’s excellent discount plan with some of the cash I’ve been stocking away from my boyfriend’s dresser drawer.
Published in The Hawaii Review/Spring 2011/Issue 74
A story included in Meg Tuite’s novel-in-stories, Domestic Apparition
Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, 34th Parallel, Epiphany, JMWW, One, the Journal, Monkeybicycle and Boston
Literary Magazine. She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She is the fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. Her novel
Domestic Apparition (2011) is available through San Francisco Bay Press and her chapbook, Disparate Pathos, is available (2012) through Monkey Puzzle Press. She has a monthly column, Exquisite Quartet, published up at Used Furniture Review. The Exquisite Quartet Anthology-2011 is available.
Her blog: http://megtuite.wordpress.com.