Travel Mates

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Like Pulling Teeth

May fifteenth dawned with a torrential downpour, which quickly slackened into a nasty drizzle. Paul dressed for success in his cleanest pair of jeans and a t-shirt without a rock icon or alcoholic beverage pictured on its front. True to rites, a Honda Accord was waiting on the curb at 9:00 sharp. Tossing on a windbreaker, Paul was out the door.

The driver wasn't much for conversation. After a couple of false starts, Paul got the hint and watched the low-class housing blur by until the Accord swung onto the Atlas Causeway which cut directly into the City's business district. The silence in the car was broken only by the intermittent squeak of new wipers cutting across watery glass.

The car pulled up in front of a five-story, pre-war walkup sandwiched between two giant modern scrapers. Double height scaffolding was set up in front of the building, indicating a construction job. The driver got out of the car, umbrella in hand, and opened the door for Paul. He walked Paul to the building entrance and opened it. "If you just take that staircase up two flights sir, you will come to an open plan office. Have a seat and someone will be here soon to answer all of your questions." Well, Paul thought, at least the guy wasn't mute.

Paul entered the drab gray lobby and took ancient stairs up two long flights. He noticed a set of quickly drying footprints on the stairs and smiled. Paul was an observer. It was the writer in him. He prided himself on not missing things.

He reached the second floor landing and looked around. There was an office on each end of the hallway, but only one of them had a sign in front with fancy lettering that read "Travel Club".

He entered into a stark room decorated with only a bench, two chairs and a partially deceased miniature palm tree. A woman sat on the bench and stared at him. "Hi," Paul said. No response. He was beginning to think it was him.

The woman was young, maybe twenty-three or so, with a pretty face and dark, rain matted hair. But it was her eyes that drew Paul. They were a muted greenish-brown, but they held both a heaping spoonful of world-weariness that went far beyond the owner's age as well as an equal measure of watchfulness.

"You work here?" he asked.

She gave an amused smile, like he'd just asked the world's dumbest question. "No."

"Contest winner?"

"Yep." He assumed she had more eloquence with her writing than with the spoken word.

"Me too. I'm Paul. You got a handle?"

"Suzie."

"Good to meet you Suzie." A good half-minute of awkward silence passed. He was glad he wasn't close enough to offer his hand because he was sure she wouldn't have taken it. Suzie remained on the bench, staring at Paul with her hawk's eyes. Paul suddenly hoped that each contest winner was getting their own separate adventure of a lifetime.

"So, uh, what do you do Suzie?"

"I'm a tour guide." She said it as though challenging him to deny it was true. Her eyes never seemed to leave him for very long. At least they blinked or Paul would have been unnerved.

"Cool. I'm a writer," he volunteered because he assumed she wouldn't ask.

"You write anything I'd have read?" she asked.

"Only if you broke into my house and turned on my computer." He smiled at his own joke. She didn't. "You still got it Paul," he thought.

He took one of the two chairs and sat. For the first time, he noticed a door in the far corner of the room. "Anyone home?" he asked Suzie.

She shrugged. "Dunno, just got here myself. I knocked over the tree," she added and smiled. He smiled back.

"You want gum?" he asked, reaching for his trusty Juicy Fruit. Juicy Fruit was the perfect icebreaker in any situation.

She cocked her head to one side. "I thought we weren't supposed to bring anything?"

"I live to break rules." He tossed her a piece. She caught it and smiled again. He liked her smile. It warmed her face and tempered the hardness in her eyes. "Here's a girl with history," he thought.

They sat in silence, chewing gum. She suddenly got up, making her way across the room. "I'm checking out that door," she said.

"Weren't we told to just wait till someone comes?"

"I live to break rules too," she replied.

Before she made it, footfalls on antediluvian steps echoed from the hallway. They both turned to the door, waiting on their host.

9 Comments:

Blogger Sara said...

Oooh, I love it.

I especially like hearing his thoughts.

Can't wait for more.

7:59 PM  
Blogger int said...

I like how the parts are interconnected. Indicative of behind-the-scenes collaboration. So far so good, keep it up.

1:47 AM  
Blogger Tomboy said...

Actually, we don't really tell each other much, except that we'll make sure it's twisted enough.
Which reminds me, I can't post mine yet, because Kira is a problema and Paul's a smart aleck.
Sorry El and Scrapsiolla, you'll have to wait some more.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

Hmmm - Well, seeming as how we have no choice, we wait...

6:14 AM  
Blogger Scraps said...

Why is Kira a problema? Maybe I can help you work it out. She's going to be trying to put on a show of respectability for the first few minutes, at least, if that helps.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Elster said...

It's not Kira. it ccause tomboy is a talentless hack who can't write her way out of a paper bag!!!

I am writing this as "Anonymous" right?

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you guys changed the template to dark-text-on-light-colored-background, i'd read. as it is, it's impossible to decipher.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

I will speak to the technical dept. Tommy!!!!!

11:34 AM  
Blogger The Real Neo said...

Billiant writing for the most part but I am BEGGING you to please change the background, it is very hard to read and it makes the story very hard to get through because I want to look at the screen as little as possible.

2:06 AM  

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