StuffingBy Brad Jones
(Apologies for some of the formatting. This text box is clearly no fan of tabs and paragraphs!)
The two men didn’t need this. It had been a long day. A long wet day. Torrential in fact. The car had packed up, and neither had the motivation nor inclination to call the AA this late at night. So, each with their demonstration EZ-Vak (“The handheld vacuum cleaner that really shows competitors how badly they suck!”) and not one sale between them, the two trudged on through the streets of an alien town looking for anywhere that might give them a bit of peace, comfort and a bed for the night. Neither fancied sleeping in the car.
Lightning. Great. Both men, now drenched to the bone, surveyed the area trying to make out a “Vacancies” sign on any building that might possibly resemble a hotel. Ah. Now...
‘There?’ asked Jack, staring into the middle distance.
‘Good as place as any,’ replied John.
‘Looks like the Munster’s holiday home.’
‘I don’t care if it looks like Steptoe’s yard. I’m wet, cold and I want a bed. Coming?’
The old man flicked through the thick book on the reception desk, tutted, and took a biro out from behind his ear.
‘You lucky men,’ he said. ‘You lucky, lucky men. I have two rooms free. But, I must warn you, one is more expensive than the other.’
‘That’s okay. He’s far richer than me,’ joked Jack, staring at his colleague. Jack glanced down at his Tesco suit, as John scratched uncomfortably at his Gieves and Hawkes trousers. John took the key to the Princess Margaret Memorial Suite and made his way up the steep, winding stairs.
This was alright! Look at it! So well kept! Did Princess Margaret herself ever stay here? John put his suitcase and EZ-Vak down in the corner and wandered round the opulent room, hardly believing his luck. He noticed a kettle to his right. Five different types of tea! Four different blends of coffee and... oh look! Miniatures! Gin, vodka, brandy. A little nocturnal aperitif beckoned. He wandered into the en-suite bathroom. The heated towel rail was on. And a welcome relief of warmth it was too. He took his Savile Row clothing off and draped it over the rails. They’ll be warmed through in no time. Putting on his pyjamas, he slid beneath the freshly pressed sheets of fabric-conditioned cotton. Now then... a little nightcap.
The hundred watt clear light bulb seemed to be dripping water itself. Jack looked around. “One room is more expensive than the other” indeed. He wasn’t wrong. Had he taken a wrong turning at the cleaning cupboard? Was this the cleaning cupboard? Oh well, one more vacuum cleaner won’t make much difference. He put his EZ-Vak down and went in search of a window for some fresh air. Damn. He remembered he was in the basement. So, whilst his colleague was living in luxury, what did he have? One chipped basin. Two taps, both marked ‘Cold’, and only one working. No plug. Kettle anywhere? He surveyed the top of the writing bureau in the corner. Nope. Not even a beaker to pour cold water into. He took his £20 suit off and draped it round an icy cold “hot” water pipe. Bed. At least he had one of those. A rusty fold-up affair it might be, but a bed’s a bed, and particularly on a night like this. He pulled back the grey sheets with the suspicious stains on them, and slid underneath. Argh, he’d forgotten to pull the curtains. Then he remembered. There wasn’t a window.
John smiled as he handed over the EZ-Vak to his grinning customer. His twenty-seventh sale that morning! Incredible. Usually, he’d just get a door slammed in his face. But no, this town were hungry for cleanliness at a convenient price! This was like a dream. He opened his eyes. Damn. It was a dream. But it didn’t matter, as he was so comfortable. His feet were toasty warm under the thick eiderdown, the four pillows behind him, moulded around his still drowsy head. He turned to the alarm clock radio. Three-thirty. More sleep then! Luxury!
Jack turned. He turned again. And again. Nope. This was no good. He was freezing under the thin sheets, a single square cushion behind his head. And this mattress! It was awful. It was so hard! He got out of the bed and gave the mattress a thump. Oww! Mattresses shouldn’t hurt like that! Maybe it would be softer on the other side? Knowing his luck, it would be full of damp, he thought. He grasped the side of it and turned it over, slotting it back into place on the cheap fold-up bed. He thumped it again. Still rock hard. Felt as if it was stuffed full of paper. He was about to get back in, when he noticed a tear down one side of it. There was something sticking out. He reached round and to his shock he pulled out a fifty-pound note. He stared at it. Was it real? It seemed to have all the security features. He looked back at the tear and peered in. Another one! Another note! Anoth... hold on... more of them! Note after note after note! All fifties! No wonder the mattress felt like it was stuffed with paper. After half an hour, he’d managed to deprive the mattress of every last fragment of its monetary stuffing. No time to count it all now. He emptied his suitcase and refilled it with the notes until it couldn’t be shut. He put his still wet suit back on, putting fifties in every pocket.
‘Sleep well, sir?’ enquired the old man on reception as John yawned and made his way towards the breakfast table.
‘Like a baby!’ he replied. So comfortable. And my suit is dry as a bone thanks to that towel rail.’
‘The full English then, sir?’
‘Yes, please. Don’t know if I should wait for Jack to join me. I felt a bit bad taking the expensive room, but I knew he couldn’t afford it. He’s not a rich man, but keep that to yourself.’
‘Jack? Oh, your colleague? I doubt he’ll be joining you for breakfast, sir. He checked out about an hour ago. Left me a tip too! Fifty pounds!’
Copyright Brad Jones 2012.
This page was added on 10/09/2012