Smashed at the net

By Ken Bradbury

This is a real-time report. It’s 11:45 p.m. in one of the crummiest hotels in the state of Illinois. You get to stay in these places if the State of Illinois is picking up your hotel bill. Actually, they gave me a stipend for $150 and I get to keep whatever I don’t spend so the cheapness is purely my fault.

I knew the night would be trouble when I checked in and found that a girls’ volleyball team inhabited the floor of my hotel room. I talked to their coaches down in the lobby. The adults are staying on another floor. This should have been a red flag.

12:05 a.m. I don’t know what time the girls play tomorrow, but they’re going to be in bad shape. On the other hand, judging by the noise next door they seem to be practicing volleyball in the adjoining room. I must be staying beside the tall girls who play the net as I’ve heard several slams on our joint wall.

12:15 a.m. Did I say “wall”? It seems to be made of cardboard. The TV has four channels devoted to golf. Is there that much golf in the world? Forrest Gump is on a movie channel. That’s a law. Every seedy hotel must show Forrest Gump all night long. I can’t get Forrest to talk louder than the girls next door.

12:17 a.m. I’m supposed to perform at 10 in the morning. I hope their volleyball game is at 6 a.m., but I doubt it. I consider calling down to the front desk, but judging by the looks of this hotel the volleyball team may be among their most civilized guests. Besides, I’m not sure they have anyone at the front desk. It took me forever to find someone to check in.

12:32 a.m. The girls on the other side of me seem to be having a dance party. The music is booming through my shower wall. Maybe they’re dancing in their shower. Bare feet keep running up and down the hall. I stepped out there a few moments ago and found that volleyball teams don’t wear pajamas. I’m embarrassed to go out again.

12:55 a.m. I’m hoping they have a 1 a.m. curfew.

1:05 a.m. They don’t.

1:20 a.m. Forrest has gone to Viet Nam. The grout has come loose around my sink. I think it was Taylor Swift’s final notes that made the final cracks appear. I just walked down to get a Diet Pepsi and ran into three of the girls running down the hallway. As I passed I heard one of them say, “I didn’t know there were people up here.” People? I walked into my room just as Forrest said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Apt.

1:32 a.m. Three pillows over my head makes no difference . . . just makes my head hot.

1:37 a.m. I’ve been looking at nicks in the desk, the holes in the wall, and the strange colorations of my shower stall, wondering what strange events might have occurred in this hotel room. There’s a story here, but I think I’ll leave it to someone else to write.

2 a.m. I think I may have fallen asleep. I can’t tell. An occasional pair of bare feet

continues to run back and forth in the hallways, always followed by a scream. Forrest is now on his second lap around my TV set. He’s getting on the school bus and meets Jenny for the first time.

6 a.m. I must have slept. The sun is coming up. All’s quiet on the volleyball court. I make as much noise as I can in the shower, flush the toilet twice and turn on CNN as loud as civility allows. I bump the far wall for good measure.

6:45 a.m. Just returned from the hotel’s Continental Breakfast. I’m not sure which continent it came from. The lost continent of Atlantis, I think. The adult “chaperones” were eating. They looked rested. The Bible teaches us not to hate so I ate my stale bagels instead. I heard them talk about their 10 o’clock game. I chuckled. Good luck, I thought. The first straggling girls stumbled in, bleary-eyed. One coach asked how they slept, and a girl answered, “Not good. I can never sleep in a strange bed.” Heck babe, you’ve got to get in the bed first.

7:10 p.m. Back in Arenzville again. Wish I’d caught the name of their team so I could look up their miserable score on the Internet. With my luck they won and will return for the semi-finals the next time I stay in a hotel.

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