Over two years ago, I wrote a post that was the first installment of a five-part short story. The story, “The Night I Woke Up”, described a vague remembrance from a childhood vacation. A few paragraphs into the tale, I briefly mentioned another memory from the same trip. That recollection might have contributed to an undercurrent of dread during that time of my life.
Here’s a snippet from that post:
We usually split the trip into two supposedly more manageable segments by spending a night in the cheapest, i.e. sleaziest, motel in North Carolina. (If you think sleazy, motel, and North Carolina is a redundancy, you’re not far off the mark. One of those joints could justify a story in itself. More than likely, it will.)
Well, it’s been a couple of years, but that joint, as implied, is about to have its very own post.
The motel in question was called “The All American Motel”. How much more promising could it be? We were an all-American family traveling in an all-American car (a Rambler, believe it or not) down the all-American east coast. The sun had set and we were well beyond exhausted and agitated from driving with three boys and their parents crammed into a vehicle for several hours. It was either stop and crash or continue on and, more than likely, crash.
In the darkness, the All American looked like the place to be. A full parking lot, a swimming pool, and all American. (My impression of what constitutes “all American” has changed since then, not in a positive direction.) What more could we ask for? We registered. We went to the room.
There’s a reason motels have pretty much fallen out of favor in this country. They were never big on cleanliness or security. The All American set a new substandard for both. This place was disgusting. Putrescence was the decor of choice. The carpet had the consistency of Play-Doh, but stickier. The bathroom—I don’t even want to remember the bathroom. It might have had cockroaches, but if not, it was only because even the cockroaches have limits. Random lagoons of standing water probably bred entire civilizations of toxins. They should have dispensed antibiotics with every stay.
That night we went to a nearby restaurant, a dark and dingy steak house with a repulsive name like “Meaty D-Luxe” or such. The only thing I remember clearly from that dump was that the waitress was so creepy—kind of a female Norman Bates—we bolted from the place without even ordering. I’m not sure we ate anything that night. We were all too freaked out.
Back at the All American, we peeled apart the vile sheets and blankets, oozed into the beds, and somehow slept. The prospect of swimming in the pool the next day was the one hopeful thought that kept us kids going.
The All American wasn’t at its best in daylight because, well, you could see the place. The highly anticipated pool was a bust. It contained only about a foot of some kind of gelatinous fluid—it certainly wasn’t water. You wouldn’t have to be Jesus to walk across the surface of the thing.
The parking lot was still full, but…
There was something amiss with the cars. First of all, they were all ancient. No model was from the previous 30 years. Yet they all looked in good shape. That was only because every visible surface, all the metal, chrome, and tires of each vehicle had been freshly painted. The tires, while painted the colors of the cars: blue, red, white, whatever, were all flat. The license plates, also painted, were from decades before our stay. Not a single car in the lot was a real, running car.
We remedied that situation by tearing away as quickly as our little Rambler could ramble. I’m not sure we packed our stuff. We might have left it behind, afraid it was crawling with deadly microscopic life forms unknown to science. Probably whatever they served at the Meaty D-Luxe.
The only redeeming feature of the All American Motel is that it would make a great setting for a horror story. It was for us.
And it is for you now. Sleep well.