In a small city on the outskirts of a small county you will find a small motel. This general hovel of a motel has a cracked pink façade, brown stains running down from the drainpipes like mascara making tracks through blusher on a girl’s overly rosy cheeks. Outside in the parking lot with the faint smell of gasoline in the air the cars sit half-baked in the sun, their bonnets staying cool under the metal awning. The pool has a rusty slide leading down into the sludge of green water, in which sits a blue and red inflatable ball, burst, and trying to float. In typically old clichéd style a few letters of the motel’s sign are hanging off or broken and the remaining lights flicker unconvincingly as though ashamed of the place they are meant to be promoting. The overall effect of this sign leading to the title of ‘Grn Moel’ where once ‘The Grand Motel’ would have stood. The whole building is made up of cracked plaster, rust and mould and yet their 20 rooms are always filled, helped along by the per hour rooms to let. Behind these doors lies the everyday bustle of life. People who live the same day but differently. Like a child with an advent calendar, the urge to peek just for a second and look into the life that someone else is living is as strong as the urge to stare at a car pileup as you drive by. The question is then what would you find behind those paint peeling pale blue doors?
In Reception, Sarah, who prefers to go by the name Juniper, snaps her neon pink gum, her lips and tongue working the substance around her mouth before blowing and popping. She sits, idly flicking through her magazine, bored as hell, and thinking about how she can possibly afford to make the money needed to bring her dad’s old mustang back to life for his birthday in two months. A customer walks in and she glances up before settling her gaze back on that magazine.
“Can’t you see I’m waiting?” he snaps.
Juniper looks up slowly, her eyes sweeping him from head to toe, her lip curling in distain. “Per hour, per day, per week?” she asks him, knowing his type and secretly despising him for it. She adapts the bored monotone used for most of their customers and finishes up the transaction, making sure to put him in one of the worst rooms. All the while going over in her mind how she is going to make her dad smile this year. She scribbles some notes before crumpling them and throwing them towards the bin.
Mr Doyle leaves the Reception and the gloomy receptionist and heads to his car, humming Elvis to himself. The damn song has been stuck in his head for near on an hour. Still he hopes that Susie will be able to knock it right out when she comes by that evening. He catches sight of himself in the refection off the car window. Hair gelled back, with only some thinning on top, blue and white striped shirt stretching over a paunch that he needs to think about before it’s too late and becomes a belly. Still, he is presentable enough and he doesn’t think that Susie will mind after 6 years of marriage. He hopes that she is impressed that he remembered their anniversary and likes that he booked this motel all without her input. Her pulls some wilted flowers out of the boot of the car and heads on over to Room 18, sensing a curtain twitching in the corner of his eye.
Mrs Howard pulls back the curtain to watch the latest arrival go by. “What God awful flowers!” she mutters to herself, getting more comfortable in her favourite armchair that she has positioned just by the window. She has the advantage of being on the ground floor with a view over reception and spends hours of her day making notes in a little green book that she retrieves from a box hidden under her bed. It’s a shame that in doing so that she has to witness that insolent receptionist but feels that it is her duty to pay attention where she is not. In the corner her cat squats in its litter tray and she calls it over soon after, muttering and murmuring as she pulls her liver spotted fingers through its fur. Mrs Howard absentmindedly mulls over the events of the previous day and resolves to speak to the owner, Mr Murphy, about the noise levels from Room 20 where thankfully whatever commotion was occurring seems to have finally stopped. She hopes that Mr Murphy will listen to her regarding this complaint unlike all the others he has ignored.
Jess creeps around Room 20 trying not to disturb Mark from his sleep. She needs to get out of this room, with the cans of beer stacked along the walls and the overflowing ashtray, despite the NO SMOKING sign displayed on the wall. The room smells like alcohol and morning breath and Jess needs a breath of fresh air. Creeping into the bathroom she looks at herself in the mirror, hair matted, face bruised. She quickly sets to work pumping foundation on to her hand, carefully using her fingers to cover the worst of the bruising. She should have known when he asked her to meet him that he hadn’t changed. He kept shouting at her last night that she was a cheating whore who deserved what was coming to her. Jess kept waiting for someone to knock on the door last night, she had tried to scream and make as much noise as possible but he had just growled at her to keep it down and dragged her along the floor leaving carpet burns on her back. Make up done, she eases herself out of the bathroom and across the brown and orange carpet to the front door. She lets herself out without a sound and bumps straight into Mr Murphy who is fixing a light outside the room. She scurries off before he gets a chance to look too closely at her face.
“Are you alright sweetheart?” Mr Murphy shouts after her as he watches the young lady walk away and thinks to himself, “What a great ass,” before turning his attention back to the light. This is the least of his problems. He has a stack of complaints to get through from Mrs Howard which will require a cigarette and a large glass of vodka, or whatever other spirit he can manage to pull from the supply cupboard. He wonders not for the first time why on earth he agreed to take over the motel from his father. It was just a long stream of trouble followed by frustration. But on the days when the money was ticking the place over and running itself and he could take himself down to the local brothel, well those days were good days. Mr Murphy shoves the light he’s fixing back into the hole and adds a strip of electrical tape. “That’ll do,” he says, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow and tugging at his jeans slipping past his ass. He walks to the end of the corridor and back down the stairs passing Room 12 on the way and grinning at the sounds coming from within.
The headboard bangs against the wall echoing the sound around the room. Holly tries to keep the look of boredom off her face and focus on the task at hand. Was it wrong that she’d spent the last 15 minutes under a man who smelt slightly like meat that had been left out in the sun whilst daydreaming about what it would be like to win the lottery that evening and what time she was meeting up with the girls later. They were going to a local bar that had no association with her day job and every association as somewhere where the beer is cheap and the music loud. Her client, a middle aged man called Brad, although she doubts it’s his real name, finally makes a few grunts and collapses all of his weight on her. Holly makes a few noises for effect and gives him a winning smile as he rolls off and immediately lights a cigarette. How on earth did she get to this point in her life? She peers up and out of the window looking at the sky above her and wondering, her thoughts interrupted by a wailing.
It is the sound of the alarm that sends everyone running from behind their pale blue doors and their own private lives. They all cluster in the parking lot trying to discreetly huddle up against their neighbour watching the flames assault the door of Room 20. Juniper clutches her money jar to her chest which she quickly grabbed on her way out. Holly tightens her dressing gown around her waist trying desperately to distance herself from her client. Mrs Howard holds her cat close to her chest and Mr Doyle looks around in bafflement as Mr Murphy takes another swig of whisky and presses his cell phone to his ear.
“911, what’s your emergency?” comes the tinny voice of the operator.
“My fucking motel is burning down!” Mr Murphy roars down the phone.
Despite their differing lives, everyone has been pulled together to witness this one event. Everyone, that is, except two. One, is still passed out in a drunken stupor in Room 20, and the other, slopes off into the shadows with her bruised and battered face.