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5000 a Plate

5000 a Plate

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My NaNoWriMo work! It's a pointedly dark comedy.
My NaNoWriMo work! It's a pointedly dark comedy.

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Published by: Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Garcia on Jun 20, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/23/2013

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5000 Dollars a PlateWednesday Morning, 9am, Sunnyvale, CA"Welcome to the Domain Hotel! I'm Carla, what can I do for you?"He didn't feel a greeting like that was appropriate to 9am on aWednesday."Checking in," he said, "James McCleary."Carla kept smiling at him, somehow knowing exactly the keys to hit tocheck the status of his reservation."We've got you in for just the one night, no?" Carla had not looked atthe screen."Right." James would have taken off his glasses, but he still sufferedunder the delusion that they made him look more like a writer.She only broke eye contact for a moment, and then only to grab twocards, pass them through encoders. She caught his eyes again, smiled, andoffered up the keys."337, on the third floor, left out of the elevator. You need help with yourluggage." Carla asked, a slight tilt of her head and an increased smile."All I have is right here." James lifted his beat-up metal suitcase."Top-secret documents?" Carla asked."The toppest. Third floor, to the left?""Third floor, to the left." James turned, walked across the lobby to the elevator. The doors werebrushed silver, but he could make himself out fairly well. Six-two, lean,khakis, blue shirt with a black sports coat. Maybe the Air Jordan's were a bittoo much of a 90s stand-up image. The briefcase was a nice touch thought.He could have been the world's worst courier, but as he thought about that,the doors slid open, and he stepped in. Typical.He had been in small hotel elevators more times than he would feelcomfortable counting and this one took the top prize as must unremarkable. Three walls, faux wood grain. One wall brushed metal, with three buttonsdirectly on the wall beside the sliding portion. No numbers, no panel, noadvertising poster in a holder in the back. Just the three buttons. He pressedthe top one and the doors closed slowly. He looked across the lobby andnoted that Carla still stared and smiled towards him.Sometimes, he hated excellent customer service. The box began to rise, slowly. He imagined some sort of Rube Goldbergmachine connected to a winch which pulled a weight connected to rope tiedto a clicky rachet-y thing which was powered by a mongoose who waschasing after a fake cobra. God help him if that mongoose ever caught thatcobra. Like that unlucky racing greyhound, he'd never run again. The elevator stopped on the third floor. Smooth, he'd give it that.As the doors slowly opened, he finally noticed what should have beenapparent at the moment he walked in: the giant atrium. There were four
 
tracks that surrounded the giant, fern and palm covered atrium area. Itlooked like the kind of place you'd have a John Woo shoot-out, but the one atthe start of the movie, not the end. He could almost picture the doves takingwing in slow-motion, going for sky that was only beyond those glass ceilingpanels, a dying buddy cop being cradled by Chow Yun Fat as he finallyexpired. Walking down the slight ramp of the skybridge, he found the roomright in front of him, a small door hanger on the entry lever saying "Welcometo Your Room! Enjoy Your Stay!" The wonders of the Modern Boutique Hotel.Move-in for James was always the same: dip the card in the slot, pushthe handle, enter, cross immediately to the desk, set the metal suitcasedown, flip the latches, pull out his MacBook, set it next to the TV, open it up,launch the DVD player and start watching Festen. This he did without a wasted motion beyond the useless ritual of it all. The first moments of the film started to play across the screen as James walked to the far bed, and folded himself down slowly. He never couldfigure out why he chose a Double Queen Room every time, but it was atradition he would not break. He kicked off the Jordans, stretched to his fullon the bed and pulled the cell phone from his pocket.He watched, half-watched really, as Christian walked up the road,about to get picked up by his brother Michael. James hit re-dial."Hello, James." The strident nasality of Dr. Hynek's voice would neverbe called soothing, but it that was how it effected James whenever he wouldcall."I'm in Sunnyvale. At the Domain, all checked-in.""Good, James, Good," the Dr. was obviously typing something furiouslywhile he spoke with James, a typical feature of the many calls between thetwo, "you're sure you want to do this?""I've already started watching the movie again."Good, but you're still sure you want to do this? You want to go seeyour father?" James paused. It had been eight years since he had seen his Dad,three years before he started therapy, and two years before he published hisfirst novel. James was, in every way that mattered to him, a completelydifferent person than he had been during his father's 50th birthday party."I'm sure.""Alright," The good doctor's typing paused, "I am forwarding a feweMails your way. They're from the start of our therapy sessions. Do youremember when I had you write them?" James did, vividly. As long as he had been writing, these were thehardest things he had ever committed to any sort of permanence."Yes, I remember.""Good. Read them over, look at who you were and think about who youwant to be and if after that you still want to make the trip, then there'snothing to stop you."
 
 James wasn't looking forward to the eMails, not at all. He could recitemost of them from memory, but still, seeing them would hurt. Dr. Hynek'smethods ofter were painful, but that wasn't his goal, James knew that. Healso figured that the techniques employed in his therapy were a-traditional,which is probably why he felt so lifted by them. These were risks, rickytreatments, and backing out now would mean turning his back on the risks.He would see his father, Dad he reminded himself, tomorrow and then itwould all be clear.Clear. He hadn't thought that word in years. A Scientologist phase hadtaught him the great price of 'clear'."James?""Sorry, I'll read them as soon as they're through.""Very good, James. Get some rest. I suspect you'll need it." The click indicated that the call was over. James didn't remove thephone from his ear. Instead, he let it slid from his hand, fall on to the pillow.Danish dialogue tended to put him to sleep faster than anything else.Wednesday Afternoon, 12:35pm, the hills above Los Gatos, CANick wasn't late.He prided himself on the ability to show up on time, and more-often-than-not, sober. He hadn't had a drink yet, but with nearly a full day beforeanything important started happening, who knew what the future held! Thebottle of Laphroig in his bag would, most likely, rear its peaty head.Darleen had spilt something on the passenger seat. Why on Earth heever let that girl borrow the Mercedes Nick could not figure out. Marcus, henever spilled anything, not a drop. That kid was clean as his tennis shoes.Nick would make sure he had a talk with young Darleen when he got homeon Friday afternoon. Traffic would be hell getting from the Bay Area out toSacramento, but that was the life of a retorter, wasn't it?He was actually amazed that there were any reporters left after morethan two decades of cuts at every major, and even more every minor,newspaper around the world. He had seen eery one of his Columbia co-alumni lose at least one job while he kept his office across from the capital.He was happiest seeing the smuggest of the bunch get the harshest cuts. Hehas spent far more time partying and reading Philip K Dick novels than heever did working on the school paper. Hell, he'd only ever had three articlespublished, all of them widely-read, and had even won a student Pulitzer. That would be as close as he got to a real award his entire life. The drive, at least, had been relaxing. So relaxing that he had missedwhat was obviously a wine stain on the white leather seat of his 1987Mercedes. He didn't tend to miss these things when the stress had built up toproper pressure behind his eyes. He might buy Marcus his own car, hellNick'd get his own new Lexus and hand this one off to Marcus as a gift. That'd teach Doreen to keep the cork in until after she'd made it home. The road through the heavy trees thickened in front of Nick's car and a

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