The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 7
Sunday morning, the day before.
Steven sat upon the edge of the bathtub in his room, staring at the fish in the container shoved in between his legs and the edge of the toilet. It had been two long days of keeping the Atlantic Wolf Fish in captivity, a small and restrictive one at that. He had shared with it some of his cold-cuts from his fridge, but as the food was also meant for himself, he had to supplement it with slices of bread from the hotel’s complimentary breakfast.
The days had seemed to tame the fierce ocean beast, but Steven knew that the fish was rather just bored, distressed, or both. He had though to move it to the tub, but the combination of the thing’s teeth and the shallower water of the basin seemed like a bad idea. To keep the fish well until his mentor arrived, however, he would have to think of something.
Finally coming up with a proper, yet risky plan, Steven dressed up in his fine wear and headed down to the lobby. Mr. Wash was already at the front desk, a seemingly rare sight. Steven placed himself just before the counter, putting his palms down on the wooden surface in a show of determination.
“Oh, Mr. Narrows.” Obidiah spoke up, looking up from his ledger. “To what do I owe the honor? How are your studies treating you?”
Steven paused, taken aback. “Oh, well, they’re just fine. Great. Oh well, actually, no. I’m quite busy actually. A lot of tapping away at the typewriter, you know.”
This boy is one of our country’s educated elite? Oh dear, how will the future look?
“Is that so?” The owner stared and nodded.
“Uh, well, that is the reason I’ve come down today.”
Steven took a deep breath. “Well, as the situation goes, my masters’ stipend check arrived this past Friday-” he lied, “and, well, I saw the pound signs, and I figured I could splurge… just a tiny bit.”
“The hotel would be happy to accommodate you, Mr. Narrows, within reason.” Obidiah said, pleasantly surprised.
“Oh, well, it’s nothing extravagant. I was simply wondering if there were any rooms available with a large soaking tub, you know, so as to be able to relax after a long day down at the port.”
Obidiah smiled and turned back to the wall of cubbies, reaching up to the top row for a singular item in the middlemost one. “You are in luck. The Sunshine suite in 411 upon one the top floor has a newly renovated jacuzzi tub, complete with nine jets to massage the sorest of muscles.” The owner planted the key down on the counter with a clang. “I will advise you, it will add another five-hundred to your monthly bill. Well, I’ll knock it down to three-fifty for you.”
You know no one else would pay for that room.
Steven bit his lip, remembering the void in his wallet. “Well, what’s money good for if you don’t have your health?”
Obidiah nodded and took out a pen with a singular click and began scribbling down in his ledger. “Very correct, sir. Will you be attempting to move to your new accommodations today?” He looked up with a smile.
“Uh, yes, I would like to, very much.”
“I shall see then if Horatio-”
“Oh, well, I can manage on my own. The fellow has helped me much already.” Steven explained. “Besides, I don’t have too many things to bring up.”
“Very well.” Obidiah nodded and slid the key over the desk to Steven. “I shall let the maids know your old room will be ready to be turned over later today. Just leave the old key in the door.”
Steven pocketed the item and stepped back. “Thank you, Mr. Wash. I shall see you about.”
After accepting the key, Steven headed straight up to the top floor to check on the room. He found the door labeled with ‘411’ and allowed himself in. As told, the tub was very prominent in the room; it stood in the large main living area, posed in front of a tall arched window that looked out upon the sea. Steven stepped forward into the tub and took in the unfathomable distance down to the waves below. He swallowed hard and stepped back onto the carpet
The remainder of the afternoon was spent taking his studies and other possessions up to the floor above to his new room. As most of the commotion of the day died down, he began the trek with the final item: the plastic crate with the fish and its cloudy habitat. The plastic dragged nicely across the carpet to the stairs, but the constant sloshing made it hard to bring it up the treads in any single motion. Up he continued, two or three steps at a time, with a slight break in between, until he had reached the forth floor.
The massive tub in the new, fancy room had been filled already with water and left to acclimate and breathe off some of the minerals. From his kitchenette down below, he had managed to pilfer the stored away box of salt, with which to appropriately salinate the water to match the wolf fish’s habitat. Finally, with the fish and all his belongings inside the new room, he locked the door behind him.
The final challenge was to raise the container up and gently pour the fish into its new home. Steven’s sore, skinny arms brought the container to the edge and carefully poured the old water and its inhabitant in, careful as to not splash too much water about the surrounding carpet.
The fish landed with a plop and took to its new lodgings with a content lap around the tub. The surrounding structure seemed to groan in strain from the introduction of the additional water, before the water settled back to a placid state. Steven tossed down the now empty container and shoved it aside before taking a seat to gaze upon the sole friend he had made during his stay at the Washwater.
That Current Monday
Steven returned to his room, carrying the stack of bread up against his chest. He opened the door arduously, then stepped inside, still balancing the unstable slices. He closed the door after him with a tug from his free hand, and went to the edge of the jacuzzi tub. He began to nibble at one of the single, cold pieces of fare as he dangled his fingers against the side of the tub, barely touching the water.
The temperature felt just upwards of normal. The wolf fish, which had been swimming around in neat circles, took unkindly to Steven’s invasion of his home, and lashed out, first ramming the edge of the fiberglass enclosure, then flipping away violently with its tail. Steven retreated, and in a sort of peace offering, tossed the remaining bite of his bready meal to the waters. The wolf fish swiped it up, taking off a half of the bread as it went limp in the water.
The bottom of the tub had gathered bits of forsaken crumbs and the fish’s own waste. While the creature seemed to be healthy, neither it nor Steven would last forever on bread alone. A call earlier that morning from Dr. Harris informed him that his arrival would still be several days away as a result of the suddenly recalled anniversary dinner the professor had with his wife.
At the edge of the jacuzzi’s structure were the sloppy sketches and type-written notes that the students had been taking down, hopefully enough to be sold to the University’s marine-science exhibit in the fall.
Joel had returned from a walk down the public trails following the cliff side away from the hotel. Horatio’s vague directions to get down to the beach had offered him no results, and he returned with no further findings and growling stomach. Inside the empty lobby, a sign by the entrance to the dining room, written in chalk upon blackboard, spoke of a ‘Brand New Market Fresh Lunch Service’ coming Wednesday. A peek inside revealed that any remaining breakfast fare had been pilfered or cleaned up.
Joel turned to look out the front windows of the hotel. The front garden of the hotel was simple, made up of a large round of grass at the center of the circular drive. Encircling the property were various neat planters and a low fence of red brick, with an arched gateway that welcomed the public. Just across the main street outside was a collection of gift shops and nautical-themed family restaurants. One block further inland was the town’s center, where the grocery store and other bigger businesses were located. Joel sighed and exited the hotel’s front doors once again to head back out in order to seek out food for his stay.
Before reaching the first step down to the ground, Joel nearly tripped on a particular deck board that stuck up further than the rest. A push with his toe revealed that it held solid, while the others beside it were comparatively rickety and creaky. He looked about, both through the doors for the owner at the front desk, and out in the yard for the strange housekeeper. Seeing not a soul about, Joel hopped down the stairs and dove between the bushes and the handrail of the stairs. Under the peculiar board was a part of the deck’s understructure as predicted, but attached to the normal wood was a set of turnbuckles and other metal rods running down to a concrete slab.
The solid bit of construction under the deck was pristine as if it were recently poured, and the dirt surrounding the area had telltale signs of fresh digging. The ledger at the base of the building where the deck and veranda attached was also tied into the slab. Joel blinked the dust and spider webs out of his eyes and pulled himself back out into the bark of the planting bed.
“Are you lost, Mr. Yannsion?” A voice came down from above.
Joel nearly rammed his head on the stair stringer as he came to recognize Mr. Wash being the one speaking at him. He propped himself up on his knees and yanked the key out of his pocket. “Oh, Mr. Wash.”
I told you, Obidiah.
“Well, you see, I was just jogging down the stairs-” Joel continued as he stood, presenting the key up. “And it just flew out of my pocket.”
Obidiah walked to the base of the stairs and offered a hand down to Joel as he stepped out from the bushes. “Well, we must be careful, Mr. Yannison. While we do have our master keys, reproducing such a key as that is quite the task.”
Joel brushed off his knees and pocketed the key once again. “I will be more careful, thank you.”
“Quite. You must be excited to be off somewhere so quickly?”
Joel blinked into the bright sun and shielded his eyes. “Oh, just headed off to see the town and pick up some groceries.”
“Well, don’t push yourself too hard.” Obidiah smiled and trotted up the wooden steps carefully. “I might also remind you, if my staff hasn’t let you know, we have a new cook on staff. He seems like quite the fellow.”
Joel began to walk down the path and out to the road, facing sill mostly back to the Hotel. “Thank you, I did see the sign. Good day, then, Mr. Wash.”