The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 12
Mr. Wash and Sarah were just finishing up their entrees when Steven carefully marched out, his entree and dessert carefully perched on the wooden tray.
“You never answered me, by the way, Mr. Wash. Did any children come about from your marriage?” Sarah spoke up, her fork dangling from her fingers.
“Oh, well…” Obidiah began again, wiping the corners of his mustache with the napkin. “Just a son. He’s over in America, studying the sciences, actually.”
“So I take it you have nobody in line for taking over the hotel, once…”
“Once I’m not longer in the shape to?” He shrugged. “Who knows?”
Melinda came by once again, taking up their finished plates. “Alright you two lovelies, I hope you still have room for the mousse chef Brian has prepared.”
“That sounds great.” Sarah smiled.
Melinda smiled wide at Obidiah, who sat back tiredly, rubbing at his arms. “I’ll be right back with a pair of those, then.”
Somewhere in the commotion, Joel had finished his meal before having gotten his salad. After his run-in downstairs, and a lack of morning coffee to sooth his aching brain, the meal and the commotion of people had taken the final ounces of his energy away. He carefully arranged the used silverware and dishes in a stack and silently excused himself from the table while the others were all occupied.
Somewhere up the stairs on the way back to his room, he encountered a sole fork sitting upon one of the carpeted treads. Just a half floor up, Steven was continuing up with his tray, one step at a time.
“Uh, hello- Narrows, was it?” Joel called out.
Steven paused and looked down through the banisters. “Huh? What is it?”
Joel took a deep breath and forced himself up to meet with the student. “I think you dropped this-” He said, presenting the fork out.
“Oh, it would be troublesome not having that, huh.” He chuckled to himself and allowed his savior to place the fork down on the tray. “Your name was…?”
“Joel.” Steven repeated. “You can call me Steven.”
“Well, uh, Steven… How’s about that French dame?” Joel attempted to make conversation as they continued up the flight of stairs to the third level. “Tiring, I would say.”
“Very peculiar.” Steven made a weak shrug. “She heard I was studying marine biology, and she had her daughter come by and see if I could tell her what type of seashell she had gotten at the beach.”
“Cute.” Joel acknowledged with a raise of his eyebrows. At the top of the stairs, he looked about to double check his surroundings. “Well, uh, this is where I get off. Have a good one, then?”
“Right.” Steven nodded and retook a grasp upon his tray before continuing up the rest of the way. With a careful balancing act, he was able to unlock his door and safely deposit the collection of food on the first table inside.
After taking a breather, he took up his lunch plate, upon which only the salmon fillet and a slight bit of sauce remained. He stared at it while making his way to the jacuzzi tub, where the wolf fish swam lazily around. He scraped off the charred bits of seasoning on top of the deep orange flesh, and separated just enough to fit into the palm of his hand. Sitting upon the edge of the tub, he tossed the morsel into the water. The wolf fish immediately jumped upon it and swallowed it down. “There we go, much better than bread, Mr. Carnivore.”
He followed up with consecutively bigger pieces until half the fillet remained. With a quick wipe of his hands, he went back to take in the remainder of the meal for himself: the chocolate mousse. He swallowed delicate spoonfuls as the fish circulated slightly more energetically.
As Steven neared the bottom of the dessert cup, he noticed a slight blinking out of the corner of his eye- an orange light upon his phone. He dashed over and pushed the button on the headset to playback the voice mail:
“Good day, Steven. Dr. Harris, here. I’m just letting you know, I can make it up tomorrow- Thursday, that is. I’ll try to get in contact with you when I get into town. The Walkwater, was it? Oh, it’s a small town, I saw, so I guess I could ask around…”
Back in the dining room, Mr. Wash and Sarah were just finishing up their mousse and carefully avoiding eye contact with each other. “Well,” Obidiah sighed, placing down the dainty spoon on the napkin besides the dessert glass, “that was a treat.”
“Quite tasty, as expected. And surprisingly light, too.” Sarah remarked.
Melinda stopped by the table one last time and took up Mr. Wash’s empty dish. He stood, wiping his mouth in a final motion before placing down the napkin carefully on the table. With a tug at the base of his polo shirt, he glanced back to the front desk in the next room. “Thank you for your help today, Melinda. And Mrs. Seer, I wish you a good day as well. I should get changed quickly…”
“Oh, indeed it was just great, Mr. Wash.” Sarah came back to attention to offer up her empty words of thanks.
Melinda stared at him as Obidiah began back toward his office in the rear of the building. “Mr. Wash, do you not have today off?”
Obidiah tapped his fingers together nervously. “Well, I just remembered there was a call I needed to make.”
Sarah stood suddenly, causing her spoon to fall upon the ground. “Mr. Wash!” She called.
“Uh, yes ma’am?” Obidiah stopped suddenly, his body stiff.
“I would love if we could meet again and talk more another time, if you are not so busy.”
“Yes, quite.” Obidiah hummed back politely. “Another time, of course.” He picked up his feet and pushed through the gate and into the doorway to the office behind the front of the hotel.
Something is strange about that woman.
“Obviously.” Obidiah said under his breath, as he found his way back to his desk and limply sunk into his wooden, high-backed office chair. “Talking with her is fine, if not a bit exhausting.”
That’s not the point.
“I would be lying if I said she was not a fit woman.”
Obidiah, you’re not listening, you pillock.
“Venicia, I am a man of a certain age now, a widower, and sometimes I think it would be nice to have some companionship.”
And sometimes I think you hear my words less than when I was alive. And here’s a newsflash: its obvious you’re not the only one here now listening.
“What are you talking about?” Obidiah tapped his forehead with the back of his thumb.
“Mr. Wash?” Melinda’s voice suddenly came to his ears, calling as if she had tried to get his attention several times previous.
Obidiah perked up. “Huh? I’m sorry, Melinda, I was just talking to myself.”
Melinda smirked and tossed a floppy cloth item his way. He grabbed at it as it skidded across his desk. “I think this fell out of your pocket at the table.”
Obidiah examined his worn golf glove before shoving it back into the pocket of his slacks. “Thank you. Melinda.”
Upstairs, Steven had finished sharing his meal with the wolf fish, who seemed content after taking in the fitting fare. The large tub, however, was beginning to become every murkier, with a green sludge clinging to the high walls at the water line. Steven dared at swiping his finger through the material to make sure it would be easy enough to remove come his and the fish’s departure from the artificial niceness of the room.
The wolf fish seemed as if it had become more docile over the days. Whether it was from his familiarity with Steven, or the lethargy from its diet and surroundings, it was hard to tell. Steven’s test prodding at the water and the sludge seemed to prompt no provocation from the wolf fish, but it did reveal that the temperature of the liquid within had risen more than a few degrees. The sun shone brightly in the wide window that looked out upon the ocean, and reflected off the surface of the water inside the jacuzzi.
“You like the deep water, don’t you?” Steven talked absentmindedly at the creature, pulling aside his reference book from the tub’s surround. The short, incomplete blurb about the unique fish said that it was usually pulled up from deep net fishing in the cold waters along the coast. “We need to cool you off. Let’s start with getting the sun blocked off, shall we?”
Steven looked up to the great window. It bore no window covering, but at either side were matching light fixtures. He went to the nearby closet and pulled down one of the light, folded blankets from the upper shelf. The length of it seemed more than enough to stretch across the window.
Steven slipped his shoes off before stepping up on the tub’s tiled surround, holding up the blanket between his outstretched arms. As he approached the window, the structure beneath him creaked loudly. He touched his hand to the wall beside the window for support, but it was already to late.
The tub, heavily laden with water, cracked suddenly though the surrounding structure. Steven lost his footing as the tile shifted below his feet. He tumbled off to the side, dodging the faucet head poking up from below. The water splashed about, and began to loudly pour through the broken structure. Steven found his footing once again upon the ground and looked upon the disaster at hand. Part of the tub had crashed through the surrounding structure, seemingly through the ceiling of the room below, and had also dumped a large amount of the water contained within as well. The wolf fish flailed about in the final corner of water at the edge of the tub. “Oh, bollocks.”