Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)
TITLE: One Tract Mind
By terri tiffany
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“I’ll be just a minute. I need to leave a tract.” Carrie carefully moved the lamp on the white- washed dresser and propped the tiny pamphlet against the movie guide holder.
“That should do it.” She grabbed her own backpack and headed for the open door.
“You could have just handed them out last night on the beach, like I did. My way was much quicker than one at a time, you know.” Chris held the door a moment longer. “Who’s ever going to find it in here to read? The maid will just toss it.”
Carrie hesitated for a moment and then decisively reached for the door knob. “I’d rather do it this way. Besides, the professor didn’t say how we had to get rid of them, just that we do it over Spring Break.” She pulled the door shut and skirted past the diligent morning motel crew.
Two hours later, the door to Room 103 of the tiny beach- front motel swung heavily open. Debbie grabbed an armload of garbage bags and cleaning supplies from her rusted metal cart.
“I hope this room isn’t as dirty as the last one,” she mumbled under her breath. Pushing back a strand of hair, she reached for the knob on the bedside radio. Within moments, the lush resonance of Beethoven swirled throughout the musty room. Debbie sighed as she entered the bathroom and took in the pile of discarded towels. Bending at the knees, she scooped the mound and shuffled back to the bag on her cart.
“College kids!” She shook her head in disgust.
It was always the same during every school break. They would descend on the motel, party all night and then, in one gigantic swoop, they’d return to their nice safe lives, tucked away in some cutesy college dorm room with more amenities than any motel had on this strip. Her frown deepened in lines already cut from too many years of thought.
Her practiced eye noted the time. “Humph. I’ll never get lunch today.” She kicked an empty toilet paper roll to the center of the room. Strong arms vigorously shook the largest garbage bag until it neatly opened to accept its new load. Debbie worked her way efficiently around the bedroom emptying each trash can of its weekend contents. Frenzied violins urged her movements. Suntan lotion tubes, paper cups and empty pizza boxes joined the can of cheap hairspray destined for the same fate.
Debbie pulled her spray polish from the cart in preparation for dusting the long dresser. She reached for the lamp and expertly repositioned it just inches from the right-hand corner. “They didn’t steal the phone book at least,” she said to the vacant room. Debbie moved the faded book and reached for the HBO guide, checking to see if some joker had left gum stuck between the pages.
Her hand landed on a paper that instantly she established as forgotten trash. A partially opened pink rose stared up at her. Debbie traced the bold black words filling the bottom green strip:
ARE YOU LOST?
“Yeah, I’m lost all right.” She chewed the words. “I’m pretty lost in my brain to be standing here talking to some picture.” She sniffed and caught a reflection in the mirror.
A stranger stared back at her. Eyes surrounded by folds of loose skin held her own. Hair that hung to stooped shoulders framed a face that bore years of abandonment. She pushed at the grown out bangs and ran her slender worn fingers through the uneven lengths of tousled hair.
The orchestra mounted to its final crescendo. Debbie couldn’t turn away from herself.
“What happened to me?” she whispered with the final notes. She reached for the tract and the hope lying beneath those words. Her fingers stroked the smooth edges. Hesitantly, she peeled back the narrow slip of paper.
Debbie stepped back and perched on the edge of the unmade bed. She read aloud the first sentences. Her heart pressed her to read more until she came to the final prayer. Glancing back up, Debbie looked once again to see the reflection in the wide mirror. Her heart soared as the smile on the face became her own.
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