Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Comedy of Errors (not about the play) (08/18/11)
TITLE: A Shot in the Dark
By Tom Parsons
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If you want to picture the scene after the lights went out, you have my permission. That is what happened. The lights, in fact, all the electrical power in the room was suddenly gone, sucked from the wires and fixtures as if a giant power eating creature had inserted a straw and . . . well, you get that picture as well.
That was my first unpleasant encounter of the day at the Hotel Sans Dynamo. One might think that was unpleasant enough, showering and shaving without electricity. I certainly am thankful I have always preferred shaving with a real blade rather than those spinning bits of metal in an electric shaver, which would, of course, have been useless at this hotel. One might further think that sitting in dimly lit conference rooms with no air conditioning might even be worse. But it wasn't. The worst experience of the day came in the afternoon, when I decided to take advantage of a break and walk down to the room that proudly displayed the rather discriminatory message “Men” on its door.
Inside, one tiny, eerie emergency light cast all the metal and tile in the room in an almost supernatural glow, as if I had entered some ancient temple designed to fill my mind with reverence and awe as I prepared to worship the Goddess of Porcelain. I could almost hear an angelic choir humming chords softly. I had to remind myself that in reality, it was just a rest room, a bathroom, a toilet.
Everything went well in the eerie mixture of darkness and semi-darkness, until I approached the sink to wash my hands. I managed to find the magic eye that turned on the water, and, to my surprise, it actually worked, even though the power was off. I pressed the soap dispenser for some of its magic fluid. Nothing happened. I pressed again, thinking maybe it had a magic eye, too. Nothing happened.
To my left, rising from the counter adjacent to the sink, in the darkness, I could see the faint outline of a bottle, a bottle, I assumed, of hand soap. And so it was. I placed my left hand under the spout and, with my right hand, I pressed the handle at the top. A column of liquid soap shot across the space just above my hand, and over the counter and, splat! It smacked against the surface of my left pocket, leaving a long, wet, dark line across my pants.
My first thought was that I was glad it was not a few inches to my right. I would have been worshiping in that dark temple for quite awhile longer had that been the case. My second thought was that I still could not go out in the public areas with a long, wet smear across the front of my pants, not if I wanted to appear confident and adult. I grabbed paper towels and began daubing and patting trying to get the paper to absorb as much of the wetness as I could. It helped, but there was still a long, dark streak even after several minutes of frantic blotting.
Finally, I could do no more. I found if I held my hand over the pocket, it appeared to be a fairly natural way to hold one’s hand, and it covered the stain. I walked out, past a crowd of fellow conference attendees, apparently unnoticed, my left hand rigidly resting against the streaked pocket. Shortly I was in another workshop, sitting in the back row as I prefer, my hand resting on my pocket. By the end of the session, the streak had dried and was barely noticeable in the dim light of the emergency generator.
That’s when the power came back on.
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