Hotel Sunbeam


I am entering another writing contest this weekend.  I started the story a month ago, and now am SO TIRED OF IT.  It’s hard to be objective during the editing process because I feel as if I’m stuck in Groundhog Day — doomed to repeat the story over and over.  🙂 

On Friday I officially finished the draft, having arrived at a satisfying ending after a week or so of disliking the one I originally wrote.  And so now is the every-other-day read throughs:  looking for tense consistency, varied syntax, chronological sequence of events, concise sentences, strong imagery, and the most important of all, the “so what.”  The reader must not reach the end and think, “So what?” 

Tonight, after completing some chores, I applied myself to once again reading through the draft.  It is nearly there — I’ll have the opportunity to look at it two more times with fresh eyes before pushing the “send” button.

This contest naturally made me think of the first one I entered — the one that landed me a spot as a finalist.  I realized I never posted it here and I might as well.  So without further ado…

The prompt:  

Your Story #19: Back in Time
A woman is given the ability to go back in time and change one event in her life.
—From The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books) by the staff of fresh boiled peanuts, a literary journal

           I had fallen ten stories before realizing I would never realize something again.  I thought it best to make peace with God, so I thanked Him for family, friends, French toast, and that really funny episode of The Office.

           I’m dead now.  “Romping in heaven” God calls it.  Surprised to hear from a heaven romper?—take it up with Him.  He said it’s like in the Bible where dead men resurrect to save their relatives.  The Lord sent me back for a salad. All the reasons to travel back in time, I get the greens.  True, I was to save the person eating the salad, but still.

            I was naturally dazed to be in God’s presence, but He immediately put me at ease:  was I comfortable, don’t worry about loved ones, here are the angels vs. humans badminton tournament schedules.

            “There is just one thing more….”  God pursed His lips, drumming His chin with large fingers.  “I need you to go back.  Just briefly.”

 *                                    *                            *                                *

             My last day on earth began and ended with a hotel — Hotel Sunbeam, an upper-middle class hotel in sun-drenched California.  I was there on business: market research.  Objective:  research hotel cuisine for a possible correlation to travel fatalities.  Ok, not really.  I was evaluating the food and ambiance for customer satisfaction. 

            The sun baked the pavement that sweltering July day, the ding of a passing trolley signifying yes, the road was now pre-heated.  Stand on road 15 seconds to fry.  I was beat — had just gotten off the red-eye from NYC and was now taxiing to my California stay.

            The concierge beamed a toothy smile at me, startling white in the setting of his tanned face.

            “Welcome to Hotel Sunbeam.”

            My answering smile was cloudy in comparison to his mega-watt grin.  “Thank you.  Jillian Michaels.”

            His eyes dropped to the monitor on the counter, fingers rapped my name.  “Ah, yes, room 2004.  Can we get you settled, Ms. Michaels?” 

            So I was checked in and hustled upstairs, and by 7pm, I was pushing up daisies on earth and romping through them in heaven.

 *                                           *                                               *                             *

             Now I was back to that day, dinner time.  I opened my eyes to see I was seated before wine and a salad, mostly devoured.  Great, I thought glumly, I get to die all over again.

Now what?  God didn’t tell me whose salad I was supposed to annihilate. 

And then I saw him and just knew.  He looked like those men in Mafia movies:  obese, gold Rolex on his meaty wrist, drastically receding hair greased at the nape of his neck.  His untouched salad was dwarfed next to the mass of steaming spaghetti on his plate.  He sucked down the pasta with great gusto. 

I was up in a flash and catapulting across the room, ignoring the queasiness in my stomach from the greens that would later kill me. Mafia Man’s eyes and mouth dropped open in wide, surprised “O”s.

HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” I knocked his salad plate off the table with a swift chop.  Momentum pushed me onto the table, sliding through his spaghetti like a baseball player sliding to home base.  Safe!

“Oops,” I mumbled sheepishly.  Staff promptly escorted me to my room where I would shortly pitch over the balcony in nauseas delirium.  As I was hauled away, I inexplicably called back over my shoulder, “Kill the greens, save the world!” 

Pasta sloshed out of his gaping mouth as he stared after me in dazed wonder.

*                           *                                *                                  *

Once again in heaven, God showed me what Mafia Man went on to do:  opened his own restaurant.

“What?!” I cried indignantly.  “You sent me back so he could run his own Spaghetti Factory?!”  I huffed, crossing my arms tightly over my chest, but found it impossible to be angry in His presence.

God chuckled and beamed down at me. 

“I work in mysterious ways,” He said, smirking good-naturedly.  “And he will go on to shepherd hundreds to Me.”  He paused, clearly amused.  “You made quite the impression on him.  When you died from the salad, He recalled his mortality.  Got on his knees and found Me.”

“Oh.”

“You did well, kiddo.  Some badminton?”

I sighed, but perked up when I realized—apparently not the last time I would realize something—that Mafia Man would be bringing his numerous friends before long.

“Bring it on,” I said to God with a grin.

 Angela Bees, 7/10/2009

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