the Akerman Motel/Apartments per week
by Pablo D'Stair
I paid one thousand two hundred twenty-seven dollars and fifty-five cents
See my bulldog bite a rabbit and my hound dog’s sittin’ on a barbed-wire fence
HUNDREDTH DAY, HUNDRED-AND-SOMETHINGTH DAY in the apartment building of the Akerman Motel/Apartments still couldn’t get over it must be a joke, if what I had was an apartment then couldn’t imagine what’d it be like down in the motel area.
Closed the storage locker I kept out of town, thing ran me as much a month as the apartment, though I’d paid it all out in advance for six months first day I’d moved in. Skimmed the forty dollars pocket money off from the hundred forty I’d taken, rent due the morning and I liked to pay out for two weeks, made me feel less antsy—should really’ve just paid out on the room all in advance same as the storage, but there was no discount for doing that and had a feeling it’d be trouble wrangling out a refund things went I had to leave, some reason, all of a sudden. Had to or wanted to.
Hundred days was fourteen times this’d be I’d put in rent, or anyway seven times but I put in for two weeks each time, but this must’ve been the fifteenth time, fifty dollars a week fifteenth time, meant it was hundred and fifth say, hundred-and-somethingth day. Anyway, seven hundred fifty for the apartment so far, twelve hundred for the storage, I’d always dip in for at least another forty bucks each week on top of the forty I designated for walking around, so that was another twelve hundred.
Rubbed my face with the wrist of the hand holding my cigarette. Always did this same count every week because I refused to actually verify how much I’d spent, how much I had left, like keeping notes all in my head’d change anything—got excited times I’d mess up the count, think I hadn’t spent as much as I’d thought, always come down from that hard even though all the while I knew how underneath I was.
Spent the rest of the day sipping from my flask, wandering the aisles of shops not feeling like swiping anything, just looking, looking. Looking.
I’d overheard someone say that none of the pawnshops around’d take anything from the local merchants, wouldn’t take anything they knew was kept in stock around. Never yet got up the nerve about verifying and anyway even in the worst case scenario my reserve could last me another several months, no need to worry about getting drawn and quartered over six bucks for a mini-television or anything.
Office of the Akerman was its own little building really looked like a miniature house, someone there all hours but’d only come to the window if you said something they thought worthwhile into the intercom. ‘Rent,’ usually worked, said it with a sigh and rubbing my lower back and having a look around. There always seemed to be somebody else at the window, strangest thing in the three months I’d been there, no chance at a rapport or anything and here it was again I was explaining all to someone new I was paying for the two weeks, because if I didn’t say it, didn’t insist on it, I knew they’d take the hundred, mark down I’d paid the one week only and what kind of a position was I in to argue that with them?
There was a cigarette machine at the base of the side entrance stairwell, something I always gave a kick vaguely hoping a pack’d fall into the collection drawer, never did. Started my ascent leisurely and at the landing to the third floor stopped, leaned to the wall, took a particularly deep drag. Caught out the corner of my eye a woman I knew lived down in the motel—knew her name was Kathryn, I thought—peek her face to the widow panel the door, move away, second later door opened.
She caught her breath noticing me, laughed when I said Hello, sorry.
-It’s fine, no, I’m sorry.
I nodded as well, looked like she was going to maybe stand there long enough some small talk, but then she didn’t, just ducked her head and down the stairs.
Finished my cigarette, started another before I went the next four landings up, stubbed it on the wall by my door I went in. Poured a tall glass of vodka, dumped what was left of a fruit juice bottle in on top of it, just a mouthful, turned on the television, giving it a nod as I always did as though to remind myself it was worth the extra five dollars rent per week to have the thing. Sat, looking at the screen with the volume muted.
Stood long enough to refill my glass after downing the first faster than was necessary, back to my chair. Thoughts drifted maybe I could try for some work, get something going—nothing official, certainly I couldn’t chance that—maybe see if some of the other residents worked odd jobs on the cheap, or maybe just place an advertisement I’d be up for anything, moving boxes, cleaning, see if the ad ran a week and I got some response.
Didn’t remember turning off the television, but when I drifted awake, still in the chair, the room was dark enough I noted licks of colour in slaps to the outside of my drawn curtain. Used the toilet before taking a look out, two police cars parked in front, little mash of people around talking. As an ambulance was pulling in to the lot I lost interest, padded around in the dark for my cigarettes.
If I weren’t so inebriated, so beat on top, the police presence’d have me more on edge—but I was still pretty drunk and’d gotten used to the fact police’d come around for this and that, they didn’t seem to bother with anyone in the Akerman except just whoever might be involved in whatever specifically brought them out, usually domestic quarrels, drug busts.
Chuckled, drinking water from the tap, it’d probably be more trouble than it as worth for police to talk to residents, must be an alarmingly high felon rate the Akerman and pretty obvious anyone wasn’t a felon yet just hadn’t been nabbed up, would get the distinction soon enough.
Took a last mouth of water, swished it, spit it, went back to my chair.
Came awake again to the heat of the day in through the blinds, scent of cooking dust and whatever food was maggoting its way through the walls. Had a quick shower, put the same clothes as the previous day back on, made sure I had my forty dollars, put twenty in the kitchen drawer, hesitated, took it out and left, locking up, scoffing as I always did the flimsiness of the door, that if I leaned on it too long lock’d probably pop free.
Right away down the stairwell knew something was still going on with the police, voices echoing, swirling up the well, general sounds of feet scuffing and vague taps of door knocking.
Just passing the fourth floor landing, heard someone call Excuse me, turned it was some guy cheap suit.
-What’s your name?
-Stared at him a minute, on principle. Why, what’s going on?
-What’s your name, you live here?
-My name is Terrance Wales, yes I live here, on seven, seven H.
-You going out all day?
-Held another stare. What happened here?
-Were you around last night?
-You’re on seven?
-You were in all night?
That seemed to be all he wanted, just turned away like it obviously wasn’t worth it having a word with me.
It was the third floor where the main concentration of activity was going on, took a peek to see how far down the corridor, maybe in apartment three D or E. Out the door, now there were four police cars, two other cars probably belonging to detectives, mild crowd of people milling around, some talking to police, police taking notes, uniformed officers knocking on doors the motel area.
Lit a new cigarette as I cut through, trying not to feel like everyone was giving me a hard glance.
Nothing so much in the paper about odd jobs, or there was but I’m sure I’d be passed over—even construction, putting up walls, people around here’d done things like for ages, even knocking down walls, I’d show up, get a look up and down, only in a last ditch situation’d someone give me nod. Looked at the Models Wanted ads a little more intently than usual, knew just what it meant but tried to entertain the idea maybe not, maybe it just was someone wanted a subject to paint, to photograph.
I’d been avoiding the fast food place, local thing called Howya Likeya Burga? where I’d left my number with the owner about cleaning the place up at night, dirt cheap, figured no call meant he’d found someone else or decided it didn’t matter or decided I was up to something. I loitered around in the parking lot of the liquor store across the street, waiting to see about did the owner’s car show up. Probably chose the wrong spot to wait around, after hour-and-a-half the pull of a cheap bottle of vodka bled me off six dollars and I was dull minded, slightly sick to my stomach.
Spent the rest of the day up till evening doing about nothing except I managed to misstep up a curb and turn my ankle around the wrong way, found myself limping worse as I got near the lot of the Akerman, enough I didn’t bother with the stairs, leaned to wall, cigarette fresh to lip I didn’t even feel like.
Right away, few half drags into the smoke, knew the guy crossing the lot from out his parked car was aiming for me, but preoccupied all by my hurt paw didn’t occur to me this was still about there being cops around until he smiled and called me Seven H, little click to it, half a question but same time he seemed pretty certain.
-Didn’t realize we’d got to first name basis, I said, actually chuckled, no mood for this but still always proud to be funny, got me down again when he chuckled just as much, though.
-How are things in Seven H?
Small talk sort of scene, terrific, rolled my head around could we cut past it he didn’t mind but, no, he wanted to keep it up.
-You really pay rent by the week?
-Me personally? What do I look like? Pay by the fortnight, I said, thick long pronunciation to the ‘fortnight’ but I don’t think he got the thing I was basically flipping him off.
-Been here long or what?
But I just bet he knew all about this and so skipped to telling him how I took it there’d been ugly bit of bother night before, something that I couldn’t have less to do with, on top couldn’t care either.
-What time were you in?
-Might not believe it, don’t own a watch. Late. Past midnight. No idea.
His eye went up a tick down a tock at something in what I’d said, same time I turned and there was a peek of someone’s head at their motel room curtain. Kathryn. Curtain didn’t close, not until I’d looked until it did, felt my gut go tight from all I’d eaten all day was cigarettes, kind of cramp like a rib aching back around my lung.
-What’ve you got going on around, just out of curiosity?
Told him Looking for work, but told him still while looking the motel window—didn’t know what I wanted, the curtain to peek again, the door to open. Made myself look up the sky, same time not looking down I dropped the stub of my cigarette’n gave a random step of my toe I could feel didn’t find it.
-I bet if you could loan me one of your cigarettes, there—pointed to the fat pack of his front pocket—I could tell you all about my hopes for public office, all of it. What’re you interested in knowing?
Another swell grin off the guy, he handed one right over, lit his own, took a stance like all of a sudden he was more playwright-doing-research than murder police or whatever it was he was. Just asked why I’d stayed on so long, he couldn’t tell what people had going on with the Akerman, no other guest had stayed more than two weeks except a couple dozen who’d been there more’n ten years. Funny, this actually made me feel awkward, like it was something peculiar about me, identifying I’d never’ve thought to think about.
-That so? I mean, yeah I’m here awhile, but I couldn’t dream of ten years on.
-Didn’t used to be motel apartment place, just apartments, but things took a bad turn this part of town. I once dated a girl lived here, back then.
-She one of the lifers?
Whatever reason, he took ill to that, the whole time I wasn’t even being mean with it, kind of just wondered.
Door opened at Kathryn—no, her name was Kaitlin—at Katilin’s motel, she just stepped out, lingered around the ashtray between her door and the next over, stole two glances at me I avoided except passing eyes over her, blurry eyes.
I asked the cop did he need anything else, that I wasn’t going anywhere, if that was his clever trick to figure out with being my buddy and all.
-You should get a watch, he said, looked at me like he wanted a retort, but just gave him a bob up down of his cigarette my lip, almost winked but managed to not.
Stared at him walking until I could manage to look away, giving a hiss that Kaitlin was still over there, loitering like I’d agreed to something.
I got up to my floor, lame pathetic lean to the railing whole while, looked down my corridor remembered I’d meant to take a look down the corridor of three.
Must’ve been murder police, obviously the thing if he’s gonna make sure he sticks around his car out in the lot until everyone is nice and accounted for, at least in some rudimentary way.
Sure, there he was still, at least his car parked, exhaust out the back, probably for his heater, the night turning chill as rock as soon as the sun got lost in the city skyline other end of the canal.
But, Kaitlin, she wasn’t hanging out anymore. Put the spook in me for the next hour, two hours, that any second there would be her knock to my door and it’d be something I’d have to deal with no matter how much it was something couldn’t matter to me less.
Soon though—soon a bit to drink, soon the kind of tired I let it feel more tired than it was because why bother not making the most of it—I was more thinking it made sense what the cop’d said, how these used to be apartments, actually. It’d always seemed to me the motel rooms, they seemed like the whole row’d used to be a carwash, an autobody shop, something, probably they were converted, whatever they’d been, when things’d headed south and the apartments went from proper rent to cavities not worth the fifty a week the dinge who’d rent them were made to cough out.
Woke up tired from the night not being good for anything. Stood in the shower, but it was pointless, I could feel the granules in the stream I’d always known were there but just never thought about, scabs either just from the inside rusting up of the pipes or else, all I knew, from the dirty pond the pipes were sucking out.
It was on me more’n I’d’ve been thinking it was, these police—as much as plenty of them’d been in and out of the Akerman the time I’d been there, this was something else. Noon two days since the thing and here I looked out and there were still some there, cop car even, that and the plain car I thought was that cop I’d had that delightful exchange with, guy was maybe camping out for the duration.
It just wasn’t I could see who’d been got dead in the Akerman this sort of peek’d be made into what’d gone on. Had my little theory, obviously this’d been some guy done in not from the Akerman, this theory on account of one, if it’d been a guest, they’d’ve caught the other guest most likely behind it as quick as they did anything else, any other crime they’d been around for last four months, and two, on account of the Akerman seemed a sure thing people’d wound up dead here, time to time, but something about this one seemed a real surprise to all involved.
Figuring to have some smokes out in the fresh air, by now must’ve been plenty to read about it in the paper—wanted something, something to get myself feeling it’d be all done, that the cops weren’t going to be pressed to start turning over every rock, poking their sticks everywhere just on principle, glad to step down on whatever else scurried loose, related or not.
Muggy but cold, worthless kind of afternoon, got the train out to some shops more proper in the city. Knew it wasn’t because of some fairy tale about the pawnshops I was so reluctant to make a swipe anyplace, it was all just because when was the last time, really, I’d nabbed anything? It’s the sort of thing a touch gets lost, I’d no bearings any more how things were protected, would likely get strung up I tried to sneak a single stick of gum out a pack, put it back the shelf. Anyway, paper I’d snuck from a table the fast food restaurant some guy’d got up for the toilet had nothing on the Akerman, whole thing a great big secret. Political scandal. Hollywood star found out on the skid.
Chuckled at myself. Was I trying to boy detective this out, cash in on the reward, key to the city?
So much I wasn’t paying attention to anything, it was only while I was rounding one aisle to another an all-purpose store—thinking maybe a suitcoat or two could get me a few bucks at a secondhand shop, places never really asked many questions—that I took notice there was Kaitlin, hanging back. Knowing it wasn’t any kind of mistake her being there, headed right out through the door, nodding deep to the security man leaning against a row of shopping carts, lit myself up cigarette and wandered around over by the drink machines to wait out her catching me up.
She didn’t register surprise to hear me say her name behind her as she stepped by, squint like she was trying to figure out had she seen wrong which way’d I gone—no surprise of any kind, even so much to the degree she smiled and corrected me her name was Corrina. I remembered that, soon as she said it—we’d spoken what’d it been, the once? I’d been figuring out about the laundry in the basement didn’t work, she’d directed me to the Laundromat I’d’ve found myself, no trouble, it being half block down, I saw it every day.
-What brings you out this way, Cor?
But no, she had something set to her eyes, wetted her lips I could see suck the moisture in dry just quick, wetted them again and moved in close, finger wiggle could she bum a smoke. I lit her one off mine, mine almost out so then lit myself a new one from my old.
-I can’t pay you, she said, out breath of her first drag.
Nodded, held in smoke, almost thought I actually might want to know what specifically did she mean, but instead, still not having exhaled, told her Don’t worry, she didn’t owe me for a thing.
-Her eyes went hard, perfect look an angry woman can get and same time knows it’s an occasion keep her mouth shut. You’ll have to do whatever you want, turn me in, or we can arrange something else, maybe. I don’t know what you want, but I don’t have money.
-Scratched my cheek all through her saying that, one eye squinted and gave my head a shake. Didn’t tell the police I’d seen you that night. That it? That’s just because they’re the police, okay? You don’t owe me on that.
But it caught up to me she wasn’t thinking about I was going to come at her about wanting something, it was that someone else already had done and she thought it’d been me. Blew smoke down my nose and she got a look like she could tell we’d gotten to the same page, though still distrust in her, like I was playing pretend.
-How much money is it I want? I asked, tone like really I was trying to remember, maybe because I was sort of trying to guess how she’d answer, same time.
-Uncertainty, freckle hid by her eyelashes visible even in the shadow from her brow. I saw you talking to that detective and then he didn’t come talking to me.
-I told you that already, he’s not my good friend just because he had to ask me about things it’s his job to go figure out on his own. I’m not your trouble if you’ve got trouble and I’m saying that and now I’m leaving. But I didn’t move, felt my face tight a smile, one side, gave my nose a rub of thumb knuckle. How much do I want? I asked again, a bit more kitten purr.
This time, make believing herself confident but touch to ear showed otherwise and the way she did her shoulders was all wrong, she told me Twenty-five hundred dollars.
-Corinna, I said, flick of cigarette right in the collection slot the soda machine, Corinna, it’d been me asking and you’ve done what you’ve done, I’d be thinking brown penny more’n that, I can assure you.
Again those hard eyes, but not angry, hard like she didn’t want me to see she’d cry later remembering this exact moment, my blank face, taste of cigarette off me haunting her, indeible ink.
-You don’t know what he did to me, she said, mix of choke and stage whisper.
-Can’t imagine I’d wanna envision it, one way or another, you not quite being my flavor, Cor. But either way, I’m explaining to you I don’t care. Someone wants loose change from you over you asserted yourself to some fella, my advice is I’d pay them.
-I told you I don’t have anything to give you.
Nodded, nodded, faked a big smile, breathy laugh, and did her an aw shucks, we have nothing further to talk about shrug and said Hey, maybe we’ll have a drink, laugh about this mix up the whole thing blows over.
Maybe not so right to put a poke to her that way, but turned and left her to ponder it all a bit. Walked fast even though I knew she wasn’t following and, a little silly, felt tense and like I didn’t want to look behind me she might be firing off a pistol on account she thought it was time for a last resort.