Published On: Sun, Feb 16th, 2014

Hotel Saint John Part three (The Interview)

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The Interview

The cold morning air was a shock after spending the last thirteen hours in the warmth of the hospital. Marty walked east on Sunshine toward his interview. He would much rather have been somewhere else grieving, but missing the interview was not an option. When he arrived at the print shop, a smiling secretary advised him to have a seat while she let Mr. Black know he was there. Marty stared at the small Christmas tree on her desk while he waited. Along the front of her desk under the Christmas tree, hung a banner that read Merry Christmas. He watched the lights on the tree blink on and off, wondering if he would ever have a merry Christmas again.

The secretary returned and led Marty to an office where a man with a very disingenuous smile was sitting behind a desk. Marty had been looking forward to his interview all week but after it finally started he couldn’t wait for it to end. Immediately after shaking his hand, Mr. Black asked Marty how long he’d been living at the shelter. Marty knew that the print shop had called him at the shelter to set up the interview but had hoped they would not mention his current circumstances. He was uncomfortable with the question but answered it anyway.

“I’ve been at the shelter on and off for almost a year now,” he replied. “I do have a job there though; I work in the kitchen helping to prepare the meals.”

Mr. Black busied himself reading Marty’s application, seemingly ignoring his answer. The next thing the man said convinced Marty that he would not get the job. “I must confess that I have some apprehensions about hiring someone who doesn’t have a permanent home Mr. Tenant.”

Marty ended up spending the rest of the interview assuring Mr. Black that it wouldn’t be an issue. They spent very little time discussing his qualifications and later as Marty left the office, he saw a group of young men waiting to be interviewed for the same position. He was sure that all of the competition had homes.


The Call

Marty walked three more terribly cold blocks to a diner on Glenstone Avenue and sat alone in a booth. The snow that was caked to his dress shoes melted, leaving his feet wet and cold. A waitress brought him a hot cup of coffee and as he sat there trying to warm up, he pulled out the photo that Uncle Rusty had given him. Marty looked at the back of the photo and saw Nora’s number. He also looked at his sister’s son’s name, Danny. It occurred to him that even though Uncle Rusty had died, he still had two relatives.

Country western music filtered in from a cheap radio playing in the diner’s kitchen. Marty did not recognize the song but noted that it sounded sad. The waitress returned and took Marty’s order. It felt good to splurge like this. Marty could not remember the last time he had ordered food in a restaurant.

“I need some change for the pay phone,” Marty said to the waitress as she started to leave with his order.

“Cashier,” replied the waitress as she pointed with her thumb. Marty walked to the cashier who was wearing a Santa Claus hat and purchased a roll of quarters from her. He then made his way to the pay phone in the diner’s vestibule to make a call. A chilling wind whistled through the space between the front doors as Marty pressed the numbers on the phone. Nora answered on the second ring. Her voice sounded harried as dishes clanked in the background.


Marty hesitated for a moment and then spoke. “Nora it’s me, Marty.” There was a noticeable silence as the dishes stopped clanking. Marty assumed that Nora was trying to figure out what to say.

“Oh my God Marty. I can’t believe it’s you.”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Marty replied. “I’m calling about Uncle Rusty. I wanted to tell you that he’s died. I just came from Saint John’s here in Springfield.” The phone went silent again for several seconds followed by the sounds of sniffling. Marty waited for his sister to speak when she was ready.

“I spoke with him about a month ago,” she said. “He tracked me down and we talked for over an hour. He asked about you. I told him that I thought you were in Springfield but wasn’t sure. I guess he found you?”

“Well, we kind of found each other.” Marty waited a moment while Nora blew her nose.

“I talked to Uncle Rusty for awhile before he died,” said Marty. “He told me that I’m an uncle.”

“Yes you are,” replied Nora. “His name is Danny and he’s in the first grade. He’s right here finishing up his breakfast.”

“That’s fantastic. I’d love to meet him sometime.”

“Sure,” said Nora in a noncommittal tone. “I’m sure Danny would like that.”

There was no real invitation from Nora for getting together with them so Marty took that as a sign that the uncomfortable relationship he shared with her would continue. They spoke for another ten minutes. Marty learned that Nora was divorced and that Danny’s father lived in Iowa. He paid her a small monthly amount for child support but other than that he was out of the picture. Nora worked as a receptionist at a dentist’s office and lived in a two bedroom house on the east side of Topeka. Marty told Nora about the death of his wife but he left out the events of the past ten months, he wasn’t sure why. Nora said that she wished she and Danny could come to Springfield for Uncle Rusty’s funeral but money was too tight and the weather was too bad. He replied that it was OK and that he would bring flowers for both of them. Nora asked for Marty’s phone number and he explained that he was in between cell companies at the moment and would call her with his new number next week. They ended the conversation with both of them agreeing that they had to keep in touch.

Marty hung up and then returned to his booth to find his breakfast waiting on him and only slightly cold. After finishing it, he sat in the booth thinking about the conversations with both Nora and Uncle Rusty. In the past several hours he had reunited with two long lost family members but now each conversation left him feeling sad and guilty. He began to think that maybe the distance he had with them was justified. Marty looked at the photo one last time before paying his bill and walking back into the snow covered streets of Springfield.

[To be concluded]


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  1. debi kuhn says:

    I’m really enjoying Steve’s story, very well written and engaging. can’t wait for the next installment.

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