Published On: Sat, Feb 1st, 2014

Hotel Saint John’s: fiction by Steve Benson (Part Two)

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Hotel Saint John’s: fiction by Steve Benson

Part Two

 Hotel Saint John Part 1 (Click here)

The Rest

Marty shut the door behind him and turned to see an empty welcome desk. He quickly walked past the desk on the outside chance someone would return and get suspicious. The layout of the front entrance had changed a lot since he’d last been there. What was once faded linoleum floor tile was now shiny marble with oak and brushed steel accents. Marty thought times must be good at The Hotel Saint John’s. He imagined the hospital as a living being that took in death and suffering, turning them into stone sconce lighting and etched glass walls. He bounced around the maze of an entrance for a few minutes before he was able to find a restroom in an older narrow hallway.

Once inside he removed his Carhart coat and unbuttoned his leather jacket revealing a fairly nice looking black button up shirt underneath. He ran the faucet until warm water came out and then splashed it on his numb face before running his dripping hands through his hair and shaping it into a less windblown look. He then cupped his red ears with his warm hands to try to bring them back to life. Marty backed up and looked at himself in the mirror. Since becoming homeless he’d checked himself out like this many times. It was a test he had developed to see if he actually looked homeless. He decided that he looked fine and left the restroom.

Marty continued down the narrow hallway that he knew ended at the elevators. Once there, he pushed the up button and as he waited for the doors to open, he wondered to which floor he should go. He had no idea what was on each floor other than eight which was Mindy’s old floor. When the doors finally opened, he walked into the empty elevator and arbitrarily pressed seven. As the elevator rose, he glanced down at button number eight and decided that no matter what happened, he wouldn’t go to that floor. He’d spent enough time there to last a lifetime.

The seventh floor turned out to be exactly what he was looking for. It was quiet but there was still enough activity for him to blend in. There were two parallel hallways on the floor connected at the center by a large nurse’s station and again at each end where the waiting rooms were. He took a right turn as he left the elevator and as he walked, he used his peripheral vision to look at the patient rooms on his right. The first few rooms were vacant, staring back at him with closed doors and empty Plexiglas chart holders. The next one had several family members standing in front looking solemn while the next four rooms were too close to the nurse’s station. He continued walking until he found an open door devoid of people. He glanced inside and saw an old man lying in the bed with an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. He made note of the room number and the patient’s name on the chart hanging on the door. Room number 739 and the patients name was Stanley Burke.

Marty continued on to the end of the hallway and turned left. Halfway between each of the two hallways was a waiting room. He entered the darkened room and turned the light on. There were no people in the room but evidence of them was everywhere. Magazines and empty soda cans littered the coffee table. On the floor in front of a small plastic bin was an assortment of toys that a sticky fingered child had been playing with earlier in the day. Padded chairs lined the walls of the room but in one corner sat a green recliner. Marty recognized it as the same type they had often wheeled into his wife’s room when he would spend the night with her. He sat his backpack and extra coat on the floor and sat in the recliner, it was as comfortable as he remembered. Marty stood back up, walked to the doorway where he turned out the light and then returned to the recliner, this time he pulled the stainless steel handle on the side of the recliner and stretched out. It was still rather early but he figured there would be less questions asked of a man who appeared to be sleeping so he just laid there with his extra coat covering himself like a blanket. The long walk he’d just made and the hum from the heater vent relaxed him and before long he drifted off to sleep.

In his dream, Marty was still lying in the green recliner. This time though, it was back in his wife’s room on the eighth floor.

“Honey, wake up. I need you.”

Marty instantly recognized the voice and jumped out of the recliner. He rushed to her side and pushed strands of brown hair from her sweaty forehead. “I’m here Mindy. What do you need?”

“I just need you,” she replied. “I’m afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?” asked Marty.

“Of death. I don’t want to die. I want to stay here with you.”

Marty’s heart broke at her words. He knew she couldn’t live. He knew she didn’t live, but how did he know. Was she already dead? He knew this had all happened before but was unable to grasp that it was a dream.

“You will always be with me Mindy.” She nodded her head in agreement and gave him a frightened smile. The lights in the room began to brighten. Marty looked up and saw the room begin to fade in an intense white glow.

“I love you Marty,” said Mindy as the world turned blank.

When the light to the waiting room turned on, Marty startled awake and saw a nurse standing in the doorway.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone was in here.” She reached down toward the coffee table and picked up a Red Book magazine.

“It’s going to be a long slow shift so I thought I’d grab something to read.”

“Not a problem,” replied Marty. “I was just trying to get a little sleep. I’m here to see my…” Marty hesitated for a moment, covering the awkward pause with a fake yawn. He hadn’t worked out who this patient was supposed to be to him and the dream he had just awoken from wasn’t helping. “My uncle,” Marty said finally. ‘I’m here to see my uncle but he’s asleep.”

“Really? Which patient is he?”

Again, the dream kept Marty’s brain from functioning and for a split second he couldn’t remember the name on the door that he’d seen when he came in. Just as he was about to give up, Marty found the name and blurted it out. “Stanley Burke.”

“Oh, he’s so sweet. I’m glad he has someone here with him. He’s been so sick and no one has come to see him yet. Why don’t you get back to sleep, you look like you could use it.”

Marty smiled and shook his head as the nurse turned the light back out and left the room. Now that he knew how sick the old man was, he felt terrible for using him. Not so terrible to leave though. He’d committed himself to getting the job and wasn’t about to do anything to mess it up now. He laid back down in the recliner but didn’t fall asleep nearly as fast as the first time. Images from the dream kept sleep away for nearly an hour but eventually he drifted off again.

[To be continued]

 

 

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