Coming Down in Carlsbad by Randall Whitlow

“Thank you for Calling Motel 6 off 323 in Carlsbad, my name is Ronald. How may I help you?”

“Ronald, you told me the wrong room number twice now.”

“I’m sorry, Sir?”

“Where is my room?”

“Oh, you’re the guy wearing the Step Brother’s cutoff that paid in cash?” he continued, “Room 244.”

I entered and smelt smoke and turned on the A/C and set the temperature to a low of 57 degrees. I left a line of clothes to the shower and fumbled in the tub. There under the lukewarm water I spat and cursed and groaned and tried to count the number of times I puked since San Diego. I remembered my card declining at Sheridan Inn and I knew I pulled over and threw up three times between there and where I lay. It was about four miles of highway. When I saw the Motel Six 49.99 sign I shoved my steering wheel over three lanes and took the exit— talked Ronald into letting me pay fifteen dollars cash and slid my debit card. Thank God, it went through.

Someone knocked at my door and I did not get up from my tub, but guessed the knocking was from the beaner with a mustache and tank top outside the hotel office staring at me with a complementary coffee in hand whom’d stalked me to my room then vanished. It went quiet. The shower poured. My thoughts carried back to the weekend I’d had, locked up in a musty studio next to Petco Park tag teaming an old sorority girl with my friend. The girl was a nutrition major who works at Abercrombie and Fitch and after being fucked by two men for three days straight and never leaving a room with no a/c, clean towels or hand soap, she put up an old picture of herself on Instagram. She left shortly after, and in the sour stank of her trailing pussy, my friend showed me the post. It read—

“To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday this year. It’s been the hardest year of my life but I’ve grown more than I probably ever will. Everyone goes through shit but the process of making it through defines you. A broken heart can heal. Mine is so full after this wonderful birthday weekend. I’m missing my favorite person but I know he is celebrating me wherever he is. Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. Here’s to 25”.

Her favorite person, and late boyfriend, had blown his head off two months prior to our Labor Day gang bang. Think he used his military issue shotgun, but I’m not sure. This is the extent of my grad school experience.

The knocking came again and I heaved up Canada Dry in a weak attempt to lift myself from the plastic tub. It ceased in short time and the shower water went cold and with the handicap bar I hoisted myself up and crawled into bed. Under the covers my body shook, my stomach convoluted and my throat heaved, but nothing came forth for I had nothing left. I prayed to feel better. I drifted, oh thank God, I drifted. And the knocking came once more.

“Leave or I’ll call the cops mother fucker!” I jumped up and pounded back at the door and through the peep hole I saw mumbling the man I expected— that beaner with a mustache but without his cup of coffee.

Featherlike I was he left smart still, for I had nothing to take but clothes covered in vomit, an empty wallet and a shattered cell phone. After the shadow passed my curtain and I fell into daze. It was glorious how the blankets consumed me and I texted my friend I’m okay. I wasn’t. No longer could I handle the amount of cocaine we used together and for some time he knew it. Still, I’ve never been so grateful, although my initial rest was cut in lengths by abrupt spasms and terrors and hot flashes of sweat, it was the type of rest that heals you, and this Motel Six was my haven for the night. Finally, I slept a deep sleep for a few hours needed.

Then it came again softly, more fucking knocking. Rage took me and I sprung to the door and ripped it open. Within seconds I was throwing a fury of punches, thwacking and raw when my knuckles made contact, beating and beating like a flesh crippling drum. My hands pink and numb I wailed on until I could see nothing below me but crimson flesh. I pulled back breathing heavy. It wasn’t until I saw the towel cart beside me did I realize I had just beat the house keeping lady to death. I stepped back and sat on the bed. The sky outside was milky grey and blood crawled out her dismantled body and dripped down her apron mud like and slow to the second story aisle. I heard screams.

That stupid fucking beaner, I thought, what if I hadn’t made this trip, what if my friend came to LA instead of me to San Diego, what is USD was a quarter system and UCLA was by semester, what if he was a writer and I studied law? I thought of my father’s disappointment and for the first time in years I feared death. I asked myself what the birthday girl’s late boyfriend felt when the video of her fucking his best friend in Vegas went viral?

I wondered if she had some kind of darkness in her heart, like me, or if just she simply loved taking dick. I saw the flashing blue lights and heard doors slam and two sets of boots hiked up the stairs. I wished I had finished my latest script. I knew I’d have time now to study words, years in prison with nothing to do but write and think and write without distraction— a true artist’s dream. I thought about killing two cops.

Randall Whitlow is an artist from the barren hills of a broken town, hidden away in the sticks of darkened California pines.

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