Bud Smith is a writer from Washington Heights NYC who didn’t care when his friend’s parents burnt all his friend’s Bon Jovi cassette tapes because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Bon Jovi sucks. www.budsmithwrites.com
The Wasteland Motel
Bo was unhappy. He should have been grateful to be a member of one of the few clusters of humanity that’d survived the apocalypse, but whoop de doo, he wasn’t.
He decided one Wednesday morning that he wanted more from life. He didn’t like tending the goats: brushing them, feeding them slop, shoveling their shit. 32 years of that was enough. He decided to put in his two week notice with Todd the goat boss, and try his luck in the wasteland beyond the rusted steel walls of the camp.
Not surprisingly when he said to Todd, “I’m putting in my two weeks notice.”
Todd replied, baffled, “Your what?”
“I read about it in an old book that Crazy Charlie gave me when I was a kid …” Todd was still confused, he didn’t know how to read, he barely knew what a book was. Charlie had been a lunatic, a drain on the camp, but he’d taught Bo to read. That was nice.
Bo said it again, “Two weeks notice.”
No one had ever quit a job post apocalyptically.
This troubled many of the people in the camp. Especially Mort and Linda who talked rather harshly about Bo to whoever would listen. “He better not think he can waltz over here and get a job with us and our chickens …”
“If he can’t handle goats, he certainly can’t handle chickens.”
“Or the eggs.”
“Or the pecking.”
They all agreed. They weren’t hiring Bo. But Bo didn’t come and ask anyone for a job. No, for his last two weeks there, he went about his business, conserving his water and rations, sharpening a spoon into a small dagger—his only defense against the unknown beyond the tall steel walls.
After his last shift with the goats, he said goodbye to everyone. They’d gathered around in a loose circle, considering him nervously. Directly behind Bo was the rusty metal wall marking the forbidden perimeter. Nothing came in. Nothing went out.
“Where you going?” Clara asked.
“Into the Wasteland,” Bo said offhandedly.
The crowd drew a sharp breath.
Clara opened her mouth to say something but her mother kicked her shin. Clara said nothing else.
“Oh shit. Figures,” said the mayor. He motioned to the guard, “Dave open er up. Let the kid go.”
They’d all seen this coming. Bo was a strange dreamer. His dreams made the people in the camp have two very distinct reactions. Some were afraid–people who dream, can easily bring disaster. The rest of them were not afraid at all, just guilty because they weren’t dreaming and felt they should, especially now that someone was leaving.
“The Nukies are still out there. S’all I’ll say, boy,” a shriveled up old woman said. She was blind and could barely walk.
“Nukies, Jeez, it’d been a long time since somebody said that,” the mayor remarked.
“Maybe there’s werewolves out there too,” Bo said, hoping to lighten the mood. Nobody said anything. It was awkward.
But it’d been so many years and people didn’t know what to believe. The camp offered safety, but from what? Bo shook everyone’s hand. The door was unlatched, pried open for the first time in a generation. As he left, he said sincerely, “I hope to see you all soon.”
“Don’t forget the secret knock,” the mayor said.
“Shave and a haircut, two bits,” Bo said. With that he walked out into the desolate wastelands.
It was a short walk, just long enough for him to contemplate what old man Charlie had told him many years ago, “Reason you suck at shoveling goat shit’s because your family used to have a motel right up the road …”
“Motel.” The old man said, “Fer vacationing. Very famous destination, people used to come for miles …”
Charlie had stopped talking abruptly, looking at his knees. Before Bo could ask him what either a motel or vacation was, the old man freaking died. He stuck his tongue stuck way out, fell over dead.
The people in the camp were no help explaining what either thing were. “All Greek to me.” Mort said.
The subject was dropped, but everyday for many years, Bo had wondered.
But as Bo crossed the mesa, he was surprised to see the new views of landscape opening up below him. An old paved road. A dilapidated white building with a large faded sign that said just “MOTEL” Bo crouched and waited, looking all around at the hills.
He didn’t see any movement of any kind for a very long while. Then finally, he cautiously went down and entered into the motel.
Bo stayed there all alone. a little lonely and a tad frightened. But he put the worry out of his mind and occupied himself by straightening up the place (which looked like it had survived a nuclear war). He dug around in old piles of paper files, sorted thorough debris. It wasn’t too long before he had a pretty good idea what a motel was supposed to be simply by reading brochures. He was stunned, gazing at old photographs, seeing an America many years before he was born, where people came and rested from the road, relaxed, put their feet up and enjoyed an ice cold beverage.
Wow. Imagine that? An Ice cold beverage?
A week later, when Bo came back to the camp and explained about his new motel, they just laughed. He explained in detail what a vacation was. They just laughed harder. “A wasteland vacation!” said Linda.
“No wonder you didn’t want to shovel my goat’s shit,” Todd the goat boss said, “you’re a comedian, not a goat tender!”
Bo was upset but still happy with his decision. He traded some goods discovered in the rubble for some much needed supplies. Then, he went back over the mesa, to his new home.
Early the next day, the first person arrived. Clara. She was a very pretty girl for then, today we’d call her a skank ho. Clara didn’t like the camp either. She traded some sex action to Bo in exchange for room and board at his motel.
He set her up in a room around the back. “Sorry about the giant concrete hole in the ground. When my funds get fluffier, I’ll have it filled in. For now, be careful. Fall in, your brains will squish out your head.” Clara looked down into the concrete hole, frowned.
With Clara there, a few men from town came to the Wasteland Motel, too. Turns out the other prudes in the camp wouldn’t turn as good of a trick as her. Business wasn’t great for Bo, but it was good enough. He filled the vending machine with orange sodas found in a storage room.
“I can add Continental breakfast soon if they business keeps improving,” he said.
One day, Bo found a set of keys. He had no idea what they were to. He showed Clara. She had no idea either. Bo regarded the keys curiously, setting them away. The mayor paid a surprising visit to the Wasteland Motel. He came on his dune buggy in a swirling haze of dust and noise.
Bo took the mayor all around the grounds, showing the motel and all its amenities off with pride. The mayor laughed. “Place is a dump.” Then, Clara invited him into a room. When he came out, he wasn’t laughing. “I’m still not sure of this place.” The mayor said. He got in his dune buggy and left. The next day, he came back with Mort’s wife, Linda. He rented a room. He fucked her. Then Linda came and sat around in Bo’s office and they shared a can of beef stew while the mayor went into the room with Clara again.
That day Bo found out what the keys were for. There was a hatch around back next to the big concrete hole in the ground. Bo unlocked the hatch and went down into the darkness. He was scared for his life but kept exploring. When he lit a match, he couldn’t believe what he saw: stacks and stacks of white plastic bags. Inside the bags were chlorine pellets. He didn’t know what chlorine was, but he figured it out rather quickly from the picture on the bag. The concrete hole in the ground was a swimming pool. How nice. Children in neon bathing suits were playing volleyball in the photograph.
There was another room down there too. Bo walked in and found many crates of red string. Something like 4000 pounds of string. This too puzzled him, for sometime–until the day that he found the large plaque buried under the rubble outside by the old broken road. The plague said: “THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BALL OF STRING” What a turn of events. No one was laughing at Bo anymore.
Eventually, the motel became a very popular place for all the people from the camp. They came there to get away as time allowed with their work and they has goods available for trade.
On the one year anniversary, Bo decided to throw a big party at the motel and he invited the entire camp, free of charge. They all came over the mesa and celebrated together. It was a very happy day.
How foolish they felt as they were all gathered around, joking, laughing, drinking in the swimming pool. It felt good to dunk in the cool clear water and be out of the camp. They spoke about the odd curiosity of “The World’s Biggest Ball of String” and what it must have meant to road side travelers on the road, when the road still went somewhere. But that was the other thing. “The road could go somewhere, couldn’t it?” Mort said.
“I suppose.” The mayor admitted, floating on his back in the pool. The people began to smile, considering it. The thought of the world opening back up when it had seemed so destroyed and closed for so long. Bo looked up at the blue sky and felt the warm sun. He was proud that he’d left the camp, come out there when everyone else had been so resistive and close minded. Now they were all hopeful for the first time in many generations …
No one was worrying at all until the first shadows fell onto the pool. Deformed. Scab faced. Hairless humanoid mutations. They’d come out of their hiding spots in the hills and surrounded the motel armed with pickaxes, jagged hunks of rock, long sharpened strips of metal. Their eyes slowly wept blood. They were not concerned with “The Worlds Biggest Ball of String”, just the meat floating in the swimming pool.
The old blind woman in her pool chair said, “told you so.”