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unseen balcony allergies


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Quick, and a little different.  It’s been a long time since I tried to write anything fictional in the first person…I feel like I’m back in HS English class.  First person is tough.  One-shot deal here- there won't be a part 2.


I grabbed the paper cup of coffee from the in-room maker, and slid the balcony door open and stepped out.  The bare concrete was cool under my feet, and there was a light dusting of yellow pollen on everything out there- the plastic chairs, the table, the floor.

This was a shitty motel, even by my standards, but cheap and within easy walking distance of downtown- and from the pounding in my head, I guess it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t driving last night.  Ughh…how many beers did I have?

As I sat down, I took a sip of coffee, hoping it would cut through the fog from last night.  The view was nice- a little burbling brook down below, surrounded by trees.  I looked around again, wondering if this motel had been nicer when it was built.  Probably- it had some nice touches, but times had passed it by and now it was just a dingy, mildewy place for people who only care about the price.

I heard the sliding door next door to me open, and somebody step outside.  Then the telltale crinkle of plastic, and scritch-hiss of a Bic lighter.  I don’t really mind the smell of cigarette smoke, but I can’t say I enjoy it, either.

I moved my chair to make a little noise, just to let whoever it was know I was there, and took another sip of coffee.  The balcony dividers were solid wood- we were close enough I could hear my neighbor sucking on their cigarette but I couldn’t see anything.

After the second deep drag, she coughed.  Just once, but it sounded like a young woman.  My mind started to wander- I imagined a slender, pretty woman, maybe still in her the t-shirt and shorts she'd slept in.  It was a pleasant thought, and it took my mind off the hangover a little.

Opening the map on the table, I started trying to plan my day.  I had a couple days before I had to meet my friends in Fort Lauderdale, and no real idea how I was going to fill those days.  But I didn’t want to stay another night here in the Mildew Manor, so I had to pick someplace go to.

Another drag on her cigarette and she coughed harder… cough-cough-cough  They sounded tight, not the phlegmy rattle of a true smoker’s cough.  cough-cough-K’tchew [sniff-sniff—sniffff]

Is it the cigarette or the pollen making her cough?  Hmm…

[bzzt-bzzt-bzzt] I snatched for my cell phone, laying on the table, but it wasn’t mine that was ringing.

“Hello,” she said on the other side of the wall.  “Oh, hey Manda.”

She sounded cute when she talked.  It felt weird, sitting so close to her and able to hear every word she said, but invisible.  I felt like a peeping Tom, but hey- I had just as much right to my balcony as she did hers, andI was here first.  I moved my chair again, making noise on the floor, just to remind her I was over here.

“Yeah, things are going” k’ch  k’ch’kch’TCHEW  “excuse me, sorry, things are going fine.  What?    No, I’m not sick.” cough-cough-cough-COUGH “Yeah, I know I sound awful.  This motel is really” k’CHH k’ch’ch “sorry, really dusty.  Maybe some mold or something, too.”

I’d forgotten about my maps- and my hangover- now.  I felt like a creep, eavesdropping like this.  Am I supposed to go back inside?  That seems silly- but this feels weird.  I always wonder what other people do in situations like this.  Screw it, I'm staying put.

“Yeah, it’s playing hell with my allergies.  Not to mention all the” k’ch k’ch’chh’x’TCHEW k’ch’CHew “the pollen out here.  Huh? Oh, yeah- I’m on my balcony having a cigarette.  Yeah, there’s a balcony.  It’s the only nice thing about this dump of a room.”

She’s right- the balcony really is the only good thing about the rooms here. Well, except the neighbors, I guess.

My coffee was getting cold, so I gulped the last of it and quietly got up, and walked back through the still-open door.  Oh, thank Christ- there’s another single-serving pod of regular coffee.  The first cup helped, but my head was still pounding.

She was still talking to her friend when I sat back down with my fresh cup of coffee.  And still sneezing.  God, she sounds cute when she’s sneezing.

“Yeah, I drove” k’ch’ch’ch’ch "almost" K’ch’CH’TCHEW “four hundred miles yesterday!”

I rolled my eyes.  I’d done 750 yesterday, and thought I took it easy.  Although the way my head felt, I might be lucky to make 400 today.  I wish I hadn’t drank…no I don’t.  I’m glad I drank all that beer.  The band was good, the bar was fun, and I was walking home.  What’d Steinbeck say about hangovers ”…take them as consequence, not punishment…” Something like that.

“I should be home on Tuesday” cough-cough-cough-cough-cough-COUGH “I think.  Maybe Wednesday if I’m” k’chh “too tired to” k’ch’ch’CHOO “to make it all the way.  It’s exhausting to drive” k’ch’ch’ch k’ch’xh’ch’TCH-CHew “drive all day.  Hang on.”

Four hundred miles hardly counts as driving all day, but she sounds cute.  Or at least she has cute allergies.  So I guess I ought to cut her a little slack.

Then a prolonged, wet-sounding nose-blow.  I wondered where she’d blown her nose- had she brought a tissue with her?  Used a sleeve?  I liked to imagine she’d pulled the collar of her t-shirt up and blown onto her chest.  Another long, wet blow.  “Eww, sorry.”

cough-cough-cough k’ch’x’ch’CH “Sorry, Manda- I gotta” k’ch’ch’CHew “gotta go take a” k’CHEW “a shower.  My allergies are killing me.  Maybe the” k’ch-ch “steam will help.”

I hope not.

“I’m checking out right after I shower.  I need to get an early start to” cough-cough “get home by Tuesday.”

It was nearly 9:00- far as I’m concerned, she’d missed an early start by several hours already.

“OK, see you when I get home.  Bye!”

I figured she’d be headed back in, but I heard the Bic flick again.  A deep drag, followed by another coughing fit.  I wondered how much was the cigarette and how much was allergies.  Either way, it was a nice sounding cough.  Another long, snotty-sounding nose-blow.  I imagined this one down her collar, too.

K’ah’CHOO  kAH-CHEW  k’HA-SHOO  k’ch’x’CHOO’CHoo’ch  AH-ah-ACHOO

She must’ve been stifling them when she was on the phone with her friend.  I wondered if blowing her nose had made the tickle worse, or just not helped it any.

K’ah’tCH’ch’x’CHOO k’ch’ch’ch’TCHOoo [sniff]  K’ch’ch’tcheww  “GodDAMN” as I heard her chair move slightly, and the sliding door open.

I finished my coffee, starting to feel slightly human again.  Time to pack up and get ready to go find some breakfast, I guess.  As I walked into my room, I could hear the shower next door turning on.

k’ACHOO  k’ah’hashew  k’TCHew

I couldn’t help it- I went into the bathroom, and stuck my ear against the wall, and listened to her sneezing, coughing and blowing her nose as she showered.  The steam seemed to help- after a few minutes, the fit subsided.

I grabbed my things and went to check out, halfway hoping I’d meet her in the hallway, and halfway praying I wouldn’t.  I didn’t.

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Oooooh I ADORE this scenario and you really set up the scene of the seedy motel perfectly! I very much enjoyed this :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
On January 1, 2018 at 2:55 PM, Dusty15 said:

you really set up the scene of the seedy motel perfectly!

I based it pretty heavily off a place I stayed a night some years ago...by weird coincidence, I ran across the name of it in my laptop's WiFi menu today.  Hadn't thought about the place in years until I cast about for inspiration to write this.  (Sadly, I had to invent the sneezing out of whole cloth.)

And a quick look in Google shows it got knocked down last summer.

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