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Authors: Ashley Little

Niagara motel

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NIAGARA MOTEL

Copyright © 2016 by Ashley Little

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any part by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical—without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may use brief excerpts in a review, or in the case of photocopying in Canada, a license from Access Copyright.

ARSENAL PULP PRESS

Suite 202 – 211 East Georgia St.

Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z6

Canada

arsenalpulp.com

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council for its publishing program, and the Government of Canada (through the Canada Book Fund) and the Government of British Columbia (through the Book Publishing Tax Credit Program) for its publishing activities.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to persons either living or deceased is purely coincidental.

Cover and text design by Oliver McPartlin

Edited by Susan Safyan

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication:

To come

ISBN: 978-1-5515-2661-4

    

While some historical events depicted in this novel are factual, as are certain locations, persons, and organizations in the public eye, the following is a work of fiction. The author acknowledges that some temporal inconsistencies exist in the novel. The characters and their actions are a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, or events is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author, nor does the author pretend to have private information about such individuals.

For Warren

Contents

Part One: The Motel Life

    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

Part Two: Living the Dream

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 17

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 19

    Chapter 20

    Chapter 21

    Chapter 22

    Chapter 23

    Chapter 24

    Chapter 25

    Chapter 26

    Chapter 27

    Chapter 28

    Chapter 29

    Chapter 30

Part Three: Home is Where Your Mom Is

    Chapter 31

    Chapter 32

Tucker's Mix-Tape

Acknowledgments

PART ONE

THE MOTEL LIFE

  

1

I was born in a laundromat in Paris, Ontario. If you knew Gina you wouldn't think it was that weird. Gina is my mother. She says she's a dancer. What that means is she's a stripper. Sometimes she says exotic dancer if she's really comfortable with you. Sometimes she goes all the way and there's another word for that. But I'm not allowed to say it. Not when Gina's around. Sometimes late at night when Gina's at work and I can't sleep and I'm lying in bed in whatever crap-hat motel room we're in, I whisper it up to the ceiling,whore, hoo-er, hoaaar. And sometimes I think that word sounds kind of beautiful.

Gina has a condition. It's not her fault. She had it before me and it got worse after she had me. It's called narcolepsy with cataplexy. The doctors took a long time to figure out what was wrong with her. Some people thought she was lazy, some people thought she was severely depressed, some people thought she was a drug addict, but Gina's not any of those things. What happens is she falls asleep a lot. Then other times, she gets a sleep attack where she conks out and can't move, but she's notactuallyasleep, she can still see and hear. That's the cataplexy part. Sometimes she falls asleep while driving and that's how I learned to drive when I was seven and why we mostly take the bus now. Sometimes she falls asleep when we're walking down the sidewalk, and I have to stay beside her and make sure nobody steals her purse. Sometimes she falls asleep when she's at work but the managers don't know about narcolepsy with cataplexy and they think Gina's messed up on drugs so she gets fired and then we have to get our skinny asses the heck out of Dodge, as Gina says. Other things happen to Gina too because of the narcolepsy. She can't sleep at night like regular people do. She sometimes has dreamswhileshe's awake and when she has nightmares, she thinks they'rereally happening. She has medicine for it but it's really expensive and it doesn't always work and sometimes she runs out and doesn't get more for a while. The medicine is called GHB which is the same thing that's in the date rape drug. I've heard Gina tell her friends that she's the only person she knows who givesherselfroofies, and then they all bust a gut laughing like it's the funniest thing in the world.

I'm eleven years old and I've been to sixteen different schools. Last summer we rode the Greyhound from Penetanguishene to Prince George and stopped in all the dumb little towns along the way so Gina could work. Gina says I've seen more of the country than most adults.

It's not so bad, I guess. Sometimes if I start making friends with kids at school, or if I can tell a girl has a crush on me or something, I'll wish we didn't have to leave so soon, but sometimes if I don't like my teacher or the kids are mean, then I'm glad we get to leave, so it's good but it's bad too. Mostly, I keep to myself and read books at lunch and recess. I used to figure, what's the point of making friends since we're just going to leave in a few months anyways? But recently, I realized that even if you have a friend for one week or one month, and you're super sad when you have to leave them, it's worth it.

So one night I'm sitting around in my underwear in our room at the Prince Motel, eating salt and vinegar chips, watchingLate Night with David Letterman, and Gina comes in, looking tired 'cause she always looks tired, 'cause she doesn't sleep properly on account of her condition.

“Hey, Tucker.”

“Hey. How come you're home so early?”

She sat down on the bed and took a chip out of the bag and ate it. Then she took another one. “How do you feel about Niagara Falls?”

“I don't know. Have I been there before?” I kept watchingLetterman, but I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was looking at me with that mushy face she sometimes gets when she's sad.

“No, you haven't.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

Gina figures there are more people in Ontario so there's more married businessmen there and married businessmen are the best tippers. Also, a woman named Daisy that she worked with in Edmonton told her that Niagara Falls was a goldmine. So the next morning we packed up all our stuff then went for breakfast at Denny's. I got the Lumberjack Slam and Gina got what she always gets, the Moons Over My Hammy because she loves saying it and thinks it's hilarious.

“Give me a sip of your chocolate milk.”

I slid my glass over to her.

“Do you want a bite of my Moons Over My Hammy?” She started to laugh. Then it happened.

Her head hit the side of the plate as she slumped over the table. Her eyes were open and she was looking at me, sort of, but she was totally paralyzed. The waiter came over, flapping his arms around like a startled pigeon.

“Oh my God! Is she okay? Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”

“No. Don't worry.” I reached across the table for the ketchup and squirted a pile of it onto my plate. “This happens all the time.”

He stared at Gina and looked like he might start to cry.

“Do you have any hot sauce?”

  

2

The Greyhound bus from Prince George, BC, to Niagara Falls, Ontario, takes three days, eight hours, and fifteen minutes. Gina wanted to get there as soon as possible, and since we didn't have to stay in a motel for three nights, we'd have a little extra money so we could do some fun stuff like go to Marineland and Ripley's Believe It or Not! and crap like that.

Gina slept for the entire trip. I didn't even see her get up to go to the bathroom. I tried to wake her up a few times when we'd stop for meal breaks but she'd just turn toward the window and scrunch up more in her seat. I remember she told me once that the only time she can get a really good sleep is when she's riding in a car or on a bus. Something about the motion of the road being like a cradle, rocking her to sleep.

The woman across the aisle from us had curly blonde hair, enormous boobs, and a leopard-print shirt. She did crossword puzzles, drank Diet Coke, and smoked one cigarette every time we stopped. She kept her cigarettes in a little silver case. I think they were menthols but I couldn't be sure. The first night on the bus, she was sleeping and her blouse kind of fell open and I could see a little bit of her nipple. I stared at it for about two hours until I fell asleep.

The next morning we were somewhere in the mountains and she smiled at me. Her lips were all glistening and pink.

“Do you want a piece of gum?” She held out a stick of Juicy Fruit across the aisle.

“Sure.” I took it and our fingers touched. “Thanks.”

“That your mom?”

“Yeah.”

“What's she do?”

“You mean besides sleep?”

She laughed. “Yeah.”

I looked at the woman clacking her fake nails against the arm rest. I shrugged. “Same as you, I guess.”

She sniffed. “Oh yeah, what's that?”

“She's a washed-up touring stripper.”

She blinked a few times, and I could see the globs of mascara flaking off around her eyes, then she turned toward the window. The next time the bus stopped, she moved all her stuff up to the front, and I didn't see her or her nipples for the rest of the trip.

When I was younger, Gina would sometimes bring home friends from work after her shift. They would drink wine coolers and eat pistachios and laugh and tell jokes that I didn't understand the punch lines to. They told me that I was adorable and I used to love them all. With their high, tight boots and their colourful sparkly bras, I thought they looked like superheroes. But eventually, they all started to look the same, and somehow, as I got older, they got older too. Their laughs got raspier and their makeup got thicker, and instead of telling jokes, they complained about everything in the world. They stopped telling me I was adorable and started telling me to treat women right and never to break anyone's heart, to put the toilet seat down and stand up straight, to wear a condom, but if I forgot, at least stick around if I ever got a girl pregnant, and to always, always,alwaysleave a tip for good service. Roz always gave me these pointers while pinching my cheeks. Roz was Gina's friend who didn't have any skin between her nostrils, just one giant nostril, and looking at her was like staring into a black hole. Roz pinched my cheeks so hard sometimes I had to go to school the next day with two blue bruises on my face. One day I told Gina I was sick of her friends telling me what to do all the time and just who did they think they were anyways?

“They're my friends, Tucker,” she said. “They just want the best for you.”

“They're stupid.”

“Don't say that.”

“Why not? It's true.”

She sighed. “It might be true, but everyone needs friends. Especially when they don't have a family.”

“I'm your family,” I said.

“Yes, you are.”

“Isn't that enough?”

“Look,” Gina said. “What if I told you that you couldn't hang out with your friends? How would you like that?”

I shrugged. “I wouldn't care.”

“You wouldn't care?”

“We're never in one place long enough for me to make friends anyways so it doesn't even matter,” I said.

“You've had friends before,” Gina said.

“Not really.”

She looked at me and tilted her head to the side.

“I've never had abestfriend.”

Her eyes got misty. She touched my hair but I pulled away. “One day we'll find a place that's just right and stay there for a good long while,” she said.

“Like a whole year?”

“At least a year, maybe more.”

“Okay,” I said. “That would be good.”

She smiled.

“But can you tell Roz not to pinch my cheeks anymore? I really hate it.”

“I can do that,” she said.

When I saw Roz after that, she didn't pinch my cheeks, but shegave me noogies, which hurt even worse, but at least didn't leave bruises.

I put my seat back and slept for awhile. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to a car horn beeping and couldn't get back to sleep. I read my book,Choose Your Own Adventure:The Abominable Snowman. I got to climb Mount Everest but I kept dying. Once I was swallowed by an avalanche. Once I went too high up the mountain without letting myself acclimatize to the lack of oxygen. The third time, I froze to death because I lent my jacket to a friend who had fallen on a patch of ice and broken his arm. I didn't want to die anymore and I didn't care about finding the stupid Yeti either. He probably didn't even exist. Why do some people spend their entire lives hunting for creatures that no one really believes are real anyways? Why doesn't anyone take them by the shoulders and yell in their face, “Hey! Look! This thing you've spent yourwhole lifethinking about and looking for doesn't friggin'existso you can stop wasting your time now and go do somethinguseful!” I shoved the book to the bottom of my backpack. There was another book in there that Mrs Jamieson, the librarian at my school in Prince George, had given me on my last day,Where the Red Fern Grows. It had a big stamp across the top that saidDISCARDED. I spent the rest of the night reading it. Then I was glad that leopard-shirt lady had moved up front and Gina was zonked out, because I got kind of emotional over that book, and I didn't want either of them to see me like that. I stared out the window at the sunrise. It looked like someone had spilled their orange juice across the prairie sky. I wondered what it would be like to have a dog, to have anyone love you so much that they would sacrificetheir own life for yours. I looked over at Gina. She was fast asleep. Her white-blonde hair fell around her face like dandelion fluff. I thought about how she'd had me when she was just a teenager, practically still a kid, like me—and that maybe, in a way, she had done that for me. Then I thought about how if Gina died, I would probably stop eating too, like little Ann had done when Old Dan died. And as I drifted off to sleep, I hoped that when Gina and I were dead and gone, someone would plant a red fern between our gravestones.

We picked a motel that was away from the strip because Gina said it would be quieter. What she meant was, it would be cheaper. The paint on the sign out front was all cracked and peeling so you could barely read what it said. If you stood back and squinted you could almost make the letters out. It said, Niagara Motel. I thought it sounded regal. When we passed the payphone in the lobby I imagined calling up Bryce, a boy I knew from Prince George, and telling him that I was glad to finally be out of stinky P.G. and that I was staying at the Niagara Motel. And that my life was absolutely wonderful and would be from now on.

I was excited to be in a new city, but most of all, I was happy to be off the bus. My back hurt and my feet felt fat and my mouth was all dried up inside. Gina, on the other hand, had just broken the Guinness World Record for Longest Nap Ever Taken and was practically glowing from the rejuvenation of it all. After we checked into our room and had showers, we got Cool Ranch Doritos and Crystal Pepsi from the vending machine. Gina said Crystal Pepsi was better for us because it was clear and that it tasted the exact same as regular Pepsi. Not very often, but sometimes Gina isverywrong about things.How could a clear drink taste the same as a coloured drink? It was pretty much impossible. I hated Crystal Pepsi but drank it anyways because I was so thirsty. Then we went out to explore our new town. Gina and I went to a wax museum, and Brick City where you could build stuff withLEGOall day, and even though I'm way too old forLEGOnow, it was still pretty cool. The wax museum was my favourite though. Upstairs it was all wax movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and the Terminator and that president of the United States who was also an actor, but downstairs was called The House of Horrors and it had all these famous criminals from the olden days. There was lots of blood and guts and gross write-ups about what the criminals had done and how many people they had killed and Gina said it wasn't appropriate but she let me look at it all anyways because I said it was a history lesson, and besides that, we had already paid.

“How come criminals get to be as famous as movie stars, even though they do bad things?” I asked as we studied the wax figure of Jack the Ripper.

“I don't know,” Gina said. “I guess you don't need to have any real talent to become famous.” She put her hand on my arm. “Let's get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”

We went to anIMAXand learned all about the legend of the Maid of the Mist and the people who went over the falls in barrels and survived, then we got mini-donuts and hot chocolate and rode the Ferris wheel for about an hour. We were supposed to get off after the wheel went around three times, but Gina blew a kiss to the operator and he let us stay on. When we finally got off he asked Gina for her number. She said we didn't have one yet because we just moved here, which was true.

“Maybe I can take you out for coffee sometime, then.” He looked down at his boots, then back up at her.

“Oh, I don't drink coffee. Can't sleep if I drink it.”

This was also true. But it was kind of sad how his face fell as she said it. She grabbed my hand then and pulled me away. “Thanks for the ride!”

I jerked my hand back and shoved it in my pocket and looked around to make sure no one had seen me holding hands with my mom. Gina laughed at me but I didn't care. I had to start school here soon and she didn't. I stopped to re-tie my shoe. Gina put her hair back in a ponytail so it wouldn't obstruct her view of the falls.

We walked along the boardwalk and gawked at the falls with everybody else. A family of Japanese tourists asked Gina to take their picture and she made them do all these crazy poses and had everyone cracking up. Then she turned the camera on herself and gave it the thumbs-up while she took a photo. This put them into hysterics.

I liked Niagara Falls right away because the people we saw kind of looked like us, like they didn't quite know what they were doing, but they were going to try to have a good time anyways.

The next day, we had breakfast at the Horton's across the street. Gina read the paper and I dug a hole through my muffin so that it became a duffin. Or a mo-nut. It was my own invention and one day I would sell the idea to Mr Horton for a gazillion dollars. Gina circled an ad in the classifieds and I leaned over to read what it said.

“Orchid Industries Escort Services. That sounds kind of nice.”

Gina looked up from the paper. “Do you know what an escort is, Tucker?”

“Sure. It's like a Taurus but boxier.”

She smiled. “Yeah, that's a Ford Escort. This is a different kind of escort.”

“What kind?”

She popped a Timbit into her mouth. “It's like a date.”

“Don't talk with your mouth full—jeez, you know that grosses me out.”

“Sorry,” she said, and covered her mouth. She swallowed, took a sip of her tea. “It's like a date.”

“Oh.”

“It's very classy. Only really classy ladies can do it.”

“Guess you're S.O.L. then, hey?”

She rolled up the paper and swatted me on the arm with it while I laughed and choked a little bit on my duffin.

She unrolled the paper. “Want your horoscope?”

“Sure.”

“Virgo, Virgo. There you are. All right.” She cleared her throat. “Even if you don't have the faintest idea what is going on around you at the moment, act as if you have seen it all before. Create the illusion that you are in control. It's remarkable how easily most people are fooled.”

“Lame. What's yours?”

“You may be in the minority as far as certain viewpoints are concerned but according to the planets you are on the side of the angels, so stop worrying about what others might think and do what you know to be right.”

“So what are we doing today?”

“Well, I need to find a job, for one.”

“I think what you meant to say was, we're going to Marineland.”

“Ha-ha.”

“I'm serious. We need to see the whales. Do what you know to be right, Gina.”

“Do you like to eat?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you like to wear clothes?”

“Uh … I guess.”

“Then I need to work.”

“Work schmerk.”

“Tucker—”

“But youpromised.”

She shook her head and started reading the paper again.

“Killer whales, Gina. Baby belugas. Sea lions!” I clapped my palms together, “Arf! Arf! Arf!”

“Shh! You're gonna get us kicked out of here.”

“ARF! ARF! ARF!”

“Okay, I'll make you a deal. I'll look for work today and we'll go to Marineland tomorrow.”

“No deal.”

“Hey. Who's the boss?”

“Bruce Springsteen.”

“You little sh—”

“Fifty bucks.”

“Fifty bucks what?”

“Give me fifty bucks and you've got a deal.”

Her mouth twisted up but her eyes were shining. “Twenty.”

“Forty-five. That's as low as I'll go.”

She took two twenties out of her wallet and shoved them at me. “Don't spend it all on candy.”

We went back to our motel so Gina could get ready. I watchedThe Simpsonsand thought about what I would do with my forty bucks. I could take a cab out to Marineland and see the whales myself, but it wouldn't be as much fun without Gina there. I could go on the Maid of the Mist and get soaking wet, but what's the point of getting soaking wet when there's no one around to laugh with? She came out of the bathroom then, big hair, short skirt, makeup, the shoes.

“How do I look?”

I shrugged.

She pushed her boobs up and checked herself out in the mirror above the desk. “This is big, Tucker. This is Niagara-fuckin-Falls.”

“When will you be back?”

“I don't know. I'll call you.”

“What if I'm not here?”

“Then I'll leave a message on the motel phone.”

“Okay. Well, break a leg.”

“Thanks, lamb chop.” She kissed me on the forehead and grabbed her purse. “Don't forget to eat lunch.”

“Don't forget to eat dinner.”

“Don't forget to brush your teeth.”

“Don't forget to wipe your butt.”

“Don't forget I love you.”

“Don't forget to close the door behind you.”

She blew me a kiss and left.

I wandered up and down Clifton Hill for most of the day. I saw some guys smoking out of a glass tube in an alley behind the 7-Eleven. I saw a fat man yelling into a payphone about losing everything he owned. I watched a black-haired girl in a too-tight dress pose on the corner and lean into car windows. I thought about going back to Brick City to build more stuff withLEGO, but I like to try new things so I went to the arcade instead. I saw some kids I thought maybe I could be friends with but then I saw them snickering when I was playing Ms. Pac-Man, even though I'm pretty good at Ms. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man is actually better than Pac-Man. I spent twenty bucks at the arcade and then went to a restaurant called Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. It had gigantic parrots onthe outside of it and a real live one inside a golden cage near the bar. Her name was Scarlet and she said, “Make it a double, Pete. BaCAW!” I laughed and told her I thought she was beautiful. I wanted to sit near her but they wouldn't let me sit at the bar because I'm a minor. So I sat at a booth where I could still see Scarlet and ordered a Cheeseburger in Paradise with fries on the side and a chocolate milk. Then my money was gone and it was almost dark, so I said goodbye to Scarlet and went back to the Niagara Motel and checked the phone for a message from Gina. She hadn't called. There was an old message from two days before. A guy named Lester left it for a woman named Chloe. Lester wanted Chloe to meet him in the lobby of the Ramada Inn at ten o'clock and she would know him because he would be wearing jeans and a beige dinner jacket. I erased it and then wished I hadn't. Lester's voice sounded worn-out and fed-up, like he had just watched his whole life go by and realized that he had never really enjoyed any of it. I hoped Chloe had shown up at the Ramada to meet him. I hoped she had been kind to him. I inspected the room for awhile looking for traces of Chloe. Here is what I found:

             1.  The alarm was set to buzz for seven a.m.

             2.  Four long black hairs in the bathtub

             3.  A pink rhinestone earring sparkling behind the toilet

I also found the complimentary pad of paper that saidNiagara Motelat the top in blue cursive writing, and I did the old detective's trick where you shade a pencil over the page to see what the last person wrote. My heart beat faster as Chloe's writing appeared. 555-7957. The numbers were small and bubbly. There was a double line underneath the phone number and I knew that meant it was important. Iwanted to call it and see who would answer. Maybe it would be Lester. Maybe it would be Chloe's friend or her boss. I picked up the phone and let my finger hover above the 5. I ghost-dialed the number to see what shape it would make on the phone. It was a triangle. That was a good sign because the triangle is my favourite shape. It was probably Lester's phone number. I put the receiver back in its cradle. Then I listened to the radio to see which station Chloe had left it on. It was the Classic Rock station. Classic Rock is music that is pretty old, but everyone agrees that it is still good.

While I listened, I unpacked my stuff. I took out my clothes, shook out the wrinkles, folded them again, and put them all into the first two drawers of the brown dresser that the TV sat on. I had two pairs of jeans, a pair of black Adidas trackpants with white stripes up the side, a pair of cut-off jean shorts, five T-shirts, two sweatshirts, and seven pairs of underwear and socks. I didn't have pyjamas because Gina thought pyjamas were a waste of money when you could just wear underwear and a T-shirt to bed. I had twoChoose Your Own Adventurebooks:The Abominable SnowmanandTrouble on Planet Earth, the discarded copy ofWhere the Red Fern Grows, and three Archie comics. I had a little shoebox that I kept my beach-glass and special rocks in, my Swiss Army knife that Gina gave me for my tenth birthday, and a brown plastic dog named Charlie. Charlie was the size of my pinky finger and the way his mouth hung open made him look like he was always smiling. I got Charlie out of a gumball machine in Winnipeg, and I'd had him for a long, long time. Except for my birth certificate and my health card, which Gina kept with her stuff, that was everything I had in the world. Gina didn't think we should have too many things since we moved around all the time. She said too much stuff would weigh us down, and I guess she was right. When I finished reading my books, I traded them in at a used bookstore or got more out of a library. When I grew out of my clothesor they got too worn out, Gina bought me more. There were lots of things I wanted, sure, like a skateboard, a Nintendo, a never-ending supply of Bubble Tape, a dog. But Gina said that one day I would have everything I'd ever wanted and then I'd still want more. I'm not really sure what she meant by that, but I think it was her way of telling me that she wasn't going to buy all that stuff for me. Gina had a lot more crap than I did, obviously. She had to have a lot of gear for dancing, a trillion pairs of shoes, a briefcase full of makeup, outfits, wigs, cassette tapes with her special songs on them, a bunch of other junk. I looked at the bags on her bed and thought about unpacking her stuff and putting it away for her, but I turned on the TV instead.

I watched four episodes ofCheersback to back. I had seen them all a billion times before but I still laughed along with the live studio audience.Cheersis my all-time favourite show. I don't normally tell people this, but there's actually a real possibility that Sam Malone is my father. Gina will never talk about my father so I've pretty much given up asking her about him, but over the years I have been able to find out a few things about him when Gina was half-dreaming or too tired to tell me to leave her alone. These are the reasons I think that Sam Malone might be my real father:

             1.  My father was a bartender. Sam Malone is a bartender.

             2.  My father had brown hair. Sam Malone has brown hair.

             3.  My father was a womanizer. Sam Malone is a womanizer.

             4.  My father was a recovering alcoholic. Sam Malone is a recovering alcoholic.

             5.  Our last name is Malone. His last name is Malone.

I know last names don't usually work that way, and I know they weren't married or anything, but still, it's a pretty big coincidence. Also, just because something's on TV doesn't mean it's not real. When I'm old enough to get a job and I can save up enough money, I'm going to take the bus to Boston and go to Sam's bar. I'll walk in and Norm and Woody and Coach will grin their droopy barfly grins at me and Coach will say, “Aren't you a little young to be in here, kid?” And Sam will turn around and he'll be polishing a wine glass with his white bar towel, and when he sees me and realizes who I am, the glass will drop right out of his hand and shatter into a million pieces, but he won't even care, he'll just keep staring at me and his mouth will fall open a little bit. His eyes will start to water, and he'll come out from behind the bar—he'll be trying to talk but he won't be able to say anything because he'll be too emotional—and then he'll kneel down in front of me to look into my eyes and he'll see that they're the very same eyes as his. Then I'll throw my arms around his neck and hug him, real tight, and he'll hug me back. Then we'll slide into a booth and Carla will bring Sam a coffee and me a glass of chocolate milk and she'll be crying too because everyone will be able to see that I'm Sam's son. Norm will drop a little tear in his beer and Coach will get all snuffled up and wipe his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket. Woody will ask, “What's everyone so upset about all of a sudden?” And they'll have to explain it to Woody. They'll have to tell him that I'm Sam's kid and that he's never met me until right now. It might not go exactly like that but it will be some variation of that. They say you never know what's going to happen, but sometimes you have a pretty good idea.

It took a long, long time to fall asleep at the motel because there were fireworks and then the people in the next room kept moaning and banging against the wall, but finally I did fall asleep and when I woke up in the morning the room was cold and Gina still wasn't there.

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