Thomas awoke with aching teeth. The television was on and muted and flashed through the dark room. Thomas’ bent knees obstructed his view of the box itself. He opened his mouth and rotated his lower jaw back and forth, spellbound by the click it made with each oscillation. He had kicked off the comforter at some point in the night. “This isn’t fair,” he muttered as he shuffled to the bathroom. He shut off the television, opened the door to the hall, silent. He hung his Do Not Disturb sign and went back to sleep. He awoke again, however, before daybreak, and was unable to go back to sleep. Thomas was, and is, on a well deserved vacation.
Despite his predilection for room service, Thomas ventured to the breakfast buffet on the one-hundred-forty-second morning of his stay at the Mirage Resort and Spa. He showered with the curtain drawn. He dressed with the faithful precision that only a vacationing businessman can observe: facing the mirror, he slid thick fingers through shirtsleeves, buttons through holes, belt through buckle. The comb ran through his wet hair like floss in the pockets between gums and teeth. “Ready when you are,” he said. He packed sandals and suntan lotion for the beach. At breakfast, Thomas sat alone. He faced the entrance as if expecting company. The buffet did him justice and he was pleased.
Thomas was walking down the wooden steps to the beach when he took a fall. His arms splayed like the wings of a graceless angel and he belly-flopped into the sand. He rolled onto his back, squinted into the sun, and gave the sky the finger. An old couple hurried over to assist him.
“Are you alright?” the woman asked.
“I’m fine,” Thomas said.
“You took quite the fall,” the man said.
“I’m fine. I just tripped.”
The man helped Thomas to his feet with considerable effort. Upon impact, Thomas’ sunscreen had burst in his pocket and only now was he aware of the consequences. His shorts were soaked with lotion and the woman was debating whether to comment.
“Thank you for your help. I need to head back and change,” he preempted.
“We’re headed back that way anyhow,” the man said.
The woman’s head shook with injustice.
“Those stairs are a disaster waiting to happen. Let’s speak with the concierge.”
“Yes,” the man added.
“I appreciate it. But I don’t think that will be necessary.”
After the old couple latched on, Thomas rightfully feared for his solitude. The Levits, as they were called, escorted him back to the hotel and through the lobby, conversing the whole way. Topics included, but were not limited to, Birthplace (the Levits are from Ohio, which is cold this time of year), Marine Life (the jellyfish that riddle the beach are completely harmless, albeit soggy and unpleasant), and Finance (Thomas works in finance). Needless to say, a dinner invitation seemed imminent. It was at this point, however, that Thomas’ head pivoted as if of its own accord to regard the beautiful young woman approaching with deliberate steps.
To put it simply, Thomas had a strong reaction to the sight of this woman. He inhaled her asthmatically, his teeth grinded together and his tongue wicked away the surplus of saliva that was threatening to discharge from his lips. The curvature of her breasts made his throat constrict and his neck and hands broke out with a rash. To put it simply, Thomas had a strong reaction to the sight of this woman.
“Hello Mom,” the woman said.
“Oh hi love. How was the spa?” Mrs. Levit asked.
“It was great,” she said. And to Thomas— “Are you all right?”
Thomas clenched his fists and gulped determinedly.
“Just allergies,” he croaked. “Flowers.”
“Fiona, this is Thomas,” said Mrs. Levit, “We met on the beach.”
“Nice to meet you,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Fiona.”
“Hello.” He clasped her hand with his own itchy fingers.
He saw her survey the curdling flecks of lotion on and in his shorts.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry?” Fiona’s eyes narrowed.
“Fiona. Your father and I were about to invite Thomas to join us for dinner.”
“He’s a real character,” her father added.
“Okay,” she responded.
“Can you make it, Thomas?”
He hid his itchy hands in his soaked pockets and gave a piecemeal bow.
“Yes, Mrs. Levit, definitely. I thank you for the invitation.”
Despite the modest first impression he had made on Fiona, Thomas had a good feeling about the meal to come. He was going out to dinner with a beautiful woman, a dangerously beautiful woman, and her parents were already quite fond of him. ‘A real character,’ her father had said. A normal, dignified man. “Just please let me be myself for one night,” he said.
All in all, bearing in mind Thomas’ propensity for mishap, the dinner ran relatively smoothly. They sat, in clockwise order, with Thomas facing the entrance, Fiona to his left, and her father and her mother rounding out the lineup. There was a pleasant ocean breeze. The first blip for Thomas came when the waiter took the party’s orders. Fiona’s parents ordered fish and she ordered salad. He ordered a daiquiri, which, in and of itself, was by no means an irremediable error. His mistake was compounded by his dinner order, however: he assumed Fiona’s salad was an appetizer, so he ordered the Blackened Mahi Mahi skewers that he was so partial to. His appetizer arrived alone.
“Apologies,” he said. “I mistook your salad for an appetizer.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “It’s all I’m having. I’m just a very picky eater.”
“Me too,” he blurted. His growling belly contradicted his words.
“So you’re just here, alone, on vacation?” Fiona asked.
Thomas chewed and swallowed. “That’s the idea.” He grinned toothlessly.
“How long have you been here?”
Thomas retreated into his pink calculating fingers.
“A few months,” he said.
“A few months?”
“So Tom, can I call you Tom, I guess finance is treating you well?” Mr. Levit said.
Thomas hastily swallowed more than he could handle and began coughing.
“Easy there, Tom,” he chuckled.
Thomas’ eyes flashed and his tongue heaved concentrically.
“I was just teasing,” he said.
“He’s choking!” screamed Fiona’s mother.
The waiter rushed over and guests began to turn their heads.
With what amounted to a hiccup, Thomas coughed up the ball of food onto his lap. He trapped the unruly meat in a napkin and caught his breath.
The dinner guests let out a light clap.
“It just went down the wrong way,” he said. “Apologies.”
The waiter kindly returned his empty plate to the kitchen from whence it came.
A brief digression is in order at this juncture. When Thomas was four years old, he went with his father to work one day. In the midst of a crowded elevator, he held on to his father’s suit jacket to avoid becoming separated and lost. When the elevator emptied, he discovered that he was clinging to the jacket of a redheaded man who he had never seen before. “You’re not my dad!” Thomas shrieked in horror. The man laughed, and his father laughed, and over the years, as he remembered it, everyone else in the elevator laughed too.
The main course arrived. The waiter watched Thomas with the knowing eyes of a babysitter who has identified the family miscreant. Thomas had another drink. The whole restaurant was watchful, anticipating. Perhaps it was the alcohol, his nerves, Fiona’s splendor, or something more sinister, but Thomas began to speak with very little reserve. He spoke intimately about Health (his poor sleeping schedule was really catching up to him), Odyssey (it’s just impossible to find a good shady spot on the beach), and even the Meaning of Life (his masturbatory habits). Mr. and Mrs. Levit seemed to take the comments in good taste, and Mr. Levit responded quite amicably. He said: “There’s a word for people like you. What’s the word for people like you?” Thomas seemed to be listening to himself speak just as the Levits were. When Thomas alluded to Mr. and Mrs. Levit’s sex-life (Do you have an adjoining room? You must keep Fiona up all night long) — or something to that effect— he had crossed some line of propriety that was imperceptible to his free-flapping tongue. “Please don’t talk about my family that way,” Mr. Levit responded. The prickly moment
soon passed, however, and conversation turned to Fiona’s professional career.
“…Yes, it’s really taking up all of my time,” she said.
“But you’re enjoying it?” her father asked. “That’s the important thing…”
“Oh, definitely, it’s just — that—“
“Excuse me, what is it you do for a living?” Thomas asked.
“I’m a painter,” Fiona said.
“Oh! Wonderful,” said Thomas.
“I was just talking about the painting I’ve been working on.”
“Tell him what you’re calling it!” said Mrs. Levit.
“I was thinking of naming it Pulchritude,” she said.
“Mmm hmm,” Thomas said.
“I just feel like Pulchritude is the ugliest beautiful word,” she said.
“Yes,” Thomas said.
“The ugliest word that means beautiful, I mean. I think it creates a nice tension.”
“So what are you trying to achieve?” Thomas asked. “Just something beautiful?”
“Well, that’s hard to say,” Fiona said.
“I guess mostly I just want to create something that will outlive me.”
“Mmm hmm. But isn’t that what children are for?” Thomas winked.
Thomas’ witticism, if you could call it that, was not appreciated.
“Your advances make me uncomfortable and you have to stop,” Fiona said.
After the ill-advised wink, Thomas’ eye was still crammed shut like a rubber-banded lobster claw. No matter how hard he tried and pried, his eye simply would not open. “This is going too far,” he said, gritting his teeth. He considered wedging it open with spoons, but stopped short for propriety’s sake. “Fuck you,” he said. As you can imagine, Thomas’ closed eye was impairing his ability to maintain even a semblance of normal human interaction: not only was it more difficult for the Levit family to converse with the winking, muttering man, but Thomas’ depth perception was hazardously forfeited. It was only a matter of minutes before he sent his fourth daiquiri careening to the floor. At this point, the waiter was standing at attention at such close proximity that he almost managed to catch the falling glass out of the air. Or at least it seemed so to Thomas, though his poor eyesight made this an educated guess at best.
“Sorry about that,” Thomas said.
“It’s not a problem,” said the waiter. “Shall I bring you another daiquiri?”
Thomas’ head nodded up and down.
“Right away, absolutely,” said the waiter. “Aye aye, captain.”
“I hate you,” Thomas mumbled.
Dessert was most fulfilling in every sense of the word. Much to Fiona’s dismay— she was eyeing the rash that was venturing up Thomas’ arms— the Levits had opted to share a lemon meringue amongst the table.
“Dig in,” Mr. Levit said.
Fork in hand, Thomas eyed the meringue with a sideways glance and watched as the Levits began to eat. Like a sniper, Thomas aligned his squinting eye with his arm with the dessert plate, and prepared to pull the trigger. Whether it was his lack of depth perception, or the shapely, dome-like structure of the meringue itself, or something more sinister, Thomas missed the plate entirely. His fork poked Fiona in her right breast with considerable force. She let out a warbling shriek and kicked over Thomas’ chair. He fell to the ground for the second time that day, taking his fifth daiquiri down with him.
“What in the name of God!” cried Mr. Levit.
“Ahhhhhhh,” said Mrs. Levit.
“You fucking pervert!” screamed Fiona. “What was that for?”
“Why would you do this to me?” cried Thomas.
“Why do you always do this to me?” cried Thomas.
“He’s out of his mind.”
“Chicken breast,” said Thomas.
Fiona kicked Thomas in the side of the head and stormed out of the restaurant.
Thomas lay, one-eyed, hangdog, red in the face and arms. “Why?” he said.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Mrs. Levit said.
“You’re footing the bill,” said Mr. Levit. “And foot this too.”
Mr. Levit gave him a kick in the ribs and the couple bounded out of the restaurant, arm in arm. Mrs. Levit whispered to her husband regarding his bravery. Thomas was acutely aware that they would have sex, adjoining room or not, later that evening. Thomas scrambled to his feet and, as if trying to fall off the face of the earth, hurled himself headlong into a table.
“Why would you do this to me?” he screamed. “Let me out of here!”
“Let me out of here!”
Hotel guests were circling the cyclopean monstrosity.
“Ahhhhhh!” he said.
The waiter approached and Thomas seized him by the lapels of his jacket.
Thomas fell to his knees and his screams slowly transfigured into words.
“Why would he do this to me?” he demanded.
His teeth clapped like hooves.
“It’s just so… mean.”
He itched his sealed eye with his hive-covered hand.
“You have to help me!”
The waiter calmly uncurled Thomas’ fingers from his jacket. “Get off me,” the waiter said. “I’m not your father.” He let out a low, lurching laugh that rattled his whole body, and one by one, the hotel guests, the staff, an infant, the cook, a golden retriever, began to laugh, applaud, squeal, cheer, drool. To put it bluntly and save you the trouble, Thomas was crestfallen. “I,” Thomas said, “have had enough of this.” He whirled his arm across a nearby table, sweeping plates, cups, bowls, dishes, to the floor, iconoclastic, frenzied.
Immaterial. “I’ve had enough of this!” he said.
Bolting out of the restaurant, Thomas returned to his room howling.
“Fuck you!” he said.
He punted the television off of its stand.
“Fuck you, you don’t control me,” he said.
Thomas ripped a leg of the bed from its frame and brandished it.
“You don’t control me!”
Thomas removed his shirt, revealing his gelatinous, blubbering bulk.
“I hate you,” he said. “I’m not fat!”
There was a knock at the door.
“Ohhhhhh,” he wailed. “What now!”
It was the concierge, who opened the door with a key. “You are fat,” he said.
“I’m not fat!”
“I will procure the necessary documents.” The concierge pivoted and left.
Thomas’s grinding teeth crashed together, bits flaking off like pencil shavings, cheese gratings, confetti.
Thomas dipped the wooden leg of the bed into a bucket of ink that was sitting on his dresser. He began to scrawl across the wallpaper, mirrors, doorframes, like a toddler.
Michael Sard Was Here, he wrote.
He sprinted down the hall of the hotel writing, shirtless and screaming, as he went.
Michael Sard Was Here
Michael Sard Was Here
“I hate you,” Thomas said.
“I hate you,” Thomas said.
I Love You, Thomas wrote.
“I love you,” Thomas said. “You granted me life.”
Thomas continued running down the halls toward the lobby.
“Not only have you granted me life,” said Thomas, “but you are an engaging and entertaining writer who has put me in the wittiest of situations that I am truly blessed to have partaken in. I would apologize for boring you with this explanation, but…”
“Who am I even talking to?”
Thomas was standing beside the concierge desk. He rang the bell for assistance.
“Yes, I have the evidence right here,” the concierge said. “I quote: ‘The man helped Thomas to his feet with considerable effort.’”
“It’s because he was old!” Thomas said.
“It’s because you are fat! And besides, here is some irrefutable evidence: ‘He dressed with the faithful precision that only a vacationing businessman can observe: facing the mirror, he slid thick fingers through shirtsleeves, buttons through—“
“He changed it! My fingers weren’t thick this morning! I promise.”
“Can you kindly corroborate my statement?” the concierge asked you.
“Thank you kindly,” he said. “Now are you satisfied?”
Thomas hunched and guffawed. “Sard, you rapscallion, you are one shrewd bastard,” Thomas said. His head
shook horizontally and his cheeks jiggled. “Too shrewd.”
“How long am I checked in here for?” Thomas asked.
“We can comfortably accommodate you for as long as you like, sir.”
Rash-faced, toothless, one-eyed, fat and covered in ink, Thomas smiled.
“I would like to stay forever,” he beamed.
He was quite the character.
And you, Fearless Reader, you original thing, will turn the page. Please.