Stench |
Micro Fiction by Rod Tipton

The Adams Hotel is on Atlantic in the waterfront district of San Pedro. A two story frame building slapped together sometime in the mid-1930s. It has no romantic past, only a lay-over for transients, merchant marines, prostitutes and the generally down and out. I was a broke student tired of couch surfing.

It was late and I was riding my Yamaha back to the hotel. The muffles were blown and its scream echoed up the deserted streets. This greasy motorcycle had all but ended my dating life. However, living in LA and getting to all the places I need to go for a few bucks a week made a sense I couldn’t avoid.

Kitty-cornered from the hotel a seven-story “residence home for the aged” was going-up. The cranes that lifted the building materials seemed twice that tall. Everyday but Sunday work began at 6 in the morning. After that, a high mounted loudspeaker blasted announcements every few minutes. The speaker could be heard all the way to the water and made it impossible to sleep.

The only night you could party without a concern for the loudspeaker was Saturday. This was the end of Saturday night. My trip home was tinge with a psychedelic cartoon quality. The bike’s handling seemed rubbery and I was holding back a beer-pee.

I was close to ‘home’. When I got there I pushed the kickstand down, switched-off and swung my leg onto the street. Just in front of me a girl about my age led a man much older than either of us up the stairs of the Adams. He blended with the shadows and old walls – invisible with some success.

Out of respect for their legally delicate relationship I didn’t follow them up. I instead used the bathroom downstairs. There were three working girls on the second floor. Her door was next to mine but she would never make eye contact or acknowledge me in anyway. To her I did not exist. I flushed the urinal and felt the world go woozy under my feet. My night was over.

I got my boots off before I passed out in bed. The sun wasn’t up yet and I was dreaming. The dream was dim and unimportant until a smell worked itself into my mindscape with painful clarity. My eyes came open. It was confusing to have part of a dream persist into consciousness. A heavy stench filled my room. My head swam and I felt like gagging.

I turned the light on. It was August so the windows were up. I opened my door and looked into the hallway. Half the second floor was awake out. Across the hall Anthony’s door came open. Anthony was a good guy. He drank Mickey’s Big Mouths and could talk sense about most anything.

He shook his head and pointed south. “They steam-clean the tuna packing plant across the way once a month.” I imagined four-week-old fish guts blowing out into the harbor. God.

It was then that I heard my neighbor’s door open behind me. Her eyes were as dark as I had thought. Her skin was pale olive. There was a question in face and for the first time she looked directly at me. Eye to eye. I watched as I appeared before her, suddenly stepping out from the background noise of her life. I had my chance. I nodded toward the window. “The tuna factory”, I said. I tried to make my smile sympathetic. I felt her adding me up, calculating and making her judgment. As fast as I had come into being, I was annulled. She pulled her head back, closed her door.

“Shit” I said. Anthony shrugged. “Hell, man she already lives where it stinks. She wants somebody to take her away, not be company in the middle of it.” I wanted to argue but couldn’t . “Don’t worry man, this shit only lasts a while. We’ll be okay.” I lay back on my bed as the smell faded. Absurd to think of myself as anyone’s salvation, but I still rolled around with the idea while I waited for sleep.

Rod Tipton is a poet and filmmaker from Seattle, Washington.