Friday, June 24, 2011

ghost motel

First, note the similarity in color between the glass of apple juice and peach compote. Note visceral connection of food body sensation. Some foods are heavy and moist, others light and flaky, acidic, sweet, sour and so on. Peach compote, fresh from the fridge, cool, slithery, it could be swallowed with minimal chewing and sits comfortably in the stomach. The apple juice, also cool, but sweet and slightly acidic, doesn’t taste good with peach compote, but makes a good photo, golden juice and peach colored peach.

Lohbado sat in the motel restaurant and ate peach compote and drank black coffee. Jane Wormsly had blueberry pie and apple juice. They gazed warmly into each other’s eyes, after driving a stretch of road, under construction, leading into the city. Jane nearly peed her pants as they got caught in heavy flow, bumper to bumper, freeway turned into parking lot. She talked seriously about having to pee into a towel if they didn’t soon get to the exit ramp. Lohbado offered her the use of his tee shirt. It took an hour to clear one interchange.

Lohbado barely turned off the motor in front of Ghost Motel, when Jane ran for the restaurant toilet, down a little hall leading to the kitchen. A TV set hung above the bar, a news channel, with continuous moving type in a band along the bottom. Police arrest shooting suspects. Images of the police standing next to a man, face down, handcuffed on the pavement in a motel parking lot. Lohbado moved his chair so he wouldn’t have to see the TV. Maybe in an hour, the traffic would be less, so they could drive out of the construction zone and find a motel on other side of the city. That way, they could continue their journey the next morning, without having to fight traffic. They were on a cross-country tour, to promote Jane’s new novel. Jane returned, quite relieved.

     “The intensity of waiting increased the pleasure of relief,” she said, with a smile and then picked up the brown vinyl covered menu and glanced at the laminated pages.
     “Is everything OK?” interrupted the voice of a middle-aged waitress.

     “I’ll have an apple juice and blueberry pie,” said Jane Wormsly.

     Lohbado waited for the waitress to note it in her pad and then ordered the peach compote special. The three of them muttered some small talk about road repair and construction, the stress and inconvenience. The city had grown so fast. The motel used to be surrounded by farmland, twenty years ago.

     Then Lohbado told Jane about a childhood memory of driving across Saskatchewan, in 1967. In those days, the highway went through every settlement. One would have to slow down, cruise at a snails pace through the community and then speed up on the other size. It was exhausting, two lane highway all the way. It got hot on the prairies. The Chevrolet didn’t have air conditioning. The road went straight and flat. The scenery didn’t change all day. Lohbado was thirteen years old and bored out of his mind. He and his sister played in the back seat. In those days, one didn’t have to wear seat belts. In fact, the car didn’t even have seat belts. Mother sat in the front seat, baby in arms, while Nancy and Lohbado hoped around on the back seat.

     July 1967, around noon, Lohbado’s father Stonehenge got impatient and pulled out to pass a slow moving vehicle. The V8 engine roared as the old man hit the accelerator. Bang! Accident! The car didn’t see Stonehenge racing to get by. The navy blue Chevrolet Biscayne blind-sided the baby blue Ford Galaxie and flew off the edge of the road into a field of canola. When the police arrived, Stonehenge said the man didn’t signal. The man said he did signal. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Some body paneling got pushed into one of the wheels. The Ford Galaxie sustained a dent in the door panel. The family got out of the car. They checked into a motel. Mechanics at the roadside service station said it would take about six hours to make the car drivable.

     The children enjoyed being released early that day from the car. A warm wind kept the mosquitoes at bay. They were free to roam the village. Three grain elevators stood along the side of the railroad tracks that ran through the village. Lohbado ran off to have a look inside one of the structures. A young couple, lying in the hay, looked up at him. They hadn’t expected to see tourists. Nobody visited that village. They went to the elevator to escape prying eyes.  Lohbado remembered looking into the woman’s eyes, which pleaded with him to not say anything. He quickly went away and said nothing to anyone about it. He felt a pang of jealousy and wished he could spend the afternoon in there with a woman.

     The rest, he forgot, until years later, in 1983, during a trip across the prairies, a downpour forced him to pull off the highway in that village. He pulled up at the Jack Pines Restaurant and Motel to take shelter from the rain. Jack Pines was a strange name for a motel in the middle of the prairies. It must have been some kind of a joke. It was about 3 PM with rain coming down in a fury, plus thunder and lightning. Lohbado decided to check in.

     Around 11 PM, after he’d finished a six-pack of beer and was getting ready for bed, a woman appeared in the bathroom door. She wore a pink gown and said her name was Esmerelda. Lohbado froze in fear and desire, as he gazed at her elegant body, lit up by tungsten light of the bathroom. She didn’t even smile. He slowly got up to give her a hug and then she vanished.

     The next morning he ordered eggs and toast in the Jack Pines Restaurant after leaving the key at the reception desk upon checking out. He told the waitress he’d seen a ghost. Right away the woman said, before Lohbado could even utter the name, Esmerelda.

     The waitress told him the story of Esmerelda and said there were quite a few ghosts along that stretch of highway. Although the road was straight, an unusual number of accidents occurred on the nearby highway. The ghosts of road accident victims haunted motels, restaurants and gas stations in the region. Then Lohbado understood how in 1967 his father Stonehenge had been lucky to get off with only a minor collision, when so many motorists had died at that very spot. In fact, that’s where Esmerelda died, in 1969.

     She was doing a cross-country tour on her Harley Davidson and got caught in a cloudburst. Visibility was reduced to nearly zero. She was looking for a safe place to pull off the highway when she nearly ran into a crowd of children getting off a school bus. Those children were headed off to summer camp, when the bus stalled in the middle of the highway. The children were in the process of hurrying out of the bus and over to the motel. Esmerelda swerved to avoid hitting those children and flew off the highway and died of a broken neck. Ever since then, especially during rainy weather, Esmerelda’s ghost could be seen in the motel, in the restaurant and sometimes at the gas station. People talked about bringing in an exorcist to release her spirit, which appeared to be trapped in the village. But they could never find anyone interested enough to travel to the middle of Saskatchewan to perform the ritual.

     Lohbado suggested he could invoke the spirits of Oogah and Oorsis. He wasn’t in any hurry and if the Jack Pines gave him free room and board for twenty-four hours, he would see what he could do. The waitress, Rachel, a lonely fifty-year old woman, whose husband recently died after he threw a loaded rifle into the back of a pickup truck, said sure. It was a freak accident. The rifle went off and shot him in the chest. Rachel sat down at the table with Lohbado and told him all about it. When she was done she said,
     “I hate to admit it, but I feel so free, ever since Ed died. He was not an easy man to live with.”

     Rachel phoned Ernie and asked him to work the restaurant so she and Lohbado could do an exorcism. It would take too long to describe the details of the ritual, trips to the local hardware store and supermarket, the donation of bodily fluids from a woman of similar age to Esmeralda when she died. That wasn’t easy. They ended up driving an hour to get the jars of bodily fluids and had to pay the woman fifty dollars and then the soiled, greasy bar of soap and curly hairs. It’s maybe not polite to describe everything.

     “This peach compote made me remember all this just now,” said Lohbado, speaking to Jane Wormsly as they ate desert in the Ghost Motel Restaurant, “The key moment of the exorcism occurred when the ghost of Esmeralda went into Rachel. That’s right, total possession. Rachel, possessed by Esmeralda, tore off all her clothes and vomited into the bathtub, a special kind of vomit. It looked a lot like peach compote and then she peed apple juice on the floor. I later apologized to Rachel. She said it was OK. The exhaustion that followed possession was a small price to pay to be rid of a ghost. The exorcism enabled Esmeralda’s ghost to move on into paradise, or dissolve, or whatever may or may not happen in the realm of the supernatural.”

     “That’s amazing,” exclaimed Jane Wormsly, setting down her glass of apple juice.

     “After that, everything was fine,” said Lohbado, “I still keep in touch with Rachel. Esmeralda brought us quite close for a while. You know how it is with long distance relationships. Esmeralda said she preferred her independence and I wasn’t ready to settle down at a road side stop in the middle of the prairies. And then we lost contact. I haven’t heard from her in over five years.”

     “One day I want to visit that village, with you,” said Jane.

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