2016-02-29

The Adjoining Room
—Fiction by Scott Rooker

The Businessman


I had been eating breakfast at Whitey's Restaurant almost every morning, for sixteen years, but I hadn't been there in two months. The wait staff were worried about me. They could hear my Cadillac engine, idle and stop. By the time my cane touched the pavement my order was already written; black coffee, water, western omelet, grits, and whole wheat toast.

I balanced my weight on the handle of the cane, and walked slowly over the cracked parking lot. I opened the glass door. Bells jingled. The waitress Lauren smiled.

"Where have you been? We were worried sick about you."


"I had an appendicitis," I said. "I was in the hospital. Then I went on vacation.

"
She looked at me from behind the hostess stand. "Well, you look thin. Are you alright?"


"I'm fine. It's just been a slow recovery," I said.


She marked a laminated sheet, and took one set of silverware from the basket.
"Two," I said. "I've got someone joining me. A booth, please?"



I followed her to table 13 and sat. She left and came back with a coffee and a water. I blew on the surface of the coffee, and swished it through my teeth, to cool it. A pale stranger entered. He walked past the gum and candy dispensers, and turned towards my booth. He wore a polo shirt, and pleated khaki pants. He had stringy bleached hair. As he sat down on the other side of the upholstered booth he said, "You are John Ball."


Lauren came by.
"What can I get you to drink?"
"Decaf, please," he said.
I leaned in and said to the stranger, "I've got what you asked me for."


Lauren returned with decaf coffee, water, a bowl creamers, and my western omelet. She placed each item on the table, and said to the stranger, "do you know what you'd like to order?"
He didn't, but he picked something, right then.

"Two-egg breakfast," he said.


"How would you like your eggs? Over easy, over medium, over well, scrambled, sunny side up, or poached?"


"Over medium."


"Home fries, grits, or a fruit cup?"


"Fruit cup."


"Toast, biscuit, or English muffin?"


"Toast."


"Last question, I promise," she said. "Would you like white, whole wheat, sunflower, or rye?"


"Whole wheat." he said.


I unfolded my silverware from the rolled napkin. Taking a sip of coffee, I pulled an envelope with a wad of cash from my pocket. I set it on the syrupy table.

"Here is the sum we agreed upon."

He took it, and counted with his silent lips moving.


I sprinkled my omelet with Texas Pete. I took a bite, wiped my mouth and said, "He goes by the name of 'The Cowboy'. He is a Japanese gangster, who wears western wear and cowboy hats. He controls Tokyo's underworld; drugs, prostitution, smuggling, you name it. 
The police won't go near him. They work for him."


I stopped talking as Lauren returned. She filled my cup with regular, and his with decaf. She smiled as she poured. I watched her as she walked away with her pots. I thought about how I had seen her naked. I thought about how years ago I had had sex with her. We never spoke of it, again. She moved away for a while. I never told my wife. I always tipped her 
well, accordingly.




The Parents

Eric and Cynthia sat in the hospital waiting room. Cynthia was crying and Eric was rubbing her shoulder and holding her hand. They had been waiting for hours when the nurse opened the door and said, "Mr. and Mrs. Davies? The doctor will see you now."

They followed the nurse through the hall and entered a small room. The nurse closed the door. Cynthia briefly examined the covers of the magazines, upside down on the table. The doctor entered. "Hello, I am Dr. Patel," she said. "Your daughter is in critical condition. She is responding to treatment. However, it is likely she will need to undergo a liver transplant."


"My god," said Cynthia. "A liver transplant? How long will she have to wait?"
The doctor said, 
"It depends. Could be weeks, could be months, or longer. I assure you the doctors will do all they can." The doctor took Cynthia's hand and said, "Come, you will see your daughter now."


The List


Eric gave the hospital receptionist the clipboard. "Thank you," she said. "Your case worker will be with you shortly, please have a seat." He sat down with his wife. 


A few minutes later, the case worker said, "Mr. and Mrs. Davies. My name is Carol, please follow me." She lead them down a hallway and into an office. "Please, have a seat," she said. She sat down, behind her desk, and pulled her chair forward.

"Your daughter has AB Rh negative blood. That type of blood, occurs in only about 1 out of 167 people, or about .6% of the population. In such cases, we look first, to family members, whose blood types match, and may be willing to donate a portion of their healthy liver."


"We would gladly, do so," Cynthia said. "But she is adopted."


"Oh," said Carol. "Do you know of any blood relatives, we could contact?"


"I will contact the adoption agency," said Eric.


"Surely we can find her biological parents." Cynthia added. 



Behind The Locked Door

My business meeting with the reclusive Japanese business man had unexpectedly been canceled. Feeling jet lagged from the flight to Tokyo I decided to stay inside the spacious hotel. While exploring my luxury suite I noticed a door, which I presumed lead to an adjoining suite. I tried the door knob but it was locked. I bent down and felt the cool air stream beneath the crack.


I rode the elevator down to the marble lobby and walked into the hotel restaurant. I took a seat at the bar, and ordered a burger and a beer. Moments later a short Japanese man, came up to the bar. He wore a cowboy hat and a white nudie suit with a wagon wheel motif. 

He had a beautiful Japanese woman by his side. My eyes were drawn to her.


With the wave of a hand, the cowboy paid for my burger and bought me a whiskey. I sipped it while I looked at the the muted televisions. ESPN's Sportscenter played in a loop on all of them. All except for one; on one TV. in the very back was an early episode of Sanford and Son.

I was squinting at it.

Without sound, the Japanese woman approached whispering in my ear, "You like this show?"

I turned, "Yes."

She touched my hand and asked, "Do you mind if I sit here and watch with you?"

"Sure," I said. I got a barstool ready for her.

She sat and poked the ice cubes in her water with the tiny straw. She sucked the water, laughed and looked at me.

Shortly, thereafter, I left with the mysterious woman. I remember a blurry elevator ride. I remember laughing at the atrium beneath us. I remember entering my hotel suite. In a stupor I fell on the cold floor. The woman unlocked the door to the adjoining suite, and threw the key on the bed. Lying there I saw, the door open, to reveal a room identical to the one I was lying in. My last memory of that night vanished into the cold hotel air conditioning. That is all I can remember.


___
Scott Rooker is an artist, musician, and writer from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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