After an amount of time in my room, during which I seem to have cleaned myself up and donned the set of Motel 6 Pajamas that was laid out for me in shrinkwrap on the bed, I have arrived at the present moment, sitting here with my eyes counting the reddish 6’s running up and down the blue of my arms and legs, and thinking and waiting. My other clothes, the ones I came in in, are gone, tossed perhaps down a chute to some laundry inferno far below.

 

There comes a knock on the door and I thrill to think it must be room service, though, to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t ordered yet. Maybe a little something complimentary.

 

So I open up and, sure enough, a chef, or a guy in a chef suit, stands before me, pushing a cart laid out with a white tablecloth and a little gas burner and some bowls of oil and one of those rounded ham carving knives you only see at roast ham and build-an-omelette stations.

 

He eyes my Motel 6 pajamas suspiciously, as if they weren’t standard issue, then pushes the cart past me, muttering, and closes the door.

 

Then he takes my room’s Bible out of its drawer under the phone by the bed. He carries it gingerly, by one corner, back to his station, where he puts it on a slab and drizzles oil over it.

 

I come close to see what he’s doing and he waves me back with the knife, then starts cutting filet-type slices into the Good sopping green-leather Book. He puckers up his little mustache and breathes evenly as he examines his work, piling up the filets he’s cut so far on another part of the slab, which I might more decently call a cutting board, and sprinkling them with pepper and scallions.

 

“Redacting the Apocrypha?” I ask, trying to make conversation.

 

“Don’know Moses,” he says in a thick accent and way under his breath, without looking up. “Abr’ham, Isaac, Judas, Joe … no, no, no, no, no.” He picks up a slice and bites a corner out of it, chewing thoughtfully, and checks something off on a laminated Motel 6 instructions sheet, picking at his teeth.

 

I sit here and watch him work until, finding that I’ve gone all skin-crawly, I get the idea of pushing the TV onto the roof and watching from up there, looking out at the city of Motel 6’s until my head clears.

 

“You gotta do every room by dawn?” I ask, thinking to distract his attention as I go about unplugging the TV and getting it onto the roof, as if he’d otherwise try to stop me, but he doesn’t say anything until, a few minutes later, when I’m most of the way out the window, he says, “shoes,” and kicks two meaty rubber slabs out from under the rolling buffet table. My other shoes must have gone the way of my other clothes, so I slip my feet gratefully in these squishy Motel 6 flip-flops, big and shapeless as kickboards, and resume climbing and pushing the TV onto the roof, looking back one last time to see him dismantling the Bible’s binding and showering the loose, protruding threads with Tabasco.

 

*****

 

Now comes a slapstick Sisyphus interlude as I keep trying to push the TV onto the roof and keep sliding back down, almost dropping it, slipping around in my new flip-flops like someone practicing vaudeville pratfalls from a YouTube tutorial.

 

Then, once the interlude is over, I’m up there.

 

I sit on a high gable, smelling the port city air, and watch a murder trial on TV. I’m right up in the nest of aerials and antennae, feeding the whole Motel 6, so the reception is impeccable, uncanny even.

 

It’s a man on trial for murdering “a number of people” with a shard of glass. The narrator repeats that phrase a number of people so often that it starts to sound like the stock descriptor for people in a group, like a pride of lions or a coven of witches or whatever … a number of people, I think, wow, he killed a whole number with a single shard.

 

His defense consists of him shrieking, again and again, “I thought there were restrictions on glass! I thought there were restrictions on glass!”

 

His lawyer, if that’s what the suited-up guy next to him his, looks like he’s loving every minute of it, rolling a grin into the side of his thumb as he keeps putting his hand up to his mouth, trying, without too much success, to smooth his mouth into an expression of composed seriousness.

 

Now the man’s shrieking, “I thought glass was free! I thought glass was free!”

 

Finding the whole thing a little hysterical for my mood, I push the TV off the roof. It lands soundlessly, or — and this will come to bother me more and more over the next hours — doesn’t land.

 

Anyway, at the very least it’s clear that now’s a good time to start heading back toward Dodge City, so I set out into what soon becomes a long, spacey roof-wandering episode, not unlike that long, long scene where he gets lost on the drear castle rooftops near the beginning of — you guys remember this part? — Titus Groan.

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