Wilfair Prequel: 3:33

    "One second," I coughed, briefly waking then promptly falling back to sleep.
    The sound continued to ring, in the distance. It was like the night bell but whinier in pitch. Not really even whiny but... insistent and piercing. Not a friendly, fuzzy, warm buzz, but the aural equivalent of getting pecked on the side of the head by a hungry gull.
    "Be right there," dream me said to the dream people standing inside my dream. Dream suitcases, overly large and bulky as old steamer trunks, surrounded the dream people. A dream man was asking dream me if I'd give him half-off a second room if he stayed a third night.
    Banging in some far-off corner, bang bang bang, drowned out the dream man's request for a room discount.
    "How can I help you?" I asked the center of my pillow.
    A muffled "Mer" floated above the dream heads of the dream people inside my dream. I sat up, reached out my left hand, then my right, knocked the glass of water off my nightstand, swore, then continued to pat my palm around, finally landing on a pair of glasses.
    Stepping in water as I put them on, I made my way to my door, realizing in the four steps between my bed and the room's entryway that I wasn't hearing the nightbell. It was The Wilfair Hotel's alarm.
    "It's The Wilfair's alarm," said my cousin the moment I slid the latch. Monty scratched his head and stretched his mouth to summon a yawn that wasn't quite materializing. "No matter that we've asked them to turn the volume WAY down multiple times. No matter that we've told them the whole block can hear it, museums, office towers, and the Mmm Mmm Café included. No matter that it always seems to be some drunky guest who pulls it, meaning their well-paid guard is slacking. Nope nope, it's "everybody up! Wakey wakey!"
     "Is the hotel all right?"
      Monty gave the eight-story building a once-over and produced a thumbs up. "Seems so. My bet? Some awesome person dared another awesome person to pull it." He watched hotel guests spilling out the back door. "I hope I meet those brave lads, so I can shake their hands and tell them how fully developed their choice-making systems are."
     "Where's my mom? Aunt Billie? Are they awake?"
     "Are they awake? You're the laze-about. They're over filing a formal complaint with Lord and Lady Finley."
     "In the middle of the alarm?" I reached two fingers under a lens and rubbed my eyelid. "In the middle of the night?"
     "Ooookay. They're probably fishing for annoyed hotel guests. Grumpy grumps who'd like a room where they can finish out sleeping for the night for half the price and none of the alarm." Monty lifted his face and chin-pointed toward the hotel's citrus topiaries. Milling people wearing either monogrammed robes or rumply pajamas stood around staring at nothing while looking cold, confused, and chapped of cheek. A few guests wore less, and they seemed especially chilly.
     I rubbed my other eye. "Can they turn it off? It's loud." It was stating the obvious to the person who obviously was going to take me to task.
     "I don't know, let me call Fair Finley on my magic telephone." Monty dialed his palm, flattened his hand, and held it to his ear. "Hello? Fair? It's the losers over at the motel. Wait! Don't hang up." He shook his hand, then returned it to his ear. "You there? So the sound emitting from your precious important historic landmark is rattling the old bones beneath the tar pits, not to mention our brains and teeth. What? Really? You don't say. You're wearing what? Fair Finley! I had no idea you'd even own such a garment! My stars!" Monty turned away, covering his fake phone hand with his other hand. "Excuse me, Mer, but I have to take this."
    "She's right there." I pointed at the other side of the motel pool.
    Monty's eyes expanded. He spoke into his hand. "Fair! You're here. I have to go." He crammed his phone hand in his pocket. "What the hell?"
   We watched the two small Finley boys, Wil and Bo, make for the tar bubble next to the pool. Their sister was in sleepy pursuit, whisper-shouting their names.
    Monty strode over to the diving board, waving his arms. "Playtime is over, Finleys. It hasn't even started, in fact. This is a business. You have money for a motel room? Or a club sandwich? You're in, what, first grade now, right? You must draw a salary."
    The Finley twins, gape-eyed and hangy of mouth, shook their heads.
    "Then it's night-night time. Time for you to go home. No playing in the tar, which is frankly disgusting." Monty's voice softened. "Goodnight, monsters." He paused and waited. "I called you two monsters! You got nothing?"
    The boys snarled and hunched their shoulders.
    "That's better," nodded Monty, holding up his telephone hand in a monster-approving high five. "Now git."
    I reached behind my door, grabbed my button-up off the peg, and shoved my arms into it, buttoning it as I hurried around the pool.
     "What about you, Fair Finley? Do you have money for a motel room?" My cousin put his hands on his hips.
     "I don't, like. Want anything from you," said my lifelong neighbor, gathering her brothers and turning for the hotel.
    Monty dried an invisible tear. "That hurts. My tender self-esteem, shattered."
    I buttoned the final button and cleared my throat. "We want something from you."
    She turned. "What?"
    "We need to ask the hotel to turn the volume down on the alarm. Alarms are serious, I know, but The Wilfair has a lot of false ones, and the noise wakes us up. And our guests."
    Her eyes swept the paint-faded motel doors. Not a single Fairwil guest stood outside.
    "When we have guests," I continued. "Which we do, tonight. Room 108. But I guess they're, uh. Out. At 3 o'clock in the morning."
    She placed a hand on each of her brothers' heads and stared at the room. The pool area was shadowy, lit only by the bare bulb hanging in front of the motel lobby, but I saw a distinct look of pity on her face. It was the one emotion I preferred not to see register on any faces as they surveyed Motel Fairwil, especially hers.
    Moving past the pity, I took in several more things about her face and person, with haste. A small speck of sleep sat at the outside corner of one eye. A dime-sized dab of toothpaste, or perhaps pimple cream, formed a perfect dot in the middle of her chin. Her robe was a Wilfair robe, complete with opulent pocket crest, but the nightgown beneath it was the color of a tangerine. And her everywhere hair, usually constrained by some vintage hat or scarf, could only be called a freaking mess.
    "I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. First thing, in the morning, we'll summon, like, the alarm volume minimizing, uh, professionals. If that's even a thing." She did seem sorry, though I couldn't tell if it was because she was sorry about the noise or that she had remembered, at that very moment, that she'd ventured downstairs without washing her face. She was going to see herself, in her mirror, either in a few minutes, or in the morning, and I guessed she'd be embarrassed.
     Not embarrassed about seeing my cousin or myself. I knew she didn't care about us. Worse than that, I suspected she didn't care for us. There were fleeting signs, though, that I was wrong. She'd sometimes wave at us from the citrus topiaries when things were especially heated between the motel and hotel. Every wave went into my personal wave bank, which I sometimes drew upon when I needed to believe the motel's large, slightly intimidating neighbor had our interests at heart.
     I didn't know the inside of the building well, so I couldn't say exactly where the structure's brains or thoughts or muscles might be located. But I felt fairly certain that the hotel's heart beat somewhere on the third floor.
     Monty spread his arms wide, then chopped air. "Alarm volume minimizing task force! You're swell, Fair Finley. Say, did you know I'm getting my driver's permit this week? Want to take a sweet ride in my stylin' motel van?" Monty pointed toward the pocket-sized parking lot where our early-model transport sat. It was a boxy vehicle that was attractively banged up near the passenger side tire well, but at least the air-conditioning periodically worked.
     "Thank you, but I have drivers," she said, the look of pity, or something adjacent to pity, returning to her face. "I mean, like, our guests do, but I sometimes get rides. To. Uh." The thought remain unfinished.    
      "Can we go get pie?" begged Wil, pointing at the open-all-night Mmm Mmm Café.
      "Pie!" shouted Bo.
      "No, boys. We have our own restaurant and you want to go next door? Why?"
      "Because next door is fun!" Monty exclaimed.
      His statement made her pause. She suddenly turned and eyed my shirt sleeves. "You're not freezing?"
      "A bit, yes." I unrolled the cuffs.
      The blaring ceased, and the silence that followed seemed as pronounced and as loud as the alarm itself, as the silence following anything ear-splitting always seems to be.
      She smiled. "So, like. Sorry. I'll tell my mom and dad. I don't want us waking motel guests. Guest." She made a pity face, again, then realized she was making it, again, and stopped. "Goodnight."
      "Night," waved Monty, stooping to pick up an errant pool noodle near the diving board.
      "See you," I said, taking one last read of all the outward parts that combined to make up my neighbor's physical self. She was definitely going to be embarrassed when she next encountered a mirror. I wanted to tell her "It's no big deal, about your chin," but didn't.
      "What?" she asked.
      "Did you just say something?"
       Did I?
       Later the next day, after some tired, foggy-headed reflection, I determined three things.
       1. The dot on her chin was probably toothpaste, given the faint aqua stripe that ran through it, and its thicker consistency. Whether it was there because she was an especially extravagant teeth-brusher, or because she'd used some toothpaste in the place of pimple cream, I wasn't sure. Both ideas appealed, strangely.
       2. What I had interpreted as the look of pity on her face probably held a hefty swirl of sympathy, or even empathy. Or, at the very least, it was a look that said that while she didn't exactly understand the motel's daily predicaments, she didn't want us to feel like losers. Maybe she even wanted us to be happy.
       3. Her nightgown, or at least its hem, was not so much tangerine in hue as pink grapefruit. The inside of a pink grapefruit, not the skin.

cr: geishaboy500


Elisa said...

Boy, do you know how to make a Friday cheerier! Thanks for providing us with a glimpse into Gomery's head :-)

Caitlin #1 said...

Loved this! Monty on the "phone" with Fair was priceless. "My stars!" And making the twins do monster impressions.

myrandaroyann said...

This glimpse into Gomery's mind made this awesome snippet even better!

Caitlin #2 said...

This snippet is delicious like a pink grapefruit! I love that Gomery has a personal wave bank just like Fair has her mental folders. I'm wondering two things: 1. How does he know she lives on the third floor? Is this common knowledge or did he find out on the sly? 2. Is "It's no big deal, about your chin" & "she didn't want us to feel like losers" the first instance of their looks having conversations with each other? Even if not, I love how she's a little confused by that moment, and that he also needs a little extra time to process what just happened.

Oh, and I totally LOLed at "Excuse me, Mer, but I have to take this."

Wilfair Book said...

Aw, thanks nice people! You guys are very patient with me and these snippets. I vow not to flood the blog with them. Just every so often.

Caitlin #2, good questions!

As far as talking by looks, I think it happened a little, off and on, as they got older, but just a sentence here and there. I don't think they had any full-fledged (three or four exchanges) conversations before the books.

And, yep, the first few times it truly happened were likely unsettling. Very "what the?"

I'll post on this for sure, their little silent exchanges.

Regarding the third floor: The motel can see everything happening at the hotel, if people leave the curtains open.

Like Fair knows exactly where the cousins' rooms are, because she has watched them forever, they know where she's lived her entire life (and theirs). Her window is basically one of the lit-up screens that looms over their pool area.

Also, Fair talks about seeing into her family's suite from the Motel Fairwil lobby in "Wilfair." She can clearly see her brothers from the guys' front desk.

So Gomery and Monty have seen Fair numerous times in her third-floor suite, just walking around or reading or eating dinner or doing humdrum things.

I feel like exploring this some more, too! On the blog! In a post! Hooray!

Nikki said...

Those Overbove boys, they really are the best. LOVED being in Gomery's mind for a bit. Numbering! I am always delighted by Monty's antics. Seriously, words can't describe how much I appreciate his brand of humor and snark.

And poor Fair will most definitely be embarrassed by that toothpaste spot and file the moment away in a mental folder (a stack of folders? A whole drawer?) full of other small embarrassments that she will recall days, weeks, months down the road. But she will be the only one that really remembers aside from Gomery, but for entirely different reasons.

Wilfair Book said...

Nikki! I very much like this sentence: "But she will be the only one that really remembers aside from Gomery, but for entirely different reasons." That fluttered and settled atop the copper nozzle at the tip of my heart.

I'm glad you take a shine to Monty's sass, too. He and I share a very similar approach of humor, though I don't always unleash my stuff as freely as he does his.

bess said...

What a glorious treat! You know how I love Montgomery #1. I giggled out loud at Monty. I really like his elaborate impressions and fake conversations - I would love to read a screenplay of his or better yet, have him do a reading and playing all the parts himself.

do dah said...

bess, what about those competitions where people go and read their adolescent poetry and stories in a self-deprecating way? i could see monty being excellent at that. although i don't know if he has the particular quality that would lead him to try it... a bit of pretentiousness, maybe?

this was delightful.

bess said...

Do dah, I did not know that such a thing existed but it sounds entertaining and incredible! Have you been to one? I can see Monty being into this. Perhaps he would steal Gomery's adolescent writing to read?

do dah said...

bess, i haven't, or i'd probably know what they're called. :) also, i wrote far less adolescent poetry than i would've expected. apparently my earnest world-changing streak wasn't terribly productive?

i can't decide if they'd be awesomely hilarious, or too painful to bear. i can uuuuuusually watch "as good as it gets" without wanting to die of secondhand embarrassment, now. usually. about half of british comedy is beyond my capabilities, though, sadly.

do dah said...

*not that "as good as it gets" is british. it's just that british comedy relies a lot on painful awkwardness and therefore requires a similar "hide behind my hands until i can't stand it and run out of the room" viewing approach

Wilfair Book said...

do dah and bess: Are you two thinking of "Mortified"? I've covered it for work a few times! Funny stuff:


Erika said...

This snippet was awesome! It also allows me to pin point why Monty appeals to me:

Monty's eyes expanded. He spoke into his hand. "Fair! You're here. I have to go." He crammed his phone hand in his pocket. "What the hell?"

I love that he continued the conversation while looking at her.

Gomery's POV was great too, I can completely relate to having to walk in water after finding my glasses. There is always a curse/groan.

do dah said...

yes! mortified! that's definitely it.

and erika, i totally agree on the monty comment

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