The Towels of Destiny (The last part)

Author’s Note: You can read the first part of the story here: The Towels of Destiny (The first part)

The elevator doors slid open, and they pushed me out and pulled me down the hall to room number 71.

“Open it!” Mr. Kenichi demanded.

I fumbled in my pockets for the key card and slid it into the door handle. The green light flashed, and they pushed their way in with me in tow. They forced me to sit on the edge of the bed.

“All right,” Mr. Kenichi ordered the busboys. “I want an accurate count. Seize any he has stowed away. Search everywhere.”

The busboys went to work opening every drawer and door and looking under the bed and chairs. They tore into all my luggage and bags and just tossed my clothes, personal hygiene products, and my tourist purchases everywhere.

“Come on!” I protested. “Is this really necessary?”

Mr. Kenichi plopped down on the bed beside me, clamped one of his hands uncomfortably to my thigh and smiled a grotesque smile.

“Mr. Ripley, I oversee everything in this hotel. Everything. My very livelihood depends on things like making sure people do not steal towels. It’s all or nothing in my mind, Mr. Ripley. You may think this all just a big joke, but I assure you, Mr. Ripley, it is not a joke. Towels are very important to me and very important to my guests.”

The busboy with shiny and mussed hair suddenly stood at attention before us and saluted him.

“Sir?”

“Yes. What have you found?”

“Nothing hidden away, but there’s another one missing, sir.”

“What?” I wondered aloud.

Mr. Kenichi rose angrily. He thrust four fat fingers in the air.

“Now that’s four towels, Mr. Ripley! Four! Where are you hiding them!?”

“I haven’t stolen any towels!” I pleaded.

He strolled about the room menacingly and mockingly. “Oh, dear sir, of course you haven’t. Everyone in the world is innocent after all. It’s all a mistake, right? Except that it’s not!” He turned his attention to the two young men. “Pull up his check-in paperwork for vehicle information. Search his car. Break in if you must!”

“Yes sir,” they said in unison, and they quickly left the room.

“You can’t do that!”

“Yes, I can. This is my world, Mr. Ripley. My world!”

“For the last time, I didn’t steal any towels!”

He wagged one of his fat fingers in my face. “Oh. I have seen your type before. Yes, yes. First, it’s some plush hotel towels and then after that you pluck a turtle from a pond at the zoo and then on to snatching a child from a park, hmm Mr. Ripley. What’s your finale? To covet another man’s wife and slay her with your love sword while he looks on!”

“You’re insane. To hell with your hotel and to hell with your towels!”

“Do not disrespect me!” Mr. Kenichi bellowed as he slapped my face with a heavy hand.

I fell back onto the bed.

“All right,” I groaned as I struggled to get up off the bed. “I’m done. I’m checking out right now and I expect a full refund and I plan on filing an assault charge with the police and talking to my expensive lawyer about suing your ass!”

He slapped me again, harder, and again and again, eventually forcing me down to the floor, and then he was going at me with real nasty kicks and more beatings with his fists. He then hoisted a desk chair above him and smashed it down on me, and that’s when I saw a swirling tunnel of light and then everything went black for a seemingly long while.



Did I die? I don’t know. It was like I suddenly emerged from a very long dream, but all the details had been lost.

I tried to shake myself awake, or alive. I wasn’t certain which. I looked around and realized I was in a large white room full of white machines. The room was very warm, hot really, humid, wet. The machines were humming and spinning. I soon realized it was an industrial laundry room. I looked down. I was standing before a large table that contained stacks of white towels. I was surrounded by large, rolling baskets heaped high with even more towels. I was dressed in all white and my hands were sore from all the folding I had obviously been doing. I quickly realized I was working as a laundry attendant. But how could that be? I was an architect—a very talented architect. I wasn’t in my office though, but now, so it seemed, I was washing and drying and folding towels at the Village of the Sun Hotel and Resort somewhere in Maine.

There suddenly came an impatient knock on a wide door behind me. I whipped my head around. There was the face of someone I didn’t know looking at me through a small window—a very angry looking young man with California blonde hair and disappointed eyes.

“Hey, Mr. Ripley, we need more god damn towels at the pool, on the double!” the stranger yelled to me through the door, his voice somewhat muffled yet clear enough. “And after that, floors five and six need more towels too. Housekeeping is getting super edgy. Come on, man!” He threw his arms up in the air and shook his head before walking away from the small window.

“I’m on it,” I called out, but he was already gone.

And it was very strange then because I knew exactly what to do and where everything was. I soon was going through the motions of removing the used towels from the rolling baskets and putting them into the washing machines. I flawlessly added the correct amounts of detergent and softener. I knew exactly what buttons to push. When the washing was done, I moved them to the dryers where they tumbled to a perfect level of dryness. From there, I moved them to the folding table where I quickly folded them with exact precision—all of them perfectly shaped and even. From there, I placed them on a wide wheeled cart so that I could transport the towels to wherever they were needed throughout the resort.

A red phone on the wall suddenly and alarmingly rang. I picked it up. “Central laundry. This is Mr. Ripley. How can I help you?”

“This is Craig. What’s the story morning glory? Are those towels ready!?”

I could tell it was the same angry young man who had been barking at me through the door earlier.

“Yes sir. I was just about to head out on my delivery run.”

He scoffed at me through the red phone. “Finally! I don’t know what’s been going on with you lately, but you better straighten up or there will be hell to pay. Do you hear me?”

“Yes sir. I’m sorry sir. I will strive to do much better.”

“We’ll see about that,” he snapped, and then he abruptly hung up.

“Craig. What an asshole,” I said aloud to no one.



Once the transport cart was fully loaded, I worked it out of the laundry room and into the wide hallway. It rolled along smoothly on the polished linoleum of the maintenance hall. Other hotel workers rushed by me. Some scowled. Some passed a quick smile. One woman gave me a cheerful “Hello, Mr. Ripley.”

I maneuvered the cart over a transition strip and through a double swinging doorway with two porthole windows. I emerged onto paisley carpet the colors of blown-up Christmas elves. Now I was in the grand lobby and the change of environment was palpable. Here, one had to be quiet and polite. Here, one had to be respectable, and guest-service driven. I moved the cart ahead slowly toward the other side of the lobby where I would turn en route to the pool area.

As I passed near the front desk, I noticed someone standing there and he seemed very familiar. He was being grouchy about something with the young lady who was working at the counter. It seemed she was crying. He suddenly looked up as if he sensed my presence.

“Mr. Ripley! Over here please.”

It was that horrible hotel manager, Mr. Kenichi. He came out from behind the front desk and greeted me with a rude and firm grip of the shoulder.

“How are you getting along, Mr. Ripley? Are you enjoying the job?”

“What the hell is going on? What did you do to me?”

“Please, Mr. Ripley. Not in front of other people. Here. I will walk with you, and we can talk.”

I started pushing the cart and he went along with me. “I’m not supposed to be here. I want to leave. I want to go home,” I asserted.

“But Mr. Ripley, the Village of the Sun Hotel and Resort is your home now.”

“What are you talking about? I know no home here. All I know is that steamy, awful laundry room. Why did I suddenly show up there? Did you drug me?”

We paused in a portion of the next hallway cloaked in shadow.

“Mr. Ripley, you should be thanking me. I have done you a great service. You could be in prison, but instead I’ve given you employment. I have provided you with adequate housing and a stipend for all your meals. I’ve taken care of you—despite the fact you stole from me.”

“I didn’t steal any god damn towels!” I insisted.

“But you did steal towels!” he seethed. “I know it, the entire staff knows it, the whole fucking world knows it, Mr. Ripley!”

He retrieved a red handkerchief from the pocket of his suit coat and dabbed at his brow, now beaded with sweat. “Look what you’ve done. You’ve gotten me all worked up again.” He motioned for us to move on, down the wide thoroughfare that led to the indoor/outdoor pool complex.

“I don’t care what you say or what anyone else thinks. I’m not a thief. I’m an architect. If I want towels, I can buy my own damn towels—and they would be a whole hell of a lot nicer than these ass rags you provide your guests with.”

He chuckled. “Mr. Ripley, you really aren’t in any sort of a position to insult my towels. They are wonderful towels. That’s why you stole them. You appreciated their quality. At least you have that going for you.”

I scoffed. “Whatever. So, what is this really? You’re going to have me work a bit to pay off the cost of your, quote unquote, wonderful towels. Should take about 20 minutes, don’t you think?”

“You really are a damn bastard, you know that Mr. Ripley? And quite rude and dumb. You’ve been with us for nearly a year now. He glanced at the red-banded watch on his wrist. It’s August 17th.

“What!? That’s not possible.”

“Oh, it is, Mr. Ripley. But I suppose you’ve been quite wrapped up in your work.” He chuckled. “Get it? Wrapped up. Towels. My wit knows no bounds, nor does my wrath.”

“I don’t understand any of this.”

“Well, let me make it nice and sparkling clear. See, you are indebted to me, forever, and by forever, I mean forever for real. So, here you shall stay. You may never leave. I will not allow it.”

I stopped and turned to look at him. “You can’t do that.”

“I can.”

“No, you can’t. You cannot hold me against my will. Someone will hear of this. That I assure you.”

He sighed, shook his head, and chuckled once more. “Let me explain something. I am very rich and powerful and that means I can twist any untruth into a truth, and everyone will believe it. You know why? Because most everyone is shamefully stupid.” He shook a fat finger at me. “And someday, Mr. Ripley, while you’re sweating your small balls off slinging towels in that steamy laundry room, you will come to believe, that yes in fact, you did steal those towels.”

He looked at me strangely. “Now, repeat after me: I did steal those wonderful towels and I’m very, very sorry.”

“I didn’t steal any god damn towels!” I insisted once more.

He sighed, then softly snickered again. He was always snickering. “Fine then, Mr. Ripley. It will come in time. But I’m afraid I really must leave you now. I’m a very important and busy man. And …It appears you have plenty of work to do. Come on now, chop chop. The guests need their towels. They will always need towels—forever and ever.”

As I grudgingly began to continue with my work, he turned to me one last time.

“Oh Mr. Ripley. One more thing. Have you been to the company cemetery?”

“The company cemetery?”

“Yes. It sits up on the high point to the east.”

“I don’t know anything about a cemetery.”

“Oh. Well, it’s a very nice cemetery with breathtaking vistas. I’ve taken the liberty of picking out a very nice plot just for you—one with wonderful views of our beloved laundry facilities.” He smiled with complete sincerity. “It is my great hope, Mr. Ripley, that you will be able to watch my wonderful towels spin and tumble for an eternity.”

He turned without another word and walked away from me. I watched him until he disappeared through the wide front doors of the hotel, a bright golden sunlight bursting through the glass and suddenly absorbing him completely.

END

The Towels of Destiny (The first part)

I was basking in Indian Summer at the hotel by the bay in a place called Maine.

Most of them were all leaving, the tourists that is, back to the cities and their pointless jobs and a house that even isn’t a home and love that is loveless and wayward. The scars of their garbage and smells and grime and innate asinine babble have been left behind. Maybe the Village of the Sun Hotel and Resort will be a bit quieter now. Maybe I can get some thinking done. I have a lot of things to think about—not all of them good.

I pulled up a chair by the large window in my room and just sat there. I peered out. I thought about how terrible it must be to look up and see bombs falling from the sky every day. Why are people so awful to other people? I guess I was lucky to be where I was—alone in a quiet room among the rugged guts of Maine. How easy it is to lose sight of that fact.

The big yellow earth movers across the way were now idle, the sun was sliding away and the gouges that they left behind took on almost Heavenly hues. I was almost sad about that. I don’t know why. All this trouble in the world and I guess I’m just confused, thinking maybe I am living in flattened, blood-riddled Palestine. But I know better, really. Does the ocean god even care to caress the soul of Gaza, or Kiev for that matter? What about dystopian D.C.?

After a bag full of meditative reflection and four fingers of bourbon, I dressed up in my favorite white suit and looked at myself in the mirror in silence. I realized I was hiding behind the threads of that ivory armor, only to conclude that the getaway is the only way to live—for now.

I shrugged the muted hysterical feeling off and went down to the hotel restaurant for an early dinner. I was old enough for that now—the early dinner that is. When I arrived, I was the only one there and I was seated at a small table near a big window that looked out onto the harbor wiped over with dusk. The restaurant was quiet except for the muffled shuffling of dishes and pans in the invisible kitchen beyond the lifeless buffet tables and shadowy walls.

My waitress was from somewhere else, and she brought me my usual beer and some iced water and a little wicker basket containing stiff little breadsticks wrapped in plastic and a fanned card deck of melba toast. She was golden brown with science-fiction eyes. She smiled at me without saying a word. She left me and puttered about, straightening tables and chairs as I looked over the menu. Then I asked her a question across the room.

“No Tasmanian devil tonight?”

“Tasmanian devil?” she said, confused.

“To eat. I don’t see it on the menu.”

She scoffed and waved a burnt umber hand in my direction. “Nobody eats a creature such as that,” she sharply advised. “You’re jerking my foot.”

I smiled at her in playful defeat. “All right then. I guess I’ll have the pork chops.”

She came closer. “How would you like them?”

“I would like them cooked.”

“And how about a side? Veggies? Soup? Salad? A sweet, sweet surprise, huh? Why don’t you take a good look at me?”

I smiled at her again. She was entertaining. “Does your boss know you flirt with the guests?”

“Of course he does. He encourages it. For the tips. And I need those tips. One would think such a fancy place would pay more. Oh no. They do not.”

“I’ll take the veggies, by the way. Heavy on the carrots. I’m really into carrots—glazed if you got them—and a nice iceberg salad, none of those bourgeoisie hippie greens, but with radish and cucumber and more carrots, and some creamy French dressing on the side, and I’m talking about the bright orange creamy stuff, none of that Russian rip-off.”

She concentrated as she wrote in pencil on her small pad. Then she looked up, smiled, and attempted a joke. “Do you know why rabbits eat carrots so much?”

I played along. “No.”

“You’ve never seen a rabbit with glasses, have you?” She laughed as if it were the funniest thing she ever heard.

“That’s awful,” I said, chuckling along with her.

“And what about you Mr. Ripley?”

“What about me?”

“You’ve been here awhile, and I know nothing about you. What is it you do? … out there in that frightening world?”

“I’m an architect.”

“Oh. Do you build the big buildings?”

“No. Custom homes mostly. Very custom. Retreats for the mind.”

“Retreats. That sounds nice. But still. Such a sharp, smart, handsome man all alone in a place like this with nobody by his side. Don’t you have a wife? Not even a lady friend?”

I paused, took a deep drink of my beer, and cleared my throat. “My wife died in a helicopter crash.”

She put a hand to her mouth. “Oh no. I am so sorry for that.”

I knew she would want to know what happened. Everyone always does. So, I unzipped my soul and told her. “We were on our honeymoon at the Grand Canyon, and she wanted to take one of those helicopter tours. She begged me to go with her, but I just couldn’t. I was too nervous, too scared. I encouraged her to just go without me. I didn’t want her to miss out. She went, and the damn thing crashed. There was nothing left of her. I had no wife to bury. God must hate my guts.”

She looked at me, stunned and crushed. “You poor soul. That’s terrible. Had I known I would have never asked. Please forgive me.”

“You didn’t know. It’s all right.”

She struggled to smile. “Very good, Mr. Ripley. I will go now, and I will take care of your dinner tonight. It’s on me. Everything. You’ll be okay. You just enjoy your time here.”

“Okay—What’s your name? I always forget to ask or maybe you told me and…”

“I told you. Many times. Vyda. My name is Vyda.”



I watched the water in the harbor melt and bend a dark blue reflection, repeating and repeating, reminding myself of mortality. A young man with uncontrolled shiny hair came over and lit the candle at my table as the darkness grew thicker. He smiled. “Good evening, Mr. Ripley. Can I get you anything else while you wait?”

“How about another beer?” I picked up the tall glass and drained the small puddle at the bottom of it. “This one is empty.”

“Certainly Mr. Ripley. I’ll bring it over immediately.”

Some old song from pre-war days started scratching its way out of the hidden speakers in the ceiling. I was still the only one there.

The young man with the shiny hair returned with my glass of beer. He set it down, took a step back and cleared his throat. I looked up at him. “Yes? What is it?”

“Excuse me for disturbing you Mr. Ripley, but the hotel manager would like to speak to you.”

“Now? I’m about to have my dinner.”

“We realize that sir, but he said it was extremely important that he talks to you.”

I sighed and wiped my face with a red cloth napkin.”

“All right. Tell him to come over.”

I gulped down half the beer and then eyed the round man in a suit of all white who came marching toward me in short strides. At least he had decent fashion sense, I thought, but even so, it was ill-fitted, the fabric of his clothing rubbed together as he walked and made a whoosh-whoosh sound. Light reflected off his large balding head and he squinted his eyes with sinister purpose.

“Are you the manager, then?” I asked as he stood at my table.

“I am indeed the manager of this entire hotel, Mr. Ripley,” he answered, spreading his arms wide and looking around with pride.

“This must be really important because you’re interfering with my dinner.”

The manager took the empty seat across from me without invitation and wiped his meaty hand down his moist face of Asian descent as if he were considerably distressed.

“I’ll get right to the point. We have a serious problem, Mr. Ripley.”

“What’s that?”

“We keep inventory of all the towels in this hotel. It’s a very, very strict inventory, I must add. We keep track of every single towel—from the day it arrives brand new, to the day we lay it to rest.”

“Are you missing towels? Is that what this is about? Towels? You’re disrupting my dinner because of towels?”

“Yes, Mr. Ripley, we are missing towels—three to be exact.”

“Well, what the hell does that have to do with me?”

“The point of origin for the said missing towels just happens to be your room, Mr. Ripley. You are still in room number 71, yes?”

“I am.”

He eyed me viciously. “Well, then perhaps you know the whereabouts of the three missing towels?”

“I don’t know anything about missing towels. I’m here on vacation, to relax. Your god damn towels are the least of my concerns. Perhaps one of your underpaid employees is unable to do simple math.”

The sci-fi golden waitress arrived with my bulbous salad and a steaming plate of chops and big glistening carrots as bright as a Florida oranges nesting in the hot dew of a grove. I looked up at her and smiled in appreciation. She smiled back, nodded to the manager with disapproval, and disappeared.

“Would you like some of my dinner, Mr. …?”

“Kenichi. And no thank you, but please, go ahead and eat. I can wait a moment.”

I poured my dressing and then stabbed at the salad and ate some. I cut into the meat and took a bite and chewed. Mr. Kenichi watched me with strange curiosity.

“Is the food good?” he asked in a tone louder than necessary.

“It’s pretty good. The pork is a bit overcooked, though.” I set down my silverware. I couldn’t eat with him looking at me like that. “But I don’t know why I even ordered the pork chops. I always make little stupid mistakes like this. I should have ordered the fish and chips or the lobster. Jesus, I’m in Maine. What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Are you done berating yourself, Mr. Ripley?”

 “Sorry about that. I have a lot of personal problems. But that aside—are you accusing me of stealing towels?”

“Mr. Ripley, the evidence is clear. The room attendants bring in the towels and then there is not the same number of towels when they come to wash them. There’s no other explanation than you must have slipped them into your luggage to take home.”

“Hey, look. I think you’re making way too much of this. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe I took a few down to the pool by accident and forgot them there.”

Mr. Kenichi alarmingly slammed his meaty paw down on the table—silverware jumped; plates rattled.

“No! There are towels available at the pool for use by guests. They are different. They are specific for pool use. You do not bring the towels from your room! Never! Everyone knows this!”

“Okay, this is beyond ridiculous. You’re losing your shit over towels? I have had enough of this. Good evening Mr. Kenichi.”

I wiped my face again and got up to leave, but as I did, two young busboys, including the one with unruly and shiny hair, suddenly appeared behind me and forced me back down into the chair by the shoulders.

“What the hell is going on here!?” I yelled out.

“I wasn’t finished with you, Mr. Ripley,” Mr. Kenichi sneered. “I’ll give you one last chance to be honest with me. Did you steal those towels!?”

“I, I, I don’t know. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks; maybe they got mixed in with my things. I sure as hell didn’t take them on purpose!”

“Then you won’t mind if we look around your room then, eh?”

Mr. Kenichi snapped his chubby fingers and the two busboys each grabbed me by an arm and hoisted me up. The tips of my shoes dragged against the carpet as they hauled me away and pushed me into a lobby elevator. Mr. Kenichi pushed number 7 with a fat finger and grinned at me.

“I have a very nice hotel here, Mr. Ripley, and I intend to keep it that way. Everyone deserves a fresh, clean towel, not just you.”



Keep an eye out for the last part of this story on https://cerealaftersex.com/

Are you enjoying our offbeat literary (and not so literary) online journal? Follow Cereal After Sex (and other things worth living for). Enter your email below to receive notifications of new articles and stories.