Pebbles Against a Window
It was two o’clock in the morning. Josh knew that fact because of the red numbers that shone brightly from his old clock radio. “Why am I awake?” he wondered. Then he heard a sound just outside the window of his second storey bedroom. Had that been enough to wake him up? Could be.
Remembering the Past
Then he was suddenly hit by a blast from his past. When he was a teenager sleeping in this same room, his buddy Ralph would toss pebbles at his window to get his attention. It would typically be a Friday or Saturday night. Ralph would have come home late, and his parents would have locked him out. They were beyond strict and edged on downright mean, particularly his father, a man of a particularly powerful build, and hot temperament.
Josh would go to the window, and open it as wide as he could. Ralph would then climb up the metal rungs of the old television antenna, and crawl into Josh’s bedroom through the window. Then Josh would listen to Ralph talk about what had happened prior to his being locked out.
Josh’s room was on the second floor of the main building of the motel complex that his parents ran. There was a restaurant downstairs, and 12 ‘cabins’ as his parents called them (although they were just rooms) for their paying guests. Downstairs was the office and a small, but quite popular restaurant that served their guests and others who had heard of the restaurant’s good food and friendly service.
Once Josh and Ralph were talked out and tired, they would go downstairs. Josh would get the key to a cabin that he knew was unoccupied, and give it to Ralph, so he could spend the rest of the night there. Josh’s parents wouldn’t mind. They knew about Ralph’s situation at home, and were sympathetic.
When his parents had moved into a retirement complex, Josh remained in the only home he had ever known. He had become the chef for the restaurant, after spending years learning how to cook from his parents. Wishing to dedicate himself totally to developing chef skills, and not wanting to have to deal with the added and uncreative responsibilities of a motel manager, Josh had shut down the motel aspect of the complex. The restaurant had become quite successful, especially in the winter. Snowmobilers who stayed in other motels and cheap hotels in the area were big fans of the food that he cooked. It was one of the few things that they talked about that did not involve favoured trails, snow conditions, breaks in the ice over lakes, and the more esoteric features of their machines. During the winter, Josh even had put up a sign in a part of his parking lot. It read, “Snowmobiles Only”. In the summer there was always some clever person who would ask him “Does that still hold?” His smartass reply was some version of “No, at this time of year it is Sea-doos only.”
Josh hadn’t thought of Ralph in years, and hadn’t seen him since they both were 19. Ralph had moved out of town, and no one he knew had heard from or seen him since. He had asked Ralph’s parents about him once in the supermarket. It had taken nerve, even as an adult, to talk to them. They just said, “Not sure” as if Ralph was something they had misplaced in the basement, and hadn’t bothered looking for.
Back to the Present.
After this emotional rush of memories, Josh felt that the sound that had awakened him, couldn’t have been made by Ralph, or by pebbles for that matter. He must have heard something else, and his dozy mind must have translated it into something old and familiar.
Then he heard the sound again. This time he was fairly certain that the sound he had heard was that of pebbles hitting the window. He crept slowly to the window, worried that the one who had tossed the small stones would be able to see him. Then he looked down. There was a man in the parking lot, picking up pebbles. He was not alone. Near to him were two people, a woman, and a very small child of undetermined gender. Behind them was a dark and rather run-down van.
Josh rolled down the window, and yelled, “Who are you, and why are you making this noise?” There was silence at first, as if the night had been insulted by Josh’s yelling. Then, in a much lesser volume came the reply from a familiar voice. “It’s Ralph. I wonder whether you would take us in for the night.”
Josh quickly responded with “I’ll run downstairs, and let you guys in. But first, I will put some clothes on. I still sleep in my underwear, Ralph, and it’s cold outside.” A well-remembered laugh was the immediate response.
Josh dressed quickly, and was soon downstairs, opening the door. Although he wasn’t much for physical greetings, he gave Ralph a huge hug. He even extended the same to the woman and child that were with him. He bid them to sit down at one of the restaurant tables, while he made some coffee and hot chocolate, and warmed up some muffins that he had made earlier in the day..
Once they had all settled down, Ralph began to tell his story. He had worked at a decent job as an assistant manager at a hotel in a town about two hours drive away. His wife worked there as a part-time cleaner, their child always with her. There had been a fire and the place had burned down, so they no longer had jobs.
Ralph had come back family home a week ago. His parents still lived in the old house. So he, his wife Aileen, and their three-year-old daughter Ethel had gone there to stay until at least one of the parents got a job and they could afford their own place. His parents gave them one week, “Then you’re all out of here.” They hadn’t changed a bit, particularly Ralph’s father.
By six o’clock that evening, their week was up to the exact hour. They had been almost physically tossed out. Ralph’s father was still a very physically powerful and intimidating man. He ended his verbal notice of ejection with a statement, that, quiet unintentionally, would prove quite useful. “You could always go to where your friend still lives.” They had never called Josh by his name, just “your friend,” with a noticeable sneer of judgement.
They had gotten into their van and had looked for a place to stay the night, with no luck. Then Ralph remembered his father’s words about “your friend.” He decided to take a chance.
After hearing Ralph’s tale of woe, Josh said, “I’m glad you came, old friend. You can stay in the best of the cabins, like you did in the old days. Last year I closed down the motel, as I am too busy as the chef at this restaurant. Maybe that can change now with you and Aileen here. You can run the motel. But Ralph, no more pebble throwing incidents, waking me up at two o’clock in the morning. That will be written into your contract.”
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Great story! I think it would be better if Josh's story about being kicked out of his house was told through dialogue, but I still enjoyed it!
Thanks. I appreciate your comments.