"Will you help me get to my car, honey?" she asks. Her breath smells like roadkill. "I'm not going to drive, I swear, I just want to put the seat back and go to sleep."

Without waiting for an answer, she slides up next to you on your right and leans on your shoulder. "That's a nice kid,"she says. "If I was your mother, I wouldn't let you wander around here at night."

Somehow, you don't believe her. Somehow, you think if she was your mother, you could play with knives, take drugs and have sex on the kitchen table, and she would just say, "Wash up when you're through, honey," and stumble off to bed.

Suddenly, her weight pulls to the right and you swerve together toward the cement like a plane with one wing. You manage to untangle yourself before she lands on her butt in the dirt next to the sidewalk. No need to worry. Her butt juts from the back of her body like an air bag that deployed years ago and never deflated. "Sorry," she laughs. "I had a sudden allergic reaction to gravity." She thinks this is hilarious. She barks like a seal. Arp. Arp. Arp. The last "arp" mutates into a wretched waterfall of vomit. You have an idea.

"Will you do me a favor?"you ask her.

"Sure, Pumpkin," she says, wiping her mouth with her sleeve.

You get her to get the motel room key for you, with your money, while you wait out of sight around the corner of the building. There's no problem at all. The old guy at the window knows her.

"I'm glad we got a room," she says, handing you the key. "I hate sleeping in the car.&" She doubles over and splashes vomit on the cement parking lot. She heaves three times. It makes the grossest gurgling noise coming out of her throat and splatters all over her pants and her shoes. And it stinks.

"Where's your car?" you ask. There's no way in the world you're going to let her sleep in your room. Her yellow compact car is in the dirt lot next to the motel with a few others. You lay her on her side in the back seat so if she vomits again she won't choke on it. She doesn't complain. She is already asleep. You put the ignition key under the passenger's seat so if she looks for it while she's still drunk she probably won't find it.

The old guy at the night registration window has resumed reading his paper and doesn't notice you climbing the stairs to your second floor room. Opening the door to room 209, the smell of carpet deodorizer burns your nose and scratches the back of your throat. It doesn't completely hide the other smell of a thousand cigarettes people have smoked in this room.

It's a square room, with a double bed, a dresser and a TV on a TV stand. The sign out front says "adult movies," but you can't find one on any of the TV channels. You watch an old black-and-white detective movie for a while. The snack and soda machines take dollar bills so you eat a few bags of chips and an apple pie. You get a bucket of ice from the ice machine in the hall to keep your sodas cold. You pop open a soda can. The syrupy liquid soothes your itchy throat, but your uptight stomach churns.

You flick the light switch off and pull the curtains apart. You want to see, not be seen. You want to be invisible right now. Coming here is your version of a small animal crawling into an empty log in the forest. You want to lie in the dark for a while and catch your breath. You know you'll have to go back out there too soon. You peer between the curtains.

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