“Past the EconoLodge ” by Brandon Hobson is from NOON ’s treasury of stories, traditions, legends, humor and wisdom from 2000 through 2016.
—Diane Williams, editor
After all that, they told me to take out the trash and leave. I put everything into a duffel bag, including the lighter and book I stole from Whitefeather’s dad. The little girl was crying but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her good-bye. They wanted me gone. They called my social worker and made me wait outside in the yard. It was getting dark out and I could see road dust settling from a truck that drove by. But I didn’t want to go back to the shelter, so I left on my own. I jumped the fence and walked all the way to Highway 51, past the EconoLodge and to the gas station across from it.
The woman I met there offered to take me to her home and feed me. She was old with gray hair that hung down in her face. She told me she was raised in an orphanage many years ago. She wore rings on every finger. When we got to her house she brought me soup on a tray and sat next to me while I ate. She wanted to put the spoon in my mouth but I wouldn’t let her.
We stayed up late, drinking cheap wine and watching TV. She showed me photos of a boy with crutches. They were old black-and-white photos taken on a farm somewhere.
“His name was Arthur,” she said. “He was crippled and walked with crutches until he died. He was born that way. He was only ten when he died.”
I wasn’t interested. She had this way of trying to laugh. She touched the burn mark on my arm and told me my eyes were gray. Did I know they were gray? Did I want her to look into my palm and tell me my future? She reached for my hand but I pulled away. She told me a story from the Bible about a woman at a well who gave water to Jesus. The next thing I knew it was almost midnight and rain was hitting the window.
I asked her where the bathroom was and she pointed to the hall. When I got in there I didn’t close the door all the way. I left it barely open. Then I lifted the toilet seat and unbuttoned my pants. I pulled out my cock and masturbated, looking at the open door the whole time until I shot into the toilet. Some of it missed the water. Some of it ran down the side of the toilet, very slowly, and I didn’t bother to clean it up.
When I returned to her living room she tried asking me about my mom and family but I didn’t want to talk. I told her I needed to leave.
“I understand how you must feel,” she said.
“You don’t understand anything,” I told her.
“If you stay I’ll let you sleep in the bed.”
I said, “Don’t you get it? I don’t have to stay anywhere. I can leave if I want.”
She was sitting on the edge of the divan, staring at something on the floor.
“At least wait until it stops raining,” she said.
I grabbed my duffel bag. She didn’t get up or try to stop me. I waited for her to say something. I waited for her to do something, anything, but she wouldn’t look at me.
All she was trying to do was help me.