Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)
TITLE: The Elegant Staircase
By Claudia Thomason
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Besides the beautiful steps, glistening banisters stood as sentinels on both sides. The lobby itself was elegantly appointed with crystal chandeliers and leather furniture. I was reminded of the staircase in “Gone with the Wind” and envisioned myself as Scarlett O’Hara ascending the staircase to my third floor room.
There were no elevators and no bellhops. Far sweatier and dirtier than Scarlett O’Hara ever was, I climbed the stairs, hauling my suitcases behind me. My roommate and I were looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
As we got our toothbrushes and pajamas from our suitcases, something ran past me and under the bed. It looked like a large roach. I decided that I didn’t see it. To acknowledge I had seen it would require me to do something about it. I had good reason for ignoring it.
As kids growing up in Arizona, my sister and I had to deal with sewer roaches that, like the characters in “Monsters Inc,” only came out at night. We spent years watching evening television, sitting on our feet to avoid roaches. Occasionally we would spot one on the opposite wall. It wasn’t hard to spot. It resembled a small dog hanging there. My sister was the only one brave enough to deal with them.
As I thought about that, I saw the roach again. I hoped it was the same one. They all look alike. As I put the toothpaste on my brush something caught my eye on the wall above the beds. I saw three more roaches. My roommate saw one and casually asked what it was. I whispered, “They are sewer roaches.” I told her I wasn’t staying in that room. I headed down the elegant red-carpeted staircase to ask for another room. In my sleep-deprived state, it didn’t dawn on me that ours wasn’t the only room with roaches. There were gaps under all the doors that would have allowed roaches to go in and out standing on their hind legs.
Downstairs the desk clerk said, “They will not harm you. They avoid people.” Apparently he wasn’t acquainted with our roaches. One had run over my roommate’s foot before I left. Defeated, I climbed the elegant red-carpeted staircase again. When I got to the room, I told my roommate again I was not staying there. She asked me why. At that very moment, a large brown, shiny, winged roach dropped off the ceiling onto her bed with a thud and headed for her pillow. We turned slowly and looked into each other’s bloodshot eyes. Without another word, we began throwing our belongings into our suitcases and barreled down the steps.
We planned to sleep in the lobby. We were informed that wasn’t possible. Fair enough. We won’t sleep. We will sit. Just sit until the sun came up in three hours. “Not permitted,” he said. He handed me a key. “You go this room. Very nice. Your presidents stay there. That floor has a cat that chases the bugs.”
The elegant red-carpeted staircase by this time had become nothing but a terrific nuisance. I was exhausted and had to pull myself and my luggage up by holding the glistening banister. It was glistening because it was sticky. Out of breath, near tears and now sticky, we entered the new room. I hunted for the cat to close it in our room. It was nowhere to be seen. What made us think that cat would stay on the fifth floor when all the roaches were on the other four floors? We had been duped by a desk clerk who was probably accustomed to dealing with fussy American women.
At sunup, we raced out of the room with our still-packed luggage, practically rolling down the five flights of elegant red-carpeted stairs into the lobby and out to the van. They say there are times when unpleasant things happen that one can laugh about later. This wasn’t one of them.
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