Hollywood & Vine

Michael had set his sites on from a thousand miles away in Austin Texas. His blue Chevy Impala was packed with everything he owned including his pride. 
At twenty-one, Michael, blessed with classic looks had refined cheek bones, deep blue eyes, full, flowing, over the shoulder hair. He was, well, pretty, even for a young man. 
There was little doubt of Michael's talent; few would question his artistic vision for color and makeup. He was the star student at Texas State Cosmetology. His instructors' encouragement, meant to encourage an exceptional student, had instead created an arrogant artist without the maturity to balance his talent. 
While his charm opened many doors, his arrogance quickly closed them. Austin salons had become a revolving door and Michael had worked for most of them for at least a day. The last salon manager had shouted, “This isn't Hollywood, Michael. Get the hell out!” Never before had a word been more prophetic, ‘Hollywood'; that's exactly where he needed to be. 
His steady stream of unemployment had not left him well funded for Hollywood. He had, at best, sufficient funds to last two months, maybe three.
 After three days on the road, on a clear, moonless night, Michael pulled in to the parking lot of the Hollywood LaBrea Motel near Hollywood and Vine; the heart of old Hollywood, mere footsteps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The partially lit vacancy sign welcomed him.
 Had he been somewhat less tired, he might have noticed the marginal accommodations. The entire motel was circa 1950 and, while quaint at first glance, on closer inspection revealed much.
 The night manager, a short, dumpy little man was almost as wide as he was tall. He peered over the counter and squinted through his thick black frames. His thick black hair pasted greasily to his scalp. His skin color was inconsistent, soft and almost feminine. He seemed pleasant enough, if a bit short on words with an accent Michael couldn't quite place.
 “You stay how many night?” he asked.
 “Uh, I don't know, a few, maybe,” Michael said, yawning.
 “Forty dollar night, cash. Sign here,” he demanded, pointing to the guest register which amounted to nothing more than a clipboard with a pen on a string. He extended his hand while rolling his fingers toward his palm in anticipation.
 Michael fumbled for his wallet as he signed in, handed the manager two twenties in cash. He clutched them in his hand and slammed the key on the counter.
 “3B, down hall, third door left. Check out ten A.M. You stay anuder night, you pay ten A.M.,” he said.
 “Okay, Thanks,” Michael said as he picked up the key and began walking down the dark hallway toward the room. Only flashes of light illuminated the path with slashes of yellow and black. The building smelled damp and old and musty. In the dim light, the carpet beneath his feet felt dirty and sticky as they popped with each step.
 3B was indeed on the left as promised, the brass number three swinging from a single screw with a letter ‘B' scribbled onto the door by hand in permanent black marker.
 Nice touch, he thought as he struggled to get the key into the lock which was likewise loose in the door. Just when he was going to call out for the manager whose desk was just a few doors down the hall, the lock clicked and disengaged.
 He pushed the door open to reveal the darkness. He fumbled for the light switch. He pushed the switch up. With a click, the lights fluttered. The air conditioner buzzed and hissed. Cool, stale air belched into the room”roaches scattered. What lay before him was pure filth and squaller–a putrid smell.
 “What was that smell?” he thought. He looked around slowly, from the matted brown shag carpet to the top corners of the walls, the room was teaming with life. The wall paper was torn and discolored with age; water stains bled from the ceiling. Handwritten scribbled notes written in permanent marker were everywhere: “ON” and an arrow pointing to a knob; “DO NOT TOUCH” on the air conditioner thermostat. “HOT” and “COLD” handwritten onto the tile in the shower. The Sesame Street shower curtain only added to the creepiness. The white bathroom towels were impossibly thin from years of bleach and wear. The smell he determined to be a combination of piss, mold, and fifty years of accumulated bodily fluids. With the smell and his exhaustion he felt light headed and queasy. He needed to lie down.
 The bed seemed surprisingly clean until he pulled back the bedspread to reveal a large dark stain on the sheet; large enough to be a body. Is that blood? He thought. One night. I'll stay only one night.
 Too exhausted to sleep, he pulled the bedspread back up and lay on the bed fully clothed. The television sputtered to life. The colors drifted as images came into view: two channels, Mexican game shows and porn. He turned off the television, left the lights on, locked and chained the door, climbed back onto the fully made bed staying fully clothed and in time drifted back into his Hollywood dream.

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