by Ian Rochford
The whore leaves, unhappy that he had to pay her in small notes and coins, but he can’t sleep so he tosses down the last shot of bourbon from the minbar and turns off the flickering static of the television. The silent desert night invades the room, broken now and then by 18-wheelers and in the bleak comfort of loneliness he remembers back when he was the king of cons, the grifter supreme who slept in the best hotels, in beds of damask and Egyptian cotton, sipping Cristal with lithe beauties. He, who never paid for anything and always left by the front door, “Come again” ringing in his ears, now carries old teabags so he can top up the minibar bottles and pays aging prostitutes with coupons and change. Soon, he will slip stealthily out of the room, carrying his shoes to his long overdue rental car and coast silently out to the highway before starting the engine, before the sun has risen. Before he has to see this room in daylight, the scuffed paint, shabby carpet and the stained tiles. Before his last lie falls apart and the morning manager, more alert than his nocturnal counterpart and flanked by two unsmiling cops, knocks on the door to ask why he was given this room on a card belonging to a dead man.
Ian Rochford, author of Scrubber, is an unemployed Australian screenwriter (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories. He is now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.