Fiction: Choose Your Own Average by Jessica Dionne

Photo by ARTHUR YAO on Unsplash

The lady at the front desk hands you a key, the plastic fob a faded sun wearing sunglasses, and directs you to room 143 right past the (stairwell/ice machine). The Holiday Motel is just outside of downtown, off a busy four-lane road wracked with construction. Nothing about it says enjoy a vacation here. Two old mattresses are stacked outside the office door, probably covered in piss or (blood/something worse). In your room that reeks of over-use, you note the sand-dollar wallpaper and heavy curtains the color of a wine stain.

After freshening up in the oily, teal colored bathroom you shovel some makeup on your face and creep like a cat to the bar next door. (The Oasis Lounge/Duffy’s Tavern) appears unceremonious. The raw umber wood and the shameless stools cushioned in crushed velvet give credit to the lush in the corner who appears (hypnotized/dying). A potted fichus next to the jukebox is limp from life with no sunlight and you think, me too.

You take a seat as (Rebel Yell/Paradise City) comes on, notice the bar has a sad sort of gleam, like it is trying its best to shine through layers of grime. The cut-crystal ashtrays are mismatched and appropriate, reflecting light from the mirrored wall behind the bar. You order a (Jack and Coke/Tequila) and in the mirror notice the man a few stools down, noticing you back. He is almost handsome and definitely tired, but so are you.

Sliding next to you with a hellish grin, he tells you his name is (Jim/Michael). He explains that he is in town for a sales convention and passed on that evening’s titty-bar trip with his coworkers. You say you’re a writer, and he misquotes (Bukowski/Dylan Thomas). You nod anyway and he orders you a drink the color of taffy. He tells you he’s divorced but you think he’s (a liar/full of shit). He bounces quarters into a shot glass and when the conversation begins to drag he starts in on (religion/politics).

You challenge him to a game of pool, loser takes a shot. You’re terrible at pool, you know that now and after three games you are starting to feel heat in your cheeks and the tip of your nose is numb. You decide you are drunk when you start to bitch about your piece of shit (dad/ex). (Jim’s/Mike’s) hand on your lower back guides you to the bar and he yells hey (darlin’/legs) to the bartender, who brings over another drink.

Your lips feel like elastic as you tell him about your novel. He says it sounds interesting and goes to take a (smoke/piss). You notice his jacket shrouding your stool, search for his wallet. Inside are pictures of his (Coupe de Ville/wife and kids). He returns and invites you back to his room. When you get there it is hot with stifled air like a (coffin/DMV). He strokes your hair and tells you you’re so pretty which he thinks translates as romantic, and he falls back onto the bed. You shake your head and point to (the floor/the desk).

The sex is slick like that time you hydroplaned into a ditch, but at least the start of it got your heart going. You reach for your jeans and he gives you a kiss on the shoulder. As you head for the door he tells you (he thinks he loves you/it was fun.) You say thanks.

Jessica Dionne lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and received her MA in Literature from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Rust + Moth, Mascara Literary Review, The Mayo Review, The Longleaf Pine, and Luna Luna Magazine. She also presented a series of poems at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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