Checkout by Cindy Rosmus

Atlantic City 1972

“Ten minutes?” Howard says, smirking. “Same place?”

Room 314, he means, of his dad’s shithole hotel. Where we meet, secretly, to do dirty stuff. Everything but fuck. I wasn’t ready for that, yet. “Pam the Prude,” he calls me.

“I guess.” But he knows I’ll be there.

Howard is fourteen, too, but a slut. Groovy-looking, with blond curls like that guy from the Who. Greenish eyes that madden me when he takes off his glasses. He’s short like me, but has a deep voice. God, I love him.

So much, I almost killed him.

I’m nuts, right? Back home they call me “Psycho,” but now it’s summer and nobody here in Atlantic City knows that.

My mom—I’d love to kill her, too—thinks I’m crazy, too. In sequined evening gowns with matching turbans, she screws all the guys in the bar. First, Marco, the bandleader. Then everyone else. Last night she left with some guy with creepy eyes. She hasn’t come back, yet.

She never knows what I’m up to. Or cares. I could spend all day and night with Howard in Room 314.

‘Cept there’s other girls.

But today it’s my turn.

Today, Howard and I are gonna fuck. In daylight. With the sun making everybody else lobster-red on the beach, and seagulls screeching outside the window.

Last night, while Mom was out with Creepy Eyes, I lay in bed, imagining Howard’s penis inside me. I even touched myself there. Sometimes he touches me there, but just so I’ll lick him. He makes lick him till my jaw aches.

Downstairs, Marco and his band—I call them the Mustaches—played loudly. I felt like every corny, romantic song was about Howard and me.

Maybe we’d get married, someday. Or . . .

Sneak down to some hick state and do it now. I could make myself look older. Wear Mom’s heavy eyeliner, and her white turban . . .

I would never come back.

She’d miss the turban, but not me. Never wanted me, to begin with.

“ ‘Daddy’s girl,’” she calls me, sneering. She hates my Pop.

“ Play ‘Something Stupid,’ ” she told Marco, the other night. Just so I’d cry.  Frank Sinatra had sung it with his daughter. I wanted to go home to my Pop. I love him so much.

But I love Howard more.

The plan is, Howard goes upstairs before I do.

I sit in the paneled lobby, on this vinyl chair that sticks to my thighs. Howard goes up to the front desk, to pester his dad, Mr. Hertzberg, who’s flirting with some bikini blonde.

“Honey,” Mr. Hertzberg says, with this phony smile, showing every tooth in his head. “Wash the sand off, out back.” He means the sleazy bathhouse. “Pul-lease?”

"Qu-est-ce que c-est?" the blonde says.

When he hears French, he leers. Those French-Canadians are as wild as my mom.

“Dad?” Howard says.  And the blonde sneaks away.

The look Howard gets chills even me. “Nothing,” he mumbles and hurries upstairs.
Five minutes I’ve got, before following him up.

Early as it is, the bar door’s open. The jukebox kicks on: “Alone Again, Naturally.” That hit song by that dorky Gilbert-somebody.

Howard, I think, don’t leave me alone.

“Pammy,” Mr. Hertzberg says, “I haven’t seen your Mommy, today.”

I just shrug.

“Maybe she got up early,” he says, “and hit the beach.”

Again, I shrug.

“She’s really into those turbans, isn’t she?”

Sighing, I join him at the desk.

“My favorite is the gold lame one,” he says, grinning. “That matches that dress.”

More than anything, I hate that gold turban. Each time she wears it, I wish she was dead.

“They all match,” I say, bitterly. 

Still grinning, he looks past me at some new blondes coming in the lobby.

The swordfish wall clock says it’s been ten minutes, not five!

Shit, I think.  Howard might think I stood him up!

Or, worse . . .

He’s with another girl.

A French-Canadian.  Like Cécile, from last week. Or Melanie, the bitch from Maryland . . . with the bug-eyed, fat sister. Her family’s been here way too long.

Howard and Melanie . . . sneak looks they think I don’t see.

She’s on the third floor!

The elevator’s in use, so I take the stairs. By the time I reach the third floor, I’m panting.

Then this strange feeling comes over me. I can’t describe it. It’s not about first-time sex, or even jealousy. In a nearby room, I hear Melanie giggling with her bug-eyed sister.

All the hallway windows are open, and the sea breeze blows the sheer curtains all over. Like daytime ghosts, they look.

I approach Room 314.

Outside Room 313, Jessie the maid is taking a smoke break. “He’s waitin’ for ya,” she says. Her smirk reminds me she once caught us in the act.

“Jessie works Pacific Avenue,” Howard once told me.

The door to Room 314 opens for me.

“What kept you?” Howard is nude, all exposed, in the daylight! With the door open!  And Jessie right there.

Smiling, Jessie unlocks the door next to ours.

As Howard pulls me into Room 314, she screams.

And keeps screaming. Till every guest not roasting on the beach comes out of their rooms.

Howard can’t stop me from joining them. He fumbles with his shorts, tripping as he pulls them on.

I can’t see a thing. Too many people. When Melanie and her sister get there, some guy tries to block their view. “Don’t look!” he yells.

But they do, and scream, themselves. Melanie starts to cry: big, heaving sobs.

Mr. Hertzberg flies off the elevator, just as I squeeze through, and see the body.

Spread-eagled. Handcuffed to the headboard. Eyes wide open. Gold satin turban askew.

My heart feels like I ate it. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Wildly, I reach behind me for Howard, but he’s not there.

Arms around the sobbing Melanie, he’s walking her back to her room.


Cindy is a Jersey girl who works in New York City & who talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants. She loves peanut butter, blood-rare meat, Cabernet, and Starbucks coffee (though not usually in the same meal). She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, Media Virus, and The New Flesh. She is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. And she’s still a Gemini and a Christian.

14 comments:

David Barber said...

Cindy, this is a great story. Really well written with a great ending. Well done and HAPPY BRITHDAY!!

Apologies for the formatting, Blogger is doing a turn on me and I can't get in to change anything at the mo, hence your bio and the font of your text. Sorry!

Chris Rhatigan said...

Like all of Cindy's work, this is a kick in the teeth. Gobbled up every word of it.

Bill Baber said...

wow, down and dirty,nasty to the core. i feel like i should go to confesion just for reading that-and i ain't catholic...

truly first rate stuff.

skees said...

Cindy,

First, great gritty story. Like a rotten apple. I love the line "my heart feels like I ate it."

Second, Happy Birthday darlin'. Best to you. -Jimbo

Mike MIner said...

Cindy,

Great voice to this story. You can talk dirty to me anytime.

Anonymous said...

Cindy, that was a hell of a good story. Happy Birthday.

Dana Kabel

Michael Solender said...

wow..way cool summer breeze this one - quite a wild ride, nice job cindy

Elaine Ash said...

Happy Birthday Cindy! Nice to see you published again.

AJ Hayes said...

Glad I bought that neck-brace. It comes in real handy when you're gonna read a Rosmus roller coaster . . . no, wait, Cindy is more like a Wild mouse ride. All Cadillac smooth then WHAM! the free fall neck-snapper at the end rips you into six different emotional states all at once.Cool beans, pal. 'Nother winner set to print.

Thomas Pluck said...

Hell of a story, Jersey girl. Playing with the reader's expectations like that. Great job. You really captured the time and place, too.

Christopher Pimental said...

Liked it much.

Anonymous said...

David Harry Moss says:
slam bang action in every way, sleazy noir characters, and a kick ass ending - as good as it gets -

Trey R. Barker said...

Well done. Pam's sense of longing for, and fear of, Room 314 is incredibly well drawn. And the fact that we don't see the crime - because the larger crime, spiritually and in Pam's eyes, is Howard's leaving with Melanie - is wonderful. This is a monster story with a great cast of losers. Bravo!

Chris Gordon said...

Creepy. Great ending. I enjoyed it.