The blare of a horn startles Nora out of her half-sleep. It’s coming from outside the window to the left of her bed, from the parking lot of the Newark Airport Best Western. The hotel is a good fifteen-minute drive from the airport. The reception area, where Nora waited behind a woman clutching a sleeping child while her husband argued with the old Indian lady behind the counter, smelled like a combination of curry and formaldehyde. On her way up to her fourth floor room she’d hit the wrong elevator button, disembarked one floor above her own, and found the halls piled with rolls of pink insulation and all the doors flung open, rooms lit bright and bare. There was something garish, something disquieting about all those gaping rooms, that made her turn her back and count, silently in her head, the seconds, the numbers ticking by – two, three, four, five – as she waited for the elevator to return.
Usually, Nora prided herself on not being easily daunted. Thirty-four years old and recently headhunted for an executive position at Pfargen, she liked to convey an image of bold intrepidness, with a little bit of bluster thrown in. At 5’3” with blonde hair cropped in a pixie cut above her ears and a petite, athletic build, Nora looked even younger than she was. A little well-placed bravado helped establish her prowess in an arena that could be ruthless. Some of her colleagues found her intimidating, some endearing. She found she could judge a lot about someone’s character, and how successful they’d be in the business, by those reactions. When she could smell their intimidation, she congratulated herself on how thoroughly she was able to disguise her own.
Nora traveled often for work and was used to minor but annoying inconveniences that came with the territory, but the events of this evening had left her exhausted and on edge. She had accepted a ride to the airport from the conference she was attending with two Account Execs from a different firm. They were assigned the same table for the final evening’s banquet, everyone boozy and effusively friendly in that summer-camp-for-adults atmosphere that pervades such events. As they chewed rubbery chicken and butter-doused carrots, a middle-aged man at their table had taken the moment to boast to the group that, after many years of practice, he’d successfully mastered the skill of autofellatio. The table went silent and the man’s wife, seated beside him, sighed as if this happened all the time and muttered, “Well, I’m certainly not going to do it for him.”
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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories