By - Aug 14, 2017

The room was beach themed, even though the place was called The Ranch. When room service rang, he declined the turn down but accepted the chocolates.  He didn’t share them with his wife.  He ate them both near the vanity, hidden from the rest of the room.  They were caramel inside.
     The main wall with the TV was chair rail and a large oval mirror wrapped in manila rope hung on an anchor shaped hanger next to the bed.  Due to the mirror’s position, they could watch themselves have sex if they wanted.  He decided not to mention this.
     A painting of a puffer fish was mounted above the headboard.
     Those can be very poisonous if eaten incorrectly, he had told his wife when they arrived earlier, but she wasn’t listening.
     The night before, at home, they’d only slept for thirty-minute stretches.  The baby needed to be pacified constantly.

After the chocolates, he cut the thick toenails of his left foot over the toilet using the nickel-plated clippers she’d bought for him.  Some of the clippings missed the bowl and shot off in different directions.  He didn’t pick them up.  He still had one more foot to go.

    Honey, his wife called.
     I’m in the bathroom, he said.  He took his time.
     When he was done, he walked slowly into the room.  The baby was fussing in her arms as she held him on the bed.
     I need some room temperature bottled water for his formula, she said.
     I’ll let you spearhead that, he said.
     Do you want to hold the baby then? she asked.  He looked at the baby, it’s squirming body and reddening face.
     What’s wrong with water from the sink?
     That’s not good water, she said.
     Call room service, he said.
     They’ll take too long, she said.
     He slid into sandals and opened the sliding door that led out to the patio.  It was still light out.  They were nestled deep in a dry canyon.  He could only see a peel of sky.

He followed the walkway until he found the pool.  Two people tossed sandbags underhand at each other, playing corn hole.  Most of the green umbrellas had been closed, the pool cast in shadow.  At the gate he met a sign that cautioned against entering the pool with diarrhea.

     He took a seat at the Tiki bar on a high wicker chair. Another customer, a man, was talking about a party and drinking ’68 Chateau Latours before pushing off.  When it was his turn, he hesitated, but then decided—a beer.
     The bartender sliced a lime on a cutting board and stuck it in the hole of the can.
     Without lime is a crime, the bartender said to him.
     He pushed the wedge all the way in and got some of its flesh when he took the first sip.  Bees were darting all around. He heard a big splash from a child’s jump.
     These bees, a woman said a couple chairs over.  She wore a fringed bikini top and drank from a plastic flute of rosé.  I let one of them sit on my knee earlier and it bit me!  It felt like pin pricks, she said.  I was afraid to swat it, she said.  I didn’t want to get stung.
     The woman rose and left.  He was the only one there.  When he finished his beer he ordered a Cadillac margarita.

He tried the sliding the glass door, but it was locked, wouldn’t budge—so he knocked. Everything was dark now.  He heard the lock, the opening yawn, the baby’s cries.

     Where have you been? she said in a loud whisper.
     The water is no good here, he said to her entering.  I tried all kinds, and it’s no good.
     He felt a sharp sting on his back from her slap.  He kept on though.  He reached down into the Pack n Play and grabbed his screaming son.
     What are you doing, she said.
     He held the baby up to his face.
     I love you, he said in a breathy sort of way.  I love you, he repeated.  The baby stopped crying and looked at him, eyes wide.
     See? he said to his wife.  He doesn’t need water!




Ashton Politanoff lives in Redondo Beach, CA.  He is a frequent contributor to NOON