Friday, June 26, 2009

My Family Vacation Part I: The Motel of Death

Author’s note: This is the first of a four-part story of my family’s summer vacation. I can’t claim it on my taxes if I don’t write about it.

The motel looked good from the outside, as well it should have; it was in a nice town like Omaha. Clean, new, right off the interstate and within a few minutes drive of everything my family would need on vacation.

It was the inside that concerned us.

Although the lobby felt like a room after an argument (the kind of argument that results in widely-scattered blood and several arrests), the motel wasn’t really bad. I’d been in a bad motel before, in Colorado:

Mountain mornings are fantastic, but when I awoke staring at the flowery wallpaper that clashed with every other pattern in the industrialized world, instead of throwing open the curtains and drawing in the majesty that is the Rocky Mountains, I turned on the television, because I’m an American.

“Tragedy unfolded this morning,” the cute, just-out-of-college reporter who always gets the 6 a.m. weekend shift, said as she stood in a parking lot, “as an argument turned deadly in a room at this (insert cheap motel name here).”

I smiled, only because it didn’t involve me.

But as the camera panned out to show the exterior of the motel, I noticed something that slapped me as hard as that girl did in college.

Good Lord, I realized. The reporter’s standing next to my car.

That was the worst motel I’ve been to. This was the second.

I’d made reservations over the phone – something I’ll rethink the next time we go on vacation. Reserving a motel room in Omaha, Neb., from a woman in Bombay, India, is surprisingly impersonal. I was happy with the great deal I’d gotten, but disappointed there was no pool.

However, when the guy whose forearm tattoos boasting “blood, death and Satan,” checked me in, I got over that “no swimming pool” thing. There may have been a body floating in it.

“Did you see the writing in the hallway?” my wife asked as I rushed my family into our room, secured every lock on the door, and booby-trapped a shotgun pointing chest-high at anyone who might walk in. I hoped housekeeping knocked.

Yeah, I’d seen the words, “Blood Gang,” outside our door. I’d also seen the crowbar marks where someone had once broken in, although I kept telling myself he’d simply misplaced his card-key.

“Are you nervous?” she asked, because I was. It must have been the sweat, or the involuntary shakes that tipped her off.

It was my own fault. I didn’t discover I was trying to book a room two days in advance of the College World Series until I tried to book a room two days in advance of the College World Series. It was now the “Blood Gang” room or the streets.

“No, I said, reaching for the room’s mini-fridge. “If we don’t touch anything, or go near the window, or sleep, or … oh, look at that. A head.”

Well, it wasn’t a head. It was a half-empty bottle of something orange and a cucumber. Either way, I wasn’t about to touch it.

Next week: The Henry Doorly Zoo and College World Series parking.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Is It Always the Groin?

The Girl ran through the water with all the energy her two-year-old toddlerness could muster, which is approximately enough to power Detroit through a rough winter.

Her mother and I have, of course, told her not to run at the pool 1,001 times. This is not hyperbole; we’ve kept track.

“Daddy, Daddy,” she screamed, although her mother and I have, of course, told her not to scream at the pool.

We’re no longer surprised she doesn’t hear us. All parents will eventually realize their children only consider them “those big people who give us food.” When they’re teens that turns into, “those people who embarrass us/give us money/gave us their hairline.” What we say isn’t really important. You know, like “don’t play in the street,” “don’t eat the thing wrapped in foil in the back of the fridge,” “study.”

“Honey, don’t run at the …” I started, but was stopped by a sudden blinding pain.

Using a cursory, “awe, isn’t she cute,” glance, a child looks like a soft little bundle of fluff that is fun to play with. In reality, a child is pointy, possesses at least six knees, 14 elbows and a head I’m convinced was built on the planet Krypton.

I bent forward, but not voluntarily.

The groin, I wondered as the pain subsided and I could see shapes and colors again. Why is it always the groin?

Fathers, I’ve found – the hard way, and don’t think I haven’t cursed my father for not warning me – spend roughly 37 percent of their day working, 29 percent sleeping (mostly in front of the television), 19 percent eating/driving/thinking about cheerleaders, and 15 percent in the fetal position gasping for air.

What I wouldn’t give for a bruised thigh or a fat lip. At least then I wouldn’t wonder why we spent all that money for a vasectomy when it was going to be done at home for free. I usually wonder this while lying in a pool of my own tears.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.

“Hhhhhheeeeeehhhh,” I wheezed.

“She got you again?” she said, trying her best to sound sympathetic.

I nodded.

Ladies, you’re wonderful understanding people who have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about. When this injury happens in the movies, everyone laughs, Dad gets up and goes about his business, which usually involves doing something socially awkward in front of his kid’s friends. Hollywood is founded on lies. When this happens in real life, everyone still laughs, but Dad doesn’t get up.

When the color came back to my face, we left. Not because of me, the kids were tired after dragging me out of the water.

On the ride home, the Girl and the Boy screamed when they saw a woman walking her golden retriever down the street.

“Maybe we should get a dog,” my wife said.

Great, that’s just what I need, another pointy thing in the house.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at