And so I was flipping through various online magazines looking for something to submit something to, and I discovered this one called X-connect or CrossConnect or whatever (I can find it if I have to). Here is one of the stories from the 'current issue' under fiction and non-fiction:Your Formative Year at the Holiday Inn
by S A R A H W E R H A N B U T T E N W I E S E R
This happened before cable.
In those days, there was pinball in the basement, next to two vending machines, one for soda, one for peanut butter crackers, M&M's and Wrigley's Spearmint gum. The soda machine had buttons you pushed, while food required pulling plastic knobs, then waiting until the desired item careened to the metal gully below,1 like a barrel going over falls. The ice machine hummed, a white noise device. Green carpet—that chemical shade used on golf courses being the flagship color for Holiday Inn—lined the hallway.
For a quarter you got five tries. By week thirteen, you always got a least two free balls, so the coin lasted a while, like red licorice if you sucked but did not chew.2 Your younger sister watched you be better a pinball. It set you up for a life of conflict together: the combination of things between you being unfair while she remained mesmerized by you. You smugly pulled your elbow back with what you imagined was finesse and released a silver ball to travel through an impossible maze of flashing lights and buzzing bells.
Another activity was riding the elevator. Since this Holiday Inn was situated just off the expressway that ran between suburbia and the city, across the street from a local television station and a hospital and a restaurant, it did not have fancy aspirations: no glass elevators, no orbiting restaurant with a spectacular view. From the hotel, you could not see the muddy river festooned by ribbons of overcrowded and pitholed highway.3a and 3b For kids who liked to jump down as many stairs as possible at their mothers—and recently their father's—house the elevators stood for something. At first you were not allowed to ride them on your own. Your father relaxed though, and the two of you, or you alone, could travel up and down as often as you liked. It was fun, although during the course of this year elevators lost their mystique.
There was room service, which you often called on school nights or if everyone seemed cranky. The menu went on for pages and pages, including many cocktails that you knew were disgusting. Your father didn't drink. Usually, your father and sister had hamburgers or steak. French fries for you and your sister. You dad always ordered applesauce with his meat. The food came garnished with a sprig of parsley and a beet-red slice of spiced apple. They served Heinz ketchup, the only ketchup that counted. The food came on wheeled tables under silver domes to keep it warm. Lifting the domes always felt special. Room service sometimes delivered breakfast, too: toast and cereal, bacon,4 fresh fruit. On school days, you didn't have time for complicated breakfasts like French toast or pancakes before you piled into the backseat of your father's car.
Parking was not difficult at this Holiday Inn. Your father could leave the red sedan either in the front of the hotel or in the parking garage. There was nothing particularly unique about this parking lot and garage, other than the fact that the ground seemed to slope in the direction of the river. You were never once nervous in the parking areas of strangers or the dark. So many things have become more dangerous, but that's not the point. What's important here is that parking was simple. Some things had to be.
Your father seemed sad. He was a little man spending almost every night alone in a tall hotel, a building in which the unit allocated to each person was as small as a cubby in the hulking structure, with shiny windows and a big revolving sign in front. There were so many windows it was impossible to know which room was his if you searched the front of the hotel.
Your mother, who wanted him back, didn't want to want him back.5 When he dropped you off, she did not smile because she hated to see him. She had to be waiting; you were too young to have your own key. Your sister, for one, would be scared to be home alone. Your sister toted her stuffed armadillo with her everywhere, the odd, grey creature your grandmother brought back from a trip to Arizona. You couldn't understand how such an uncuddly animal comforted her. You'd stick to bears, thanks very much. Bears didn't seem to help, though. Loneliness didn't bring you close, just glued you all into the same arena of stickiness, the way insects got caught in a web. Each person's aloneness was separately experienced.
[the story is cut-short here]
Footnotes1 Bad bad bad. Bad. People have got to stop using this word. You've just got to stop it.
2 See Eggers: Nostalgia for nostalgia's sake.
3a See Eggers: Words I would have to look up (e.g. words that don't mean anything to me at this time)
3b Words that should have been 'potholed', but somehow, the auther came up with 'pitholed' and thought it would be, like, [alt cool] or something and nobody was willing to tell them, 'there's a little piece of salad stuck in your essay.'
4 Genius. Pure and utter genius word choice.
5 See Eggers criticism: 'I could never write so freely about my mother, or anyone else in my family.' They (my family) wanted me to write about them, but they didn't want me to want them to want me to want to write about them.