Stuck-Up Suit

By: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward



A woman boarded at the next stop and sat directly across from Graham. She was young, and the length of her skirt bordered on inappropriate. Her tanned legs were toned, bare and sexy, even my eyes lingered for a moment. Yet the lion never pounced. He never even seemed to actually notice her as he alternated between reading and mindlessly clicking that big watch of his. I totally would have taken him for more of a whore than that.

When his stop came, I made the decision that I’d give him back the phone. Tomorrow. One more day wouldn’t matter. For the rest of my trip, I went back through his pictures. Only this time, I studied them, paying close attention to the details of the background rather than the focal subject.

The photo of him and the old lady was taken in front of a fireplace. I hadn’t noticed it before. The mantel was lined with a dozen picture frames. I zoomed in on the frame that was the least pixilated. It was of a young boy and a woman. The boy looked about eight or nine and was wearing a uniform of some sort. The woman—at least I thought it was a woman—had something close to a crew cut. The boy might have been Graham, but I couldn’t be sure. I almost missed my stop zooming in on what turned out to be a mailman in the back of another shot. What the hell was I doing?

I stopped at my usual coffee truck and ordered. “I’ll take a grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk.”

Anil shook his head and chuckled. Every once in a while, when he had a line of women who looked like they got lost trying to find a Starbucks, I would order something ridiculous. Loudly. I’d usually get at least one who believed Anil’s Halal Meat served fru fru drinks. Basically, you had four choices: black, milk, sugar, or go somewhere the hell else—he didn’t even carry Equal. Dropping my buck in the cup, he handed me my usual black coffee, and I laughed as I walked away hearing a woman ask if he made Frappuccinos.

When I arrived at the office, Ida was in a particularly rancid mood. Fucking awesome. The whole world thought Ask Ida was a beloved American institution; only a select few knew the truth. The woman who delved out heaping doses of sugary advice got her jollies from screwing people and being cheap.

“Find a number for the Celestine Hotel,” was how she greeted me.

I powered on the tower to the old desktop computer she had me work on. The Internet on my phone was much faster, but I wasn’t using up my data because she refused to move into the twenty-first century. Five minutes later, I brought her the number in her office.

“Here you go. Would you like me to make a reservation for you?”

“Grab the travel folder from the file cabinet.”

I handed it to her and waited since she never answered my question. Ida flipped through the bulging file until she found a small, folded card—the kind the hotel leaves with the maid’s name on it. She read it and then held it out to me. “Call the hotel. Tell them Margaritte doesn’t know how to clean a room. That the last time I stayed at the Celestine, the carpet wasn’t properly vacuumed, and there were black hairs on the wall in the shower.”

“Okay…”

“Mention Margaritte by name and that I specifically want a room cleaned by someone else. Then ask for a discount.”

“What if they won’t give a discount?”

“Then book the room anyway. My room was perfectly clean last time.”

“You mean the carpet and shower weren’t dirty?”

She let out an exasperated sigh as if I was trying her patience. “Their room rates are highway robbery. I’m not paying $400 a night.”

“So instead you want me to possibly get someone fired?”

She raised one thick, drawn-on eyebrow. “Would you rather it be you?”

Yeah. This bitch should be giving advice on morality.



***



LUCKY FOR ME, IT WAS WEDNESDAY—the day Ida met her editor each week. So, at least, I only had to put up with her for half a day before she left me with a page long to-do list:

Order new business cards. (Make them less colorful this time, I run a business not a circus.)

Update blog. (Yellow folder has daily letters and responses. Do not improvise as you type. Ask Ida does NOT suggest doing it doggy style to cheer up your boyfriend who just lost his beloved Jack Russell terrier).

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