I wrote this as a writing exercise and kept it around because it amused me. The prompt for the exercise was the phrase, "Give me the goddamn key!"


Even as I wrote it, I wasn't sure which way it would go. Part of me thought the young man was a burglar trying to weasel his way in, and part of me wanted to play it straight. I'm happy with the choice I made, but I admit being curious to see the flip side of the coin.

Lovelace Hotel

A man in a green jogging suit tapped his fingers against the hotel counter. “Pardon me, ma’am.”


The plump old lady gave him a delighted smile. “Yes, young man. How can I help you?”


“Well, you see, I’m in a bit of a pickle here. I went out for a quick run this morning, and I forgot the key.”


“Oh, dear.” The old lady shook her head. “That’s quite unfortunate.”


“Indeed.” The man smiled expectantly. 


“I bet you’ll be twice as careful next time, won’t you,” the old lady admonished.


“Absolutely. Will never happen again.”


They stood there in silence, looking at each other.


“So, my key is up in my room,” the man tried again.


“So it would seem,” agreed the lady.


“And I would really like to get back in there. This morning, preferably.”


“I imagine that will be quite difficult,” the lady nodded sagely.


“That’s where I was hoping you could offer some assistance with my predicament.”


“Oh, with pleasure. How can I be of service?”


The man cleared his throat. “May I have a spare key, please?”


The old lady tsked. She took off her thick glasses, wiped them against her smock, and returned them to the top of her forehead. “I’m afraid it won’t be that simple, young man. Our hotel has a strict security policy, you see. Only the resident of the room in question can request a key.”


“Right.” The man straightened up. “That’s me. I’m requesting it.”


“But I don’t know that, do I,” the lady continued. “You just walked in off the street.”


The man bit his lip, clearly confused. “But I registered with your hotel last night.”


The lady smiled indulgently. “My dear, you can’t possibly expect me to remember everyone who has checked in and out over the many years, can you?”


The last 24 hours would be a start. The man bit his tongue. “You should have my name written in your ledger. I remember signing on the line.”


“Oh, absolutely. May I please see your id?”


The man rubbed his left temple. “See, that would be in my room as well. Right beside the key, in fact. Because I don’t tend to bring my wallet when I go jogging in the morning.”


“A very smart choice. If only you knew how many folks lose their wallets on a regular basis along the strand.”


“Exactly! I’m glad you agree.” The man leaned forward on the counter. “So, can I please go back into my room now?”


“Of course. You’ll be needing a key for that.”


The man ground his teeth. “I am in the ledger. I can show you exactly which line. I just. Need. A spare key.”


“I’m afraid it’s against our policy to issue a key without seeing identification first.” The lady smiled pleasantly, as if the matter was settled.


“Look. I can see the spare keys hanging along the back wall. If you’ll just give me one, I will bring it right back, along with my driver’s license.”


“Oh, but imagine if you were a burglar, young man. You could show anyone’s identification and claim it was you.”


“I CAN’T…” The man forced himself to take a deep breath. “That’s why it’s called a PICTURE id!”


The lady chuckled. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Live to be my age, young man, and you’ll understand. You’re just a pleasant pink blob to me.”


The counter screeched in protest as the man dragged his fingernails across the surface. “I want to speak to the manager.”


“Oh, that’ll be me, young man.” The old lady adjusted her glasses. “Been running this hotel for the past fifty years, I have. Never a single complaint.”


“Is there anyone. Else. Who works here?”


“Oh, but of course. My husband, Larry, cleans the rooms every afternoon.”


“Thank God. Can I please see him?”


“He’s on vacation today.” The lady smiled. “The poor dear works himself so hard. He positively needs a break. But I’ll be sure to tell him tomorrow when he comes back to stop by your room and say hello.”


“Look here, you old crone. I just went for a jog. I need to get into my room, take a shower, and get to work. If you want to walk me up there yourself, that’s fine. But give me the key already!”


“Very well. Let’s see your identification.”


The man slammed both fists against the counter so hard that the flower pots trembled. “Give me the goddamn key!”


The old lady planted her fists on her hips. “Now look here, young man. That is no way to behave in polite company. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Not to mention that you really ought not invoke the name of our Lord in vain.”


Red in the face, the man vaulted over the counter. Ignoring the lady’s protests, he grabbed the spare key off the hook, stomped around the far side of the counter, and stormed off in the direction of the stairs.


“What an impatient young man,” the old lady frowned as she addressed the shaken flowers. “Kids these days. No manners at all.”


A light tap from the other side of the counter attracted her attention. A flustered middle-aged woman was standing there, looking vaguely uncomfortable.


“Yes, my dear? How may I help you this morning?” The lady pushed her glasses back onto her forehead.


“Hello. Um. I was hoping... if it isn’t too much trouble... I could use a spare towel.”


“Oh. Oh my.” The lady shook her head, deep regret in every aged wrinkle on her face. “I’m afraid it won’t be that simple, young lady. My husband Larry isn’t here today, you see...”