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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 15 page 03

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There is nothing in particular on his mind; no troubles or worries. This state of affairs does not seem peculiar to him. In truth, it is hard for him to recall a time when anything troubled him. Forgetting that it is broken, he checks his wrist watch again and shakes it, putting his ear to the glass face. No ticking. Instead, the soft roar of the waves in the distance and a couple of gulls overhead. If he really strains his ears he can hear the jolly melody of a penny arcade or slot machine out on the pier.

Checking his pockets, he finds them empty but for a spotted handkerchief, with which he dabs at his brow. He is still not concerned, merely bemused. Turning away from the ocean, he polishes his spectacles with the handkerchief. There appear to be two choices for him. He can amble down the pier or he can climb the steps to the hotel.

He marches across the wooden decking and onto the flagstones paving the front of the hotel. He enters the hotel lobby, empty-headed. In the same way that his mind is clear of thoughts, the lobby is clear of people. The concierge desk stands unmanned. The room is air-conditioned and cool, a break from the afternoon heat. In every corner is a well-watered fern. The man's shoes squeak as he crosses the floor. Placing both hands on the polished wooden desk, he inspects it for signs of life. Somewhere a radio is playing but he cannot make out the song.

Noticing that the clock above the desk has stopped, he lightly taps the bell on the desk, his first hint of impatience. He taps once more. He is unsure of why he does this. He does not desire a room or a table. Loneliness aside he is otherwise content. But ringing the bell does not matter as the people staffing this desk, if indeed there are any, are nowhere to be found.

Other than the bell, the only object inhabiting the desk is a cream coloured Bakelite telephone, an excellent companion to the colour of his suit. He picks up the handset and tries to recall his home number but cannot. At this stage dignity will not let him express his alarm. Putting the set to his ear, there is no dial tone. The telephone is completely dead.

He walks outside, back into the sunshine. Shielding his eyes, he checks the seafront again. Out to sea there are no boats on the deep blue waves, despite the calm waters and mild weather. No tourists stroll along the decking and all of the vendors’ stands are closed, despite it probably being peak time. Still the pier doesn't appeal to him. The empty hotel warrants further investigation. He steps back inside the foyer. The floor is polished and clean. No rust or corrosion erodes the metal anywhere in the lobby. The glass is unscratched and spotless. He crosses the lobby to one of the ornate sets of white double doors. Gripping the curved brass handle, he turns it firmly to discover that it is locked. Therefore access to the ballroom and the dining hall is blocked.

Back at the desk, he sweeps his finger along the desk front but trawls no dust. He runs his fingers on the underside for splinters, nails or even discarded gum but to no avail. Behind the desk, he pulls out the drawers. There are bundles of paper but each one is crisp, white and blank. There are no pens or seals to blemish the stationary. He is perplexed. On the wall beneath the clock are plenty of hooks which would hold keys, were any keys present. This, surely, is a positive sign? There being no keys present then logically they must be in the possession of the hotel guests. A radio still murmurs out of the edge of his hearing. That, and the cries of the gulls and his own footfalls are the only sounds.

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