A Penny For Your Thoughts

By: Jeremy Ridnor

An elderly man named Howard Stidham is sitting on a queen size bed. Howard has stringy salt and pepper hair. He is wearing a thick pair glasses. He inhales deeply on a Newport cigarette and as he does a trail of ashes shrivel up like an aging piece of fruit. Newport’s were Howard’s favorite brand of cigarettes, and it was his first one in thirteen years, five months, and four days. He regretted getting a nonsmoking room, because it had no ashtray he had to use his half-filled scotch glass. Howard was becoming very antsy; he kept looking at the Casio alarm clock that was sitting on the nightstand beside him. His right knee rapidly moved up and down. It was one of Howard’s nervous habits. Howard felt apprehensive about what he was about to do. He was incredibly nervous, but at the same time he felt alive. Here he was fifty-nine years old man sitting on some stiff bed in some mediocre hotel waiting for his guest to arrive.

It was getting late and Howard was getting sleepy partially due to the fact that he had seven in a half shots of scotch in the last hour. He had also begun to feel a tad nauseous as well as dizzy. He would belch and occasionally warm vomit would bubble up into his mouth. The taste would linger as it soaked into his taste buds. Suddenly there was a boisterous knock on the door. His heart skipped a beat and his right knee froze. This was it she was finally here. Howard too one last puff from his cigarette and then he squished into his scotch glass. He slicked back his greasy hair, and as he did this he checked his breath. His breath smelled vile, it was a mixture between scotch, cigarettes, and tuna sandwich all of which he bought at a gas station. He quickly grabbed the green flavored tic tacs from his front pocket. He popped open the lid and gulped down about four of them. He stopped in front of the door. He stood there for a while thinking and chewing his tic tacs which made his tongue green. His superego was chastising was making him feel guilty and ashamed. His conscience made a valid argument, but it was no match for temptation. What lurked behind that door was something so taboo so appealing, that he could not resist it. He took a deep breath and then slowly opened the door.

In the frame of the door stood a young man who was about six-feet tall give or take a few inches. He had bleached hair and had two earrings one in each ear. He was wearing an extremely tight shirt that pressed against his erect nipples. However, the worst part of his attire was the banana thong that he wore. Patches of pubic hair seem to be crawling out like spiders along the sides of the thong. The silk cloth was pressed so tightly against his pelvis that one could clearly make out the exact size of his flaccid penis. He pushed Howard out of the way and walked into the hotel room. He began looking around the place, and then he turned around and looked at Howard. His eyes moved up and down as he took in what Howard looked like. Then he started to walk towards him.

“So I don’t think we should waste anytime lets get down to business,” said the bleached hair guy in a Porta Rican accent.

The man had an amazing amount of strength and could easily push Howard down. On top of that Howard was so shock that even a feather would knock him down. He landed on the bed. His mouth was wide open, he was tiring to speak, but was too flustered that he could not say anything. All he managed to do were make some grunting noises. The other man ripped off his shirt and then hurdled onto Howard. He began rocking back and fourth on top of him. Howard felt incredibly uncomfortable, in fact he felt sick to his stomach. Howard was just about to say get off me when all of a sudden his stomach felt like it had shrunk. Before he know it white creamy colored liquid came pouring out of Howard’s mouth and it impacted this man’s waxed chest. The texture was thick and gooey and there were small traces of tuna that were embed inside of the vomit. The stench was so horrible that it started to make the other man gag.

“Aww sick. Hey man, what the hell is wrong with you. You sick or something?” said the bleached hair man.

“You are the one that is sick, who do you think you are. I am not a fucking fag. Why are you here?”

“I was sent here by an escort services. Do you have any towels?”

“No there must be some kind of mistake I didn’t order any… Wait a second um… I order a woman escort.”

“Well I don’t know what happen, but all I know is that I have an appoint for room 4C. Now where are the damn towels?”

“Alright fine, I am going to call them up and clear this up. So why don’t you take a towel from the bathroom and then just leave.”

“Listen I am not leaving until I get paid. I had to take two subways and a bus to get down here, so you better pay up.” He goes to the bathroom and takes out a cotton towel that has the logo Holiday Inn sewn into the cotton.

“What, no I don’t need to pay you, I don’t want your services.”

“I don’t want to have to hurt you, but I will if I have to, now I want to be paid and I want to be paid now.”

“Okay fine whatever. How much?”

“Three hundred.”

“What, that is ridiculous. I will give you a hundred.”

“Nope three hundred.”

“You are a crook, I will give you two hundred and that is it.”

“This isn’t a negotiation.”

“Okay fine I will give you three hundred dollars happy now. I don’t suppose you take checks?”

“I only take cash.”

“I figured, let me get my wallet.” Howard fumbled throw his wallet and grabbed a wad of cash. He began counting it, but then realized he only had two hundred and thirty-six dollars and eighty-nine cents. “I don’t have exactly three hundred dollars.”

“How much do you have?”

“About two forty.”

“Hey if you give me some of that scotch I think we can call it even.”

“Sure whatever.”

“I have been in some pretty shitty hotels in my day, but this isn’t too bad. I have always liked Holiday Inn. It has a quaintness about it.” He went into the bathroom and grabbed a plastic cup. He began unraveling the plastic. He then poured himself a genius glass of scotch. “Sorry I yelled at you. So what is your name anyway?”

“It’s Howard,” said Howard in a soft voice.

“That is an interesting name you don’t hear that name used too often. Wait a second actually I think one of my costumers was named Howard. Yeah it was Howard Nicholson he was a banker or something like that. It is amazing what kind of people you meet in this job, if you could call it that.” There is a slight pause. “Well my name is Raphael.”

“Nice to meet you Raphael.”

“So what do you do Howard?”

“Um I use to own a restaurant, but now I… um why are you still here?”

“Well you paid me for my time. So what restaurant did you own?”

“It was called The Hidden Cavern. We use to be a five star restaurant, until one day they found a bunch of rats. Apparently there was a whole swarm of rats that lived in the walls. So they shut us down and I have been trying to play the market ever since, but I haven’t had any luck with that either.”

“That’s terrible, I heard about that on the news. Hey Howard can I ask you something?”

“Alright.”

“I don’t want to impose, but what are doing here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not blind I can see that you have a wedding band on, and also I happen to glance at your wallet when you were counting the money and I noticed that you have kids. So why would you want to throw all away?”

“I don’t feel comfortable talking to you about that it is private.”

“Who am I going to tell? Come on tell me?”

“I guess I’ll tell you what the hell. I don’t even know myself to be honest with you. I just… I just want to be touched you know. She never wants to have sex anymore, but it is not only that we never even kiss or hold hands anymore. I guess over the years we have just grown apart. We just don’t communicate anymore. I love her, but a man has needs. A man needs to be loved. I have never done anything like this before. I don’t even know what I am doing here, I guess I am just really lonely.” His eyes begin to water, but he holds back the tears. “I’m just past my prime and I just wanted to remember what it’s like to be young again.”

“That is rough. Well having sex with a prostitute is not the answer there are other things you can do you know. Like maybe you can go to marriage counseling or something like that.”

“Yeah maybe. You know I am kind of glad you showed up, because if it were a woman I would have probably done something that I would have regretted. So since I bought your time let me ask you the same question you asked me, why are you here?”

“What am I doing here? Good question. I don’t know myself. Well I guess I do. I remember when I was little that I wanted to be a… a… well it is probably going to sound stupid.”

“Just tell me.”

“Alright you promise not to laugh.”

“Yeah I promise.”

“I wanted to be an explorer. I wanted to travel and see the world, but then reality set in. You see I come from a poor family. Me and my three brothers were raised only by my mother. My dad left us when I was six. She had three jobs, and she barely made enough money to put food on the table. One day she um… she got sick. We didn’t have health insurance and she could not afford taking off work. Three months later she died. Later on we found out that she died from pneumonia. I loved my mother. Well I was the oldest of my brothers so I had to find work. I dropped out of school and took any work I could find, but no one would hire a minor, except for Bruno. Bruno was like a father to me and my brothers, he taught us as much as he could and he put food on the table and clothes on our backs. In return when I turned eighteen I agreed to work for him. So here I am twenty four and I am a male prostitute.”

“I am sorry you had to go through all that. You know that isn’t fair we are all people why should some people have to live like that. You are not an animal; you deserve a real education and a real job and most of all happiness. Just because you were born into a poor family you must suffer. That isn’t fair god dammit.”

“You right it isn’t fair, but there is nothing we can do about it. But look at you have a good amount of money from what I gather, a wife, kids, an education, but you are still miserable. I mean I fucking envy everything that you have, but when it comes down to it we are both pathetic and miserable. I mean why even go on living if even when you are successful you are still sad. You know the only people who are happy in this fucking world are the retards. They are blissfully on aware of all this shit that goes on this world.”

“Yeah and you know who else is happy and at peace, fucking religious people. I don’t want to offend you and forgive me if I do, but all those nut jobs that believe in a higher power really live better lives. Maybe they are wrong, but at least they are not pessimistic and they are at peace.”

“Yeah I know what you mean. Well we got another hour what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know, you hungry?”

“Yeah I could eat.”

“I know this great café down on the fourth street, you want to go… my treat?”

“Sure why not.”