Part 1, Section 1
Part 1: Fifty Shades of Gangrene
I woke up in a motel room I’d never seen. No matter how hard I’ve thought about it since, I have no memory of how I got there or what happened the night before.
There were beer bottles all over the side table. Not to mention a completely empty eighth of Jack Daniels. What looked like some kind of fancy foreign wine bottle, also drained, was filled with cigarette butts. The TV, one of those old boxy sets, had fallen back against the wall, and in the corner an armchair was lying on its side. Feathers were everywhere; one of the pillows had been torn open.
I was pretty sure I was alone.
No one was in bed with me. When I leaned over to check the floor I saw only more feathers and more beer bottles scattered across the carpet—along with my clothes. All of them. My jeans were in a pile against the wall with my underwear still bunched inside. My bra hung over the one armchair that was still standing.
I realized, only now, that I was naked.
I tried not to think about the fact that there was no good reason I would have needed to check into a motel if I’d been with my husband. I'm only 21, but I live in a really small town where just about everyone gets married before they're twenty, like I did. It's just what people do around here. I looked at the mess around me. I'd been dating Shawn since I was in high school, plently long enough to know that he definitely didn’t drink wine. Not even whiskey, really.
And yet despite my fear about whatever it was I’d done the night before, and despite my apparent blackout, and the pervasive smell of stale cigarettes—and some other smell too, I noticed now, something faintly rancid—I felt, well . . . great.
It was as if I’d been sleeping for days and had woken up completely refreshed. I didn’t have the slightest headache. I didn't feel a hint of nausea. When I stood, I practically leapt out of bed. I pulled on my pants and felt like I had the energy to race up a cliff.
But I still couldn’t remember anything.
Other than the bottles everywhere, there was no evidence of whoever else had been with me in the room. The only clothes I’d found on the floor had been mine, and the bathroom was empty. The only thing in the mini-bar fridge, weirdly, was an empty gallon milk container.
I looked under the bed and checked my pockets, but I couldn’t find my phone. So I couldn’t even look at my recent calls. Had I lost it, or had someone stolen it? I had no idea.
Outside, it was a beautiful day. But when I stepped into what I recognized now as the parking lot of the Starlight Motel, I realized that it wasn’t morning. The sun was already starting to set. Apparently I’d slept all afternoon.
Now that I was out in the fresh air, things started to come back to me about the day before, if not the night.
Suddenly I remembered what I'd found at the high school with my brother-in-law. I remembered how I’d helped carry it even. I remembered the stench, and how afterward I couldn’t quite wash off the smell. I wondered if maybe it was the scent I'd been smelling inside the motel room.
I also remembered why my car was nowhere to be seen. I live in Muldoon, Colorado, and if you haven’t heard of it, you’re basically like everybody else in the world who isn’t from Muldoon. We don’t even have a stoplight. It’s that small. The only thing that ever happens is the fair, once a year. The kids sell their livestock, there’s a carnival and a rodeo, and everyone pretty much has an excuse to get drunk all weekend.
I do the books at this trucking company whose office is right across from the fairgrounds. I usually park in the lot there, and when I got off work early yesterday there was this huge bus blocking my car. It was emblazoned with a massive Bryce Tripp logo. He was supposed to be this up-and-coming country star, but, honestly, I hadn’t heard of him before a few days ago. (How big could he really be if he was giving a concert at the Muldoon fair?) The people in charge of his bus must have been waiting to get into the rodeo grounds where his concert was going to be, but I couldn’t find the driver anywhere. I couldn’t even reach my husband because the cell phones were already jammed from everyone arriving from out of town.
So I’d asked my boss for a ride home. I remembered now. I’d figured I’d worry about my car later. I hadn’t really needed it anyway then because Ian, my brother in law, was supposed to give me and Shawn a ride to the fair that night so we could drink, then he was going to bring us home later.
That had been the plan anyway.
Now I was at the Starlight Motel, alone, without a car or a phone, and still no memory at all of how I got there.
I tried to go back and piece together everything that had happened the previous day as best as I could. . .