"Ew! My socks are all dirty!" Jamie sat on the hotel bed, left ankle on right knee, staring at the bottom of her foot.
"What?" Arnold, sitting at the small table, looked up from his e-reader.
Jamie stretched her leg toward him and flexed her ankle. The bottom of her white sock was now a mottled brown.
"Put your shoes back on, then," Arnold said.
"I shouldn't have to wear my shoes in my hotel room."
Arnold looked at the dark green carpet between his own shod feet. It didn't look pristine, but it didn't look particularly grungy, either. "Are you sure you didn't just have some dirt in your shoe?"
"In both shoes? Nuh-uh. It's the carpet." Jamie swiveled around on the bed, laid on her stomach, and tried to reach her canvas shoes, which lay beside Arnold's chair, without coming into further contact with the dirty carpet. It reminded Arnold of a childhood game he often played with his older brother where they would pretend the floor was made of lava. He smiled.
"Excuse me!" Jamie said. "A little help here!"
"Oh, I'm sorry dear." Arnold kicked her shoes toward the wall, farther from the bed.
"Hey!" Jamie said, trying not to smile.
Arnold chuckled and winked, pushed his chair back and to the side, bent down, and retrieved her shoes. "Ho-ly crap."
He passed her shoes to her without looking up from the floor. "Put your shoes on." Jamie slipped her shoes on and walked over next to her husband. "Look," he said, pointing at the baseboard trim.
Running along the base of the wall was a half-inch strip of carpet that escaped dirt and grime embedded into the carpet in the rest of the room. It revealed the carpet's surprising original color.
"The carpet's blue?" Jamie said, her eyes wide.
"Apparently so. Get your stuff. We're getting a different room."
They tossed their suitcases into their hatchback and drove up to the front office. The middle-aged Vietnamese man who had given them their room key just half an hour earlier still stood watch behind the front desk.
Arnold explained the carpet situation and politely asked to be moved to a different, cleaner room.
The clerk equally politely and in broken English explained that no other rooms were available because this was their busy season.
Arnold not-quite-so-politely asked for their money back.
The clerk quite impolitely explained that a refund was impossible.
Jamie stepped in and got downright rude.
Having secured their refund and handed over the key, they slogged back to the car. "Now what?" Jamie asked.
"Every other place in this tourist trap is a hotel. We'll find a room in one of those."
"We'd better hurry," Jamie said. "Our dinner reservations are in an hour, and the show starts an hour and a half after that."
They picked a nearby hotel that looked decent and not too pricey, but the desk clerk informed them that they, too, were booked solid for the entire weekend. They got the same thing from the next two hotels. Their fourth attempt, a well-known chain in a five-story building, was also booked up, but the desk clerk offered to let them sleep on cots in one of their utility closets.
Building after building they went: Hotels, motels, inns, and suites; posh five-star hotels and scummy no-star flea-bag motels. Every place, the same answer: NO VACANCY.
Four hours (and seventeen hotels) later, at an aging motel nearly an hour's drive from their original location, they finally heard the words they had been looking for all night: "We have just one room left. It's a—"
"We'll take it!" Arnold and Jamie said.
They dragged their luggage down a row of grimy red doors until they found #13. Arnold unlocked the door with a tarnished brass key, reached into the dark room for the switch, and flipped on the lights.
The room was almost identical to the one they had left behind. Same beige walls and spackled ceiling. Same gaudy lamp and yellowed lampshade. Same faded, ugly, floral-print blanket on the full-size bed. But the carpet was a light blue, save for some splotchy stains near the small round table.
Arnold let the door swing shut and dropped into the room's only chair.
"At least the carpet looks clean," Jamie said. She sat on the edge of the bed, pulled her foot onto her knee, and grabbed hold of her shoelace.
CRACK-A-WHUMP! Jamie found herself bounce-sliding down the now sharply angled bed and onto the floor. Both legs on the side of the bed she had been sitting on had collapsed.
"What the hell?!" she spat. "Can you believe this?! Arnold?"
Arnold sat in the chair, head resting on his forearm on the table, eyes closed, a bead of drool just beginning to form on his lower lip.
Jamie sighed. "At least the carpet's clean," she told herself as she pushed the mattress off the frame and flat onto the floor. She kicked off her shoes, turned off the lights, and climbed under the covers.