A pretty common, though not at all ethical, practice in hotels is “freelance rental.” Say a friend is too drunk to drive home, and is almost broke. Or he’s got a girlfriend he doesn’t need the missus finding out about. Whatever. He passes you ten bucks, maybe a couple joints, some pills, whatever. You give him the key to a “down room” (a room that, for whatever reason, is unrentable. Leaky roof, broken bed, needs painted, smells like piss, etc.), and let him spend the night. As long as he cleans up after himself, and sneaks out before the maid starts her morning rounds, no harm, no foul.

Word had spread through my circle of friends that I could be relied on to provide this service. And then those friends told their friends. Doing this, I nearly doubled what I was making every week doing legit check ins.

Enter Luke The Gook.

Luke the Gook was an old Vietnamese man who fled to the US after the war (rumor had it that he had been a Viet Cong soldier). The name Luke The Gook was apparently self-applied, and he was very proud of it. He was a very small man, with a shock of white hair and a permanent, toothless grin splitting his face in two like a sliced melon. He had spent his entire life in this country in Alabama, and spoke with a heavy, surreal mix of Vietnamese and broken English, with copious amounts of southern twang mixed in.

And man, oh, man, did he ever love his whores. He was pretty regular at the joint, and every time he was there, he was with a different whore. His preference was for ladies of the darker persuasion, and the heavier, the better. He confided in me once that he liked them to sit on his head, and suffocate him while beating him off.

This one particular night, Luke The Gook came in, carrying a paper bag, and dragging along the single most obese whore I had ever seen. If you’ve ever seen the first Deuce Bigalow movie, you get the picture. With his usual, sloppy, toothless grin, he asked me for our usual arrangement.

“So, we doing this cash, weed, beer? Whatcha got?” I asked.

His grin got even wider. “Eben BETTAH, hoss. Lookit!”

He removed the object from the bag, and placed it on the counter slowly, with the reverence of a monk placing an offering at the feet of Bhudda.

A fucking Big Mouth Billy Bass.

I just stared at Luke for a few seconds.

“Dude. . .wha-??”

“Is good trade!” he insisted. “Bring good luck!”

“Dude. . .WHA-??”

“Watch dis!” he said proudly, pushing the red button on the plackard. The fish jumped to life, thrashing, singing his song. Suddenly, Luke The Gook began dancing gleefully around the lobby, happily singing along at the top of his lungs.

“TAKE ME TO DA RIBBAH! DROP ME IN DA WAH-TAH! TAKE ME TO DA RIBBAH! PUT ME IN DA WAH-TAH!”

For those few seconds, it was the single most positive thing I had seen in all my time at that shithole.

Needless to say, Luke The Gook got his room, and Big Mouth Billy Bass hung proudly in the office for the remainder of my time there.

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