Years ago, I was the nighttime front desk clerk at a hotel (and as anyone who has ever spent enough time in the “hospitality industry” can tell you, hotels are breeding grounds of WHAT THE FUCK ). It was a pretty sweet gig. . .pretty much involved sitting in a comfy chair, smoking, and watching bad movies on cable for hours on end. The few customers I’d get were generally hookers and their tricks (“What do you mean, I have to pay for a full night? I only need the room for two hours, tops!”), rednecks too drunk to drive home from the bar down the block, what have you. A man can do worse than getting paid to watch shit TV and get fat.

I eventually moved in to one of the “down rooms.” $30 a week, and my commute involved walking down a short hallway. The pay wasn’t the greatest, and I had to deal with some pretty sleazy characters. But hey, beats digging ditches.

Over my time there, I got to know several of the “live-ins.” These were people who, for whatever reason, decided to make the hotel their permanent home. Some had been there for a couple of years, paying by the week. Can’t say I blame them. Sure, the weekly rental adds up, but factor in maid service, free cable including all the major movie channels, no utility bills, etc.

One of these live-ins was Mr. Blackstock. He was an elderly black gentleman who got by doing odd jobs around town. Very polite, very educated. Went to church every Sunday without fail, every week of the three years he lived there. Never missed a rent payment. He was a nice, friendly old man. I liked him quite a lot. He’d come keep me company on some of the more boring shifts, watching my shitty movies through the office rental window, sharing my beer, cracking corny jokes, and just being an all-around cool motherfucker.

He always refused maid service, claiming he didn# like the idea of someone poking around his room when he was out working. No big deal. . .for three years, he had been an ideal customer, so we let him have his privacy.

Then, Mr. Blackstock moved out.

I was the first to enter his room. Literally. . .in three years, the man had never had any guests.

The smell hit me immediately. Sharp, stinging reek of old urine. It didn’t take me lonng to find the source: seven hotel wastebaskets beside his bed, filled with cloudy, old piss, with god knows how many cigarette butts floating.

One of the two beds was stripped bare, and the mattress was a mess of oily sweat stains and a crazy-quilt of skid marks and cigarette burns. The wall was so plastered with old, crusted semen that it looked like a Jackson Pollack. In the corner was a massive pile of semen crusted children’s clothing (we later theorized he would hit up Salvation Army and the local consignment shops, buy the clothing, come home, and beat off into it. We hoped).

Then, I noticed the other bed. It was neatly made, except for an odd lump under the blanket. I carefully pulled back the covers.

He had cut open the mattress to expose the springs in the middle. Affixed to the heavy coils by a couple of zip ties, was a homemade dildo. A massive one, secured to point straight up. He had taken several plastic shopping bags, and had wrapped them tightly around an old Glade air freshener can. The whole thing was held together by stretching some condoms tightly over it, and was about as big around as my wrist. The hole in the mattress around it was dark with what looked like three years worth of old shit and dried blood.

Between the bed and the wall, I found a fuckton of old, empty Crisco cans.

God, I hate Alabama.