Mark Spencer

Mark SpencerMark Spencer’s short fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines including The Laurel Review, Short Story, Kansas Quarterly, The Chariton Review, The Florida Review, The Maryland Review, and South Dakota Review. He is the author of two collections, Spying on Lovers and Wedlock, as well as the novel Love Returns in Adams Country. In addition to The Omaha Prize, Spencer has been the recipient of The Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Mark Spencer Books for the Backwaters Press

The Weary MotelThe Weary Motel by Mark Spencer

Author: Mark Spencer
Format: Paperback, 151 pages
ISBN: 0967714915
Published: October 2000

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The Omaha Prize 1999

Excerpt from Mark Spencer’s The Weary Motel

Chapter 18:
Dill waits in his truck in front of The Sweet Time Dairy Bar in Manchester for Lori to show up. About a hundred yards away, the Ohio River flows by high and muddy. The Sweet Time stays open all year, and even on cold, damp nights like tonight, customers stop by for ice-cream cones and sundaes. The McDonald’s down the street sells yogurt now instead of ice-cream, but The Sweet Time still sells the stuff that will rot your teeth and clog your arteries.

Lori gives her patients little booklets that tell them to avoid anything that tastes good-at least that’s how Dill sees it. He has always been suspicious of dentists trying to make people feel guilty for eating sugar and for not brushing and flossing ten times a day. When he’s kidded her about being a rich dentist, Lori has insisted that dentistry isn’t as good a career as it was in the old days before fluoride was put in everybody’s drinking water. Her saying that supports his belief that dentists are secretly glad their warnings are ignored by most people. Dentists love cavities and gum diseases-money in the bank. A dentist one time told Dad that Jo Rene needed ten fillings. Dad took her to another dentist who said she needed three.

You can’t trust anybody, Dill believes. He winces thinking about what Lori did to him two years ago, putting him to sleep and drilling holes through four of his teeth. He guesses she could have done worse. He squeezes his knees together while he looks at The Sweet Time, a small hut (green like a bad tooth) with windows covered with last summer’s fly specks. Lori drilled those holes because, she said, she loved him so much.

Dill hasn’t seen her since the night before Thanksgiving. When they talked on the phone yesterday, she said she had to tell him something. Her voice sounded sad. It had a catch in it when she told him she loved him. Of the things that can be wrong, Dill has focused on the possibility that she has breast cancer. There’s always something on TV about it, and Lori’s thirty-six and has big breasts. He has heard that flat-chested women don’t have to worry so much.

Six years ago, the woman who “kidnapped” him one weekend and took him to Tennessee, died of breast cancer. Vicki. She had big breasts, like Lori. He feels creepy knowing that he squeezed Vicki’s breasts after they were already full of cancer, and he feels guilty that he didn’t notice the lumps-she could have gone to the doctor sooner, and Dill could have felt good about saving her life. He thinks hard about the weight and contours of Lori’s breasts.

Last night he had trouble sleeping. He lay stretched on his back, his throat dry, and thought about making love to Lori.

And he kept thinking about breast cancer.

Two years ago, Dill lost a lot of sleep. He wanted Lori to leave her husband, but she wouldn’t because they had the dental practice together and because of her little girls. She also didn’t want to risk losing her house, a restored 1817 stone mansion. Dill figured she mainly didn’t want to hook up permanently with a loser like him.

Lori’s kids are eight and ten now. During that bad time two years ago, Dill got his first glimpse of them. He was driving down the Appalachian Highway one Sunday morning when Lori’s Caprice Classic suddenly came up behind him and then passed him in the outside lane. Her husband was driving, and her kids were in the back seat. The four of them were dressed up. Lori stared straight ahead, ignoring Dill.

He pressed the truck’s accelerator to come up beside them again to get another look. Her husband was pale and thin and had orange hair and an orange beard. No wonder Lori wanted a lover, Dill thought. The little girls had orange hair and big splotches of freckles-ugly kids. The Caprice pulled ahead again. Dill drove faster to catch up. The little girls were staring at him. Lori’s husband was saying something to Lori, probably about the asshole in the pickup truck. Lori just stared straight ahead. Dill wanted her to look at him, to acknowledge him in some way. He didn’t like being ignored as if he didn’t count, didn’t exist. His face felt hot, and he pumped the accelerator so that the truck roared. Then he noticed a dog, a cocker spaniel, in the back seat with the little girls. She’d never told him they had a dog. That made him even madder for some reason.

When the Caprice slowed down, he slowed down. Lori’s husband honked at him, and Dill honked back and flipped him the bird. Suddenly, the Caprice cut into a left-hand turn lane, and looking back, Dill saw it pull into the lot of a Methodist church.

The next time he and Lori saw each other, she threw a phone book at him. He ducked and it smashed against the wall of their motel room. She shouted that he was stupid, crazy, dangerous. She said her husband asked her whether she knew him. She cried.

Dill wanted to know why she never told him about the dog. He wanted to know what the fuck the dog did at church.

She slapped him, and he slapped her back. She bit him. He pinched her. They took all their clothes off, and she had five orgasms. Finally, they just held each other. She admitted that she liked the way he cared so much.

He usually got to see Lori only once a week. Often, around eleven at night while he and Dawnell watched MTV, Dill would suddenly be hit by a vision of Lori in bed with her husband. Most of the sexy women in the videos on MTV reminded him of Lori.

One Friday night when he was feeling miserable, thinking about Lori being at a dentists convention in New Orleans, he went to the Love’s Quick Stop and talked the check-out girl, Tonya, into going on a camping trip with him that weekend. She was bone-thin and always looked sleepy and moved lazily.

Dill’s and the girl’s shadows were big on the wall of their tent dimly lit by an electric lantern. The shadows were the next best thing to having a mirror. Dill liked the narrowness of the girl’s waist and hips and her thin thighs, but while he was on her, she kept her head turned to one side and seemed distracted. When he looked around, he saw that she had her hands above his back and was making shadow animals.

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