“It’s like the philosophical concept of a pool,” Julie said as we peered over the metal rods guarding the sad four feet deep rectangle at the center of the Motor Inn. I mean, we’re pretty accustomed to being underwhelmed at this point. We’ve had to do some pretty creative leg work in our days. Yet, Gettysburg, the only Civil War town of the Northeast, had outdone itself. After escaping our roles in Deliverance 2: Maryland Doomfest, we seemed to have stumbled onto the set of Pyscho. But being that we came there on the hunt for a spoopy summertime shitshow, the flickering vacancy sign seemed to be doing the most.
Julie and her juicy booty and me with my backpack covered in patches. We stood out like the normie just trying to get her balayage done did at my alt girl pissing contest salon. Harley bikers that weren’t easy rider wannabes from The Real Fuckboys of Remington, families of young boys in from Indiana. It’s a cross section of the nation I forget exists outside of the chapter on populist voters in my old sociology textbooks.
Hesitant to check in but eager to check out for the night, we walked into the propped open screen door of the office only to be greeted by some bunny ears quietly on commercial and a hand written note on the desk.
Doing work on the property, call 905-2422 for check-in.
“What, does only one person work here?” I asked as Julie tried to muffle her giggles out of politeness.
“Should…should we call it?” she asked.
I took out my phone. Mama needed a drink and didn’t have time to play.
“Hi!” I said, putting on my phony charm that I usually reserve for clients. “I’m here to check in?”
“What’s your name?” replied a grumbling voice.
I told him.
“Ah, yes. I’ve been expecting you.”
I covered up the receiver for a moment.
“He’s been expecting us,” I whispered to Julie.
“Oh goodie,” she said with a wide-eyed scoff.
The line went dead for no longer than a few seconds when a man about in his 60’s with greasy salt and pepper hair walked through the door behind us and went behind the desk. I greeted him, keeping my charm bomb detonated to try to deter the possibility of him cutting us up into tiny pieces, but got nothing much in return. Instead, he just handed me a rusting key tagged with yellow paper that had Rm 23 written on it in blue pen.
“We serve coffee and danish at 7:30. Enjoy your stay.”
We turned slowly, throwing “I know what you’re thinking” punches at each other on the way out.
As we walked down the open air corridor past the Pepsi machine, we learned that we hadn’t seen the last of the welcome wagon, which, at Bates Motel, seems to be caboosed by two giant areolas.
“Are you the two ladies staying in Room 23?”
We looked in horror to see an older woman flagging us down across the parking lots, her un-hinged National Geographic titties shaking while her over-processed hair stayed put as she waved.
“Oh my god, how does she know?” Julie asked
“Shut up, shut up, shut up,” I said, working harder to contain my laughter than I did at my LSAT prep.
The boobies encroached, but her voice was still at 11.
“Because I washed the carpet in there and it’s mostly dry but I opened up the window in there to finish them off but they’re still kind of wet…”
Out of not wanting to be an even more of a supremo bitch than I already felt like I was being, I assured her there were no worries to be had. But she wouldn’t stop apologizing for the inconvenience, her boobs dancing as unrelentlessly as her unwarranted concern.
“It’s, it’s fine…” I said, pulling Julie’s arm down the corridor and towards our room and the distancing of her voice. “Christ.”
“Welp, at least we know it’s clean.”
As we waked and walked, it became increasingly apparent that we had the last room on the end next to a tiny wooded alley, because of course we fucking did.
“Look baby, they gave us the honeymoon suite,” I joked in an attempt to mask some of my creeps that were starting to turn a little too genuine.
As we turned the key, we found everything we expected. It was oppressive. It was cinderblock. It was dark. It was dank (and not the good kind). We threw our shit on the floor, chugged the beers we had brought, and decided to edit the plot to include a swift exit. We had just about made it to the edge of the property when we heard a voice grumble out to us.
“You ladies like the room?”
It was Uncle Mortimer standing in the doorway of the office, staring at us decisively.
“Yes,” we both squealed, barely looking over our shoulders as we ran in the direction of the town square.
Our walk to the pub shaped up to be an expensive one; two 16 ounce Red Bulls and a new rook hoop later, it was finally, finally time to get drunk…er. My ear was throbbing and I realized I had zero semblance of saline solution with me. But fuck, if I’m tipsy and see a giant florescent Body Piercing with a hot tattooed dude chain smoking next to it I feel as though my hands are tied. Inject my holes, sir.
Perpetually stuck in 1863 and 1986, our view from our booth was Middle Class Fancy: Yesteryear Edition. I at least was beginning to appreciate the honesty of it (I’m looking at you, Frederick, Maryland). If nothing else it was a nice antidote to the gentrified bar on my corner that has philosophical differences with cranberry juice. Jewel tones, vinyl printed tables, and a single silk carnation in a white plastic vase placed uniformly on each table; we had now stumbled onto the shared soundstage of Cheers and Golden Girls that I never knew existed. Watching all the families sharing plates of pizza fries served by good women subjected to bad men’s button downs, I was low key afraid that they were going to hold me to a one drink limit. I tore through the drink menu. If I had to make one shot, I had to nail it.
“Oh bitch, I’m getting the club sandwich,” Julie shouted over the noise, rocking the world of my beer brain with the mere thought of food. That’s when I saw it.
Love on the Beach $7
“Oh bitch, I know what I’m getting too.” I turned the list so she could see and jabbed an acrylic into the rated E for everyone spin on the old classic. We could have made a drinking game out of all our disbelieving laughs.
She might keep the top button of her blouse closed, but it didn’t take much to get old Lovie to spread it on those moonlit Atlantic City shores. I was half a glass in and I was tilt. Julie and I tore up the eats with the same enthusiasm as, well, I can’t name names here, but a certain dude from a certain grind band (stay tuned in forty years for my memoirs). Despite my clear case of the slops, our waitress asked the question of the night.
“Care for another drink, sweetie?” her eyes wide and her pink smile genuine. I think she was actually excited to have someone trying to turn up something besides a hearing aid or an adjustable highchair.
“YES,” I said, some tortilla chip shrapnel flying out of my mouth. I told her to make it a Heineken, though. My see-through tank was getting me enough disapproving glares from Debbie from Des Moines.
It wasn’t much longer before we were subjected to the crap-out cry of a boy about 7 at the next table down. His mom was trying so hard to rub his head and pull it towards the comfort of her sensibly-supported titty, but homefry wasn’t having it. The wail was to the point of vibrato and his face was as pink as my pillows after a few packs of Mike’s Hard Strawberry Margaritas. As Julie and I hobbled to the ladies’ room in the hopes of catching the last ghost tour of the day, we couldn’t help but feel grateful that our night was just beginning rather than ending.
“Red bull. Now is that good for you?” The gas station clerk asked through a thick Pakistani accent as my can clinked against the counter.
Dazed and confused, I looked up to see his tiny head doted against the wall of cigarettes, his Charlie Sheen button down making me slightly uneasy. I never really know what to say when strangers talk to me. Usually I just stammer, but if you catch me toasty enough I’ll probably just stare blankly like my grandma’s senile dog staring into the open fridge. I guess he decided he wanted to try a different approach.
“So what are you ladies getting into tonight?”
Something something ghost tour.
“Ohhh,” he laughed. “I will tell you something. There are no ghosts here.”
I swiped my card, feeling kind of silly. He ripped my receipt from the printer and handed it over, looking me right in the eyes. “No ghosts.”
Despite our fair warning, I was still excited to reach the storefront that boasted the spoopiest walks of the town. When I would go up to Gettysburg as a kid I would always stare wide-eyed at the woman in pseudo-Victorian garb leading a group of curious tourists down some alley by candlelight. My ma would never let us go on one, though. She’s a Christian woman. Fortunately, adulthood means finally getting to eat entire pizzas by yourself, hang shirtless pictures of Ville Valo in your living room, and hunt for tortured souls to your heart’s content.
We were greeted by a middle aged man in the philosophical concept of Confederate garb, the little green light of his phone blinking through his front shirt pocket. After a quick headcount he unleashed the extra, really trying to go in on the “I’m a real Civil War solider” thing, blaming every little snafu on those damn Yankees, even the car the rolled through yelling “fuck” at our group. Still, despite his silliness, he was quick to remind us just how hallowed the grounds we were walking really are, how the scent of death wafted all the way to Harrisburg, and how many soldiers went without necessities like shoes – a distinction that can help separate a reenactor from an apparition.
For any confused Canadians out there, the American Civil War was basically the Victorian equivalent of a comment section fight instigated by that one kid in high school that dressed in all camo even though it was the suburbs (one never knows when Uncle Varg may summons you for a guest appearance on Thulean Perspective). The Union thwarted poorly-thought out Southern succession and a bunch of people wasted their time getting involved. Casualties were huge, mass graves common. Captain Cuckoo warned that we could be standing on one anywhere. The world will never know for certain, though; it’s a felony to start digging.
Now let’s take a second, here.
Let’s take moment to motherfucking guess where our motherfucking first stop was.
Yep, it was no other than our fucking motel parking lot.
Captain Hook set his lantern down on the gravel. I set down my Red Bull.
“Are any of you Yankees staying here tonight?”
Julie and I waved our hands enthusiastically until I had to grab onto her shoulders to regain my balance.
“Ah! Well promise me you fine lasses won’t check out after what I’m about to tell you.” He took a dramatic pause. “Many guests have reported returning to their rooms to find all of their things mysteriously re-packed.”
I low key hoped that maybe all the beer bottles we left scattered would mysteriously make their way into the trash can.
“Then there was the general that had his leg amputated right on the road behind me,” he prattled on. “But you know what? He wasn’t the type to just let it go. He preserved it in a barrel of whiskey and visited it daily at a museum in Baltimore, because, needless to say, a wife isn’t going to be too keen on keeping that in the house. AmIrite ladies?” He looked right at Julie and me.
“I mean, like, I was just thinking I wanted one in my living room, like,” I slurred.
Julie burst out laughing. We done couldn’t keep it under wraps anymore.
Captain Crunch gave us the dog in the fridge stare and quickly moved on to some story about how Francis Scott Key’s 35-year-old second cousin had gotten himself into a duel over his teenaged bride.
“YEAH, GET IT GIRL!” I called out.
The dad standing next to me let out a chuckle with a hint of intrigue.
Head, ear, and heart pounding the next morning and eager to bid Bates adieu, we rejected Uncle Mortimer’s 6 ounces of burned Chock Full of Nuts and basket of honey buns in favor of the coffee shop down the road that Gettysburg finally got around to opening, like, yesterday. A sort of home-spun Starbucks, I could smell the fresh paint and French drip as I took in the views of a Good Humor cooler and the unlocked bathrooms markedly unoccupied by junkies. But my excitement for my taste-of-home soy latte was interrupted by the sight of a very tattered and heat stricken Confederate soldier coming through the door.
Naturally, I checked to see if he was wearing shoes. He was, but there was still some sort of presence about him. As Julie stepped up to order next, I watched him lean in favor of his right side as if he was trying to ease strain on his left. Soulja Boy was clearly in need of some patching up.
We picked up our orders and went outside to the patio on Main to enjoy the morning. As I watched some of the junk shopkeepers unload for the day, I was hit with something much more unnerving than the prospect of a ghost – Trump campaign shirts blowing in the breeze on the shop porch sales racks like the battle flag. I know part of it is knowing your Middle American market, but I also couldn’t help but be a bit offended by the assumption anyone interested in American history must have the mental capacity of a potato.
I heard the coffee shop door slam behind me and turned to see the soldier drifting past us down the sidewalk…giant mocha frappuccino in hand.
“You know if I were a ghost I’d definitely manifest just to try all the dank drinks of the future.”
Julie looked up from her phone to see what in the hell I could be referencing.
“You should tell him to try the love on the beach,” she said wryly.
After a wholesome meal of canned peaches and candied yams at General Pickett’s Buffett, we sat in the parking lot, consumed in that Deep Car Conversation as we overlooked the flat field where General Pickett led the infamous charge that ultimately proved to be a Confederate suicide mission. Despite having toured Gettysburg countless times by this point, we seemed to have more questions than answers, the first and foremost simply being “how?”
Here I was, tired out by the impending drive back to the big Whorehouse on the Harbor when the soliders had walked to the then tiny Pennsylvania town from fucking Virginia in July, many with bare feet and the only source of hydration being a small canteen of water from a stream laden with shit-your-brains-out bacteria. Meanwhile, Julie and I can’t walk more than two feet without a piss, a smoke, and a Cliff Bar. We chalked it up to the speeding rate of evolution as the social condition continues to spiral into World’s Fair-style depictions of the future. We’re quickly starting to condition oursleves to sharpen the mind over the body.
We couldn’t help but further Ford Focus seat philospohize about the rate of human progress. On one hand, we’ve seemed to have moved past the mindset that led to the gruesome brother-on-brother bloodbath. Yet on the other, maybe we haven’t. Violence has just grown more distant. Out of sight, out of mind. Warfare has been reduced to Hilary Clinton pressing the magic button that releases the drones over the little Syrian kids. At least in 1863 there was some accountability taken. Fuck, it was all getting too heavy.
“Do you think there was a man shortage?” I wondered.
“I don’t know – probably. I think some chicks just followed the troops around from town to town to try to catch a piece while they were still alive…like groupies.” Julie had always been the bigger Civil War buff of the two of us.
“Welp, I know what we would have been doing.”
“Can you imagine all the diseases? And there wasn’t no special ointment back then neither,” she pointed out.
“Do you think they sweated through their merkins pretty quick?”
“I don’t know, man.” Julie closed her eyes and eased her head back.
“Where’s the tour guide at that answers these kinds of questions?” I asked.
“I think we found our next business venture.”
“The Civil War whore tour,” I laughed.
You heard it here first.