By Brendan Barry and Jeff Parker
I tried calling everyone. I called again and again. I left messages. I sent texts. Where are you guys? I wrote. Where the fuck is everybody? No one was there. No one was anywhere.
So I checked myself into a room, and I found a drinking establishment there with wood-panel walls.
The shift had already started, and the girls were already forgetting to give change. In front of the taps, they twisted curling irons through their hair. They adjusted their polka-dotted tops. They chugged Red Bulls.
One of them looked at me with eyes like gouges in her face. She was saying "This side of Thysyrus, our rendezvous Al-lah ta-ting."
"What?" I said.
"Do you have any interest in a menu or anything?" she said. Her head bent awkwardly. I had never seen a creature like this before. She had a vile turquoise stone hanging from a black thread around her neck. A silver ball poked through her lip. She frightened me.
"I'm fine," I said. Of course I was anything but fine.
She poured green beer into pitchers marked off like measuring cups. I was the only one alone there, and that seemed wrong. A motel like that should be full of alone people who were there for the purpose of being alone together.
I put quarters on the challenge table but the together guys before me left when they were done. I played me. I challenged myself. I beat me in a very close game.
The guys playing pool before me had left a pitcher with two cups, sixteen ounces, one pint of green beer still in it. I drank off it. It tasted like company. Right unnatural green-tinted company.
"Hey," I said to a waitress, the one with white pigtails sprouting over both ears. "When's St. Patrick's Day?"
"It was Monday," she said.
"What day's today?"
She noticed I was drinking the left-behind old green beer and not buying old green beer myself. She whispered into the ears of the other girls. I finished the left-behind old green beer.
It had been a long time since I couldn't get in touch with anybody. I wondered where they all were. I wondered how long until I'd be able to reach them again.
"How was the audition?" the terrifying one said to the blond one.
"Good," the blond one said.
"What was it for again?"
"What was it for again?"
"The lead in"--I couldn't hear this part. "It starts shooting in May." The blond waitress electrified the place, as blond waitresses will.
"Hell's Bells" played.
Some guy charged behind the bar. He hugged the waitresses. Of all the men in the world, he was their favorite.
"How was your party?" the terrifying waitress asked him.
"You should have been there 'cause I was smashed."
"Shut up," she said.
"We were finding wealthy men," the blond one shouted. "And they were buying us martinis."
"What's the cheapest beer?" I interrupted. They all looked at me.
"The green beer," the terrifying waitress said.
"What kind of beer is the green beer?"
I looked at her.
"I don't recommend it," she said.
"Okay then," I said. "Give me Cool."
She didn't want to, but she poured one for me, and I paid her, and I drank it, and I went back to my room.
Brendan Barry is a fine art photographer based in the South West of England. In the past his work has been primarily concerned with the notion of the journey and photography as a tool for exploration, although recently he is more interested about building cameras out of random things, like pineapples and Lego, and is interested in the construction behind the photographic process and developing a more performance based and participatory practice. www.brendanbarry.co.uk
Jeff Parker is the author of the novel Ovenman and the short story collection The Taste of Penny. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Clean Rooms, Low Rates will be published by Mount Analogue in October 2017.
Notes on features contemporary photography accompanied by creative or critical writing.