Short Story | ‘The Dragon’s Inn’ by Martin Hooijmans, Illustration by Lars de Ruyter
“What? Why you complain? This hotel very cheap, and you complain?”
Mary just let the clerk’s rant wash over her. It seemed that by asking for one simple thing – the room she and her fiancée Peter had actually booked – she had triggered an avalanche of rage. It was alright, she would just let him finish and then try again. There was no way they were going to sleep in a cockroach-ridden bunk bed.
“My boss warn me about people like you!” the man went on in his horrible English. “You impolite, you a bad person!”
“Come on, Mary,” Peter spoke softly. “It’s not worth it. Let’s just go and enjoy the city. Tomorrow night we’ll be back in our place.”
“No,” Mary answered. “We paid for a double room, so that’s what we’ll get.”
“A double room won’t be much more than a broom cupboard either,” Peter said, but it fell on deaf ears. Mary was determined.
The clerk seemed to be done with his rant and had resorted to a furious look that he probably practiced in front of the mirror each morning. Mary was not impressed. “We’d like a double room. Either that, or you can give us our money back.”
“No refunds!” the man screamed. He looked ready to plunge himself into a fist fight.
“Then give us another room,” Mary said.
“Mary,” Peter tried again, “just drop it, okay? We’re wasting our time with this jerk.”
“No!” The girl never took her eyes off the man in front of her. To Peter, it looked like a classic stand-off. Then, another employee appeared behind the counter, talking Chinese. It was the start of another word storm, this time one the couple couldn’t understand. The pointing and furious looks provided sufficient comprehension, though.
Mary turned to Peter. “Look, I’m sorry to lash out like that. I appreciate your optimism, but I can’t drop this. It’s a matter of principle now.”
“Yeah,” Peter said, “and meanwhile the clock is ticking. We get one day off, one, and you decide to spend it arguing with a guy who barely understands us.”
“Please, Peter.” Mary took her man’s hands and pulled him towards her. “I’ll be awesome for the rest of the day. I promise.”
Peter looked into her pleading eyes, then budged. “Fine. Do what you have to do.”
The other employee had disappeared, and the clerk looked a bit winded. He seemed to be running out of steam. “No other room,” he tried one more time, but there was no more heart in it. Mary moved in for the kill.
“No. Double room, or a refund. Your choice.”
The man seemed to struggle with himself for a moment, then finally gave in and threw a new set of keys at his nemesis. “Okay! Room 5 for you! Double room! Now don’t show face again!”
“Thanks,” Mary said, all of a sudden smiling again, and the couple took off to find the new room. Peter turned out to be right. It had a double bed alright, but it filled up the entire space.
“Well, this’ll do,” Peter said, throwing his bag on the bed. “You ready to go?”
Mary still stood in the doorway, frozen.
“What now?” Peter said.
His girl stared at the ceiling fan, a fresh storm brewing on her brow.
“No,” Peter started, but Mary was already gone. The clerk’s screams once more filled up the hallway.
“What? You want airco? This very cheap place, and you complain?”
Illustration by: Lars de Ruyter