Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #1

“Heya, welcome to Mossy’s Backpackers!”

He hoped that sounded as jovial as he meant it to be. It was too bloody early on a Saturday to be legitimately that cheerful, so faking it would have to do. He looked back and forth between the guy and the girl, smiling (he hoped) brightly, trying to figure out if it was working or not.

“Did you just wake up?” the girl asked, “It’s nearly noon!”

God dammit. At least the guy had the decency to look a little embarrassed by the question. There could be little doubt as to whose idea it was to show up at this time of day.

“Are you looking for dorm beds or a private room?” he returned, completely ignoring the question.

“A private room. For two nights,” she replied, looking a bit put off. This was going swimmingly.

“Let me have a look in the book.”

He pulled out the hostel’s reservation binder and started flipping through it, being careful to ensure Mrs. Early Bird couldn’t see its contents. After a few moments he found today’s date and started browsing the floor plan.

Cindy and Greg in Ocean’s Breeze were staying on for another two weeks. Natalia and Tomas in Waterfall had five more days left in their stay. Emily and Victor in Rain Forest… oh, right, they were off to Benton City this afternoon. They were also the reason he was up much too late last night – after a 6 week stay they deserved a proper send off, after all.

“Sorry,” he said, closing the binder. “Looks like our private rooms are all booked up.”

“Oh that’s too bad,” the guy replied while looking around the common room. “This looks like a really cool place.”

He winced inside, starting to feel a bit bad about lying…

“Hmmph, doesn’t seem all that great to me,” retorted the girl. “Let’s go.”

Ah, much better. Conscience clean again. As the guy glanced back from the doorway, he had to struggle to not mouth “Good luck with her.”

“What was that about Max?”

“Oh, nothing,” he told the man everyone called Mossy. “They wouldn’t have fit in here.”

“And why’s that?” the big tree of a man inquired.

“They showed up before noon on a Saturday, for starters.”

Mossy snorted loudly.

“If you keep turning business away from my…”

Max rolled his eyes.

“We’re full up every night, big man. And there’s always a good vibe here. Just think of me as your Vibe Quality Control.”

Mossy shook gently with laughter, knowing full well it was too early to let loose one of his signature booming laughs – more than half the hostel was still in bed.

“And would you be expecting a pay raise for these additional duties?”

“Nah mate, just buy me a beer or two tonight and we’ll call it even.”

“How ‘bout I just give you tomorrow morning off?” Mossy responded with a smile. “It’ll save me money tonight and get my hostel full faster tomorrow.”

“Vibe Quality Control cannot be bribed so easily. I’ll see you in the common room at nine.”

Mossy walked away, shaking his head. “Making a grocery run into town. Be back in an hour. Try not to bankrupt me while I’m gone.”

Max smiled fondly at Mossy’s retreating back. It was hard to believe they had only known each other for a couple of months. Max had arrived after a long, rainy day of hitch-hiking and the gentle Goliath had welcomed him with a piping hot bowl of home made soup and a smack on the head for thumbing in such terrible weather.

They had hit it off immediately and so when, two days after his arrival, Mossy’s then receptionist decided it was time to get moving again, Max offered to take over without a second thought. Admittedly, it didn’t hurt that his funds were also running low at the time.

Staying in one place like this was almost like a vacation from the vacation after three months of near constant motion – he had not stayed anywhere more than three or four nights at a time. But Max knew it was only a matter of time before the travel bug bit hard once again and he would be back on the road. Probably sooner than later; there was still so much he wanted to see and do…

His attention was brought back to the present by the sound of the front door opening again. He involuntarily straightened up as he caught sight of the short, dark haired girl wearing a backpack almost twice her size. She glanced around the hostel for a moment before spotting Max under the white on black “Check-In” sign. She flashed him a brilliant smile that threatened to render him speechless, then strolled over as if she was carrying nothing at all.

“Welcome to Mossy’s Backpackers!” he said, fully meaning it this time. A small voice in the back of his head congratulated him on his voice not breaking like a 13 year old hitting puberty. Max did his best to imagine that voice getting swept overboard in the middle of the ocean.

“Hi, thanks!” she grinned back. “I’m looking for a place to crash and a couple weeks of work.”

“Two weeks? Oh, I don’t know about that.” Max said straight-faced.

“Why not?” She looked a bit crestfallen but was battling on.

“Well, everybody who comes here thinking they’ll stay 2 weeks… usually end up staying at least a month.”

“Oh you wanker! I thought I’d have to go hitch to the next town!” She laughed and thumped her monstrosity of a backpack to the floor.

“My most sincere apologies my lady,” Max chortled. “I’d hate to think I caused you any distress by…”

“Oh get off it you smart ass and give me a dorm bed.”

“Absolutely. And what shall we be calling you?”

“Caitlin seems to get my attention best.”

“Max works for me. Great to have you here with us Caitlin.”

He could almost hear the travel bug scurrying back to a distant corner of his mind, the appeal of the road diminishing rapidly in the face of this lovely newcomer.

And what was the rush anyway? Mossy’s was the best hostel he had ever stayed in. And his bank account was not yet back to where he needed it to be.

The excuses continued to pile on top of each other as he continued to sign Caitlin in.

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