Second Chance on Route 66
”I told you we should have stopped for gas.”
“Don’t start on me Amy.”
The sniping that started at the beginning of the trip had moved to full-fledged arguing. Amy and Matt glared at each other across the car’s console.
With an exasperated sigh, Amy got out and slammed the car door. She kicked a tire for good measure. It didn’t help. The car was still out of gas, and she was still angry at Matt. She marched around the car waving her cell phone around trying to find service.
“Let’s take this road, it’ll be fun” Amy mimicked Matt’s voice.
Matt exited the car as well and shaded his eyes against the afternoon sun looking for signs of civilization. He noted the gathering clouds in the distance. “Why don’t we walk up the road and see if there’s a gas station.”
Amy reached into the car and grabbed her laptop case and gave Matt a look that dared him to comment. He didn’t say anything but shook his head. He’d already made his objections to how hard she worked. It was an old argument: Amy put her job first in everything, and she felt he didn’t understand her ambitions.
They started to follow the rough patchy road trying not to trip over the roadside debris of weeds, broken bottles, and fragmented concrete. The day’s heat rose from pieces of pavement which only led further to the couple’s discomfort. Finally, the road curved to reveal a red neon sign publicizing a motel.
As they drew closer, they read the words, Last Chance. The yellow vacancy sign flashed on and off. The motel was similar to a lot of motels that cluttered Route 66, where families would stopover as they headed for their final destination. Several vintage cars in the parking lot gave it a 1950s charm. The boxy building formed of an L shape with the lobby in the forefront. The aluminum framed windows were brightly lit from the inside, giving it a radiant appearance.
The couple entered the lobby where an older man stood behind an oak check-in counter. Amy thought he looked like Fred Mertz from the “I Love Lucy” show. He had a newspaper spread out before him. When the bell jangled, he glanced up and folded the paper closed.
“Afternoon folks. Welcome to the Last Chance Motel. I’m Leo.”
“Hi. We’d like a room for the night.”
“You came to the right place.” He glanced at them, “ Honeymooners?”
Amy snorted, “Hardly. Our car ran out of gas.” She jiggled her cell phone, “ I noticed that there isn’t any cell reception here. I’m going to assume no Wi-Fi either?”
The man scratched his balding head and looked at her phone. “Things are pretty simple here.”
“Of course it is.” Amy shoved the useless phone into her purse. She glared at Matt, obviously blaming him for the dead zone.
After checking in, Leo handed them their room key. The key tag was green diamond shaped plastic with their room number written in a big blocky letter: 7. Amy turned it over and noted the motel name on the other side. She murmured, “Wow, they’re taking this whole retro-Route 66 thing to a whole new level, aren’t they?”
Leo directed them to their room that overlooked an empty swimming pool. Since they hadn’t brought their luggage, they quickly freshened up and headed back to the lobby in search of a meal. Amy had noticed a dining room set just off of the lobby. A quick glance showed tables covered with white cloth and candle centerpieces. It had a quiet elegance of an age gone by. Matt held the door open for Amy, who stopped and looked askance at him. He shrugged sheepishly. “It seems to fit the place.”
She smiled, “When in Rome…”
The dining room was empty, except for Leo, who waved them in and pulled out a chair for Amy. Night fell, giving the candles a romantic glow. Conversation started out stilted but began to flow as they recaptured the moments of their love. Dinner passed pleasantly and somehow they ended up reaching across the table where Matt played with Amy’s fingers as they talked. When they finished, they walked through the lobby, holding hands and laughing at a joke Matt had made. They made it to their room just as the clouds released a torrent of rain, creating a cozy cocoon for them.
Amy looked at the laptop on the table, and Matt hesitated when he saw her pick it up. She turned to him and said, “I don’t think I’ll be needing this tonight.”
It took Matt a few seconds for her words to sink in, and then he grabbed her and kissed her with the passion of first love. They held each other and talked through the night. For the first time in years, they communicated with each other, opening up their thoughts and dreams and fears. They listened to the rain, curled up in each other’s arms, content and hopeful for the future. A huge flash of light hit the motel, and the building shook from the resounding thunder. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit their room, lighting it up like a firework display.
Amy woke up to the sound of someone tapping on the window. The sun was shining, creating a glare. She opened a bleary eye and yelped in surprise. She and Matt were in the car, and a man wearing a mechanic’s coveralls peered at them through the glass.
“What? How?” Shaking Matt awake, she asked, “How did we end up in the car?”
Matt looked around and then at the man outside. He hesitated before saying, “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“A lightning bolt hit our room.”
“Yeah, that’s what I remember.” He eased his window down part way and said, “Can I help you?”
“Looks like it’s you folks who are needing the help.”
“Did Leo send you?”
“No one sent me; I drove by and saw your car at the side of the road. Good thing too. Aint nuthin’ around for miles.”
“What about the Last Chance Motel?”
The kid pushed his cap. “That old motel burned down to the ground years ago. Got hit by a huge lightning strike. Sad thing too, Old man Leo and his missus died in the fire.
“That can’t be true.”
“Sure it. Firefighters found them hugging each other. True love and all that.”
Amy didn’t say anything as she reached into her pocket and pulled a plastic key ring with the faded words “Last Chance Motel”.