Marshall Mitchel’s blue Ford F250 SD coasted down the off ramp from the interstate. After three days of driving, with an empty flatbed car hauler, Marshall was tired of sitting. The truck was not uncomfortable, but the twelve hour plus days were taking their toll, and Marsh was enduring a serious case of TB. (Tired butt) He was looking forward to a nice hot shower, some real food, and a good night’s sleep. Marsh eased the truck to a stop at the end of the ramp, and then turned left. It was only a few hundred yards to the Best Western, and there was room to park the rig in front of the office.
Marsh opened the truck door and unwound his stiff knees slowly. “Watch the truck, Wolf,” Marsh said as he stepped away. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The seventy pound German Shepard/wolf mix dog let out a low whine in response to hearing his partner speak to him.
Marshall Mitchel and Wolf had been constant companions for the last three years. Marsh was convinced that his canine companion understood English as well as or better than a lot of the people he ran into. Marsh had rescued Wolf from a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountain Wilderness, after a fast moving fire tore through the forest. Wolf was the only survivor of a litter of four pups, whose mother had also been killed by the smoke. Marsh had gone out to check on the old miner that lived in the cabin, and when he got to the remains of the old structure, the old-timers truck was gone, and the puppy was the only live being around. Marsh carried the pup back to his own cabin, and took care of the minor burn that was on the puppy’s left front paw. They kept each other company from that day on.
As Marsh walked through the front doors of the Best Western, a pleasant looking woman stepped to the counter, and asked, “May I help you?”
Marsh did a quick assessment, and guessed the woman to be in her late thirties or early forties. She appeared to be about five feet six inches tall, around one hundred thirty pounds, and really easy on the eyes. Her name tag said her name was Trish.
“I hope you can.” Marsh replied. “I hope you are holding a reservation in the name of Mitchel.”
After a couple of mouse clicks on her computer, Trish smiled and replied, “Oh yes Dr. Mitchel, You’re booked for three nights, in our king suite, with a possibility of an open ended stay.”
“Easy with that formal name calling, Trish. I hope we can be friends for at least a few days, and my friends call me Marsh. I have a service dog with me, is that going to be a problem?”
“No problem at all, Marsh. There’s a flat $25.00 cleaning fee, for any pets.” Trish smiled at Marsh. “Do you want to leave the charges on the card you used for the reservation?”
“Sure do.” Marsh smiled back.
“How many key cards would you like?”
“Well now,” Marsh grinned, “Wolf’s a pretty smart dog, and all, but he still makes me open most of the doors we go through. I think I’ll only be able to use one at a time.”
Trish slid the registration form in front of Marsh, and asked him to fill out the vehicle identification information, and sign the bottom of the form. As she handed the key card to Marsh, Trish added, “If you need anything, just call the desk here, and I’ll take care of you.” Marsh liked her smile.
Marsh walked back towards the front doors, and stopped to get one of the luggage carts. He wheeled the cart to the truck, opened the doors on the driver’s side, and took out his suit case, his hanging clothing bag, and his laptop case. “Wolf you’re with me this time.” Marsh smiled at the dog, Wolf came out of the truck, and sat on Marsh’s left side.
Marsh pushed the luggage cart into the lobby with his companion at his side. Wolf was used to staying at Marsh’s left side unless directed to do something else.
Marsh smiled at Trish as he and Marsh walked through the lobby. “I’ll move the truck and trailer to the big lot in back after I get settled.”
“No hurry,” Trish replied, “There’s plenty of room for anyone else to get by.”
The lock clicked as Marsh slid the key card out of it, Marsh pushed the door open, and pushed the luggage cart inside the room. Wolf followed just behind Marsh, and Marsh told him to make himself comfortable. The dog looked around the living room of the suite, and lay down in front of the sofa. Marsh pushed the luggage toward the bedroom, stopping to place the computer on the desk in the living room. The suitcase went to the small stand in the closet, and the suit bag was hung on the closet rod. The cart was empty, and Marsh pushed it out into the hall, for the hotel staff to take back to the lobby.
Marshall opened his suitcase and took out the clean underwear and socks. He opened the hanging bag and took his shirts and slacks out to let them relax, then took his toiletries to the bathroom, Placing his shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, on the shelf in the shower, and tooth brush and tooth paste by the sink. Looking around the suite, Marsh was istanbul escort satisfied that he could live like this for a few days, and sat down on the end of the king sized bed. He called Wolf, and patted the bed next to himself. Wolf easily hopped on the bed, and parked himself next to his best friend. Marsh draped his arm over the contented dog, and allowed himself to doze into a light nap.
Marsh drifted back into consciousness about an hour later, glanced around the room to get his bearings, then stretched and sat up. Wolf stretched and hopped down to the floor. After another slow stretch and a huge yawn, Wolf sat down at the end of the bed and watched Marsh. “Make yourself comfortable big boy, I’m gonna take a quick shower.” Marsh stood up, pulled his shirt up and over his head, kicked his shoes off toward the closet, sat back down to remove his socks, then stood back up and dropped his jeans and briefs in one motion. The briefs got tossed to the open closet, and the jeans Marsh laid over the back of the chair beside the bed.
Marsh glanced at his own image in the mirror as he turned and walked into the large bathroom. He saw a tall, trim, athletic, but tired form looking back at him. At six foot three inches tall, two hundred fifteen pounds, Marshall Mitchel could be an imposing site. Thanks to the constant hiking and working out he had been doing for three years, Marsh didn’t have an ounce of extra fat on his powerful frame. He’d learned to move like one of the animals in the forest, without wasting any unnecessary energy.
Marsh turned on just the cold water and stepped into the shower, backed under the spray, tipped his head back, and let the cool water run down his body. After a few minutes of just absorbing the calm of the cascading water Marsh picked up the body wash and a wash cloth and proceeded to lather his face, neck and ears. Marshall’s mother had taught him that priority as a child, and he still started his shower the same way, always. Some shampoo through his long brown hair, followed by a bit of conditioner, and then a good scrub of the lower parts of his body had Marsh feeling refreshed. When the soap and shampoo was all rinsed off, Marsh turned off the water and grabbed a towel.
As the plush terry cloth towel absorbed the moisture from Marshall’s body, he felt a bit of an emotional tug inside, he and Becky used to dry each other after showering together most of the time.
It had been almost four years since the accident that took Marshall’s wife and seven year old daughter. The drunk at the wheel of the ten wheeled dump truck had blown through the red light without so much as touching the brakes. Becky and Elise had died instantly and the dump truck driver had walked away from the scene and into the bar on the corner.
Yes, the driver was arrested, and spent a few months in jail. The insurance company for the trucking company and the trucking company itself had paid through the nose, and as far as money was concerned Marshall would never need to work again, if he chose not to. None of that would bring back the two loves of Marshall’s life.
Dr. Marshall Mitchel had been in the emergency room working a normal shift, when the ED Medicine Chief had come into the nurse’s station. “Marsh, you are off duty, as of NOW.” Dr. Green was his friend, and by the way Tom had made his statement Marsh knew something was bad wrong. “You have two current patients, right?”
“Yes, that’s right Tom, and Lisa has three.”
“Give Lisa a quick report, and come with me.” Tom had said.
After briefing Dr. Lisa Cummings for a few minutes about the condition of the patients he was treating, Marsh walked with Dr. Tom Green, to the ED Physicians lounge.
“OK Tom,” Marsh started, when the lounge door closed. “What going on? Whatever somebody said I did, they were wrong. I didn’t do anything you can fire me for like this.”
“Sit down, Marsh.” Tom was way too serious, and Marsh was starting to worry.
“Marsh, I just got a call from Dr. Aitkins at the trauma center. Becky and Elise were taken there, and the Trauma Team couldn’t revive them. I have Ruthie on her way over here to take you to the center, and I want your car keys. Ruthie will stay there with you till I get another doc to take your place here, then I’ll be there, too.”
Marsh and Tom had graduated one year apart from the same medical school, and had done their Emergency Medicine Residency together at the same trauma center. Tom had gotten the Chief’s position at the smaller hospital a few miles from the trauma center, and had hired Marsh before he even finished his residency
In the quiet hotel bathroom Marsh thought back to the life he had, that had so suddenly been yanked out from under him.
In the almost four years since that day, Marsh had not been back in a hospital. After the funerals, and the seemingly endless paperwork were behind him, Marsh had moved up in avcılar escort the mountains, to the cabin on forty acres of forest land. He spent his days running in the forest, chopping wood, lifting weights, and restoring his old ’57 Chevy.
Now at thirty six years old he was in the best shape he had ever been in. He had kept up with the continuing education needed to keep his medical license current, and had recently been going down the mountain, to show the ’57.
He’d met James Turner at one of the shows. Jimmy was another car show participant who had been parked next to Marsh at the show in Palm Springs, last winter. After getting together at two subsequent shows, Marsh and Jimmy had become pretty good friends. Marsh had shared his interest in obtaining a ’61 Corvette to restore, and Jimmy had offered to sell Marsh one of the cars he had. Marsh was on this trip to pick up his “new” project. Jimmy had sent Marsh numerous pictures, and Marsh was looking forward to seeing the car in person. He was supposed to meet Jimmy tomorrow morning.
Dressing casually in a pair of jeans and a golf shirt, Marsh woke up Wolf, and the two of them headed down to the front lobby. Trish smiled at the pair as they walked up to the desk.
“Alright young lady, where can I find a shopping center and some decent food around here,” Marshall queried.
“There’s a pretty decent size mall about four miles down the interstate, and there are several pretty good restaurants surrounding the mall. It’ll be hard to miss.” Trish smiled and then added, “I’ll be here at the desk till about ten tonight, and I live here in the manager’s quarters. If you need or want anything, let me know.”
Marsh noted the emphasis Trish placed on the word “anything”, and smiled back at her. “I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll see if I can think of something to ‘need’.” Feeling a stir in parts below his belt was something of a surprise, Marshall had not even thought of a woman, that way, since Becky died.
At that Marsh and Wolf walked out to the truck, and drove around the hotel, to the truck and bus lot. Marsh hopped out and unhooked the trailer. Put a lock on the tongue of the trailer, and a cable lock on a couple of wheels. Back in the truck where his dog waited for him, Marsh fired up the big diesel engine and headed out to find some food.
At the bottom of the off ramp Marshall turned right and confirmed the information Trish had shared. On the edge of the mall parking lot there were several eateries and Marsh pulled the truck into the parking lot at The Olive Garden. It was early for the dinner crowd. At not quite four o’clock, Marsh knew he would have the place nearly to himself. He opened the windows of the cab, and quietly said, “Watch the truck Wolf.” Marsh knew there wouldn’t be anyone bothering the truck or its contents. He also knew Wolf would stay inside. Pity the poor soul who reached into the window, or much worse, opened the door.
Olive Garden menus are the same across the country, so Marsh had no problem picking what he wanted. He was not quite finished with his salad, and breadsticks, when the waitress brought him his baked ziti. Marsh hated eating alone, but had become accustom to it for the last three plus years. A meal didn’t take much time when there wasn’t anyone to share with. Marsh was back to the truck before five o’clock.
The extended cab pickup had a sliding back window that Marsh never closed. Wolf had full range to pass from the front bucket seats, to the back seat, and into the shell in back. Windshield to tailgate, Wolf owned the whole truck. Marsh kept a spill resistant water bottle and a large bowl of dry dog food in the back. Marsh left the Olive Garden with an extra bread stick. Opening the back end gate of the shell, Marsh dropped the bread stick into Wolf’s food dish, and it was in Wolf’s mouth, and devoured in an instant. “Good dog Wolf,” Marsh toned and reached in and patted the dog’s head.
At this early hour Marsh figured he could wander through the mall, pick up a few items he thought he needed, and be back to the hotel, long before Trish was off duty. Marsh had not even thought of a woman in the three years on the mountain, and now the possibility of actually spending some quality time with an attractive lady was giving him a bit of a wakeup call.
He pulled the truck out of the restaurant parking area, and turned around to park it in a sparsely occupied area of the mall lot. Marsh made a habit of parking a little farther from the entrance wherever went. It was a way that usually meant nobody would park too close, and disturb Wolf. He backed into the parking space, gave Wolf his instructions, and jogged over to the mall entrance.
Marsh walked around the mall a bit, and ended up in the big and tall men’s store he was looking for. After trying on some jeans and shirts, Marshall purchased two pairs of Wrangler jeans and three polo/golf shirts. He made a habit of buying his clothes at the big şirinevler escort and tall stores, because he could get clothes that were a bit longer. Marshall liked the fit of a longer shirt.
Returning to his truck, Marsh spoke to Wolf, tossed the two plastic bags in the back seat, and hopped into the driver’s seat. Marsh was going to be pretty early, and would likely have time to do some laundry. Marsh always washed any new clothes he bought. He had a little bit of dirty laundry from the trip, so two or three loads would be plenty.
Back at the Best Western, Marsh took the two bags of new clothes out of the back seat, called Wolf to come with him, and walked to the front doors. Marsh and Wolf walked through the lobby and down the hall to their room. After entering the room, and getting a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, Marsh collected his dirty laundry, and took the tags off of the new shirts, and jeans. He picked up the phone, and called the front desk.
“Front desk, Trish speaking. How may I help you?” Came the pleasant voice on the other end of the line.
“This is Marshall Mitchel; I need to do a bit of laundry. Do you have some washers and dryers at this establishment, or do I need to go find a laundromat?”
Trish chuckled. “I know who this is, and you certainly better not go find a laundromat. I have a washer and dryer here in my apartment, and since you insisted we should be friends, I’ll take it badly if you don’t come down here and do your laundry. You won’t even need any quarters.”
“Are you saying you can’t or won’t make change for my Benjamin’s? Trish heard the smile in Marsh’s voice.
“Just pick up your dirty clothes, and get your ass down here,” Quipped Trish.
“Well, I see how this is going to be,” Marsh replied. “I’ve heard stories about the bossy women back in this area. I’ll be right there.”
Marsh hung up the phone, picked up the laundry bag, and headed for the door. “I’ll be back, Wolf. Don’t wait up for me.” Marsh smiled as he watched the dog stretch and yawn.
Marsh stepped out of the room, and headed down the hall towards the lobby. As he got close, a door opened on his left, and Trish poked her head out. “Come on in this way,” she told Marsh. “The washer and dryer are right over here.”
Marsh walked through the door, and found himself in a small laundry room with a household size washer and dryer. Trish closed the door, turned around, and watched as Marsh emptied his laundry bag. Sorting the clothes into two piles, he opened the washer and dropped the first load into the top.
“Are you going to include a little detergent in this favor, or do I need to run down to Wal-Mart?”
Marsh’s question netted him a light slap on the shoulder as Trish opened a cupboard, and handed Marsh a bottle of liquid laundry soap.
“I’ll let you decide how much soap to use,” Trish told Marsh. “Some guys are fussy about just how clean they want to be.”
Marsh casually poured some detergent into the machine, closed the lid, and turned the dial to the regular cycle. After pushing the start button, Marsh turned to Trish with a mischievous grin.
“Are you going to call me when this load is ready to put in the dryer, or do I need to set a timer?”
That question got Marsh another playful slap. “I thought you might sit down and visit a little, like the friend you pretend to be.” Trish returned Marsh’s smile, and led him into a small, but comfortable living room.
“Pick a place to sit. Can I get you something to drink?” Trish made a sweeping gesture around the room, and turned to wait for Marsh to respond.
“My poison of choice is cold water.” Marsh responded. “If you can mix me a bit of that, I’d be a happy man.” Marsh had a huge smile on his face, and got one in return from Trish, who walked into the kitchen. “You prefer that on the rocks, or straight up?”
“Oh, I have a choice? I’ll have it on the rocks.” Marsh chuckled as he replied. He chose to sit on one end of the couch, in the small living room.
Trish came back into the room, handed Marshall a large glass of water, with ice cubes. She had found a cocktail umbrella to top off the clear liquid. Trish had poured herself a glass of lemonade, which she set on the coffee table. She pulled a rocking chair close to the corner of the couch where Marsh was sitting, and sat down, facing him.
For the next hour their conversation was light and variable. Subjects ranged from politics and religion, to music and art. It flowed like they were old friends. After a very short lull Marsh threw the first curve.
“OK, now I’m going to get personal.” Marsh paused. “If you will tell me. … I want to know why a beautiful lady, that’s as fun to talk to as you are, is single and hiding out managing a small town hotel.”
Marsh looked straight into Trish’s blue-green eyes. They were bright and the color was a lot like his Becky’s. Marsh suddenly felt the deep sadness that sometimes came over him, and his own eyes started to mist. He turned his head, and tried to fight through the emotion he was feeling. Becky was gone, and he needed to work past these feelings.
When Marsh turned back to Trish, she reached out and touched his leg. “Whatever that was about, you can tell me when and if you need to share, Marsh.”