This was the first (and only) bar I had ever been in where customers could have a Ouija Board delivered to them as though it were a pizza, buffalo chicken wings, or some other delivered food item.
I was amazed. Three women and a man seated themselves around the board and the plump young woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, and a row of earrings in her ears looked intently at the little triangular shaped planchette would move at the behest of spirits. She looked up and spoke in a very distinctive southeastern Oklahoma twang: “Jaquita, talk to us.”
About an hour before, we had pulled into Righteous City, Oklahoma, population 5,000, located equidistant from Texas and Arkansas in the southeastern quadrant of the state. Stanton and I were both hungry and tired. We checked into the Holiday Inn, which impressed me because it had an indoor pool and a rather posh bar and restaurant. It surprised me because Righteous City’s main claim to fame was its maximum security prison. I would not have thought there was enough business to sustain such a nice hotel. After seeing at least a dozen producing wells, I realized that Righteous City had diversified. There was now a fledgling natural gas pipeline business, thanks to the new production.
We had spent the afternoon discussing why our marriage had fallen apart. It was a repellant topic and I was a bit disgusted with myself for thinking it would be a good idea to bring up the subject while trapped in the passenger side of a pickup truck. I found that if I chanted Buddhist mantras to myself, I could more or less disassociate myself from the unpleasantness.
Clearly, this was not an effective conflict resolution strategy. But, I never promoted myself as any kind of mediator. I was much better at being a doormat.
What would Dad say about a situation like this? I didn’t know for sure, but I could guess. He would suggest listening to Stanton and trying to see things from his point of view.
What would Stanton’s Dad say about a situation like this? Stanton’s dad was, as far as I knew, still refusing to leave the motel room in Yorktown, Texas, where he claimed God had incarcerated him. “I’m God’s hostage,” he said.
Maybe Stanton’s mind went down similar pathways and bends in the road. After all, we are products of our conditioning, right?
Question: Who or what would be holding Stanton hostage?
Answer: Love. Stanton was Love’s Hostage.
Thinking of that possibility cheered me up a bit. It seemed so desperate, so inescapable, so, well, romantic.
“Jaquita! Where are you? We’re trying to talk to you, dear,” said the woman. Her voice had a strange edge. I wondered if she would start channeling directly, rather than going through the Ouija Board.
I thought of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophy movement in Philadelphia at the end of the 19th century. Righteous City was far from the East Coast. The Righteous City Holiday Inn seemed a far cry from anything gothic or supernatural. The bar was tastefully appointed in an interesting blend of Oklahoma frontier and Victorian décor, resulting in an interesting territorial capital feel. I realized that we were not far from one of the territorial capitals of the Five Indian Nations. We were not far from the Cherokee Nation capital of Tahlequah. I was born somewhere in what used to be the Chickasaw Nation.
“Maybe Jaquita doesn’t want to come out tonight,” said a woman with thick blonde hair. “Ask for Anne instead.”
Clearly, they had been at this for awhile. I wondered what they had found out in their previous encounters with the spirit world. It must have been sufficiently interesting to bring them back.
For the first time, I noticed that there was music playing over the sound system. It was a country western song I recognized, but I didn’t know the artist.
“I’m married to a waitress; I don’t even know her name—“
Stanton’s dad told me that he had been cursed. He was afraid that he had passed along a curse to Stanton.
“How does that happen?” I asked him. “How do you pass on a curse? What do you have to do? Is it intentional? Accidental?”
Stanton’s dad had looked at me with pained eyes.
“You mean you don’t know?” he asked me.
I shook my head “no.” He went into a long explanation, but I couldn’t really follow it. Perhaps I didn’t want to.
“Anne – we’re trying to communicate with you. Do you hear us?” The blonde said this in a strangely plaintive, almost seductive tone. It was creepy.
The waitress brought out the cheese and jalapeno nachos we had ordered. Instead of cheddar cheese and pickled jalapeno peppers, the cheese was some sort of processed spread. The mess had been microwaved, so it had a rubbery feel, something like biting into a steel-belted tire.
“These are the worst nachos I’ve ever had. Dang! I need another beer.” Stanton was disgusted.
The blonde-haired women and two of her companions stared pointedly at Stanton.
“I think there is too much negativity tonight. Anne and Jaquita will not come into a hostile environment,” she said.
I took a bite of nachos. The texture was all wrong, but I loved the spicy bite of the jalapeno juice. I smiled at the women.
“Hi – is that a Ouija Board? I haven’t seen one of those in a long time,” I said, trying to be friendly. Stanton sighed heavily across from me and looked vaguely disgusted. Perversely enough, I felt my heart beat and pulse rise, not in anger, but in arousal. No wonder our marriage had been so messed up.
“Yes. This place has ghosts, you know,” said the woman.
“Really? It seems brand new to me,” I said. I could still smell carpet glue, and the Holidome’s indoor pool permeated the area with the fresh scent of chlorinated water.
“It seemed strange to us, too. But, then we started to realize that spirits are attracted to shiny, new things. They get bored with the old places. You would, too, after a hundred years or so of hanging around in the same old rooms, that just get worse and worse as time goes by.”
Stanton groaned. He reached for my hand and squeezed it tight. I could tell he was holding back laughter.
“They’re not here tonight, though.” The dark haired women with the hooded sweatshirt seemed a bit saddened by the thought.
“Well, it’s probably because we’re messing up the energy. We’ll be out of here soon,” I said. Stanton’s hand squeezed tighter. I took a drink of my coffee. Stanton pulled my leg between his and squeezed my thigh between his two incredibly thick, muscular thighs. I casually ate a few tortilla corn chips with the cheese and jalapeno mixture, and let the spicy juice run down my throat, my eyes watering in response.
He put enough money down for the food, drinks, and a nice tip. “I think we should get out of here before Anne and Jaquita come back and find we’ve ruined the atmosphere of their brand new club,” he said, barely suppressing laughter.
I was so aroused I could barely put together a coherent response. We walked past the plastic flowers and potted ficus plants that rimmed the indoor pool, and coordinated nicely with the Astroturf indoor-outdoor carpet. In the elevator back to our fourth floor room, Stanton pulled me close to him and kissed me with an intensity I thought had left our relationship forever. Tears came to my eyes, and I responded, pulling him closer, feeling his thick, muscular arms around me.
“What do you think Anne and Jaquita are doing right now?” I asked as the elevator door opened.
“I think they’re reading A Midsummer’s Night Dream and thinking of new ways to intoxicate us with love,” he said.
When we finally entered our room and fell into bed, I heard the secondary security lock turn in the door, securing us in our room, and assuring no escape.
The phrase, Love’s Hostage, entered my mind, but I deliberately chose not to dwell on the supernatural. Perhaps this rough magic could persist, even outside the confines of an enchanted motel, and its magical Holidome.