Fiction — From the January 2009 issue

The Santosbrazzi Killer

My trip of January 17—one of my monthly visitations to a Cincinnati-based subsidiary research outfit, during which I spend two days observing the general activities of the subsidiary outfit, filling out forms on a Lucite clipboard and stressing, via my maniacal focus, their subsidiariness—was plagued by the usual inconveniences.

My seatmate on the commuter leg brought with him a meatball sub of such capaciousness that three meatballs dropped from the butt end of his hero roll and landed on my sandstone Hush Puppy, permanently staining it a greasy orange. My connecting flight was late. Exiting the airport, I chose a taxi driver whose heater was on the fritz, and who handed me a plastic-baggie boot heater, instructing me to knead the baggie and apply it to my solar plexus. Unfortunately the baggie was torn, and the chemical blue ooze seeped through my suit coat and sweater and shirt, burning my chest and forcing me to jury-rig a dressing from the random castoffs in my carry-on, essentially a stolen motel washcloth slathered in hand cream and affixed to my skin with corn pads.

But these inconveniences—which were, as I said, classified as usual—were eradicated by the unusual pleasure of checking into an unusual hotel. Usually on these visitations I’d stay at the Tuck Inn, the one with the kitchenettes and the rooms that smelled of vomit and microwave popcorn and Febreze—but this Tuck Inn had been bought by a hospice organization, possibly because it felt like the absolutely ideal place to expire. Subsequently, I’d been booked into a quaintly museumy Victorian hotel, patronized by nearly no one because of its lack of microwaves and satellite televisions and its surfeit of hundred-year-old bellhops incapable of carrying anything heavier than a dop kit. But I found the place charming, or at least unusual, and this made my January trip to the subsidiary research outfit seem to promise discomforts of an unexpected nature.

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is the co-editor of The Believer and the author, most recently, of The Uses of Enchantment (Anchor).

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