"Key Change" by Margot Douaihy


The first time we met, I was extremely turned on, but also really confused. That’s what happens when you meet a hot ghost.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi.” You walked through the fog. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m a UFO.”

“You’re see-through,” I whispered, even though no one was around.

Your head bucked back in genuine shock. “I am?”

“I can see through you.”

“Not all the way.” You danced your hands in the air, like you were hammering a ragtime tune on a high piano. “See? A solid hand.”

Your right hand was normal, but your left hand was translucent.

“You’re a ghost,” I said.

“I’m tired. I need to rent a room.”

Even though you were half invisible, you looked good. How you were able to wear makeup, I’ll never know.

“Are you a human or a ghost?” I couldn’t believe the words I was verbalizing.

“This is a motel, right? Can I rent a room or what?

“Take your pick. You’re the only ghost…I mean, guest here.”



∞∞∞



My title hasn’t changed since we met. I’m still the owner, housekeeper, bookkeeper, key cutter, landscaper, and everything-in-between at Hawk Motor Lodge, the oldest motel in Old Hawk, Massachusetts.

DD joked that Old Hawk is the Town Time Forgot.

But, really, Old Hawk is the Town Held Captive By Time.

DD’s a bastard—an assassin at the pool table, our most popular and only cool feature in the motel bar, besides cheap beer. The pool would be fun if it stayed full, but there’s an invisible crack somewhere. Water kept disappearing, so I emptied it. DD was one of the three regulars at the motel, along with earnest Stevie and sweetheart Gloria. I’d known them forever, DD, Gloria, and Stevie. They all lived in other hill towns, but they stayed over when they worked double-shifts at the prison. The prison and the asphalt plant were the only employers left in town after the Kodak factory closed.

It’s hard to believe you landed in Old Hawk, Massachusetts, when you could have dimension-hopped to any woods behind any motel in any city in any world. Or galaxy.

This town is all I’ve known, but I’ve always had my eye on the map. I was saving to move Nashville and sing Patsy Cline covers. I practiced Patsy’s songs so often, Gloria started calling me Cline in 10th grade. The nickname stuck.

I know. A New England girl obsessed with the south—you always laughed at that. I loved your laugh. Uncontainable and absolutely infectious from an otherwise measured lady ghost.

I liked to sing when I worked—still do—fishing rings out of bathroom sinks, making beds, smoothing pillowcases (crisp edge to crisp edge), cutting endless keys for the rooms. Every other guest managed to pocket their damn motel key. People find ways to carry the places they’ve been