The desk clerk

His name was Lenny Slick, and he was night manager and desk clerk at the Marbol Hotel.

Lenny was 38, a dimwitted bachelor.

He was unattractive, tall, skinny, and sometimes he smelled of vegetable oil.

His mother had been a fortune-teller who practiced esoteric arts. It was his mom who had steered Lenny toward phrenology.

Phrenology obsessed Lenny. The shape of people’s heads. Lenny had only the lightest grasp of phrenology, but that didn’t lessen his love of heads.

After pursuing various occupations earlier in life,  it became clear he wasn’t suited for much more than sitting behind a hotel counter and pointing customers thataway, plus having them sign names and pay cold cash.

The Marbol Hotel sat in the seedy side of town. It had seen sweeter days, but nowadays most Marbol doings were marginal, both legally and morally.

The owner, Sol Levowitz, had told Lenny that hookers were verboten.

But Levowitz didn’t pay Lenny very much, and the occasional hooker would enter with a street john.

She would get a room by slipping a little extra into Lenny’s hand while he was examining the slopes of her head for clues. To what, he was unsure, just clues.

Some hookers, however, the stingier ones, sidetracked the Marbol’s ban by offering Lenny a little hootchy-kootchy instead of cash.

This delighted Lenny.

It was the only way he ever saw a woman naked, but that was not the only thing. It gave Lenny a very close look at the hooker’s head, the hills, the ravines.

A hooker freebie meant two things to Lenny. Flesh and phrenology. This sometimes led to misunderstandings with the woman beneath. Here’s why:

Lenny’s face, of course, would be near the hooker’s head, and he could study it carefully. Quite often, the question of phrenology made Lenny forget the other side of the equation, what he was doing farther south, which the hooker considered the principal attraction, the main act.

To the hooker, this was a quickie. But when Lenny became captivated by the subtle ups and downs he saw on her skull, the other ups and downs dragged out. He flipped to auto-pilot, and the flight could become a long one.

New York to London, sometimes Calcutta. The aroma of vegetable oil — far past its due date — would crescendo.

Lenny’s close-up study of the hooker’s head frequently would be brought to a brusk finale when she bellowed: Are you ever going to finish, dammit? Or something of that sort.

The women never appreciated Lenny’s love of esoteric science.

* * * *

(One of a series titled The Marbol Hotel.) 

12 thoughts on “The desk clerk”

        1. I have an ex father-in-law who was like Sol Lebovitz… except hookers were welcome. He ran the desk and sometimes rented out the same room 4 or 5 times a night. Made a small fortune and opened up two more seedy hotels. He could have used Lenny Slick at that point.


  1. Doncha just hate it when hookers say that to you? Leastaways, that’s what all you older guys have always told me.


    1. Young Gringo: Of course, I would know nothing of that. Never paid for hootchy-kootchy in my life, not even once. That is true only if you do not count the fact that all men pay one way or another. Matrimony, for example.

      I did live with a hooker once for a few months, a lovely young woman who worked at the Ho House next door to the Malamute Bar in San Juan where I tossed back my share. I also spent time at the bar in the Ho House watching the drunken nightlife. I met her at the bar where we often talked. She was sharper than your average hooker. She ceased the occupation when she moved in with me. That was over 30 years ago. She recently found me on Facebook, and we reminisced a bit. She now drives one of two taxis she owns in Buenos Aires and regrets the time she spent in “the life,” something she did on a youthful lark more than anything. She was just 20. I still have a photo of the two of us sitting in the Malamute Bar.


  2. I stayed in a Hotel of a “seedy” kind one time, but didn’t know it. It was a motel on Hwy 35 in Desoto, Tx. across from an El Chico restaurant that we were remodeling. My oldest daughter was with me. We were there almost three days before we figured out what was going on. The clues — calls from the front desk on a regular basis wanting to know when we were checking out; the parking lot full of people at 1AM; and the look on the face of the manager of El Chico when he found out where we were staying. Heck, we didn’t know … we moved! YUK.
    The year – 1985.


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