Akron stunk. It didn’t stink nearly as much as some of the places the Crone would visit, and see and feel and breathe the air of, but relative to Sydney and San Francisco, the only cities she’d spent much time in, Akron definitely stunk.
Philadelphia had smelled good during the hot marches, all those bodies sweating and moving together in common cause. Tante didn’t yet know the outcome of the Convention, but somehow, she knew it wasn’t good.
Or maybe it was just the smell in Akron.
It smelled of burnt rubber and rust that never slept, soot and broken dreams. At least the parking lot outside Motel 6 smelled that way. The lobby smelled of beer.
There was a man, really yellow, the look of long term alcoholism, sleeping behind the desk. His feet were propped up, saliva dripping from the side of his mouth. He was heavy, shaped like a pear. A yellow pear. His shirt was white, but stained, his pants blue. He had exactly three hairs on his head. He wore a name tag.
“Um, excuse me,” Tante rang the bell on the desk, because it was there, with a sign, that read ring bell for service, so she did.
“D’oh!” Homer crashed backwards, hitting his head on the wall, spilling the beer that had been perfectly balanced on his high, round gut.
“Um, Al and Helga dropped me off here, and I see that you have a sign outside that says that rooms cost $49.95 per night, and so I’d like to rent one of your rooms for the night.” Tante was quite proud of herself. While she didn’t really get what a Motel 6 was or why Helga had stopped there, there was that sign out front, and it appeared to be a building with quite a few places one might sleep. She did hope that at a desk in Homer’s position wasn’t what was traditional in these parts.
She’d heard some awful punk rock coming from a bar down the street. It sounded like someone was calling for nuclear war; she wondered if they were Trumpet supporters. The Crone did have her opinions about various musical genres, that was a fact.
Homer picked up his beer can from the floor, almost caught it before it hit, actually, the splash over the lip of the can was what woke him, he’d trained his body with keen precision to do just that. Then he picked himself up, neither setting down the can, nor spilling another drop.
“Ummmmmm……..beer.” He took a slug, and belched in perfect harmony to the crunching of the can, with a brilliantly simple percussive pop of a new top, left handed, followed by the clink of the can just emptied into the pile in the corner.
Tante just stared at him.
“Yup, $49.95 plus tax, no breakfast, credit cards only, I.D., take everything from your vehicle into your room, lock the doors, bolt them, twice, use the peephole, mildew happens, don’t sniff the rug, and ignore any and all sounds that you might hear coming from other rooms, it’s all television.” Homer had donned a pair of reading glasses, was reading from a stained computer print out.
Tante got out her passport and the credit card Al had given her and handed them over.
“I don’t have a car, and I’ve got all my belongings with me.” Tante was starting to feel a bit lost. Homer was so inhuman, inanimate almost. Her jaw started to quiver.
“Auntie Christi? Really?” Homer smirked. “Tell me, can you microwave a burrito and make it so hot that even you can’t eat it?”
“Huh?” Tante was flummoxed.
“Flanders sent you here, didn’t he?” He was getting pissy, and Tante didn’t get it. She sighed.
“No, it’s the name thing, right? That’s really my name, and I don’t know if I’m related in any way to that guy in the story books, I don’t like cooking with a microwave…”
“Good, you’re not getting one.”
“….and I don’t know who Flanders is. I’m tired, and I have a long way to go, and I don’t know how to get there, or what I’m even doing sometimes, even though Copper told me I needed to Sun Dance and Al told me that I had to make my own decisions, or that I had to be nice, or that it’s all relative, or something.” She started sniffling again, the jaw quiver.
“D’oooooooh, I get it! You’re on an Odyssey! I did one of those. Well, really, I’ve done a lot over the years, started back in Season 12.” Suddenly Homer was the Wise One. Tante was game for it, what did she know of wisdom?
“Yes!” She smiled. Suddenly, she wasn’t quite so weary.
“Oh, well, then I’ve got some advice.”
She was all ears.
“When you hear sirens, don’t cross the street. Lash yourself to the closest pole and tell everyone around you to plug their ears.” Tante was taking notes, frantically, on the back of the credit card receipt he’d handed her. “It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt so good. John Mellencamp will be sining, sweetly. You’ll like it.”
“Watch out for the one-eyed monster. You’ll know it when you see it.” She’d figure out the one eyed monster.
“And there’s this woman, a real bitch, and I mean she can turn a man to stone with just one look.” Homer paled to a shade of light cornsilk, almost human, remembering Medusa. “Of course since you’re a chick, and maybe even uglier than she is, maybe you’ll be okay.”
“Now, before you set out, you should probably get a good night’s rest, and I’ll tell you right now, with the bed in the room you’re about to occupy, you’ll probably need some drugs to get there.” He reached behind the counter and pulled out a tray of flowers. “I’m a lotus man myself, but lots of people seem to like the poppies.”
Tante popped a flower.
“Gosh Homer, thanks. Is there anything else I should know?”
“Well, sure, you’ll pick up some sheepskins along the way, have all kinds of adventures. Probably most important is that you wander. Don’t make it a straight shot to the west coast, that’s boring.” Homer belched.
“Wow, I just can’t thank you enough, Homer. Is there any way I can repay you?” Tante was naive, but it was a nativity born of trust, the best kind. Homer didn’t let her down.
“Tell me, are you really the Auntie Christ?” he looked hopeful. She didn’t want to disappoint him.
“That’s my name.” She smiled at him.
“So the end times are really near?” he held up a board with a bunch of odd symbols on it. She decided she could tell a half truth, or a whole truth, it was hard to say sometimes.
“Looks right to me!”
“Thank God, it’s finally Doomsday!”
With that, he sat back down and chugged his beer.
For Tante, the Odyssey had begun.
The End is Near