At The New Ohio Hotel

The guests eat off of china from the previous owners Chinese restaurant. Mashed potatoes and meatloaf on an oval stir-fry platter, peas in a rice bowl. The scent of the orient hangs in the air, rising up from the dingy carpet and confusing the guests about their appetites and what they’ll do when they return to their rooms. Before they can cross the small lobby into the dining room, they must pass the gentleman at the front desk. He has three newspapers laid out in front of him: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Fostoria Daily News. He looks up from the papers even before the bell above the door jingles, noticing in the corner of his eye a figure pass by the glass storefront. “Thank you for coming,” he smiles. “And how many nights? Are you hungry? Please, this way.” He knows hospitality; it’s something that comes from your parents. It was the only thing his parents brought to the barren land of upper Michigan, inviting neighbors in for Arabic coffee and Jordan almonds despite their embarrassed accents, despite the rocks in the untillable land. He knows his guests hear the accent behind his words, that they are taken aback for a moment. But then they see the newspapers, remind themselves that he can read, and decide everything’s going to be fine, just fine indeed. The spiced air pricks their senses. They fear, with a slight excitement, that they’ll have to eat some sort of ethnic food, and they begin to wonder about the cleanliness of the rooms. He knows this from the way she barely lifts her chin as she takes a deep breath, but he says nothing, knowing that they’ll soon discover meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and everything will be fine, just fine indeed.

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