J.D. Sumner’s The Excursionist was chosen for the Sunday Mail’s Great Outdoor Summer Reads – if you’re majorly experiencing the winter blues over the chilly weather, this might be just the thing for you! Check out the following exclusive extract. If you like what you read, get yourself a copy here.
There didn’t appear to be any bellboys or receptionists at La Hermita. There didn’t seem to be any guests either. Having looked around for five minutes, I banged the standard-issue bell you always spot on hotel reception desks. Nothing happened. I looked behind the counter to see if I could use an internal telephone. I found a young man, with a mouth like a Kermit the Frog hand-puppet, hiding behind the counter. His cap proclaimed Jesus Is My Boss. He had an Adam’s apple like a jockey’s bollocks and was reading Erich von Däniken’s 1968 classic, Chariots of the Gods: Was God an Astronaut? He didn’t look up and continued to read. Perhaps he hoped I would go away. Was hiding behind the reception of a hotel the best way to do this? It was one of those moments when you take stock of your life and make snap judgements based on very little information. What had I learnt? Firstly, I had learnt God was more likely to have been an astronaut than Jesus Is My Boss was a receptionist. Secondly, Jesus Is My Boss had not been trained to the same exacting standards as one might have expected having read La Hermita’s flyer. I also learnt I had better control over my temper than I had when I was about the same age as the dimlo who was cowering behind the counter. This refers to a time so long ago I still had cheekbones.
I brought the bell over to where the receptionist was hiding in his bunker and banged it again, while this time leaning over and looking at him. After some time had passed, he looked up but didn’t say anything so I rang the bell again.
‘Yes. Please,’ I said. He looked at me again.
‘Do you work here?’
‘Do you work here now?’ I asked.
‘Yes.’ He squinted at me.
‘Great. Sorry to bother you, but are you on duty today? Could you get the receptionist for me?’ I asked.
‘Of the receptionist?’ I asked.
‘Of the guest?’
‘Kaganagh, Jack Kaganagh,’ I said.
‘Nobody here staying called Jack Kaganagh.’
‘No, that’s because I’m yet to check in.’
‘Fill in registration form.’ He picked up his book.
‘Great,’ I said.
‘You want to pay now?’
‘What do you think?’ I stared at him until he blinked.
He continued to read his book and managed to avoid looking at me. I continued to scribble over my client-registration form and signed in as Bette Davis, gave my address as Kamsusan Palace of the Sun, Pyongyang and my occupation as Psycho-geographer. The gentleman meeter and greeter, who still offered the punter the most generous odds in the Employee-of-the-Month competition, ignored anything remotely relevant to my request for a quiet double en-suite room facing away from the street, slapped a key on the counter and went back to mulling over whether his boss was an astronaut or not. I don’t know the answer either, but as a space cadet had checked me in, I supposed anything was possible.
I was pleased I wasn’t offered any help with my bags. Actually, that is not true. I was quite pissed off, but at least I didn’t have to tip the maddening half-wit. The key to the room was big and clunky with tassels. The room was huge with an enormous bath with Victorian plumbing, what the travel magazines describe as ‘shabby chic’. Or, as we travellers call it – overpriced.
I put on my white towelling robe, flicked through the services directory in the hotel guide and plumped for the Signature La Hermita top-to-bottom massage lasting ninety minutes and costing eighty dollars. I dialled the room-service number and was relieved to have avoided the twerp downstairs.
‘Hello, do you speak English?’ ‘Yes,’ she said.
‘Do you do laundry?’ I asked. ‘Yes.’
‘I need to get it back tomorrow.’
‘I need it back tomorrow, okay?’ I said.
‘Okay,’ she said.
‘Will someone come to my room?’
‘Yes,’ she said.
I had a coughing fit and struggled to clear my throat. ‘Will they come now?’
‘Yes, please,’ I said.
‘Are you the person to book the massage with?’
‘Massage?’ she said.
‘Do I book the massages with you?’
‘I don’t massage. I ring.’
‘Yes, please. The signature La Hermita massage ninety minutes costing eighty dollars.’
‘Okay.’ And with that she clicked off.