Space Hockey Cadet

Trouble on Titan

“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss
is magic, the second is intimate,
the third is routine. After that you
take the girl's clothes off.”
—Raymond Chandler

I needed a place to stay—so I checked into a dumpy slot in the wall called the San Bernardino Prescott Hotel. It really wasn’t the Prescott Hotel—nor was it San Bernardino. It was just a motel dive in New Titan Town—named by some joker with a nostalgic sense of humor. LA and San Bernardino didn’t exist anymore—not after the Klone War.

It was around eleven and all I had was an overnight bag. I got inside and the bellhop in braided pants and a neat little uniform yanked it out of my hand.

The creepy little clerk on duty didn’t look up—he just handed me the desk pen and took my credit card. He kept looking off in the distance—like he was homesick for somewhere else. Anywhere but Titan.

The bellhop and I rode the ratty elevator up to the top floor and walked a couple of miles down some hallways and around lots of corners. He unlocked the door to a stuffy little cubicle the size of a shoebox and dumped my bag on the bed.

At least it was warm inside and dry. The walk over the bridge and getting myself together had pretty much exhausted me. I still wasn’t used to gravity again yet—and my Velcro limbs were killing me.

The bellhop was young and tall and bored—he was cool as cold runny vichyssoise. He picked his nose as if he were digging for caviar—standing there looking out the window. He was chewing gum and moving it around in his face. He turned around and looked at me—just to let me check him out.

“Maybe I should have asked for a better looking bellhop,” I said, trying to make a joke out of it. He had a bulge going down the side of his leg—the size of a tube of baloney.

“Hey, mister,” he said. “You’re lucky you got any room at all. This town is full of drunk miners on leave from the Rings of Saturn Company. They’re in all the motels and whorehouses. You know how miners are.”

“Bring us up some ginger ale and glasses and ice,” I said.


“Well, that is, if you’re a drinking man, fellah.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. “It’s late and I got time on my hands.”

He went out. I took off my jumpsuit and jumped in the shower. It smelled like a locker-room inside the stuffy motel room—but I was used to that kind of thing. I douched myself with hot water and dried myself off with a towel. I got into a robe.

The tall languid young bellhop returned with a tray. He shut the door behind him and opened a bottle of rye. He mixed a couple of drinks and we made the usual insincere kinds of toasts that men make—and got down to business.

I could see the perspiration on his forehead—oozing down his neck into his uniform. Down past his collar and into his socks—as he poured us another. I sat on the bed and looked at him.

“How long can you stay?”

“Doin’ what?”


“A dollar gets you remembered in this town. You a dick?”

“You ever seen a dick playing solitaire with his own money?”

He looked down at the spread of tired-looking $100 bills along the bed.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Flambeaux. “I thought you were a dick.”

“Don’t be silly. Do I look like a dick?”

“Naw, he said. “I heard about you with the Hockey League. I watched all the games. Who hasn’t?”

“Forget it,” I said. “Do you mind if I call you Tex?”

I gave him a $100 bill. “With that drawl you must be from Texas. Mind if I call you Big Tex from Houston?”

“Amarillo,” he said. “Not that I care. You like my Texas drawl? I hate it—but people seem to like it.”

“Keep it,” I said. “It goes well with your lanky body.”

He grinned and stuck the folded bill into his jacket.

That’s the reason I picked the San Bernardino Prescott Motel. It reminded me of Raymond Chandler—and The Long Goodbye. Claire Trevor’s cold performance in the film version, Farewell, My Lovely. We watched movies a lot on the space station between games—what else was there to do?

I liked Chandler better than Heinlein. His funky-armpit panache never dies. He wasn’t a drunk—he was fastidious, preferred cocktails and delved into human nature. He hated fags—preferred dull trolls and humpy Paul Cadmus numbers.

He liked truck drivers who smoked Lucky Strikes—who didn’t wipe the nozzle of a pint of rye driving in the middle of the night. Not that I was a Marlowe type—but I knew the smell of flop sweat guys in the hockey locker-rooms. It didn’t bother me.

The Big Texan was strong with the madness of love and fear—or a mixture of both or maybe he was just strong. I was on the other hand—neurotic in hearts, sex-hungry in clubs and starving in spades.

“Good night, Mr. Flambeaux,” he said later.

That’s the thing with sex—it’s great stuff like chocolate Sundays. But there comes a time—when you would rather cut your throat.

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