The fire at the Stuttgart Inn
I wanted to call you when I heard about the fire at the Stuttgart Inn, that old motel leading down to the lake. It seemed like you were probably the only person who might know what I was talking about who hadn’t heard already. But then, I figured you probably had. Small towns are small, no matter how many time zones away you get.
That place, right by the country club, was halfway between your mom’s house and my mom’s house. It always seemed so fucking far. Your mom even said I could come stay with you in the city sometimes if I got tired of driving to school. I mean, really, it was ten minutes tops, but I’m really glad your mom drove me home practically every night before I got my license.
I felt so grown-up when I heard that some collector was hassling your mom about me and I drove out to her place, past the Stuttgart, bought a bottle of chilled Rosé and made a peace offering. Then right past the Stuttgart and back to my mom’s house. Your mom and her husband talked about how they had been drinking a lot of Rosé lately, but for all I know they were yanking my chain. All I know is I saw on TV that French people drink Rosé on ice in the summer. Come to think of it, it was you who told me about that creditor calling your mom.
Your lanky friend drove us right past the Stuttgart that night he stole that shitty wine and busted the bottle open in the parking lot. It’s not like I have any specific memories of the Stuttgart Inn. I lived five minutes away, so I never stayed there. People didn’t even talk about it enough for me to know whether or not they pronounced Stuttgart right.
I mean, technically it was on a highway, but a highway only traveled by locals and people driving through our town to get to someplace else. There were two motels across from each other, and somehow they both stayed in business. Even though the one never could get a chambermaid.
There were lots of articles about the fire. Firefighters from three states came to help put it out, but the whole damn thing burned down. That fire just wanted to burn. I bet someone on the scene said that. It’s really easy to give it up to nature when nature has just kicked your ass. Oh sure, it was probably something terribly unnatural like wiring that started the fire, but fire is fire, once it gets going.
There were videos of the blaze set to sad loud metal music. Seems like everyone I knew who was still in town went and took pictures. I knew it was going to fuck with my mom’s commute. It was kind of like finding out I had a distant aunt who was supposed to get on one of those planes on 9/11 but didn’t. Like I needed some connection, hundreds of miles away, to a motel I had only ever driven past.
The day after the fire, two cars crashed into each other because the drivers were gawking at the wreckage. That’s when I really wanted to call you. It seemed really perfect, to be totally honest. Like a thing that could only happen in your hometown, whatever your hometown was. The radio and paper put out warnings to tell people to watch the road and not the rubble. And it was pretty much rubble.
Nobody died, or even got hurt. I was really surprised when I found out there were 23 people inside the building when the fire started. It probably only took two people to run it, if that. I guess it was initially reported as a car fire, so maybe somebody’s car got fucked. But all the people were safe.
And I bet they had to go stand out back, on the lawn facing the golf course at the country club. I bet the country club types just loved that. I bet some people were wearing flannel, and cutoff shorts, and maybe even chunky wedge sandals that light up on the bottom when you walk. I bet there was a crying baby and someone with a two-name first name. I bet people were crying and wondering why there were still people playing golf.
I bet the country club people are pissed they have to drive past a burnt-out shell of a motel.
A local B&B did a write-up about the fire. I read it to see if there was any info I hadn’t seen before. It started with just the facts, but at the end they told people who had booked the Stuttgart for an upcoming race weekend that they would need to make alternate plans. I thought that was real tacky.
It made me think that I had no idea who the owners were. Maybe they were real jerks who didn’t keep things up to code. Maybe they were wonderful people who took soup to shut-ins on the weekend. Maybe I had never seen them before, or maybe they were those people who were somehow everywhere I went. Maybe I flipped them off one day in traffic, or they me. Maybe they went to school with my parents, or I went to school with their kids.
I’m not saying I would be especially happy if this had happened to shitty people. I guess it’s just, somehow, there are still anonymous people in the smallest of towns. Of course, I’m anonymous to them. We probably both are. I don’t know, did you know them?