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kerry m wood

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Act of Will
By kerry m wood
Sunday, May 01, 2011

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A male teacher buys a drink for a prostitute. She goes to his hotel room.
What follows changes his career and life.








Willis fumbled trying to find the slot for the keycard to open his hotel room.  He usually didn’t drink much, but the opportunity to do what he was doing–to be another person, the sort he had read about and admired–might never again offer itself.


Ten years he had taught at the all-boys boarding school, occupying a dorm room, overseeing evening study hall once a week, having to say grace at the lunch table even though he was an atheist.  But now he was a five-hour plane ride away from sniggering students who, he knew, called him “Phyllis”; who mimicked his mannerisms and seemed bent on making his life a living hell. 


Every month he had mailed $300 to his ailing mother in Oakland. His father had died of a stroke the year he had graduated. Three hundred dollars wasn’t much, but private schools didn’t pay well. Two weeks earlier he had received word of his mother’s passing quietly in her sleep. She had set aside money for her cremation. Willis had taken Bay Area Rapid Transit last weekend, closed her apartment, and scattered her ashes in the San Francisco Bay. He was alone, had a small inheritance, and had $300 dollars a month to spend.


When the headmaster of the school had offered Willis the opportunity to attend the nationwide conference in Chicago, he had felt an odd feeling of opportunity that went beyond getting away from roll taking, lesson plans, teaching, and student paper correction for five days. He had plundered his savings account to buy expensive slacks, sport coat and shoes at Sak’s. The afternoon before his departure, he had spent thirty dollars on a haircut and styling instead of the ten dollars ordinarily budgeted. He also got the first manicure of his life.


He smelled perfume a moment before he felt her body pressing against his rear as she reached over him and took the keycard from his hand.


“Let me help you out, Mr. Man of the World. Once you charm a lady in a hotel bar, you better at least be able to open your room door if things are to go any further.”



Willis thought back over what had recently transpired in the lower-level bar of the Sheraton. He had stopped in about 9:30 pm after the obligatory dinner and the dull speaker. There had been only the bartender and an attractive woman in the place who had been chatting with him.


“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks with a splash, and I’d like to buy the lady whatever she’s drinking,” he had said. He remembered the suave male lead in the airplane movie delivering the same line.


His first impulse was to explain apologetically, “I just bought you a drink since we were the only people in the bar. I was feeling generous and kind of excited to be on my own where nobody knew me.” Then he remembered her looking in his eyes and asking, “Who is this kind, handsome person?”


“Call me Will,” he said.


“Are you going to stay sitting way over there so I have to yell? Come on over and sit next to me.”


Willis picked up his scotch and walked to the barstool next to hers. He sat and began to make small talk, amazing himself at the clever remarks he kept coming up with. He told the woman – her name was Mandy – that he was part of the Allied Computer Convention and would be flying back to SFO in the morning. He hoped she wouldn’t notice the canvas tote bag he had with him and the legend that read Committee for Private School Improvement.


After a second round of drinks, one that Mandy merely toyed with, he asked for his bill, tipped and signed with his room number, and said good night to Mandy and the bartender. After a brief men’s room stop, he took the elevator to his fifth floor room and found Mandy waiting at his door. He wondered if she had her own high-speed elevator.


She walked into the room ahead of him, and he noticed her quick scrutiny of his unpacked belongings. A slick pro checking things out. No guns or badges, he thought to himself.


“What’s this all about?” she asked, pointing to his gym shorts with the logo that read “Supreme Court” and the image of a set of Ionic columns.


“That’s a racquetball court chain I’m a member of in California.”


“I see you’ve got a bottle of scotch and an ice bucket. The ice machine is just down the hall. How about we have a little party?” she said, sitting down on the king-sized bed.


“Just the two of us?”




“What’s that going to cost me?”


Mandy crossed her legs and clasped her hands over her upper knee. The action pushed her full breasts together and displayed a few inches of cleavage above the modest neckline of her blouse. “A hundred dollars for the basics. Beyond that . . . it would be up to you.”


“I’m not sure that’ll go in my expense account,” Willis said. “Though you are extremely attractive. Let me take care of the drink situation.”


Will went down the hall a short distance to fill the ice bucket.




When he came back, Mandy was standing at the window. “Did I hear you say ‘Will’ or is it ‘Willis’?”


“Willis? Where did you get that?”


“There are name tags on both your briefcase and your luggage. ‘Willis Reiman, The Montclair Academy, San Carlos, California. You’ve got to be a teacher and not a computer jockey. One of the shirts in your closet has a plastic doohickey that protects the pocket and one of the two ballpoints in it is a red. We used to call those nerd packs when I was in school. So, Teach, don’t bother pouring me a drink. I suppose I’ll be getting along. We working girls can’t be wasting our time no matter how attractive you are.”


She walked up to Willis, put her hand on his neck and kissed him first on the cheek, then expertly on the mouth, her right hand traveling down his spine to his buttocks. “I hope the Montclair Academy is coed. Otherwise that gorgeous ass of yours is going unappreciated.” She blew him a kiss as she walked out the door.


Willis smiled as he walked to the closet. He pulled the plastic penholder from his shirt pocket and left it in the wastebasket. Then Will Reiman got a glassful of ice from the machine and mixed himself a nightcap. He began mentally composing a resignation letter to submit before the end of the term.


His English teacher training kicked into gear as he reflected on the evening’s events. An encounter with a prostitute, a couple of drinks, a few physical compliments of dubious sincerity. Ordinarily the stuff of bad novels or sad nonfiction, but not tonight.  Will felt like a graduate. A world of possibilities, challenges, relationships, and new directions glimmered in his mind.  No more study halls, dormitory supervision, bed checks, institutional food. It was time for some changes.


Could working girl Mandy possibly know the service she had performed free of charge? Was Mandy even her real name?


Will switched off the room lights, pulled up a chair, and sipped while gazing out at the lights of the city. Smiling, he considered his options.






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