The brochure made the inn on the large, blue lake look very quaint. However, when they arrived, they were horrified to find a rundown wooden building with a “Vacancy” sign they were sure was never turned off. It was too late in the evening to turn around. They told the unkempt clerk at the desk that they’d be staying only one night. As they turned, keys in hand, he muttered, “Ya both need to know there are paths in these here woods. Whatever ya do, do NOT…”

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

“Excuse me. There’s been a mistake.”

“Doubt it.”

“Look at this brochure! We didn’t drive all this way to stay in a dump like this!”

“Livingston, Mr. & Mrs. I have your reservation right here. Paid in full. Four nights. No pets. Nonsmoking. Very good, sir. Ma’am.”

“I said we’re leaving! [Snaps fingers] Refund!”

“Room 9. Your key. You can park right in front a your door. Ice and vending are up the staircase on the second landing.”

“John, it’s late. Whatever. Let’s just get some sleep and figure out what we’re doing in the morning. I don’t want to drive back down that creepy road in the dark.”

“The dark has nothing to do with it. Never hate the path that puts things right. Enjoy your stay.”

“Fine. Weirdo. We’re outta here as soon as the sun’s up. And I want the other three nights put back on my card before checkout. Hear me?”

“We have muffins and bagels from 6-10. Coffee, milk and juice. Good night.”

I’ve heard it countless times.

Fate is a fragile tapestry. Pull on the wrong thread and a snag bunches up all around it. People do it all the time without knowing it. Happens so fast and could be anything big or small. Turn left instead a going straight. Grab the pepper instead a the salt. Take that flashy new job instead a staying put. Cut someone outta your life over something stupid. You name it. People just don’t get how interconnected everything is. Gotta stay on script, which ain’t easy, since none a us gets ta read one word ahead a wherever we happen ta be. But go rogue at all and boom: another snag. When that happens, it takes a special Crew ta smooth out the threads once again. Then Fate can continue moving along however it wishes. Don’t get me started.

Anyway, ta fix things, whoever did the pulling has ta go off grid for a while. Just until the repairs are finished. It’s probably happened ta you hundreds a times and you never knew it. Elevator stays closed a little longer. Traffic light seems even slower than usual. Sure. Easy fixes. But sometimes folks screw up their threads so badly the poor Road Crews need days or even weeks ta flatten things back out. It just depends on how big the snag is and how many people (threads) are affected.

We have thousands a holding tanks set aside just for this purpose. Some a these unfortunates end up here, no matter where they thought they was headed, and they stay as long as it takes for us ta fix things. A guest in Room 3 been here since 2017. He’s kinda cranky by now, believe me. But I never take it personally. One day he’ll check out, I guess. Hope so. Eats all the cheese danishes.

This couple that just checked in ta 9; they thought they was heading ta a beautiful resort up on Lake Pangea in Shippley, Missouri. Place don’t even exist. But that pamphlet tells me a pretty bad choice was made somewhere along the way. And since they’re both here, they both got their hands dirty. But it could be worse! That guy in 3 was looking for Sitoburg, Tennessee (which also does not exist), and everybody looking for that place stays a good long while. Miklin, Maryland guests, on the other hand, only stay overnight. Plenty a them come through. I guess the Road Crew sends me these little messages just to give me some idea how many sheets and towels I’m gonna need to launder.

But this place ain’t all bad. You get used ta it. Some Tennessee guests lose their minds for a while, peel out and sling gravel flying outta the parking lot. But after all the twists and turns through the woods and whatnot, the end of the road puts them right back here. So they hit reverse and go back the other way: same thing. The top is the bottom is the top. Kick and scream all they want, ain’t nobody leaving till things are flat again. Once they accept that, they kinda relax a bit. Reflect. Sit out at the picnic tables and listen to the birds, I don’t know. Might as well. I’m told nobody remembers any of this when they leave, and how could they? How you gonna keep things flat if you know Fate kept you locked up in this lost motel for seven months? Believe me, I wouldn’t wanna know either. I’m working through enough crazy already, thank you very much.

I shouldn’t a left them, alright? I get it now. Got it a long time ago. Look, all I know is I was planning on hooking up with Gorgeous for a weekend up near the Smokey Mountains just outside a Sitoburg, Tennessee, and somehow I ended up at the motel on the path that puts things right. Best family a guy ever had, and I was ready ta throw it all away for nothing. The last desk clerk, one day he came up to Room 1, handed me the keys, and left forever. I knew holding them keys was not good. He thought he’d been here more than ten years before his snag finally flattened out. I’ve counted more autumns than that, and I’m still the only Staff working here. Leaves are turning again, looks like.

So, yeah. Miklin. You say you were looking for Miklin when ya drove up here? Ha! Lucky bastard.