by Rae Young

One of the most memorable incidents in our hotel was the request by a woman for a room for the entire season with but one stipulation— private bath. This luxurious plumbing feature was almost non-existent in the area.

My father immediately said, “We must give it to her.” His mathematical brain already computerized the income derived from an all season occupant plus the additional rate for the bath-tub. He declared, “Eli will find a way.”

Eli was second oldest of my brothers, and his status was “chief engineer.” This important title was bestowed on him to lend more dignity to his work. But the truth was simple. His main function was keeping in repair the continually stuffed and clogged-up toilets.

Eli did not say one word about how he would acquire this expensive bathroom fixture. We all knew it would not be though regular channels of ordering from a supply house. Each of us had his own thoughts about it. Mine were that he might “borrow” one from somewhere. Some would call that stealing, but Eli’s alibis always had a positive tone of legality to them. Sure enough the next morning I saw Eli and four of his friends coming down the lane, looking like pall-bearers, struggling with a four-legged bath-tub. They finally got it through the front entrance, huffing and puffing and relieved when my brother shouted, “Set it down. I’ll go into the office to tell my father to confirm the reservation.”

I just had to know the whole story, and ran right after him. I overheard Eli say, “Papa, remember that 93-year-old lady down the road who still had an outhouse?” My father said, “Yes, yes. So?”

“Do you remember that day she came here and begged me to connect an inside bathroom for her?”

My father: “That’s right, of course I remember she wanted an inside toilet before she died, yes?”

Eli took a deep breath. “She died six months ago and her place has been closed up. Well, I took back the bathtub; she never did pay me enough for my work. So I’m entitled, right?” My father never answered him on that one, nor did he hardly ever on any other. “Take it to Room 4,” said my father, and he quickly left the office, not wanting to hear any more about it.

Since I handled most of the check-ins, I immediately foresaw trouble. Room 4 was for a single occupant and I just couldn’t imagine enough space there for the tub. Eli got started immediately on the plumbing, but did not allow anyone to see what he was about, and even slept in that room to make sure of it. In fact he had arranged with my father that he was to take care of the check-in,too.

Several days later the lady arrived, and I made certain to go right along with him and made an effort to clutch one of her small bags. Quite irritated, Eli said, “I’ll handle this.”

“That’s all right,” I said, addressing the woman and avoiding looking at my brother: “The chambermaid is quite busy so I thought I’d lend a hand to check the bed and leave some towels for you.” I guess Eli was a little embarrassed to press it any further as he saw it wasn’t going to be easy to stop me.

He unlocked the door.

There in the center of the room, looking like a big white elephant in a small cage and pushed right alongside the single bed was the bathtub.

Proudly, Eli said, “Lady, there she is, you roll right out of the bed and into the tub. Can you ever have such complete and convenient privacy anywhere else?

The woman, flabbergasted, and too overwhelmed to actually answer the question, simply muttered, “Lovely.”