An arc of motel units could be seen beyond a big circular lawn at the end of a driveway that passed the reception office, which was partially concealed behind an overgrown shrubbery. I stopped the car and checked in at the office and the man, after telling me there was a vacancy and giving me the key to number two, asked conversationally, "Hot enough for you?"
There was a metal table and a chair outside each unit. Outside some were sand-filled ceramic planters. They were the non-smoking units. You could smoke out the front. An air-conditioner hummed away over one of the doors, number four, which meant the others were vacant. It was still about 38 degrees and it was close to five o'clock.
I like motels. I'm a motel buff. I like genuine fifties, sixties and seventies designs that are untouched. This was seventies messed up with some eighties kitsch and some nineties technology, such as three remote controls, the too-big television and the water-saving showerhead. But it was still nice.
Later, we came outside and sat on chairs on the big circular lawn over which grew two very old and large trees, so that the lawn was in perfect, cool shade. We lay Thomas down on a blanket and he looked up at the canopy.
The door of number four opened and a woman looked out and waved. She was the woman who had been feeding the ducks at the lake, where she had smiled at William. She came over to the lawn. "I didn't see the baby," she said, explaining. She was about eighty-five and she had watery eyes but they danced at the baby. "He's beautiful."
We talked about the heat and the lake and then she said, "I had three myself. The middle one died at four months. A boy." A faraway smile, not bitter. The leaves waved gold in the evening breeze and I asked her his name. I could tell by her manner that she wasn't going to tell us her life story, and I thought she might like to say his name because she wouldn't get asked all that much any more. "Ronald." She said: "He was ill and I called the doctor late at night and he came and he told me I was imagining things and then he went away, and at two in the morning, the baby died in my arms." Not bitter.
I got the idea that she enjoyed seeing a new little pair of eyes in a new little face, as if there were some parallel universe of innocents that carries closest to its heart the ones who didn't make it.
Or maybe she just liked babies.
After a while she went back to her room and we stayed on the lawn a little longer. It was still hot. It was very quiet.