The Keystone, By Ethan Holmes
Chapter 1: Room Please
Her frail, thin body was slumped back, her head tilted to the left supported only
by the black rubberized foam handle of the wheelchair. Opaque drool dribbled down
the corners of her wrinkled purple mouth. Straw-
“Dang! That’s a big-
“What do ya think, Titus? She looks like she hung on a bit past her prime, don’t she?” Toby laughed and patted his size fifty two waist struggling to burst out of his dark blue Dunmore Heights EMT uniform.
Titus looked at big, black, bald Toby standing over the old lady grinning ear to ear eagerly waiting for a reaction to his morbid humor.
“Toby,” Titus growled, “Are you always a pinhead or do you just play one on TV? And by the way, when are you going to quit pretending you still fit in someone else’s uniform? You know, someone three sizes smaller than you?”
Toby’s facial expression quickly turned to dismay. “Hey Ty, ain’t no need to go gittin’ personal my man. I was jus’ tryin’ to keep the situation light. Ya dig?”
Titus blew him off as he continued his examination of the dead lady’s room. “It stinks in here like a mixture of old bleach and cheap whiskey.”
“HEE HEE! That’s a fact Jack! You got it. You just described this whole place man! This hotel has smelled like that for years. ‘Bout the only place you can breathe is down in the damn lobby. HA! But only when the doors are turnin’.” Toby was back to smiling as he lit a cigarette.
Titus knew it was an accurate description of The Keystone. It was a thirteen story
gray and tan stone structure complete with gargoyles on the two front corners of
the building looming down on the street below. Located at Harrison Avenue and Roselyn
Street in the Dunmore Heights section of North Scranton, Pennsylvania, (a place the
late Harry Chapin politely referred to in song as “that coal-
Sick, elderly patrons with no known family and no money to pay for nursing home facilities
Built in 1939, The Keystone quickly became the landmark hotel of North Scranton. Positioned strategically to handle passengers from the Reading & Pennsylvania Railroad at the nearby Wheeler Avenue Station, The Keystone was, at the time, the grand dame of hotel accommodations in that area. If you looked carefully you could still see signs of the past glory of the place from its dual ten foot revolving glass doors to the black marble floor of the lobby and the gold leaf hotel name etched above the cherry wood front desk which, ironically, still had the faint aroma of cherry but only if you stuck your nose right on it. You wouldn’t want to do that.
A stale, rancid cloud hung in the air unless one of the revolving doors let in a blast of fresh air to stir it around.