Noise Complaint


Normally, Paul Gregory was a heavy sleeper. If you combined that with the fact that he'd just driven for fifteen hours before crashing at a motel just off the interstate, it meant he'd been planning on sleeping straight through the night and getting an early morning start on the last leg of his drive back home from the tech conference. With any luck, he'd be back in town by four and be able to pick Buster up from the kennel before it closed for the day.


But Paul Gregory didn't have the best luck, and the universe seemed pretty keen on driving that point home.


If it had only been the sound of a car pulling up, he might have slept through it. If it had only been the soft hum of a key card in a lock and people settling down for the night in the room next to his, most likely he might not have woken up. But it was the slamming of car doors at least three times, maybe four. It was yelling, arguing, complaining. And it was the sound of sneezing. And coughing. And nose-blowing. Whoever was getting into the room next to his had one heck of a cold.


“You can't get over it can you? The fact that I finally got a life and it didn't include you!”


“I never asked to be part of it.”




Paul groaned and piled a pillow over his head, hoping it would block out some of the yelling. It didn't.


“No matter what I do, I'm never going to be as good as you, Dean.”


“Because you don't try.”


“Because I don't want to be! I just... hahh-GISHhhhh! H'GRXxshhhh! Fuck, it's cold out here. Would you get the door open already?”


“M'trying. Think there's something wrong with the damn card.” He swore and banged on the door.


Paul groaned. “It's not going to magically open for you, you idiot,” Paul said softly into his pillow, knowing he couldn't be heard.


hih-IHBTSHHhhh! Deand... cub od...” The one with the cold blew his nose a few times with loud, honking blows. `


“I'm trying... goddamnit! It doesn't work. The guy at the motel office did this on purpose.”


“Well, you were kind of a jerk to him.”


“Shut up, bitch.” The man grunted. “I can't... with my left hand...”


There was a pause, and then the other man spoke. “Just give it.”


The sound of a door squeaking open made Paul smile. Finally. He rolled over onto his back and closed his eyes, preparing to fall back to sleep as the heavy door fell closed behind the two bickering men. He felt so exhausted, he almost managed to fall asleep in a minute. But then he was jolted right out of restfulness.




“Dude, cover your nose at least!”


Paul groaned. The walls were paper thin. Their voices sounded softer, muffled, but it was almost as bad as it was when they were outside.


When the other one, the sick one, replied, Paul couldn't hear every word. It was almost worse hearing parts of it and having to fill in the rest. “I... if you... tissues...” Another deceptive silence filled the room.


Then “HUR-UHSHHhhhhhh!” And the thing is, the sneezes were just so damn loud. Surely, they were louder than normal sneezes. How big was this guy? What was he? A giant? A sumo wrestler? A professional bodybuilder? “Huhh-AHSHUHkktttt!


“Pathetic...sneeze all over... stop... if you need... first, salt. Then fix... okay?”


“Salt?” Paul asked his empty bedroom. “What’s that about?”


There's a muffled reply from the other man that Paul couldn't hear and then silence. Paul didn't dare to hope that that's the last of it in case he jinxed himself.


HUH-URSChhhhhh! Heh... heh-HEPTCHUHHH!


“... my arm now.”


There was the sound of moving about, a few thumps and bumps and then a half-strangled yell. This made Paul sit straight up in bed, on alert, heart racing. What they hell were they doing over there? When no other sounds of torture came, he forced himself to lie back down. He told himself he had to just put up with it. But he gave himself permission to call the hotel's night manager if there were any other sounds of obvious torture. What he really needed was to just ignore what happened in the other room as get back to sleep.


But that was easier said than done. “HUH-URSCHHH! HURKSHHHH! HUHSHUHHhhh!” Those sneezes were so damn loud. “HUH... need... HURKShhhhhhh! HUHRUSHhhhuhh!


And then, even louder than the arguing and the sneezing, came the sound of running water. One of them must have turned on the shower. Or maybe the bath.


Paul rubbed his hand over his head. “Oh great. Just great. How about you turn the television up to its highest volume and start banging your shoes against the wall too, just for kicks?”


The rush of water through the pipes was loud and constant. Their two rooms must share plumbing or there must be a direct line from the hot water heater straight through Paul's room. Either way, it was loud enough to almost drown out the sound of sneezes.


Almost. “huhktchhhhh Ahrushhuhh! Huhkuhtchhhhh!” Paul considered getting up and running his own shower to help drown out the noise further, but that would require getting out of bed, and he felt too exhausted. Not to mention that that would put him closer to the problem rather than further from it. So Paul burrowed under blankets with two pillows held tightly to each ear. That helped considerably,

 but if he relaxed even a little in order to fall asleep, the pillows fell away,causing him to hear everything clearly again. “hehhh-IHSchhhhh! HehUHShhhhhh!


It was at least half an hour before the water was shut off. And Paul was filled with relief; it was starting to make him want to get up and use the bathroom. But now he could hear every sneeze again.


Huh-HUH-UHKSChhhh! HEHSheoshhhh!


And he could hear the other one talk as well. “Ever since she... your head's not in the game.”


“Can't... I miss... not my choice... don't know how it is.”


“Oh, I don't know? You never wanted... This life is... just...”




“The shower… not help at all, did it?”


“Shut up... sniff, sniff! Not sure I can...”

“You're not getting out of this tomorrow.”




“No, Sammy. I can't do this alone. Ever since Dad...”


huh... huh-URSCHHHH! HahKShhhhh!


Paul had had it. He got up, grabbed a couple things, including his jacket because this cheap motel didn't exactly offer luxury plush bathrobes and he couldn't yell at someone while wearing just his pajamas. He stormed over to the next room and banged on the door.


“Who's sniff! that?”


“How the hell should I know?”


“Is it a—”


“They don't usually knock, Sam.”


He heard—far too clearly—footsteps. Then the door opened and two guys stood there. They looked younger than Paul. And though one is taller, he wasn't the giant Paul had imagined him to be. One was dressed in jeans and plaid, both of which were covered in mud. The other had on sweats. The shorter of the two held what looked like a gun in his hand and Paul saw a shimmer of silver in the other's hand as it slid into the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Who were these guys? For a moment, Paul considered holding his tongue. But then the taller one cupped a hand to his nose and mouth before pitching forward. “AHHH-RUHSCHAHHHH!” He straightened up afterward, sniffling.


Paul shoved a box into that one's chest. “Take this for your cold.” Then he turned to the other one. “Give the guy a break. He's sick and clearly hung up still over this girl.” Then he looked back at the other guy. “And when you're feeling better, make more of an effort to do... whatever it is you two are doing. You don't have to be as good as him, just don't give up on it over a girl you don't even have any more. But, right now, tonight, can you just try to keep it down?” He started to head back to his room, then looked over his shoulder and threw a “Please?” their way.


When he crawled back into bed, he tried to fall back to sleep. But he couldn't help listening, just in case. He heard them moving around their room. He heard the creak of bed springs. And he heard a muffled “huhfsh!


It was followed by a soft, “Bless you, Sammy.”


Paul considered this an improvement. And he managed to fall asleep before hearing anything else.