The word is Flowerpot.
Timeline: Oscar is about thirteen or fourteen
Reading time: 5-10 minutes
Oscar didn’t have anyone to admit it to, but he wouldn’t be ashamed to say he liked when the decorations changed in the motel’s main office. There was hardly room for anything in there among the papers and the coffee machine and the outdated, clunky computer, but somehow the elderly woman in charge found places to mark the season.
From paper bats and pumpkins on the bulletin boards for Halloween to a Christmas tree barely two times Oscar’s size on the counter next to the worn bell, she did her best to make the place cozy. The motel wasn’t new and shiny like places depicted on the motel’s many mismatched TVs, but she did her best.
Oscar, whose life was monotonous to a fault, loved it.
It had been a long winter. The walls were frigid, especially at night, and Oscar had spent more time out of his little home than he usually dared. He had to lean against the metal air ducts that ran through the motel, just to borrow some warmth at times.
The tiny flowerpots with colorful pipe-cleaner-and-paper flowers stuck in them signalled that the world outside must be thawing. Oscar knew flowers meant Spring, and he couldn’t be more relieved.
The lady who ran the motel had brought in a shoebox that morning, filled with the tiny, cheap crafts. The flowerpots were half Oscar’s height, and the flowers were just taller than he. They brought a splash of color to the drab office of the motel.
They wouldn’t erase the dustiness, or the water damage on some of the ceiling tiles, or the squeaky sounds from the vents creaking, but they cheered the space and one hidden watcher immensely. Oscar lingered by the vent near the floor and watched her bustle around to find places for her little crafts. He didn’t need to stay; he’d already made sure there were no whispers of pest control or remodeling in the motel. And yet, with every flowerpot that found its home in the office, Oscar’s spirits lifted just a little more.
The bell over the door released a weak jingle as someone entered. The manager’s shoes stopped in their tracks, and then with speed that always surprised Oscar, turned to face the newcomer. Oscar glanced across the floor, past the underside of the desk, and recognized the sensible shoes of one of the maids.
“Señora,” the maid greeted. “Room thirteen, I didn’t do it, I swear.” She sounded flustered and Oscar frowned.
The manager, who always looked more severe than she really was, interrupted before the frazzled maid could talk herself out of breath like she sounded like she wanted to. “Marie, what is it?”
“A-a hole in the wall, miss. I went to clean, and it was there already,” the maid answered.
“Oh, dear,” the manager muttered. There was a rustling of paper as she made space to set down her box of decorations and stepped around the desk. Unbeknownst to her, one of the mini flowerpots plummeted to the floor and landed on the carpet with a faint thump that only Oscar heard.
His lips parted as the two humans left the room to assess the damage in one of the rooms (he thought he’d heard someone getting angry in thirteen the other night) and left the office empty. Oscar stared out at that fallen flowerpot, the paper face of the flower angled forlornly towards the ceiling, and chewed his bottom lip.
Several long minutes stretched out with no change, before Oscar finally slipped out of the vent, dropping the inch to the floor in a deft crouch. He might only be a kid, but he was good at staying quiet and moving like a shadow in and out of the motel rooms.
He ignored the looming furniture and the cluttered papers that hung partway over the edge of the desk far overhead. Oscar darted out as quickly as he could to where the flowerpot had fallen, his lungs working fast in time with his accelerated heartbeat. He might be good at this, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t primed for danger.
Oscar wasn’t sure why he decided this, but when he reached the quickly-made little craft, he hardly paused to look it over. As soon as he got to it, he walked around to one side and placed his hands on the gritty orange side of the little clay pot to roll it along. The paper flower rustled against the floor as he went.
It was slower going, but Oscar pushed that craft across the floor towards his vent. He’d bring it home, and put it to use. He could take the pipe cleaner and the pot for something, he was sure, and he could keep the paper flower as it was. There wasn’t much in his home to decorate it, nothing but ratty curtains hiding the pantry and his bedroom.
He was less than a foot away from the vent, pushing the cumbersome flowerpot along as quickly as he could, when tremors in the floor sent his heartrate up again. Oscar glanced over his shoulder for only an instant before hurrying around the flowerpot and dashing back towards the vent.
He made it into the safe darkness just as that bell jingled again. Oscar whirled around to make sure no one was rushing towards the wall where he hid, his eyes wide.
His abandoned flowerpot still lay on the floor where he left it. Out away from the desk, it would be easier to spot, but the shoes that walked into view across the room didn’t belong to anyone familiar. They strode along and then the harsh ring of the call bell filled the room several times, echoing around weirdly. A guest.
The management spotting him would be bad, but a guest would be worse. Guests could raise more hell than anyone, and the apparent hole in the wall in room thirteen was proof.
Oscar sighed, then turned away from the room. It wouldn’t do to linger on the flowerpot. He’d missed his chance at it, but at least he’d be able to see the nice springtime decorations if he came to spy on the office again.