The Closet

John Greco
6 min readJul 3, 2023
Photo by Roger Abaunza on Unsplash

The winters can be cruel in New York. This year has been especially brutal, with long bouts of freezing temperatures and more snow than predicted, and it is only March. Maddie and William Dalton decided they needed a break from the freezing weather and thought ten days in the Florida sunshine would be a great escape.

Spring break was coming toward the end. Still, they avoided Miami. They flew into Tampa International Airport, deplaned and were soon in their rented Toyota Highlander and a short drive to Clearwater Beach. It was an excellent choice, since they were still undecided if they wanted to go to Disney World for a couple of days.

The Sunshine Hotel was as exquisite as the brochures promised. Their room was on the second floor with a beautiful king size bed and a balcony directly facing the beach. William could see himself sipping a cold beer and staring at the babes in their skimpy bikinis as they frolicked in the sand. Yes, they frolic! Maddie didn’t mind, she knew he never did more than look.

The couple unpacked and figured they had enough time to catch a few sunrays on the beach and get back to change in time for their dinner reservation. That’s when William noticed the closet.

It was next to the small refrigerator that most hotels had stocked with soda, beer, and other overpriced items. The closet had a large white printed sign on the front that read “Do Not Open.” It also had a lock on it that any amateur could easily break into.

“What do you think this is about?” William asked, pointing to the closet.

Maddie shook her head as she changed into her swimsuit.

“Strange, don’t you think?”

“I think it’s none of our business. You see the sign?”

William shook his head. “But it is our room. We are paying a hell of a lot of money for this place, and we should have access to the entire room.”

Maddie laughed. “What’s the big deal? It’s a closet we don’t need. They probably keep extra supplies in there.”

“Well, I never heard of that.”

After rubbing gobs of suntan lotion on their pale bodies, William grabbed two towels from the bathroom and they made their way down to the ground floor, out the back door, and on to the beach. They found an unoccupied spot, a couple of empty chairs, and made themselves as comfortable as possible in the Florida heat and humidity.

Maddie began reading the latest James Patterson book. However, William could not get his mind off the closet. What the heck was in there and why was it bothering him so much? William is usually not the curious type. But damn it, they are paying for the room! The entire room, and that includes that locked closet!

“I am going to open it,” he said.

Engrossed in her book, Maddie inattentively replied. “Okay dear.”

“I have the right to have access. We are paying for the entire room not the room except for that one closet. If that is the case, we are entitled to a partial reimbursement!”

Maddie put her book down and looked at her husband. “Don’t you dare embarrass me by doing that! What’s wrong with you? It is just a closet that we wouldn’t even use.”

“That is not the point! We are paying for that closet. We should be able to use it if we want to or not.”

“Sometimes you act like a child.”

“I am acting like a man who will not be taken advantage of by the slick operators of this dump.”

“Now, it’s a dump?” Maddie attempted to go back to reading her book.

“You understand I don’t like being taken advantage of. It rubs me the wrong way.”

Maddie was silent. When William got into one of his moods, it’s best to ignore him and not throw more fuel into the fire. He was burning up enough on his own. Maggie continued to read.

****

“I’m sorry, sir, but we cannot issue a partial refund as such,” the hotel employee at the front desk replied. “Company policy.”

“Can you at least tell me what is in the cabinet?”

“Sorry, sir, I am not at liberty to provide that information.”

“Government secret, huh?” William joked.

“Sorry, sir, I am not at liberty to provide any information.”

“Company policy, huh? Is your boss available?”

“He is in a meeting and cannot be disturbed. Is there anything else I can do for you? There are other guests behind you waiting…”

William turned around and sure enough there were three couples behind him waiting. He smiled at them and turned back to the desk clerk. In his best impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, William replied, “I’ll be back.”

****

“Do you believe the SOB blew me off?”

“William, you are ruining our vacation. We are here to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle. Instead, you are stressing yourself out and me too, and over what? A small closet we are not even going to use. You are acting crazy!”

“So, you’re taking their side!”

Maddie sighed and walked out onto the balcony, leaving William drowning in his own misery.

“For all we know there is a dead body in there or drugs! Do you have any idea what would happen if the police came busting into our room in the middle of the night and found drugs in that closet? They would arrest us, and meanwhile the hotel would claim they knew nothing about it. After all, we are the ones in the room.”

Maddie could not help but break into laughter.

“I’m glad you find it funny. We have no idea what is in there?”

“I know what’s in there,” Maddie replied. “I really do.”

“You do?”

She nodded. “Highly classified government secrets!” she said, bursting out in laughter.

The closet lock was cheap and most likely opened with the screwdriver he purchased at Ace Hardware earlier that morning. All this secrecy was ruining his vacation. This would be the last time he would ever stay at this place, even the last time he would ever come to Florida. There are many other places they could travel to without closets in their room being locked!

William worked the lock with his newly purchased screwdriver and damn if he got it unlocked within a few minutes. “Got it!” he called out to Maddie still relaxing on the balcony enjoying a cold drink and James Patterson.

“I got it open!” he called out again.

“That’s nice honey,” Maddie called back.

“Well, are you coming in for the big unveiling?”

Maddie understood that if she did not entertain his foolish endeavor, she would never hear the end of it. She came into the room and sat on their bed.

“Okay, I’m ready for the big reveal!” she said. “Bring on the dead bodies, the drugs and who knows what else.”

William stood by the closet door. A big smirk on his face. “I know you are not taking this seriously, but now we will find out what the big secret is.” He swung the door, and both looked in.

William stared dumbfounded.

Maddie laughed so hard she had to run to the bathroom and pee. When she returned, still with a big smile on her face, she found William standing in the same spot. A look of shock on his face.

“A linen closet!”

“That’s what it looks like to me,” Maddie said between her snickering.

“But why?”

Composing herself, Maddie spoke, “Maybe so hotel guests, like you, for example, do not accidentally pack a few towels, soaps and other souvenirs into your bags just before check out.”

“What? Do they think I would steal their towels? What nerve?”

William slammed the door shut.

“Well, now that we solved the big mystery, we need to pack before we go out to dinner. We have an early morning flight tomorrow, and I want to get to bed early. Oh, and before you lock the closet, you may as well pack a few of those fresh towels, and some bars of soap, too.”

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John Greco

Author of various short story collections including, "Brooklyn Tales," "Harbor House," "Dark Secrets," and "The Late Show."