An introduction to, and excerpt from, my short story “Seven Ukrainian Girls” – Number 8 in the “Hotel Stories” short story series.
Welcome to a brand new “Hotel Story”.
The Ultra Platinum Paradise Beach Resort offers fabulous facilities. The exclusive Black Hole Coral Reef Dive Adventure. The Blue Planet Fish Restaurant. The Metaphysical Balance Repair Clinic and Spa.
So why is the Ultra Platinum losing money? And why is no-one drinking the famous Megastar all-day cocktails at the Beachfront Ultra Platinum Club?
“In every challenge there is an opportunity”
Ms N, the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, has been sent in to solve some problems. Her beautiful but naive ally Tatiana has accompanied her.
Ms N believes that “in every challenge, there is an opportunity”. But how will she tackle the hotel’s problems by calling in seven beautiful Ukrainian girls, who bring with them five large suitcases of high pork traditional country sausages?
As always, Ms N has a plan. Whoever is causing trouble at the resort had better watch out. That includes Mr Murr the Chief Customs Officer and Francois the diving instructor. It includes Runaway Beatmaster Bob, the Rastafarian DJ at the Blazing Scorpion Night Club. The Prince, who is the owner of the Ultra Platinum, had better watch out. So, too, Deniz, the improbably handsome Turkish bartender.
Enjoy this excerpt.
Seven Ukrainian Girls (excerpt)
The first thing I am seeing when the glass doors slide open in the arrivals hall is two tall, slender young women walking arm in arm. Each of them is pulling a suitcase on wheels so huge I am reminded of the Soviet era apartment blocks which crowd the suburbs of the historic capital of my beautiful but not yet fully developed country, far away to the north.
The two girls are striding forward confidently and look so happy to be here that I almost want to cry, partly because the world is needing confident, happy women and partly because it is important for Ms N’s plans that these ones should be looking happy all the time.
In fact, the girls are looking so self-assured it is almost as if they are owning the place, which I suppose in a way they will be doing as soon as they are arriving at our all-inclusive Ultra Platinum Paradise Beach Resort with its new healthy living programme and spiritual balance recovery plan.
They have lovely, characterful faces, highlighted with that kind of invisible make-up which makes pretty into beautiful without a man being able to see that you are wearing any make-up at all. Both wear summer dresses which show off their bodies and their legs and which make them look like one million dollars, even though they have just stepped off a four-hour charter flight direct from Kyiv.
I am thinking that these girls will be popular when they arrive at the hotel.
Is it possible that all the women we have come to collect at the airport will be as beautiful as these two?
Ms N will be delighted.
The Prince will be more than delighted.
I step forward, displaying my famous thousand-watt smile. If am honest, it is easier to display this smile when I am meeting two beautiful, happy, confident Ukrainian girls than it is when I am performing my usual job as a receptionist and I am struggling to display a thousand-watt smile, or on a bad day a smile of one hundred watts or even five watts, to greet yet another businessman who thinks that any receptionist in any hotel will most surely think he is the most handsome, most successful and most all-round fabulous man she has ever seen and will probably want to have sex with him at the earliest opportunity.
‘Hello,’ I say. I am speaking in Russian because I cannot speak Ukrainian and I am not sure if these Ukrainian girls will speak good English.
‘Are you Ms N?’ The first girl has blonde hair down to her shoulders and the kind of huge dark eyes which some men are saying they wish to dive into, although I personally cannot see how this would not be painful for everyone involved. She speaks English with an English accent and of course she is saying Ms N’s full name, which I have omitted here, as Ms N is a modest person who values her privacy. ‘My name is Lena. I am so pleased to meet you.’ She holds out her slender hand and seizes mine with a firm, confident-type grip.
‘Ms N will be here at any moment,’ I say, switching to English. ‘Where are your friends?’
‘They are coming.’ The second girl has chestnut hair and a voice like honey. A fine chain around her neck carries a charm spelling out her name, which is Olga. ‘The customs dogs went a little bit crazy when they came to examine the bags of the other girls.’ She giggles, covering her mouth in a way which even I am finding cute and which I think will make the Prince need to take a cold shower. ‘Actually, I think these dogs need to be re-trained or maybe retired after sniffing around the seven of us.’
I peer at Olga. Like her friend, she seems to me a girl whose grooming standards are outstanding, even if her chain is probably only silver and not gold or platinum. All I can smell is her Thierry Mugler perfume, so I am puzzled by what she is saying about the dogs.
Enormous suitcases on wheels
While this is happening, three more girls have come through the sliding glass doors. They, too, have enormous suitcases on wheels. They greet Olga and Lena in Ukrainian, which sounds a bit like Russian but with different words and different pronunciation and all-round different meanings.
‘Ms N, hello,’ one of the new girls says. ‘Thank you for inviting us to your fabulous resort hotel.’ She reaches out to shake my hand and bobs her head in a respectful way as if perhaps I am an important hotel general manager.
Actually, I am not liking it too much that these women think I might be Ms N, as she is several years older than me and also one of the greatest hotel managers in the world, whereas I am a simple receptionist from a small village far from the historic capital of our not yet fully-reformed country who is helping Ms N on her trouble-shooting assignment to the Ultra Platinum Paradise Beach Resort.
But I do not say this. Instead, I beam my thousand-watt smile, which I am still finding easy to deploy, and say: ‘No, my name is Tatiana. Ms N will come soon.’
As I am saying this, the glass doors slide open again and two more women appear, which is bringing the number of new arrivals to the seven I am expecting. They, too, have giant suitcases. Through the open glass doors behind them I am seeing what must surely be the entire customs service of the not very large provincial airport which services our resort, that is to say about twelve men in customs uniform plus ten or twelve other men who are perhaps friends or cousins or acquaintances of the customs officers. All of these men are gazing admiringly at the seven Ukrainian girls with whom I am now standing.
Several of the men have what I am guessing are the customs sniffer dogs the girls have mentioned, who seem also to be staring, with their tongues hanging out and panting and wagging their tails, as if the dogs also are admiring the seven Ukrainian girls, although I know this cannot be the case.
In fact, when I see these dogs I am thinking that the crowd of men they are with would also be wagging their tails, and panting, and having their tongues hanging out, if they could.
Then the sliding doors close and the men, and the dogs, disappear.
At the same moment a shabby wooden door opens in the wall near the sliding doors and Ms N appears. She is accompanied by a man who perhaps might benefit from the healthy living programme which the Ultra Platinum Paradise Beach Resort is offering, or else our spiritual balance recovery plan, or perhaps some grooming tips from the Ukrainian girls, or perhaps all of these things. In fact, the man is so big from side to side that I am thinking at first that he is wider than he is tall. His gigantic dimensions make Ms N seem more petite than she is, which is not very big at all even when, as now, she is clicking across the marble floor towards us on the power heels which she is wearing every day to work even at the Ultra Platinum Paradise Beach Resort.
As Ms N and the man approach us, I see that he is smiling as if he has received some news which has confirmed that he is, perhaps, the wisest and also the best-looking man on earth, although I am guessing with a high degree of confidence that he is neither of these things. He is wiping his hands on his khaki-coloured trousers as he walks. Ms N is also smiling her inquisitive smile, with a hint of mischief, which is making me think she is working to solve a problem.
I wonder what that problem might be.
The Chief Customs Officer
‘Tatiana, how are you?’ Ms N says. ‘Thank you so much for making our guests welcome. May I introduce the Chief Customs Officer, Mr Murr, who is a very important man in this town and who has been particularly helpful today in helping us to import the special supplies we have ordered from Kyiv. He saw our guests in the customs hall, through the window of his office, and was keen to be introduced.’
When Ms N is saying very important man and particularly helpful today and keen to be introduced she is looking from one Ukrainian girl to another as if she is mentioning something to which she wishes them to pay special attention.
I see also that the Ukrainian girls are paying close attention to Ms N, who they have immediately recognised as a person of authority.
I am pleased to see this because, first, they are correct; and, second, because the fact that they are recognising the importance of Ms N and the message she is giving them shows that these women are not only fantastically beautiful but also quick-witted and alert. I think we are going to have fun working with them.
What happens next confirms this.
In a moment the seven huge suitcases are left standing in a circle as the Ukrainian girls surround the Chief Customs Officer and shake his hand and kiss him on each cheek and smile and nod at him as though he is indeed the wisest and the most handsome man on earth as well as the most powerful and also the most charming.
None of this is true, of course. The Chief Customs Officer is, if I am honest, not what we are calling in the hotel business a dreamboat. Far from making original or amusing or charming remarks, he is standing with his mouth and eyes wide open as if he would like to stick his tongue out and pant and if he had a big bushy tail he would be wagging it like crazy.
A complimentary dive adventure
‘I thought that Mr Murr might like to come and try out a complimentary two-hour Black Hole Coral Reef Dive Adventure with Francois, our highly qualified instructor,’ Ms N says. ‘Maybe some of our Ukrainian guests would like to come with him on the trip, if they have brought their bikinis with them.’ She turns to the Chief Customs Officer. ‘Would you have time to visit the resort to go diving with us?’
The Chief Customs Officer opens his mouth, but all he can say is a kind of uh-uh sound as if something wonderful is happening to him which he does not want to stop. To say that he is looking happy at the idea of going diving with some Ukrainian girls in bikinis is like saying that a starving man will be pleased if he can help himself at an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Japanese Zen Garden Oasis, which is the name of our newly reopened signature fine dining restaurant with healthy living and yin/yang spiritual balance menu. Of course the Jay-Z-GO, as we are calling it, is a la carte only and I know our Japanese sushi chef Kyoko would rather cut out her own liver with one of her ultra-sharp Chroma knives than offer any guest an all-you-can-eat buffet.
In fact, the Chief Customs Officer is looking, as I have heard Ms N describe it, as happy as a pig in – but this is not an appropriate expression to be using in one of the luxury hotels of our chain. He is looking so happy that I am worried that he may have a heart attack, so I am suggesting to Ms N that it is time for us to go.
‘Thank you, Tatiana,’ Ms N says. She turns to Mr Murr. ‘We look forward to welcoming you to the resort. I hope we can help you with some healthy living and spiritual balance recovery.’
I am not sure that Mr Murr is thinking about his spiritual balance when he is looking at the seven Ukrainian girls, but he smiles and makes the uh-uh sound again and I think he is looking forward to his visit.
Ms N leads the way to the hotel minibus and I am surprised to hear her ask the driver to turn the air conditioning up to maximum because usually Ms N is a roll-down-the-window-and-let-the-breeze-blow-back-your-hair kind of woman, even when the sun is so hot that our local desert snakes are taking shelter under rocks and there is no breeze to speak of.
I am even more surprised when we reach the hotel, and Ms N sends the Ukrainian girls off to check in, and they take with them only the suitcases of the first two girls who arrived, leaving Ms N and me with another five giant suitcases.
“Quickly, we must take these to the kitchen.”
‘Quickly,’ Ms N says. ‘We must take these to the kitchen.’
I help Ms N to roll the five suitcases as far as the kitchen, where Kyoko, the chef from the hotel where Ms N and I are usually working in the historic capital of my beautiful country, is preparing her famous sushi for the Beachfront Ultra-Platinum Club Sundowner Extravaganza.
It is good that the cases are on wheels. But moving them is not easy.
In fact, the cases are heavier than I am imagining is possible.
Kyoko does not seem pleased to see us. In fact, she is standing in the centre of the kitchen with an ultra-sharp Chroma knife in each hand as if she is preparing to attack us and is staring at the suitcases as if she is expecting them to be full of something in which a pig would be happy to find itself.
‘What is in cases?’ Kyoko looks at Ms N. ‘If it is haggis, I refuse to cook.’
‘This is not haggis,’ Ms N says. ‘This is a culinary product of the highest quality with countless practical uses which I am hoping will help solve a number of the problems at this hotel.’
When Ms N says countless practical uses and solves and problems I am listening carefully because I have seen Ms N solve many problems in the hotels in which we have worked and mostly these problems are never heard of again. So I am wondering now what the problems are and how what is in the suitcases will help us to solve them.
Two of the kitchen staff pick up a suitcase and lift it onto the worktop.
We gather round.
Ms N throws open the lid of the suitcase.
For a moment, no-one says anything.
‘Sausages?’ Kyoko takes a step back and her nose wrinkles, as if what she is seeing is more disgusting than even she has imagined. ‘How will this help the hotel?’ She looks around the kitchen. ‘And what in name of hell is in other suitcases?’
Seven Ukrainian Girls is the eighth story in the Hotel Stories series, and follows on from my book Seven Hotel Stories (see below). Seven Hotel Stories is available as a paperback or an e-book. Seven Ukrainian Girls is so far available only as an e-book.
I am conscious that buying individual Hotel Stories is not such good value as Seven Hotel Stories. By way of reassurance, Seven Ukrainian Girls, at over 16,000 words, is more of a novella than a short story.