Fire of my Loins
''Bitches leave.'' Food for the Intellectual Net Traveler

Sunday, May 18, 2003

short story: Lucille
by Roger Wong


It was an extraordinary night in Berkeley, breeze-less save an occasional howl from the hills. Patches of sky revealed the dark blue hued fabric that seemed to stretch endlessly behind weightless clouds. Lucile took a quick look at her Farmer's Almanac to make sure she got the date right.
"What are you reading?" asked Joseph.
"Nothing much. Just making sure it's the right night."
"For what?" "Oh no, you're going up again aren't you?"
As long as Joseph had known Lucile, she had been driving up to the park at the top of the hill every month. Through pitch dark, aided only by her naked eyes and the narrow beam of directed light from her car, she has made the journey always alone; never inviting Joseph and him never yearning to be asked. Joseph understood, instinctively, that he could never accompany Lucile up the winding road.
In the car, Lucile felt comfortable and safe. The seatbelts seemed to take on a life of its own, wrapping around her, as if afraid she would fall from her seat. The steering wheel became an extension of her own body as she maneuvered hairpin turns, one-eighties, and the possibility of an occasional deer (at least that's what the signs warned). Finally, she would arrive in the park, nestling her car into a grove of tall oaks and turning off the mechanical beast. When the noises from the car finally died and the lights faded into the ebony night, she stepped out slowly onto the soft firm grass.


Joseph didn't hear the microwave ring. It always reminded him of a busboy; it was like having dinner-in-bed except without the exorbitant prices. He always stayed up and waited for Lucille to get home. The television kept his company even though at times they both seemed bored of each other. Once in a while, Joseph got up out of bed, clumsily searched for his slippers in the dark as he stumbled half-dazed downstairs hoping to see Lucille walk in through the door. He had been dating her for four years, living with her for the last two. They had both been students at the University at the time they met at a café on the outskirts of campus.
Parting her way through the thicket, Lucille thought she heard something move behind her. She continued along the path without a flashlight, searching out the night with the tips of her fingers. Her footsteps were soft leaving a faint thump with every step she took. The path was well worn and Lucille knew it by heart, but her gait still showed signs of hesitation and unfamiliarity. Finally, she saw the clearing at the edge of the oak grove. She paused a moment and took a deep breath. She recognized the scent of wild berries fused with the slightly saltine scent of air from the bay. It was an intoxicating scent that was commonly found along the Northern Coast of California.


The only thing Joseph remembered before he fell asleep was the infomercial on television.
"God saves!" declared the minister tele-evangelizing. He already knew that.
The hands on the analog clock finally caught up with each other at two although Joseph couldn't tell in the dark. The frequency of cars began to die down to only a small trickle. Joseph wasn't a deep sleeper and he remembered having to adjust to the noises of cars, trucks, construction, children, and all those nuances that come with urban living. He had fond childhood memories of the countryside he grew up in and he yearned to go back. Lucille wouldn't understand though, he thought to himself. In his dreams, he was running through an endless forest of corn, chasing after the first girl he fell in love with, when he was thirteen. He followed her giggles through rows and rows of four-foot high stacks, occasionally clipping off an ear with his shoulders.
He never found her.


The lights from the city broke through at the edge of the grove. She raised her hand in front of her face for a moment while her eyes adjusted. Lucille left her watch on the dresser intentionally. Looking down beyond the bare hill, past the University campus, and down to the Bay, Lucille knew it was already very late. There were barely any cars out, something very rare on a Friday night.
"The University students must have already had their fun and gone home by now," she muttered to herself. She remembered her first time out drinking with other students in her class. They were all underage but a friend had tipped them off to a place that didn't check for IDs. She took a deep breath again and finally stepped into the clearing. Most of the clouds had already wafted further into the hills, affording Lucille an unobstructed view of the bay. Her eyes focused on the line where she thought the water met the sky, though it was too dark to tell. The lights in the big city were still on and she occasionally caught a lone car speeding down the avenue, most likely heading home to an anxiously waiting spouse. Her eyes searched the scene before her carefully, as if she was a detective not wanting to miss any clues. Finally, Lucille stopped looking. Her gaze fixated into an area to the right, beyond the glimmer and excitement of the city, over the bridge, into a dark canvas of rolling hills. Once in a while, Lucille thought she could make out what looked like a tree or a house in the dim moonlight.
"Joseph would not understand why I come here every month," she reasoned.
Lucille didn't think that Joseph would see the hills. Every month, on this day, the moon would become a crescent in the dark night sky, dangling wearily above the hills beyond the city. She believed that Joseph would only see the city and make a comment about the gorgeous view. She didn't want to have to explain to him that he was missing the real view; it would defeat the purpose she thought. She left it at that and sat down. Her legs were tired from the short steep hike through the grove.


The barking of the neighbor's dog woke Joseph up before he heard the front door of the house creak open softly. He knew that Lucille didn't want to wake him up when she got home. He tried once to ask her why she went up there alone, but she shrugged him off and went to bed. From that time on, he had always pretended to be asleep in bed when Lucille got home. She would come into the house, careful of the loose squeaky hardwood floorboards. Sometimes she would go into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Tonight, she would come straight up the carpeted stairs. As she opened the bedroom door, she noticed the television set still on and in the light of the tube, she found Joseph asleep. She carefully turned off the television and changed into her pajamas.
Lucille fell into a deep sleep quickly.
She didn't dream that night.


She thought she was on top of the hill again as the first break of day woke her. She heard the sparrows chirping loudly outside her second story window. She turned over. Joseph wasn't there. The morning anchorman was giving the traffic and weather report on Channel Four as Joseph sliced a hardboiled egg in half.
"Morning honey," said Joseph.
"Hey, what are you doing up so early?"
"I thought I'd cook breakfast for us. I was going to bring it up to you."
"That's sweet."
Lucille walked over to the refrigerator and pulled open the bottom door. She was wearing her night robe and the cold draft from the fridge sent a slow shiver down her spine. It was freezing last night on the hill, but somehow Lucille never noticed it. She took out a carton of milk and checked the expiration date.
"This expired a week ago," she stated.
"I'm sorry, I haven't had time to go shopping all week."
"It's okay, I know you're busy."
Joseph brought the breakfast over to the table and pulled out a dining chair that he picked up from a yard sale a month ago.
"The television says it's going to rain today," said Joseph.
"I didn't realize our television could speak."
"You know what I mean," Joseph replied.
They both ate their breakfast in silence. Lucille paused and looked up, past Joseph, out the living room window to a street lined with elms swaying gently.

"It doesn't look like it to me."

posted by Roger | 1:34 AM
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