LUCK

 
  
Part 4

I hate her.

I watch her all the time now when I'm inside the cabin; I think she knows it, I think it makes her uneasy.

The days are getting a little longer. It's not as dark all the time. I'm getting used to the way my leg works and I go outside the cabin more, sometimes I just sit on the wood pile and look up at the sky. I feel like a prisoner looking up through the bars at the sun.

There's been a few warm days, so the snow's not as high as it was, but still too high for me. I've tried walking on it, but I fell through the crust even though I'm not as heavy as I was when I came here. My leg hurt pretty bad after that happened a few times.

I don't dream as much anymore. Some, but not as much. Maybe it's because I have something else to think about. Or maybe I'm getting used to being here. God forbid.

I've been thinking about all the people I really hate. My old man's still at the top of the list, even though he's dead. And LeRoy, I still wish the other guys woulda let me throw him out that window. And Mr. Mapes, the principle for the high school I went to when I was 17. When I was wearing a uniform, I always wanted to pull him over for a traffic violation, and scare him a little bit, but I never got to. Haven't thought about him for a long time. I wonder if he's still alive. Maybe if I ever get back to LA, I should look him up. I'm pretty sure he'd remember me.

Arliss is close to the top of my list, of course. My sergeant back in boot. I can't decide if I still hate Mabel or not.

That's not a very big list. Some people you might expect me to hate, I don't. I don't hate Ed. Captain Smith is dead, but I didn't hate him when he was alive, even though he was trying to kill us.

The foster dad that threw me out. He didn't go through the paperwork, he didn't let the social workers know, he just told me I had to leave, stood and watched me pack. I didn't wanna go, I liked it there with them, I liked him, but I didn't hate him for throwing me out. I probably woulda done the same thing in his shoes. I shoulda tried harder not to screw up.

You might think I oughta be spending my time thinking about the people I love…..but that's harder. I don't miss the people I hate. I can think about what I'd like to do when I see them again, and I feel some things, but not the ache like I feel when I think about Lynn. Or, heaven help me, the Rev….…I miss him, too. I even miss Richard and his stupid jokes.

I'd have to be here a real long time to miss Patty. But I don't hate her. She's a bitch sometimes, but I guess she can't help it.

I hate the woman. Right now, she's real close to the top of that list. Up there with my old man and Arliss. If she knew that, do you think she'd have sense enough to be scared?

I'm invisible again. Once after I shot some birds, I brought 'em in and threw 'em at her, and she looked at me then. I've thought of a coupla things that would really get her attention……and it makes me smile to think about doing 'em…….but it's like I said before---I'm not sure I'd be able to stop with just scaring her…….

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I almost forgot about Patty's boyfriend. Lloyd. The prick. He'd be on my list of people that I hate except that he's such an asshole, you just can't take him seriously. He makes her life hell, though, and then she takes it out on me. I don't understand why she picks on me after he picks on her. Lynn says it's because if she says anything to Lloyd, he punishes her some more. She knows she can say whatever she wants to me and she's still safe. It's kinda hard to know if I like that or not.

Lloyd wears three-piece suits, and has a watch on a watch chain in his vest pocket, and looks down his nose at almost everybody. The only reason I can figure he stays in Bisbee is because there's more people for him to look down on than there would be in a big city. In a city, there'd be people that might look down on him.

I really wish he'd been serious when he broke up with her that time. But I guess he couldn't find anybody else to worship him on short notice.

The last time they had a fight, Patty ended up at our house, crying and blowing her nose in my handkerchief. Evidently he told her he wasn't sure she was sophisticated enough for him to be seen with. Her clothes weren't quite tasteful enough. Her hair was a little too "frowsy"-whatever the hell that means. And he had a certain standing in the community that he didn't want to put in jeopardy by being seen with someone whose standards weren't as high as his own.

He might just as well've called her a fat slob and saved himself some time.

Lynn tried to comfort her, calm her down. I heard them talking about changing Patty's hairstyle, and looking at the shop for some outfits that would be a little different, and I guess I blew my top.

"Are you kidding me? You're gonna change your hair for this prick?"

"Bud, we're just going to try some things……it won't hurt to make him happy."

"How long you been going out with him? Has he ever been happy with you yet?"

Patty started to cry again. Lynn glared at me.

"Listen, do you ever hear me tell Lynn I think her hair looks crappy?" I realized how that sounded after I said it. "I don't think that, honey, your hair is real cute."

Patty said, "What do you know? Ya big bozo, you don't know anything about hair styles."

"It doesn't matter what I know, the thing is, I would never say so. I love Lynn. I'd never tell her hair looked crappy even if I thought so---which I don't---'cause I wouldn't wanna hurt her feelings. You know?"

"He loves me……It just matters more what I look like because he's got a wealthier clientele---"

"He uses fancier words, but he just called you a slob. If I ever call a woman a slob, you can bet your ass I don't give a shit about her. If that means I'm not as sophisticated as Whathisname, that's too damn bad. My guess is, he's sitting in his office, leaning back in his leather chair, chuckling to himself, imagining you scurrying around changing your clothes and your hair, and trying to figure how soon he can make you do it again.

"There's gotta be somebody better than Lloyd, and you oughta be out looking for him. And anyway, there's nothing wrong with your hair. It's cute."

They didn't say anything for a while. Then Patty got tears in her eyes again and wailed, "But I love him!"

I gave up and left. I asked her a few days later if Lloyd liked the new her. She narrowed her eyes and glared at me.

"No? Imagine that."

"Shut up."

Someday I gotta ask Patty what it is she sees in him. If it was anybody else, I'd figure maybe he was real good in the sack, and that's why she didn't wanna lose him. But you gotta care about a woman at least a little bit to be good in bed. So I figure that ain't it.

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Whatever the woman's cooking smells lots better than what she usually makes. I suppose it's not very polite, but I let her do the cooking, and then I eat some of it. If there isn't enough, then I make something else for myself. She's got enough food packed away in the back for years. I don't know how long she's been here, or why, or if there was supposed to be somebody else here with her---she'd have to talk to me to tell me, and I don't wanna know bad enough to talk to her.

She has a six-pack of beer. I wonder where it was, I've never seen beer or anything else to drink back with the rest of the supplies. She holds one out to me.

I limp over to my blankets next to the cold wall and sit down.

After a minute, she says, "You can have one."

"I don't drink beer."

After another minute she says, "Is there something else you like to drink? I think if I look I might have---"

"What do you want?"

She stands up and walks over to me.

"I think I kinda made you mad at me before." She sits down cross-legged next to me. "And I've seen you looking at me now for a while, but I guess you're too shy to say anything……"

"I'm not shy."

"Well, look, even if you're still mad at me……as long as we're stuck here together…" She sneaks her hand under the edge of Blonde Hair's jacket and touches me with the tips of her fingers."…..we could still---"

I push her hand away.

"Don't touch me."

She doesn't get it. She's not looking at my face.

"You can kiss me if you want to." She's got her hand on my thigh now, moving north. "I was thinking about it, and I thought maybe that's something you need to do to get off. I shoulda kept my mouth shut---"

"You oughta keep your mouth shut now." I grab her wrist. I hate her. I wanna make her leave me alone. She tries to pull her arm away, but I won't let go. She still doesn't get it.

I grab her jaw with my other hand and tilt her head up, so she has to look me in the face or close her eyes.

"I can't leave here. I have to stay. I have to eat. I don't have to drink your beer. I don't have to let you paw me. And if you don't leave me alone, you're gonna piss me off."

I hate her fiercely, deeply, murderously. She starts making funny little noises and scratching at my hand around her jaw, pulling on my fingers with her free hand. I realize I'm squeezing way too tight. I let her go and push her away at the same time.

"Ow….." She's sure as hell looking at me now. She must be another one of those women who can tell what I'm thinking by my face, 'cause she looks scared all of a sudden. She backs away on her hands and knees.

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It takes me a long time to go to sleep.

And I wake up in the middle of the night. The fire's burned down, low, it's dark inside the cabin. I get up and put a couple more chunks of wood on the small flames. I don't know what woke me up for sure….I don't remember dreaming, but I must have, 'cause it feels like I can kinda remember somebody laughing in my ear. Telling me a joke, I think, and laughing. Can't remember the joke.

It bothers me. I can't go back to sleep. It bothers me all the next day.

The woman stays outta my way. I kinda like the nervous look on her face. It felt good to have my hands on her last night, to make her shut up. Part of me kinda hopes she bothers me again so I have an excuse.

And part of me can't stand to be in here with her. The part that's worried about what I want to have an excuse to do. I have to go outside.

It's too cold to stay outside all night, but I stay out as long as I can. I doze sometimes. I wake up once with that laughing in my ear. I go inside.

The woman is under her blankets when I come in, but she raises her head and watches me. I guess I'm not invisible anymore.

I go to sleep again almost right away.

I wake up suddenly knowing the laugh belongs to my old man. Guess what the joke is.

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I have to get outta here. I'm going crazy.

The snow's still too high. If I had two good legs I could do it, no matter how deep it is, no matter how long it would take. I only have one. And I can't do it. I tried.

I don't know if the woman heard me last night after I woke up. It hit me as hard as any dream I've had. She didn't say anything then and she doesn't say anything now. She just watches me.

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I can't sit still. I wonder what Tony did with my car. I wonder who looked for me, and if they made it as far as Arrowhead. I wonder how long they looked, and did they knock on Tony's door and was Tony still there? Everyday I think of more questions I don't know the answers to. It's driving me crazy.

I bet it's pretty interesting watching me pace, limp and stumble, and pace some more. I was outside while it was light, but I've seen tracks close to the cabin that could be my pal, or one of her pals; it's probably not too smart to be outside after dark.

Did Lynn call Ed? I kinda hope not, but I also know nobody in Bisbee's got a snowball's chance in hell of figuring out what happened to me. Ed's OK, I guess, but if he's helping Lynn, and comforting her, and I'm outta the picture………It bothers me. There's no clues for them to find unless they can retrace my steps exactly. I hope they haven't decided I'm dead. I hate not knowing what happened, what's going on.

OK, so I don't hate the woman. Not her fault I'm stuck here. What happened wasn't her fault. She was asking for what she wanted; nothing wrong with that. All I had to do was say no thanks. It just felt better to be mad at her than at myself.

Mad isn't exactly how I feel about myself.

"Here." She's holding out a pack of cards.

I stop pacing. "What am I supposed to do with those?"

"You need something to do. I had an aunt that went nuts one winter up here, and tried to chop----" She stops suddenly. "Well, anyway, I thought you look like you like to play cards."

"No."

She sighs. "OK." She goes outside and comes back in with a box with a lid. "I'll let you use something outta here if you want, but remember, this is my stuff. You don't get to keep any of it."

There's books in the box. And notebooks, and pencils. And a set of drafting instruments. And checkers, a checker board, more cards, packets of folded-up maps. Other stuff.

"There's not enough light in here in the evenings to read or anything like that. That's what the cards are for, and the checker-board."

She's right; there's hardly enough light to read the spines.

One of the notebooks she picks out and stuffs it under her blankets, and then looks at me like she's daring me to say anything.

"Why're you gonna let me use this stuff?"

"Maybe 'cause I don't want my head chopped off in my sleep."

"Gimme a break."

She raises her eyebrows at me.

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Arbutus told me about Donny's father once.

We were in the hospital when Lynn lost the 2nd baby, sitting on the scratchy green couch in the waiting room, waiting to see her, waiting to find out for sure she was gonna be OK. Arbutus had been coming to the house to help Lynn with the laundry and some of the cleaning a couple times a week, and she was there when it started.

She was holding my hand when she starting talking about him. He sounded a lot like my old man. Not as mean, maybe. So I asked her, 'cause I never got to ask my mother, "How come you got mixed up with him in the first place?"

Arbutus laughed. She had a deep laugh for a woman, but it was good to listen to. I could almost see what she looked like when she was younger, before all the lines in her face.

"He was a handsome devil, what else? Had that feeling of dangerous about him. Exciting. Nothing scared him, there wasn't nothing he wouldn't dare to do. Turned a lotta girls' heads."

"You ended up with him."

"Well, I was kinda the same back then. Nothing scared me. He'd say, Let's go do this, and I'd be right there alongside him." She smiled. "A lot of fool things we did, never counted the cost."

"What happened to him?"

"He got shot. Never could see young stunts don't go over so good when you get older. He wanted to be just the same as he always was; didn't wanna grow up. Took Donny away from me for some years. After he died, they sent Donny back, but 'a course he was wild by then. Still is. Not quite as stubborn as his dad, though. That's something.

"I loved him, but I never could rely on him for anything, and a woman needs that, even a woman like me. He wouldn'ta been sitting here waiting to see me like you're doing if it was me down the hall there. Lynn's lucky in you. You're solid. Somebody to depend on."

The nurse came in the waiting room just then and said we could go in and see Lynn. I looked over at Arbutus. She let go my hand, set her palm on the back of my head and smiled.

Then she sat back. "You go on in," she said. "I'll be along in a bit."

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Solitaire is boring after three or four days

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Not crazy about checkers. The woman asks me if I know how to play pinochle, and I have to admit the only card game I know how to play is poker.

Can't read the books after dark. I started one yesterday. Only about 8 or 10 books in the box, not a lot to choose from, so I picked the one with the green cover…..called Paris Sketches, but there's no pictures of Paris or anyplace else inside ……I don't know, it's pretty hard to figure out what the guy's saying, but it's a pretty long book and I won't be done with it for quite a while, and that's good, I guess.

If I get right next to the fire, I can see well enough to write. So I could write something if I wanted to. I'm not much at writing. I don't know if I'll try that or not. Maybe. Solitaire is really boring.

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It comes to me one night when I can't go to sleep, that I should write Lynn a letter. In case something happens to me, and I never get back. So since I can't get to sleep anyway, I build the fire up, and start. After about three pages, I realize it doesn't say what I want it to say. Spend the rest of the night crossing out and adding and writing some more, and I'm still at it when the sun comes up.

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It's harder than I thought it'd be to put what I really think and how I really feel into words. But if it's the last thing she gets from me, it's gotta be right. It's gotta say what I actually mean, not just something that sounds good. So I'm gonna keep at it.

Till I get it right.

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