Construction Literary Magazine

January 2017 Writers Respond

Lucy and the Happy Ending

Lucy and the Happy Ending
Photograph via Flickr by Howard Ignatius

Behind my back soupy rain clouds spewed snow up high, a band of white, where rock meets sky, which at first I took to be bright light. In the space of fifteen minutes, the sky went gray with rain and the aspens yellowed to a stack of legal pads. But this, too, was deception, no more than the darkening of time.

Lucy and I have it good here: no poisonous snakes, scant on the insects, mild on the heat, love in the afternoon, bountiful Mother Nature full of beauty and surprise, wildlife. In winter, though, it is muy frio.

When I saw everything outside choked with wind, I knew we were in for a bad one.

Lucy checked me out—annoyance, disgust, cavernous frown—and laughed. I did not have the heart to remind her how it was last winter, which was, weather-wise, our worst yet. The wind blew away years of vegetation. Our water ran out, probably because one of the neighbors–a guapo white guy with arrogant wandering eyes, a beautiful pale-white wife, and two beautiful ashen-white children–was bleeding us dry every time we went into town to have a good time. We were a little slow on the uptake, two years to be exact, to finger the Aquarian, filling the water tank on the bed of his truck with our well water and inviting his pale family to a hot soak at our empty home.

Revelation came one night, a half mile out, when we caught the taillights of his truck coming down our drive. At our neighbor’s, where we crossed paths, he leaned out his truck window.

“Hi,” he said, as if the word ‘hi’ were 14-letters long. “I was at Buddy’s getting water.” He slurred his words, but he was dead sober, which perhaps we were not.

I started to say something, but Lucy put her hand on my right arm, which with my right fist was tap-tapping the steering wheel. I bit my tongue, was pretty thankful, in fact, as I had no idea what I was about to say, and we drove on. To this day Lucy does not like to spend one extra second in his company if she can help it. Not two weeks after moving here, he hit on her, with what must have been gringo gusto, as she insists I escort her everywhere. Thankfully, she does not go out much.

Home, I wanted to get wasted.

So when I had a beer in hand and we were eating dinner, I said, as if I were Levon Helm himself, “I went to the hollow today to get water.” I said “hollow” as if it were “holler.”

“Caucasian yuppie redneck,” Lucy said, waving her fork with a piece of hamburger on its tip, dispatching his dishonesty with a figure eight. I waved my Corona.

When we went into the living room and lighted the room, the wind came up. It was as if Mother Nature was as pissed off as we were, or our being pissed off had stirred Mother Nature up. Big time. At first, there was wind in the woodstove and at the back door, whispering wind and small crackling sounds haunting the eaves and front door. As if someone had wrapped the house in cellophane or bubble wrap, and the unwrapping and popping was beginning. The climbing rope that I had not taken down from the roof work I had done a couple of months ago, four months, dangled off the roof and swayed. Then the cat disappeared and the swaying got bigger, until the climbing rope was slapping the side of the house just like a jump rope. The trees leaned. Everything outside tilted and leaned, and I had to wonder if the house was doing the same.

Sometime that evening Lucy suggested a road trip. We could no longer ignore the house sounds and tree and scrub oak sounds. The water in the toilet bowl disappeared. The stack of firewood on the deck fell over. The blue tarp covering the wood blew off. The dogs, canine-canny and human-stupid, slunk from one obvious hiding place to another.

I told Lucy to get away from the windows. They were new. And I was beginning not to trust my workmanship. They never rattled. They never leaked air. But the glass moved. Like rippling water. Like waves stacked vertically on top of each other. I had never seen glass do that, nor do I wish to see the glass waves again. In the morning, the guy giving the weather reported winds up to 120 m.p.h. the previous evening on the mountaintops and passes. And in our yard, I thought.

I told Lucy it was a great idea we go on a road trip. I did not want to be around if and when the house fell apart.

I wanted to leave a pile of nails in our neighbor’s driveway, a dusting of dark brown rusted nails, but Lucy said no. The nails might embed themselves in the pale-pink soles of the pale children. So we left a note on the dining room table of our unlocked house telling the family down the road to piss off. Something to that effect.

For two weeks, Lucy had liked the guy, and his wife, and the children, cute and quiet.

Where we live, there is a grace period of two weeks. After that you realize there is something wrong with the outside world and you are on your own. But every so often there are two weeks here and there to believe in something or someone.

*

The way some people see a face on the moon or objects in the clouds, Lucy sees animals and things in the changing colors of vegetation: a horse’s head, a bear, a coyote. Every autumn she sees an abundance.

In the lemon and lime-colored trees, she sees a bird, a raccoon, a red cowboy boot, and the cover from one of Gram Parsons’ albums.

“Gram Parsons?” I say. “When was the last time we listened to Gram Parsons?”

Why not Richard Thompson, or Warren Zevon? Who listens to Gram Parsons anymore?

But if you see the dark evergreens as the brown and the bony white-bark and yellow aspens as the white, you can see what she is talking about: his baby face and the shape of a guitar.

*

The grass turns from green to brown and dry almost overnight. The Canadian thistle is green and bright purple one day, brown and fluffy white the next. There is a new dusting of snow up high, which stays in the basins that face north. As the aspens drop leaves, they drop extra pounds or clothing or something. They appear to be losing weight. The coyote scat is changing color, getting darker, almost black. There are fewer piles of bear scat, and what is left has lost its red-berry color.

Lucy is getting thinner.

She always does with the coming of winter.

She starts drinking at ten in the morning.

Why ten? I wonder.

She sips, but by the end of the day the math is relentless and her tongue is pretty twisted. She only smokes in the evening. I like it when she screws up her words and comes out with new made-up words, a language between some Mediterranean one and American English, almost real, mellifluous, and meaningless. Lucy-speak.

This morning Lucy is having tequila in a tall blue ceramic mug that appears to be leaking, as it leaves a watery circle on the dining room table. Each time she puts the mug down, she makes a circle over the previous mark, until there is a daisy chain along one side of the table. I do not think she notices. I am sure she does not notice, as Lucy does not like to spill or waste her drink.

A patch of dust rises over the Gambel’s oak, and I know a truck is on the road a couple hundred feet below. It is moving fast. Way too soon, the truck appears, vanishes, and reappears about two miles from here. It stops amid a gathering of cows. It is also that time of year. The cows are being shipped out–none too soon, as the grass is short and dry and two nights ago cows wandered into our neighbor Buddy’s yard. He lives in Florida or Georgia or somewhere, so I did not bother to call, figuring whoever owned the cows would come for them, but in the morning they were still there, mooing and shitting and eating and barely moving, except for the more nervous and frisky calves.

The birds that sing have gone, too, replaced by ones who make gulping sounds, wild turkey and grouse, which do nothing but waddle and flutter their wings. They catch air only when their lives depend on it and even then barely, slowly.

On our late morning walk, it is windy, and Lucy has to bend a bit into the wind on the way home. From across the field, the house looks like a boat. A stationary boat. The rest is sea. The grass swirls at our feet. We are sailors, I think, sailing seasick. Lucy’s yoga pants, black pants with a pink lotus on the back of the waistband, flap noisily.

*

It rains all day, from sometime in the night. The wind is the worst it has ever been, and the window trim vibrates. Lucy hates the wind. She says it steals her thoughts and carries them away, so she has to go out when the sun finally comes out and try to find them. Sometimes this can take hours, even days.

She draws circles around the beads of outside rain, so now the windows are streaked and messy, like the window glass of childhood automobile trips.

The dogs sleep most of the day on the living room sofa. I sit looking at our things, trying to figure what would blow away and what would not.

Then Lucy says, “I think we are going to blow away.”

Sometimes she is the voice in my head.

“No way, Luce.”

By mid-afternoon, the aspens near the house have one, two, or three leaves, practically like the last tree on Easter Island, or the last of a species. The Gambel’s oak still has its leaves, yellow and iodine-orange.

I eat my dinner way too fast. I think how there is not much difference between a grain of rice and a mouse turd, except one is black and one is white.

With each hour the house gets colder. In the night, the deep freeze of Arctic air dumps snow.

Lucy wakes me.

“What do you think we go to Moab?” she says.

“What?”

“Moab. Let’s go to Moab tomorrow.”

I am totally awake. “Can’t.” Lucy never knows the days of the week. “Tomorrow’s Thursday. Work day.”

Our last time in Moab, I had the best breakfast of my life. It was summer, there were bees, we sat outside. I had pancakes and eggs. We went to Arches. Lucy saw so many strange animals in the rock formations she could not sleep and I had to stay up all night. Lucy is always in a state of waking or falling asleep, an in-between place of clearing confusion. I was heeding the raucous dark. Deer maybe. Campground mice and pack rats. Seriously wasted college kids, who had lost their tent site.

Whoever or whatever is out there that Lucy sees I do not see, but I do not disbelieve.

Credo completamente, in fact.

*

It takes Lucy all of about fifteen minutes to pack the car. In part, this is because I do the real packing: dog food and dog bowls and leashes, trash bags, paper towels, some snack food, toilet paper, camping gear. What else? A change of clothes. Towels. But I have a large box of camping necessities that stays packed, and towels are in that box. This way, when Lucy has a sudden inspiration, I am ready to roll. All she has to do is pack her clothes and toiletries. I leave food and water for the cat, should she reappear.

The phone rings, four times. Lucy stands over it, waiting for the answering machine to cut on. Whoever is calling hangs up first.

Vamos, I say. I have told my boss I am sick and I do not want him to call, having forgotten to ask what I am sick with. Vamanos.

“Do you think for one day you could just speak English? Your Spanish sucks, by the way.”

“I’m rusty. It’s been ten years since I’ve been to Mexico.”

Lucy hesitates, looks lost in thought. “We could go to Mexico.”

“No way, Luce.” I am not going to let her get a rise. “No, no way.”

*

Lucy is way too drunk and stoned to drive but drive she does, the back road to Norwood. I offer but she refuses. This is okay because after Norwood I will insist on driving.

The road is so rocky Lucy cannot go faster than a bike, probably slower, so I feel safe, and safe for the dogs and the deer and other wildlife. Also, it is still early, so the world is shielded from Lucy’s distracted driving and outbursts of her memoir, which she has not yet convinced me she is writing, though I get oral excerpts aplenty. The deer and elk are not doing their pogo-stick soaring over the barbed-wire fence that snakes the road.

I pull out a cold Corona and sit back.

Shadow birds circle over something out on the mesa, and I spot a red-tailed hawk. We pull over for a truck hauling an empty trailer, a seriously rusted stock trailer, maroon, with lazy streaks of gray paint.

I break out some potato chips.

We avoid the main highway, with its asides of stationary SUVs. Near-winter and even dead-winter, people fish our beautiful scenic mag chloride river. We also avoid a killer intersection, 22 miles from home, one of 33 state problem spots. The downside of our route selection is we lose the local radio station, so I put on Conor Oberst’s “Moab” to get us in the mood.

Lucy tosses a beer can out the window.

I groan.

“I don’t see the problem. Animals shit and pee and tell the world they have passed through. Why can’t I?”

“I think it’s the racking up, Luce. And the fact it takes so long to disappear.”

To this Lucy just giggles.

The giggling stops. “Oh, Jesus,” she says. “Jesus, God.”

My heart stops.

“I think I just saw a jaguar.” She points.

“It’s a big stump, Luce, and you were looking the other way, so when you glimpsed the tree it looked like something else.”

She is quiet for a while.

“So is the trick to look at the road and not see, or not look at the road?”

“Want me to drive?”

“No frigging way.” She giggles some more. “I’m gonna drive until I see a real jaguar.”

“No way, Lucy, are we going to Mexico. Get that straight in your mind.”

One of the dogs digs into the backseat and digs and circles furiously.

“Maybe it is time to stop and nest a bit,” I think I hear Lucy say.

Out on the mesa, the cows look like tree stumps.

*

During the Great Depression, writers wrote about and photographed their road trips, which they had been hired to write about. Way before Kerouac. On-the-road lit. But how authentic? I try to come up with other ‘lits’: eco lit, green lit, self lit, knit lit, dick lit, hick lit, sick lit, zit lit (for the teenage crowd). I do not think I can better zit lit, so I stop.

I pull out a notebook.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m writing about our road trip.”

“What? Read me what you just wrote.”

“Lucy drives like shit,” I say.

“Give me that.”

She stares long enough at the blank page I think she is going to drive off the road.

“Give me that,” I say.

“When we change, can I write in that?”

“Maybe.”

When we change, I give her the notebook.

“I drove 38 fucking miles,” she writes, “without hitting anything.”

Mas o menos.

We barely missed a squirrel with a bad case of scoliosis that ran across the road.

We killed a load of insects.

But no road kill, no mammals, no significant thing.

*

Lucy calls Norwood—a bedroom community for a resort an hour south—Pigwood, because of the large number of cops who live there. Norwood has cheaper housing than other nearby towns, more camaraderie, more double-wides and RVs, and a landfill.

“How do you know that many cops live here?” I say, after Lucy, for the hundredth time, has cursed drivers and pedestrians alike as we pass by the bakery, a pizza joint, and storefronts in need of a touch-up, through town, seven-blocks, ten-seconds long.

“You can tell.”

“But how?”

“Look.”

I look. “Help.”

Lucy likes helplessness, even the feigned kind.

“Okay. Eight cars, two boats, two trailers. Give me a break.”

I look left, then right. One camper van, several hues of blue, two trucks, one car, one SUV, two boats, an old stock trailer, a new utility trailer. The affordability does look out of whack.

“And what town puts its chop shops on the main highway?”

“Those are body shops,” I say. We have passed two, maybe three, half full of presumably fully functional automobiles, and the other half the dead or dying.

“My point exactly.” She pauses for a whole minute. “And, dead giveaway, a Hummer and a rat trap? Give me a break.”

This time I have time to see the offending vehicles.

“Why not an everyday car and a gas guzzler for special occasions?”

“Nah, nobody driving status is going to be seen in some shit-face thing.”

Point taken.

“Darling, just look. Open your eyes.”

I look. I open my eyes as big as I can, until I see myself as a deformed fish. I see white and red ranch homes with vehicle-laden lawns. I see bright white houses with sparkling white trucks. I see a yellow house with a green and yellow tractor out front. But I do not for a minute think we are looking at the same scenes. She sees pieces, the leaves of a quakie, not the whole tree, dull-paint door panels and mangled grilles, a new tailgate, a red shell on a blue truck. I see a house and wonder who lives inside; Lucy sees forms and misshapen forms and all shapes and sizes and colors.

Perhaps she contemplates car wrecks on the scale of dozens a day because she is increasingly agitated, a bird on a perch, head weaving from side to side.

“Look. There. Granny brigade.” Her head bobs with each word.

Two little old ladies are sitting in front of the post office. I remember the two little old ladies sitting in front of the bank. They look harmless enough.

“Maybe they’re sad or lonely or lost,” I say. “Or lost in thought, or totally completely lost, as in dementia.”

“Okay. Okay. If you go down a side road and there’s one car, it’s a cop. If there’re two cars, the first is not a cop but he will be followed by a cop. I mean, burning gas and following people around, violating the Constitution, wasting the taxpayers’ money, polluting the universe…”

“Luce, calm down.”

She evil-eyes me. “See those hills?”

I look out the window at the mesa and the rolling hills that are the bases of mountains.

“In those hills is a camper or a hunter who watches who comes and goes. They don’t even camp or hunt. All they do is watch who comes and goes.”

I strain my eyes, catch the reflection of something, a vehicle or camper or RV. It would take Superman to see the meaning of it, if there is meaning. I look at my hands and pray she has run out of steam. I do not care to live in Lucy’s world, not the one that is a police state and a cop lives on every corner and at every intersection in the county and every county employee, utility worker, road worker spies for the state. And democracy is dead.

I roll down my window, asking for more freedom and wind on my face.

For a while Lucy is very quiet. Then out of the blue, she says,“Wanna go to California?”

“No way.”

“I thought everybody wanted to go to California?”

“Not me. Not the dogs.”

“Oh, please, pretty, pretty.”

“Lucy, I have work.”

“You could always find another job.”

“Get real. I like my job. I might not find another job I like.”

“Holy shit. Look. A bear.”

“That was a deer, Lucy.”

“No way. No frigging way.”

“Whatever you say.”

I prefer Lucy when she is just stoned, not pissy and belligerent but dreamy and quiet and laughing, subdued.

A deer—another deer—crosses the road. The dogs stand and frantically scratch the window glass and bark and bay.

*

The dogs, all three, are relatively well behaved, but we have to stop frequently for the puppy, which Lucy picked up in Shiprock, where dogs frequent gas stations the way surf frequents a beach. White folks, especially women, are always picking up stray dogs, the shy-but-friendly-enough ones, with not a hint of a snarl, prime for a meal ticket out of poverty and malnutrition. This pero has been named Moby. He is a mix, a conundrum of coat and color. He strolled right up to her at the gas station, wagging his tail, his long skinny body shaking with potential happiness. Lucy leaned down and said hello, hello, hello.

The man at the next pump did not turn his car off.

“Is that a good idea?” Lucy said.

“I’m not going to spill,” he said.

Lucy walked a long way off and the dog followed, Lucy and Moby more sane than the paleface.

I finished pumping, Paleface did not spill, we did not blow up, I went to the bathroom, then I picked up Lucy and the puppy, soaking up love in the heat and dust.

*

I drive from Norwood, west, to Redvale, from one small flat ranching community to the next small flat ranching community, then to Naturita, finally getting off the flatness. Once this was all salt sea. I like thinking we are driving where water used to be. We are sailing on an ancient sea. We pass the turnoff for the power company, which glows at night for a long distance, and weave downward into dry canyons with an occasional creek or river walled by tall yellowing cottonwoods. It is pleasant and pretty and peaceful, like going to summer camp or before a shoe falls. On the other side of Naturita, we turn, away from Gateway, toward Utah.

Lucy has me on alert for about five miles. “It’s easy to miss the turn.”

I see that. The sign comes after you have made the turn.

We pass the trail to Coyote Creek, which we hiked in early and out at late dusk last summer.

We pass the uranium mines, open pit mines under yellow luminous skies.

These are the back roads, the scary roads of America, with its radon air and radioactive waters and trucks carrying uranium south for processing or tailings from old mills west to a disposal site outside Moab. The people who built these roads and drilled the yellowcake, they begged to have dollars back then, were given cancer instead. On the other side of the canyon is Uravan, an underground town now, since the government came in and said everything had to be buried—houses and gardens and trees and trucks and play things, everything but everything, except the radioactive living, with their radioactive dogs and cats and children.

We head to Utah, whose mountains you can see in the distance.

There is a cabin for sale right before the Utah border, and I ask Lucy if she wants to stop and check it out.

“On the way back,” she says.

I know by this she has forgotten California.

At the border is a sign that says, “You are leaving Colorado,” and a sign a little bit later that says, “Welcome to Utah.” As if you do not know you are in Utah: by the drier dryness and deeper-red red canyons. The roads are less curvy and not as well paved as Colorado’s. Where does the highway department think you might go without their road signs?

We do stop eventually, right at the corner of a small highway meeting a large highway, La Sal Junction, where a Navajo woman is selling jewelry, not hers, but a friend’s. She usually sells on weekends, she tells us, anywhere between southern Arizona and northern Utah, depending on what is going on at convention centers and fairgrounds and such. I buy a necklace for Lucy, a turtle with squares of different green colors on its back and silver. The turtle, the Navajo woman says, carries the world on its back. She wraps the turtle carefully in brown paper. Even when she wraps the necklace several times, it is a tiny square, which I put in my pocket. I do not show it to Lucy, wanting to save it for another time. Lucy looks and looks, picking up, putting down, asking lots of questions. She does not buy anything. I knew she would not. She does not have the money. Lucy does have a little money, which she earns from the occasional housecleaning gig, but she never spends it wisely. She picks up stray dogs and stray cats and stray people, manic-depressives trying to glam onto one nanosecond of happiness, stray anything. Taking care of strays uses up her money.

*

I forgot to mention there is also a kitten in the car, eight weeks old, maybe six, from the farmers’ market in Norwood, where we stopped for carrot cookies. For the first 50 miles, we keep the kitten in a cardboard box. But when we get to Utah, we decide it is time to let the kitten out, not outside of course, but to roam around the car and hopefully pee and pooh in another box, a cardboard box with litter, which it does. It makes a beeline for the box and ignores the dogs. The dogs are very curious and I am sure we are going to have a fight and one of the dogs is going to have the kitten for lunch, but the kitten—surely a male—hisses at each one of them in turn and without hesitation they back off.

The rest of the trip the kitten walks around freely, except when it gets near my feet, whereupon I scoop him up and hand him to Lucy and Lucy coos over him.

*

I give up on the radio, which we listened to until La Sal Junction, and put on early Drive-by Truckers. Lucy and I are totally into the same music, so I do not ask, just load and play.

Lucy was messed up in childhood. Now she is messed up with Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and tequila. Our friends do a lot more drugs than we do; serious mental illness shit.

Lucy puts on Conor Oberst again, refusing to turn him off, even though we have listened to the album the whole way through at least three times and “Moab” about thirty times.

I am starting to lose it, with her, the music, the trip.

The shoulders and sides of the road endlessly repeat themselves, miles of the same scrubland of red dirt, white crosses, and endless thirst. If I weren’t so awake I would be asleep.

We make it to Moab in two and a half hours. The breakfast joint is closed; a piece of paper on the door says: Sorry. We are closed today due to a death in the family. The bookstore is closed; a wood sign says: Gone fishing.

“Are you disappointed?”

“Heck, no,” I say. “There’s always mañana.”

Lucy looks disappointed. We wander through town, like so many tourists, the only goal to squander the afternoon, which we obligingly do.

We head out of town, north and west. The grasses go gold on us as the sun sets. In the dying light the deer are slate blue.

Lucy recites some poetry, poetry I have read to her, but because she can’t remember it well enough repeats the most memorable lines and makes up the rest. This is Lucy in her element, Lucy at her best.

“You should have been a poet,” I tell Lucy.

“I should have been something,” she says.

It takes courage to lead an ordinary life, I think, which is not the kind of courage we think about: mountain climbers, for example. How hard can it be putting one foot in front of the other? It takes courage to see strange figures day in, day out, the planet out of kilter.

Though courage may not be what Lucy and I have.

When we finally get around to finding a campsite it is dark.

Some jerk in a truck driving out shines his bright lights right in my eyes.

“Those days are over, aren’t they,” Lucy says, “when we could drive all night, three or four days at a time?”

We make love in a hammock we string between the side mirror of the truck and a bush. The bush makes more noise than we do. When we are done there are lattice-like marks on my legs and thighs and arms. Soft rope burns.

Once Jackson Brown hit on Lucy at one of the Mexican restaurants in town. Lucy has bragging rights. How he kissed Daryl and winked at Lucy at the same time. When I kiss Lucy I think of nothing else. No matter where we are, in the midst of kissing, it is as if the world has disappeared, and I am dizzy, physically dizzy, with love.

I watch Lucy sleep in my arms. I go back in time with her on my chest. The dogs breathe easily, the puppy and kitten curled together neatly.

In the morning I am up early and Lucy is up early for Lucy, because I want to be among the first at the breakfast joint. I have a stack of pancakes and eat half of Lucy’s breakfast because the portion is too big for her, eggs and spinach and potatoes. Lucy tells the waitress a lame joke I have heard ten times. The waitress laughs, loud and genuine. Lucy is very popular with a certain class of people, alcoholics who are still holding it together, small children, the genuinely juvenile.

We go to the t-shirt store and look at racks of t-shirts, arranged by color and within colors size. We go to the bookstore and wander through the genres. There are more books on enlightenment than there is enlightenment. The re-arranger in me wants to move them to the fiction section. There are more books on John Muir and Edward Abbey, definitely Abbey, than probably any other bookstore in America. There are three, five, sometimes more, copies of some of the Abbeys, so they must be sellers.

Suddenly, I miss Scott Fitzgerald and W. H. Auden and the surly explorations of high school English. I still collect bookmarks, but I hardly pick up a book anymore, and when I do they make my head hurt. Lucy never applied herself in high school, smoked pot instead, only studied for the big tests. Sometimes I think Lucy’s brain stopped growing and her heart stopped feeling maybe when she was a teenager. All she is capable of is what she was capable of 20 years ago. Different places, different faces, different contexts, but not real difference. No new pathways. There is one story–of who she is, what she does. The storyline is always the same, like the alcoholic who says the same things over and over. Lucy picks up new jokes, she gets the punch lines right, but the thoughts and feelings are retreads.

But what is love, real love, which is all about old love? And what does it matter?

*

We pack up everything for fear some yahoo will disturb our campsite or steal our food or gear, even though we have found a nice spot.

We drive to the farthermost point of the pointy neck of Dead Horse State Park, onto the peninsula, where we park. We avoid the man-made walks and handicapped ramps and the few
tourists. All along the west edge where we are are natural overlooks with dizzying views of the Colorado River, 2000’ below.

“How much more interesting the story would have been had St. George ridden a dead horse,” Lucy says.

I have a vague idea how Lucy glams onto certain thoughts, but I do not spend too much time trying to follow her there.

Here the story is wild horses were rounded up the end of summer and the ones that were not taken were left and they starved to death.

Ask any high school kid, and he will tell you a different story: how the horses were driven out onto the peninsula, brush and logs were piled high at the entranceway so once in the horses could not get out, how a number of horses were caught, and broke right there. Those horses that could not stomach capture dove or were driven off the cliff.

Another story is the horses and their Indian riders were driven off the cliffs. I favor this story for its colorfulness. But the Indians were long gone by this time. I picture horses and riders propelling themselves into the smoke-blue air. I can see them falling, almost wafting, like differently colored pieces of paper or flags of different countries, like saddle blankets, colored squares, theirs, literally and figuratively. I hear the screams of banshee Indians.

I tell Lucy these and other stories.

At the end of my storytelling, Lucy gets up—we have been sitting on a large rock—and grabs the puppy. She is laughing, throwing him up into the air, like a baby, only one time when she tosses him into the air he does not fly up but out and over the ledge near where we stand.

“Jesus,” I say.

I cannot think of anything else to say and for a moment I stand stock-still. Lucy is a walking moral hazard. Not evil. But a walking, talking, jettisoning moral hazard.

Lucy looks horrified. “Oh, my God,” she says. She puts her hands over her mouth in horror. “I didn’t mean it.”

I get down on my stomach, crawl out onto the ledge, and reach for the puppy, who is sitting on a ledge below the ledge I lie on, patiently, like a dog at a door waiting to be let out for a leak. On my stomach I push myself over the rock and loose stone out as far as I possibly can. Finally, I get a hold of the puppy, grab him by the scruff of his neck, and pull him up to me.

“Guess it’s time to go,” I say to myself.

I wonder how our vacant casa is doing, why our electric bill rises and falls for no discernible reason, how Lucy’s body lotion depletes and the organic peanut butter disappears without my having any. I wonder if our pale guapo neighbor is raising his children to be merry pranksters.

The puppy runs to Lucy.

Lucy is giggling and laughing and giving Moby lots of love, and the puppy is soaking it up. I brush the loose dirt off me.

*

When we are home, the new kitten walks around the living room, finds an armchair, and falls instantly asleep, as if the mere thought of more exploration brings exhaustion. Lucy stands in the kitchen, drinking in the smells and sights and sounds of the house, savoring being back. I watch her for a while, not sure if I will ever see her this happy again.

A housefly buzzes and dives, and she brushes it away twice.

“Damn fly,” she says the third time.

I see her stretch toward it with a scooping arm, and with the snap of her thumb and third finger she catches it mid-air, and it falls to the ground.

There is fresh snow, three or four inches. The yard is covered in coyote tracks.

I watch her sun-setting lips move in rhythm to some unsaid mantra. She looks out the window, not able to take her eyes off the view with its colors of coral and plankton.

Over her right shoulder, over Saltado Creek, and over the Uncompaghre Plateau, there is a small glow of light.

“That is Moab,” I say. I think it is Moab, not the power plant.

The house is still warm with afternoon sun. We watch the sun go down, but the dark does not come. We wait out the postponed darkness.

Lucy smiles, dream-like.

“Night is late,” she says.