At the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Moose Jaw, Lucy had planned to get a pair of shorts, but she couldn’t resist the fox mask she found sitting on top of a bin of costumes. The woman at the cash, a dead ringer for her Nona, asked, “Will that be all today?”
“I think so,” she said.
Lucy had packed just a week’s worth of underwear and T-shirts, plus two sweaters, her bathing suit and wet suit. She was wearing her one pair of jeans.
She drove down the 37 and crossed the border at Climax. The customs officer stared at the surfboard strapped to the roof of her 1983 Civic. “Heading to California?”
“Yes sir.” Lucy smiled.
The wind picked up and the flapping Stars and Stripes drowned out the customs officer’s voice.
“Length of stay?”
“Uh, two weeks.”
“You don’t sound sure.”
“Just two weeks,” she said, nodding.
“A pretty girl like you?”
“You know,” she said. She knew how conversations like this could end.
He handed her back her passport. “Drive safely,” he said. His smile was kind. Completely.
By Great Falls, the heat was making Lucy’s thighs burn beneath her black jeans. She got off the highway and drove east on Central Avenue. There was a big, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. She went in and looked at shorts and skirts and dresses and there was some great stuff, but she only had a few hundred bucks to her name and she was hungry and needed weed and needed to get to California and back, so instead she walked up to the front and asked them if they had scissors. “What for, dear?”
“Why don’t you leave them be and get yourself a pair of shorts?”
Lucy spotted heavy fabric scissors in a metal mesh penholder beside the cash register. “Can I see those?”
“If money’s an issue—”
“Would you mind?” Lucy didn’t appreciate having her decisions question.
“Come nighttime, you may wish you had them pants.” The woman handed her the scissors.
Lucy undressed behind a musty curtain, cut the legs off a few inches below the crotch, put the now-shorts back on and walked back to the cash, the severed legs draped over her arm.
When she gave the woman her scissors back, the woman held her hand out and said, “Let me put those in a bag for you.”
“I was gonna ask you to throw them out.”
She paused and smiled. “Either way’s no trouble.”
Lucy looked at the limp denim. “Yeah, sure. That would be great.”
The woman took the legs behind the counter, stuffed them in a bag then handed the bag to Lucy.
“Welcome to America.”
After a burger and milkshake at a place called Ford’s, Lucy got back on the highway.
Three hours later, Lucy was in Butte. Her sister had a friend there whose name she’d forgotten, but who she said could get Lucy weed. She pulled off the highway and gave him a call. He asked her to pick him up. Lucy followed his directions to a grey bungalow with a steep roof deep in some old suburb.
“Hi, Lucy. I’m Rich.”
Lucy looked at his house. It seemed fine, but—
“Richard. My name.”
“Oh.” She laughed.
“Can I get in?”
“Of course,” Lucy told him.
He threw his sweater into the back seat.
“My connection’s out of town a bit.”
He nodded. “Your sister’s right, man. You are pretty.”
“Thanks.” He was alright looking, but not winning points for brains yet. “Where’re we going?”
He directed her out of the city. As they drove through sandy hills covered with scrub and stone, Rich scanned the radio. “It’s mostly shit, isn’t it?”
“You don’t listen to the radio,” Lucy asked him.
“I guess I didn’t before I had this car.”
“Right, of course. The car.”
“No. I mean, I can, but I don’t. Don’t own a car. Wish I did.”
“I guess I just haven’t bothered.”
“With a job?”
“With a car. I wash dishes at an old folks home.”
The dealer lived in an apartment in the stable at his father and step-mom’s ranch. “Is that the Dick Man?” he shouted when Rich knocked.
“Come in.” Leslie got up when he saw Lucy. “Wow. Anybody ever tell you how pretty you are?”
“You’re the first,” Lucy said.
Leslie was confused. “Wait. You’re lying, right? Right, Dickie?”
Rich looked at his feet. “I did it, actually. When I got in her car.”
“Oh,” Leslie said.
“Where’s the shit?” Lucy asked.
“Business,” Leslie said. “I like that. I like that.”
As soon as she had her weed, Lucy was ready to go. “Kay,” she said.
“You like horses?” Leslie asked.
Lucy shook her head.
“Or we could go for a walk,” Rich said. “It’s, like, beautiful out here.”
“I got a long drive,” Lucy said.
It nearly made her laugh how disappointed the guys looked.
“If you’ve got some food, though,” she said.
“Of course,” Leslie said. “I was about to make dinner.”
“Cool,” Lucy said. “I mean, is that cool?”
“Totally. Yeah,” Leslie said.
He threw some ground beef into a skillet. Rich showed Lucy around. There were five horses way off in a dusty field. Rich said he thought the ranch was just for fun, that Leslie’s folks had other work. Lucy and Rich walked down a path, dodging mounds of horseshit at various stages of decomposition, a process that to Lucy always just seemed like flies gradually clearing all the feces off of undigested straw. A cold wind came up. Lucy toughed it out for a few more bends in the path, but they eventually turned back.
Leslie’s apartment smelled like burnt garlic and pasta sauce. The bun he used for Lucy’s sloppy joe for sure had some mold on it, but she ate it anyway and was grateful. She had a bottle of Bud to wash it down, too, so that helped, except it also made her hands cold, which made her feel cold all over. Leslie offered to smoke them up, but Lucy said, No, she had to drive. Then Leslie offered to do Tarot readings for them. Lucy wasn’t sure if Rich was into the idea because it meant Lucy sticking around or because he had a thing for cartomancy. Either way, Rich had grown on her and she knew that after tonight she probably wouldn’t see him again, maybe ever, so what the fuck? “Just let me go grab a sweater or something.”
“Me, too,” Rich said.
“I’ll grab yours,” she said.
Rich understood that she wanted to be alone. On the way to the car Lucy decided that she would throw on a sweater, sure, but that she’d also just use the cut legs of her pants like legwarmers and tell the guys that that was kind of her thing.
When she opened up the bag, though, there was this extra pair of pants. She pulled them out expecting them to suck, but they were baggy and high-waisted and made of this amazing floral material. She actually teared up, she was so grateful to that woman back in Great Falls.
What sucked, though, was that she was like allergic to tears. Under her eyes got so puffed up when she cried even the littlest bit. Then Lucy saw the fox mask lying crumpled on the back seat. She walked back into Leslie’s apartment wearing the mask. The guys liked that. They laughed. “You wear it while you do our readings,” Lucy said to Leslie.
She took off the mask.
Rich looked at her. Lucy thought it was because she’d been crying. Then he stood up and she remembered. “Oh, sorry. I forgot your sweater.”
He smiled and told her it was no problem and she knew he meant it.
She went to the bathroom and put on her new pants. They fit right. Really well, actually. Maybe on her way back she’d stop in at that place again to thank that woman. Maybe make her a card or something. Yeah, that would be nice. That was what she’d do.
Toronto, ON, August 2015
Emoji sequence: writer and artist Juliana Carlevaris, contributor to The West Enders, Vol. 1, Issues 1 and 2
Story: Lee Sheppard