Lucy and Luther – The Ticket – Chapter 9

Luther headed back to the RV park with a smile on his face. He bopped lightly to the tune on the radio, feeling hopeful. As he crested the hill, a small service station came into view. He glanced at the dash and realized that he needed gas. He stopped at the station, parked at a pump and headed inside. A dour attendant barely glanced up when Luther set a ten and a twenty on the counter and said, “thirty on pump seven, please.” She slid the bills toward her wordlessly and pressed a few buttons, as she did so, Luther stuffed his hand in his pocket and felt something there. He pulled it out and discovered it was a crumpled dollar bill. He straightened it on the edge of the counter, an action which caused the attendant to shoot him a disdainful look.

“One of those scratchers, too. Please.” Luther said.

“Which one?” the attendant asked.

“Surprise me.” Luther said, smiling brightly.

The attendant rolled her eyes, grabbed the bill from Luther’s hand, tore a ticket from the nearest roll and handed it to him.

“Good luck”, said the attendant, with a complete lack of enthusiasm. Luther’s smile held as he thanked her and headed out with a spring in his step.

Luther returned to the pump and began fueling. He retrieved a coin from his pocket and proceeded to scratch his ticket while he waited. The goal was to reveal two identical amounts in the same row; there were six rows of two. Normally, he would have just scratched the whole ticket in one go, but the pump was running so slowly, he decided to draw it out. He scratched the first item in every row, then went back to scratch the second item in order of potential winnings from ticket to ten-thousand dollars.

He was briefly disappointed when he didn’t win a ticket, since that was the best he usually ever did on these things, but he was feeling lucky today and maybe he’d win twenty-five, or even a hundred. As he kept scratching, his smile faltered. No matches. He was down to the last row, the ten-thousand-dollar row. The odds were against him, but he scratched anyway.

Luther was staring intently at the ticket when the pump handle disengaged, startling him. He removed the handle from the RV, replaced it on the pump, screwed the gas cap back on then leaned against the RV, turning his attention back to the ticket in his hand. Could it be true? Luther thought. Did I just win? He brought the ticket close to his face, squinting to find the asterisk or fine print that would reveal the lie but found nothing.

Luther ran back into the store. “I won!” he yelled to the attendant, waving the ticket in the air.

“Good for you” she said, with a complete lack of enthusiasm. She held out her hand for the ticket, and Luther rushed forward, handing it to her. “Oh,” she said, looking up at him. “Wow, you really did win, huh?”

Luther nodded and bounced on the balls of his feet.  

The attendant finally smiled, only slightly, as she handed the ticket back to Luther, who now looked confused.

“It’s too much. You can’t redeem it here. You gotta fill out a form and go to the office or mail it in,” the attendant explained.

“Oh. Ok,” Luther replied, crestfallen. “Thanks”, he said before turning to walk away. The attendant nodded and went back to reading a magazine.

Luther got back in the RV and stared at the ticket. He flipped it over and strained to read the fine print on the back. He realized he was going to have to get online to figure out next steps. No worries. He took a deep breath and his smile returned. While he would have preferred to just get cash in hand today, the fact remained that he just won enough money to keep him going for quite some time and it couldn’t have been more opportune. Big deal, there was a little administrative work to be done. He had all the time in the world.

Luther dropped the ticket into the cupholder, started the engine and headed for home. He had so much to tell Lucy.

Lucy and Luther – The Haircut – Chapter 8

A bell tinkled as Luther opened the door to the small hair salon. A disinterested voice called out, “have a seat, honey, someone will be right with you.”

Luther did as he was told, settling into a too low couch, which deflated further under his weight. As his ass sank and his knees rose, he started to wonder if he’d be able to extricate himself with any grace when the time came. He seriously doubted it.

He was still wrestling with the crisis of the couch when he heard, “you ready?”

He was not ready. He looked up in alarm and saw Darlene standing there. Shit, he thought. Luther straightened his arms to either side of him, pushing down into the soft cushion. He leaned forward and tried rocking out of his seated position. His butt lifted into the air a few inches, but he didn’t have enough momentum to carry him up and out, so he fell back into the pillowy cushion with a grunt and an expulsion of air which sounded exactly like a fart.

“That wasn’t me” Luther said reflexively, regretting it immediately. Only a guy who farted would issue an unsolicited denial.

“Let me help you.” Darlene said, her hand extended. “That couch is the worst.”

Luther took her hand reluctantly and performed his push and lean maneuver again, this time one handed. When his ass left the seat, Darlene pulled with surprising strength, and he was able to break free of the couch’s clutches. Embarrassed, Luther was unable to make eye contact, but murmured his thanks.

“No problem. Follow me.” Darlene said, no hint of mockery in her voice. She swept her arm toward her station and said, “have a seat.”

Luther sat quietly, eyes still downcast, as Darlene clipped a small towel around his neck and followed that with a bright pink cape. She combed her long nails through his hair, making no comment as they caught in the tangles there. “So, what can I do for you today?” she said.

She was acting so normal. Luther thought. It was disconcerting. He glanced up and met her eyes in the mirror. She looked soft and relaxed. Almost pretty. “Just a haircut, I guess.” Luther said.

“I can manage that. Are you looking for any particular style? Or you just want me to clean you up?” Darlene asked.

“I trust you” Luther said, and to his surprise, he meant it.

“I’ll take good care of you. Let’s get you washed.” Darlene said and patted him on the shoulders. “Over here, sugar.”

Luther got up, easily this time, and followed her to the basin. He sat and leaned back, nestling the back of his neck into the sink divot, and closing his eyes. He could hear the spray of the water as Darlene let it run until it was warm. She ran a little over the back of his head and asked if the temperature was ok. Luther murmured assent. Darlene set about wetting his hair, then squeezed shampoo that smelled of coconut into her palm. The bottle expelled air as she did so. “That wasn’t me.” Darlene said and laughed. Luther joined her.

Darlene spent several minutes lathering, massaging and gently scratching his scalp. Luther was very relaxed. This reminded him of the first time he and Darlene had met. How kind and gentle she had been. What had happened? He wondered.

“Hey, sorry about your cat.” Darlene said.

Luther had been in a near dreamlike state and her voice startled him. He blurted, “it’s ok” without thinking.

“It’s not ok.” Darlene continued. “It was terrible, and I acted like an asshole. I didn’t know what to say and I shouldn’t have said anything, and I think part of me was still mad at you and maybe I was trying to be hurtful. I don’t know. I just… I’m just sorry. Sorry about your cat and sorry about how I acted.

“Thank you” Luther said. “I really appreciate that.” And he did, he really did.  

Darlene rinsed, conditioned, rinsed again and wrapped Luther’s head in a towel. She nudged him back over to her station and he settled in. She fidgeted with the cape and once satisfied, she patted Luther on the shoulders again. She removed the towel and began combing his damp hair. Luther watched her in the mirror. She was relaxed, in her element. Different than she had been the last few times they had been together.

“It’s gotten so long!” Darlene remarked, using her fingertips to pull some strands taut, then resting them between Luther’s shoulder blades, to illustrate her point.  She met his eyes in the mirror and raised her eyebrows, as if impressed. Luther was surprised as well. His hair was a little curly and quite thick and tended to bunch up on itself. He supposed he had been walking around with one big tangle for a while. Luther shrugged and Darlene smirked. She pulled the comb back through his hair then deftly switched from comb to scissors to make her first cut. The damp curls that remained sprung up to hug the back of his neck. Their eyes met in the mirror again, and they both smiled.

Luther watched intently as Darlene moved around his head. It seemed almost indiscriminate, but his hair was beginning to take shape. She chatted amiably as she worked, about the weather, a little gossip about the residents of Murmuring Breezes, about a new restaurant that just opened. Luther made the appropriate noises to indicate he was listening but didn’t contribute much to the conversation. He was watching and he was thinking.

Darlene gave Luther’s hair a final tousle and stepped back, admiring her work. “Well, I have to say, Luther, you look quite handsome.”

Luther, still seated, took his eyes off Darlene for a moment to check himself out. He thought he did look kind of handsome. He turned in the chair to meet Darlene’s gaze directly and asked, “Can I take you to dinner? We can try that new place you were telling me about.”

Darlene’s mouth opened, then closed. She looked down, frowned, then back and him and with a shrug said, “Sure. That sounds nice.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Lucy and Luther – The Laundromat – Chapter 7

It had been a few months since Pickles joined Lucy and Luther was not ok. He had been putting on a brave face, smiling when appropriate, going through the motions, but he was lonely. This was different than the feeling he had before Lucy came. Before, he was lonely in a vacuum, truly alone. Intimately alone. This new state of loneliness in a group was far more painful. The unique nature of his friendship with Lucy also meant he was never truly alone, so he had no time to process through the state he now found himself in. Lucy was still somewhat engaged. They chatted amiably, revisiting plans for a big adventure, but then she would get distracted by her forever kitten and be lost to him in a bittersweet tinkle of giggles.

Luther sat in a folding chair outside the RV, staring into the distance, lost in his reverie.

“Whatcha doin?” Lucy asked.

Luther jerked slightly, startled.

“Whoa!” Lucy said. “You act like you’ve seen a ghost!” She broke off laughing at her own bad joke. Luther was not amused.

“Just thinking.” Luther replied, his voice flat.

Lucy pressed on. “What about?”

“Just stuff, I guess.” Luther replied, giving nothing.

“Sounds exciting.” Lucy replied, then to Pickles, in a baby voice, “What are you thinking about, Pickles? Who’s the cutest baby? Who’s the sweetest?”

Luther rolled his eyes then said, “I think I’m going to head to town today. I need to do some laundry and I could use a haircut. I also need to look into some work. Funds are running low”

“Fun! You definitely need a haircut. When are we leaving?” Lucy asked.

Luther paused before speaking. “Um,” another pause, “I was thinking of going alone.”

“Oh” said Lucy.

Luther immediately felt the need to explain. “It’s just that I haven’t had much time to myself lately and…”

“I get it.” Lucy interrupted.

‘Do you?’ Luther wondered to himself. “Cool” he said aloud. “I think I’ll unhook and head out in about an hour.”

“Ok! Have fun. Me and Pickles will hang out here. We can visit Duke.” Lucy said.

“Duke?” Luther inquired.

“Yeah, the little dachshund. I’m not sure if he knows I’m around, but he is sure about Pickles somehow. They play.” Lucy explained.

“Huh.” Luther replied, feeling more left out than ever.

“Well, have a nice trip! We will see you later.” Lucy said to Luther. “Come on, Pickles!”

Luther was glad that the exchange went as smoothly as it did, but he was a little hurt that Lucy didn’t press at all. How could she be with him so much and not see that he was in pain? Or maybe she did and just didn’t care.

*

Luther enjoyed the solitude of the drive into town. It got him thinking about the time before Lucy. It wasn’t that bad, right? Being alone? Was this new situation any better? He felt the resentment and irritation rising in him and took a deep breath to re-center himself. This was no way to think. He pulled to a stop in front of the laundromat and turned the RV off. He moved to the back of the vehicle and gathered the trash bags stuffed with his clothes and a bottle of detergent, exited through the side door and crossed the sidewalk to the laundromat. The door was conveniently propped open, and Luther was glad to see that the place was deserted except for an elderly man in the corner by the dryers, napping. Luther smiled. He understood. The whir and warmth of the dryers, the smell of fabric softener, it made him sleepy too. Luther fed some cash into the change machine and was rewarded with a jackpot rush of quarters. The old man sniffed and shifted slightly but did not wake.

Luther loaded two machines with detergent and his unsorted laundry, marveling occasionally at a found item of clothing that he was fond of but had forgotten after such a long stint in the bottom of the bag. He resolved, not for the first time, to do laundry more often. He stacked the quarters in the slot and drove them home, wincing and the noise and glancing quickly at the old man, who slept on.

Once both loads were running, he took a seat on a small plastic chair near the storefront. He sat still and quiet for a while, watching as the world moved past, feeling his eyelids grow heavy. He snapped to attention, remembering that he was supposed to get a haircut. He got up and headed through the open door, with a brief, envious glance back at the old man.

As Luther crossed the street, a fleeting thought of what it might feel like to be hit by a car zipped through his mind. Poor Pickles. Then he started to feel guilty about his attitude toward Lucy. Sure, he had been feeling lonely lately, but how lonely had she been for all those years? He resolved to be more patient and maybe have a talk with her when he got back, to tell her how he was feeling. He straightened a little, feeling very mature.

Lucy and Luther – Trip to Town – Chapter 6

The RV bumped along the dusty road, headed into town. Lucy and Luther had planned this trip before they discovered Pickles, but his presence complicated things a bit. As Luther drove, the kitten jumped on and off his lap, digging his claws into Luther’s pants, the seat, or both on each ascent.

“Ow! Hey buddy, cut it out!” Luther cried, plucking Pickles from his leg, ignoring his squeals of protest. Luther set him down on the seat opposite. “Just stay put.” Pickles took a step toward him, and Luther held out his hand, palm facing out. “No!”

“You’re so mean!” Lucy said.

“I’m not mean! Do you want me to run off the road? Or squash him under a pedal?” Luther argued.

“No…but, I don’t know, can’t you be nicer?” Lucy asked.

“Lucy,” Luther said with a sigh, “it’s a cat. He’s fine. He’ll recover.”

“Pickles! Piiiiicckklllles!” Lucy cooed. The kitten cocked his head, seeming to hear her. “Luther, I think he knows I’m here. I swear he looked at me earlier.”

“What would he have looked at? I’m not trying to be an asshole, I just thought that you were like, everywhere, or something…” Luther said, trailing off.

“Yeah, I know. It’s weird. I’ve been feeling different lately, more, I don’t know… distinct? I guess? I’m not sure how to describe it but like now, I feel like I’m in a specific space and I feel like Pickles sees me.” Lucy explained.

“That’s awesome!!” Luther said, and turned to look in the back, seeing nothing. His smile faltered. He didn’t know what he expected exactly, but he was a little sad.

“Isn’t it?” Lucy said, no evidence in her voice that she had seen Luther’s quick gesture. Luther was relieved.

Lucy continued calling to the kitten and he eventually jumped down clumsily from the passenger seat and wandered into the rear of the vehicle. With the kitten occupied, Luther was able to focus on the road and allow his mind to wander as the miles passed. He thought for the first time in a long time about change, about the future, about possibility. Sure, this was a weird situation, but having Lucy in his life had broken something open in him, and now, here they were like a family but better. His smile returned and was still in place as he pulled into a space in front of the small row of shops.

“We have arrived!” Luther called out.

“Hooray!” Lucy replied. “You hear that, Pickles? We are gonna get you so much good stuff!” Pickles meowed in response.

“So, how do you want to do this?” Luther asked. “You coming with? Or staying here with the kitty?”

“I think he’ll be ok on his own, we won’t be long, and I could really use a change of scenery.” Lucy said.

“Let’s get a move on then.” Luther said, exiting the vehicle through the driver’s side door.

“See you in a few minutes, be good!” Lucy said to Pickles and followed Luther out.

“You know we can’t chat too much in here, people will think I’m a crazy person.” Luther warned Lucy.

“I get it. I’ll just tell you what to get and you can do it with no argument, it will be perfect.” Lucy said and laughed.

Luther shook his head, smiled, and headed into the pet store, not sure if he needed to hold the door or not. He pretended to notice something on the ground, propping the door open in the process, just in case.

“You’re sweet.” Lucy said, understanding the gesture.

Luther shrugged and let the door close behind him.

The selection was limited but adequate. They got the basics, including a litter box which Luther hadn’t previously contemplated. He had no idea where they would put it. He started thinking about training the cat to go outside, like a dog, and picked up a small lead and a harness meant for a ferret that he thought might work. Lucy chattered on and squealed at toys and treats. Luther grabbed what he could but made the occasional comment about how expensive certain items were, to remind her they were on a budget. To her credit, Lucy understood.

“You’re right, I’m so sorry. I’m just so excited! I think we’ve got everything, right? We should check on Pickles and drop this stuff off before we go to the grocery.” Lucy said.

Luther nodded in agreement, and they headed to the check out.

“New kitty?” The elderly lady at the register inquired.

“Yes, ma’am, just got him today” Luther replied, chest puffed out a little.

“Lucky you!” she replied, smiling widely with very large, very white dentures. “I suppose you could call me a crazy cat lady; I’ve got four at home. They keep me on my toes.”

“That sounds great” Luther replied, not sure what else to say. She continued to chatter on as they completed the transaction and Luther thanked her repeatedly, smiling and nodding as he gathered the bags and backed slowly away, opening the door with his butt. The door cutoff her words. Luther felt a little rude, but he had stuff to do.

“Man, that lady could talk!” Lucy said.

“Right?!” Luther replied.

“Excuse me?” said a woman walking by.

“Oh, I’m sorry, just talking to myself.” Luther smiled and waved, continuing to the RV, feeling her eyes on his back.

Lucy was laughing.

Luther fumbled in his pocket for his keys then lifted his arm, laden with white plastic bags to the lock. The bags shifted and caused him to miss the keyhole several times.

“You could just set those down for a second, you know.” Lucy counseled.

“I got this.” Luther mumbled, under his breath this time. He turned the key and yanked the door open.

Pickles, unaccustomed to captivity, took advantage of the opening and shot out of the RV directly into the street.

“Pickles!” Luther and Lucy yelled in unison.

The driver had no time to stop even if they had seen the tiny kitten. It happened so fast.

There was only a thump, a noise so slight that Luther almost had hope that Pickles would be ok. He dropped his arms to his sides, releasing the bags as he did. He stepped tentatively into the street, holding his arm out to signal oncoming traffic to stop. Not really caring whether they did or not, Luther continued toward the kitten, almost indistinct on the blacktop. He knelt down saying “Pickles? Little buddy? You ok?”

He was having trouble focusing through the tears welling in his eyes, so he squeezed them shut hard and wiped at his face with the back of his arm. Luther stroked Pickles, so gently. His little head lifted slightly in the direction of the stroke then fell back to the ground. Luther began weeping in earnest, scooping the little body off the ground, leaving only a small wet spot behind. Luther brought the kitten to his chest, as he had done only a short time before, and sobbed, feeling only brokenness where there had once been life.

People had started to gather and stare, and Luther realized he was still kneeling in the street. He sniffed and got to his feet, walking slowly back toward the RV.

Luther heard voices all around him, but they blended into static. He didn’t hear Lucy at all. As he approached the RV, he saw the bags on the ground, brightly colored toys spilled out and his sobs intensified.

“Oh, dear, oh my poor dear” said the old lady from the store. She fluttered about, patting Luther, cooing, attempting to console him, though her own eyes were shiny with tears. He looked at her with gratitude, then looked down at the bags, almost apologetic.

“Don’t you worry about that” she said and set about putting the errant contents back in their bags. “Thomas!” she called out, gesturing toward the store.

“Yes ma’am?” a young man, presumably Thomas, inquired as he ran to her side.

“Thomas, dear, please gather these things and do a refund for me, would you?” she said, and patted him on the arm. Turning her attention back to Luther, she asked “How can I help, dear? Shall I get a towel, a box perhaps?”

Luther sniffed, nodded, and wondered where Lucy was.

“Oh my god, Luther!” said Darlene, pushing her way through the thinning crowd on the sidewalk. “What happened?”

Oh no. Thought Luther, not her. Not now.

Darlene practically shoved the old lady away. “Luther, baby, what happened? Did you have an accident or something? Are you crying?” She shifted her focus from Luther’s face to the dead kitten he was clutching to his chest. She grimaced and backed away. “What is that?”

“It’s… my… cat.” Luther said, each word choking out of him.

“Since when do you have a cat?” Darlene asked, lips pulled back from her teeth, disgust evident in her expression.

“Fuck off, Darlene” Luther spat.

Darlene gasped. “Fuck you and fuck your stupid cat!” she said before turning to leave the way she came, wobbling away on platform flip flops.

The old lady returned with a small box, a blanket, and a refund. She smiled warmly at Luther and he smiled back at her, mouthing the words thank you, feeling unable to speak them aloud. She patted his arm and nodded, turning back toward the store.

Luther clambered through the open RV door holding the box and the kitten. He set the box down and used his free hand to close the door. He took a deep breath and set about arranging the blanket in the box. Once he was satisfied that it looked like a comfortable resting place, he gently lowered Pickles into it, arranging him in a peaceful pose and covering him with the free edge of the blanket.

“I’m so sorry, little buddy. This is all my fault.” Luther said, hanging his head.

“No, it’s not.” Lucy said.

Luther straightened. “Lucy! Where have you been? Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, I’m sorry, I just knew I couldn’t really talk to you with all those people around.” Lucy explained.

“Yeah” Luther nodded. “That makes sense, but holy shit, Luce. Pickles. He’s dead!” Luther began crying again.

“Hey, hey, it’s ok!” Lucy consoled him.

“It’s not. This is all my fault. I should have put the bags down but no, I’m an idiot and I killed our cat.” Luther insisted.

“He’s here, Luther,” said Lucy.

“Yeah, I know.” Luther said, gesturing to the box.

“No, I mean with me.” Lucy clarified.

“What?” Luther asked, sniffling.

“Yeah! I was calling out and then he got hit and I was calling him, and he came to me, and I can touch him and hold him and he’s ok.” Lucy said happily. “I don’t know how or why but he’s here and we are all still together.”

“Oh.” Luther said, unsure how to feel. He was happy for Lucy, but for him, Pickles was still gone, and he was still grieving.

Lucy and Luther – Pickles – Chapter 5

Lucy and Luther spend the next few days together, chatting, laughing, growing closer. Their world was reduced to the interior of the RV, which suited Luther just fine. He had shelter, he had food, and now he had a companion. Time flew and he was happy, for the first time in a very long time.

“I’m so glad you picked me.” Luther said to Lucy.

“Me too” Lucy replied, then asked, “what should we do today?”

“What do you mean?” said Luther. “I figured we’d just hang out.”

“Luther.” Lucy said. “It has been great spending time with you, but I would really like a change of scenery, plus, you’re running low on food.”

“No, I’m not.” Luther argued.

“Yeah, you are.” Lucy retorted. “You’ve got one can of mini ravioli left, and worse, your last roll of toilet paper is almost gone.”

“You know too much.” Luther scoffed and crossed his arms.

“I know enough, and I don’t want to find out what happens when that TP runs out. Something tells me it wouldn’t be the first time.” Lucy said.

Luther shrugged; arms still crossed. “I make do.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Come on, get up, get a shower and let’s go.” Lucy insisted.

“You want me to shower too?” Luther whined.

Lucy laughed in reply and then went abruptly silent.

“Everything ok?” Luther asked.

“Sshh…” Lucy whispered, “do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” said Luther.

“Sshhh!” Lucy hissed, insistent. “Shut up and listen!”

Luther made a face and big show of zipping his lips, then cocked his head to listen. His nose was whistling, as usual, and his stomach grumbled, but that was all.

“There!” Lucy said. “It sounded like it was right outside the door.”

“I don’t hear anything” Luther replied.

“Just go check!” Lucy ordered.

“Jeez, calm down! I’m going.” Luther placated. He approached the door and prepared to open it.

“Slowly…” Lucy said.

Luther rolled his eyes and slowly opened the door. He looked around and saw nothing. Heard nothing.

“There’s nothing here, Lucy.” Luther said, looking to the left and right. Then he heard a faint noise coming from the vicinity of his feet. He looked down and there sat a tiny, black kitten, looking up at him. Its cries grew stronger, louder, more insistent. “Holy shit, Luce, it’s a cat!”

Lucy rushed out and saw what Luther saw. “Oh my God! He’s a baby!”

“Where’s his mom?” Luther asked, looking around. There were lots of cats around the park, most of them mangy and unfriendly. They would glare at Luther as he passed by, fixed in space unless he had the audacity to approach, in which case they would flee. This little guy was quite different.

“Maybe he doesn’t have a mom. I think he needs us.” Lucy said.

“Needs us for what?” Luther asked.

“Food, shelter, love…” Lucy said.

“I don’t want a cat, Lucy.” Luther said.

“Please, Luther? I could never have a pet. I was always too sick. Oh, please! He came here to you, to us. He needs us!” Lucy begged.

Luther sighed. “I hear you, I do, but you can’t pet the cat or anything, so… I mean, no offense, but what good would it do? We should try to find his mom.”

“I can’t pet you either, Luther, but I still like being around you, at least sometimes.” Lucy said in a huff.

Luther looked up at the sky and blew out a heavy breath before refocusing on the kitten, which was now trying to climb his leg. “Ow kitty! Bad kitty!” he exclaimed.

“Don’t be mean! He doesn’t know any better, he’s just a baby.” Lucy scolded.

“Oh, sorry, he’s just tearing my leg to shreds, I’m fine, don’t worry about me.” Luther said with sarcasm.

“I’m not worried about you. See if you can pick him up.” Lucy insisted.

Luther bent down and reached for the cat.

“Slowly!” Lucy hissed. “You’re gonna scare him!”

Luther rolled his eyes again but slowed his movements. As his fingers grew closer to the kitten, it strained to reach them. Luther scratched around its ears and the kitten began purring loudly. Luther felt himself soften; a small smile emerging. He ran his hand along the kitten’s back and then to his round belly. In one smooth motion, he scooped the kitten up, and brought him to his chest and smooched his tiny kitten head. A flea jumped on his face. Luther grabbed it and crushed it between the nails on his thumb and forefinger. There would be more where that came from.

“He has fleas.” Luther said.

“What do we do?” Lucy asked.

“He needs a bath” Luther replied confidently. Unlike Lucy, he had pets when he was growing up and didn’t realize until he held this kitten how much he had missed it.

The three of them re-entered the RV and Luther set to work, holding the kitten in one hand, and gathering supplies in the other.

“I wish I could help.” Lucy said, a sadness in her voice.

“I wish you could too.” Luther replied, filling the small sink with warm water. He set a towel within reach and flipped open the cap of the dishwashing detergent with his thumb.

“Do we need to get flea killer? Isn’t there special shampoo?” Lucy asked.

“Nope. Dish detergent works like a charm. The trick is to leave the lather on for a while, to suffocate the bugs.” Luther replied, transitioning the kitten off his chest, preparing to get him wet. “It’s ok, little buddy. We’re helping you.” Luther cooed to the kitten.

“You’re so good with him.” Lucy said.

“I’ve had practice. It’s been a long time, but I guess some things just stick with you.” Luther explained, gently pinching the scruff of the kitten’s neck. The kitten curled up, compliant. Luther lowered him slowly into the warm water, using his free hand to splash water onto his head and face. The kitten cried plaintively but did not resist.

“Is he ok? Are you hurting him?” Lucy asked with concern.

“No, he’s fine. Cats just don’t really like getting baths.” Luther said.

“Kinda like you, huh?” Lucy said.

“Ha ha, very funny.” Luther replied, lifting the wet cat out of the water, and using his free hand to wring the excess from his body before adding a generous squirt of detergent and beginning to lather the kitten. As the suds grew thicker, the cat grew calmer, eyes closing, appearing to almost enjoy the process. The lather became pink and tiny black flecks appeared.

“Is he bleeding?” Lucy asked.

“Not exactly. It’s flea poop. The flea feeds on the cat’s blood. We used to call it ‘flea dirt’” It was an easy way to tell if the cat had fleas, even if you never actually saw a flea.” Luther explained.

“You know a lot about this stuff, huh?” Lucy said, impressed.

“I guess.” Luther said, with a shrug. “Now we wait.” He put the wet, sudsy kitten back against his chest. He shivered and cried. He hooked his claws into Luther’s shirt and tried to crawl up his shoulder. Luther patiently plucked the kitten off and moved him back, holding him in place with one hand and covering him with the other, to keep him warm. He rocked gently. “So, what are we going to call him?” he asked Lucy.

“I get to name him?” Lucy asked.

“Sure. I figure you found him, so he’s your cat.” Luther replied.

Lucy was quiet.

“Luce? You ok?” Luther asked.

“I’m good.” Lucy said, voice cracking. “I’m just really happy.”

Luther smiled. He knew this feeling.

“How about Pickles?” Lucy asked.

“Pickles? As a name?” Luther clarified.

“Yeah, it’s cute, don’t you think?” Lucy replied.

“Sure, I suppose. I had a cat named Nacho once, another named Baguette, so I can’t argue with Pickles.” Luther said. He directed his attention to the cat, “Hi Pickles, welcome to the family.” Pickles squeaked in response.

“He likes it!” Lucy said.

“I think he does. Now let’s get him rinsed off.” Luther dunked Pickles back into the sink, rinsing and picking shiny flea corpses from his fur. Once all the suds were gone and Luther confirmed there were no more creatures moving about, he grabbed the towel and dried the cat as best he could. He lay the towel on the floor and set Pickles on it. He wobbled slightly, then shook his paws, still quite wet. He meowed then sat and set about grooming himself, no worse for the experience.

“He seems happy.” Lucy said.

“He’s a pretty chill cat, that’s for sure. We are gonna need some supplies though, if he’s going to stay here. I’ll get the RV unhooked and we can head to town.” Luther said.

“Ooh! Finally, an adventure!” Lucy said, then to the cat “You wanna go on an adventure, Pickles?” Pickles fixed his attention on her and meowed his assent.

TO BE CONTINUED

Lucy and Luther – Friends – Chapter 4

“And how exactly do you intend to help?” Luther asked, resting his chin on his fist, lips pursed, eyes wide.

“I know you can’t see me, but I can see you and I can see that you are making fun of me.” Lucy said.

“I’m just messing with you.” Luther said, slumping into his customary posture. “It’s sweet of you, but really, I don’t need any help.”

“Oh yeah? Based on what I just witnessed I’d say that’s not the case at all” Lucy retorted.

“Ok, ok,” Luther said, “I don’t want any help, then.”

“Why not? It could be so much fun!” Lucy pleaded.

“Fun for who? Look at me. I’m not exactly a catch.” Luther said.

“You could use a little sprucing, sure, but you’re not a lost cause.” Lucy said.

“Thanks, but no thanks, can you please just drop it?” Luther insisted.

There was silence, except for the sound of Duke’s muffled barking and Luther’s nose whistle.

“Lucy?” said Luther.

No reply came.

“You there?” Luther asked, then held his breath, eyes searching the space for some evidence of her presence. When still no reply came, he dropped his head, dejected.

Days passed.

Luther sat alone, unwashed. He had no appetite. He had consumed what was left of the whisky but didn’t want any more of that either. He was sure he had some mental lapse, conjuring an imaginary friend; he was lonely after all. Or was he sure? She felt so real. Either way, he managed to run her off. Lying in bed, atop filthy sheets he hit his forehead with the heel of his hand, one, two, three times. Each harder than the last, chanting “stupid, stupid, stupid”, under his breath.

“That’s enough.” Lucy said.

Luther sat up like a shot. “Lucy!! You’re back!”

“I never left.” Lucy corrected him. “I just didn’t want to talk to you.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Luther said, voice lowered.

“It’s not that,” said Lucy. “My feelings are fine.”

“So why did you leave, or disappear or whatever?” Luther asked.

“You’re the first person who has been able to hear me in so, so long. I had hope that maybe it was a sign, that maybe you were my unfinished business, or my purpose. I don’t know…” Lucy trailed off.

“I don’t understand,” said Luther.

Lucy sighed. “Neither do I, I’m trying to figure it out. See, I’ve met some other things like me, or at least I think they’re like me and they have all since moved on. I haven’t figured out the formula, like, why I’m stuck here and what I have to do to get unstuck. It’s so lonely and I’m so bored. So, I got excited about maybe helping you, like maybe that was the thing. Make sense?”

“I think so… So, when the other ghosts ‘moved on’ did they go to heaven? Luther asked.

“I have no idea what happened to them. For all I know they met some terrible fate, but they seemed happy at the time, so whatever it is, I feel like it’s better than being stuck here.” Lucy replied.

“Hm. So, you think that getting me a girlfriend will get you to heaven or something?” Luther asked.

“Well, it sounds dumb when you put it like that.” Lucy said, huffing.

“Have you tried helping other people?” Luther asked.

“Sure, but opportunities are few and far between when no one can hear me, and I can’t interact with my environment.” Lucy said.

“I see how that could make things difficult.” Luther acceded. “Look”, he continued, “I want to help you help me, I really do, but I also really don’t want to try to find a girlfriend. It wouldn’t be fair to them, honestly, and any woman that would have me is not the kind of woman I think I’d want, like, Darlene for example.”

“You’re selling yourself short Luther, I’m sure of it.” Lucy replied.

“No offense, and please don’t leave, but you don’t know me.” Luther said.

There was silence again. Luther slapped his leg. “God damn it!”

“Calm down, I’m here. I was just thinking.” Lucy said.

Luther blew out a breath, relieved. “Good. You know what I need, Lucy? What I could really use?” he asked.

“What’s that?” Lucy replied.

“A friend. I could really use a friend.” Luther said, voice breaking slightly.

“Ok, Luther. You got it. Let’s be friends.” Lucy replied.

TO BE CONTINUED

Lucy and Luther – Darlene – Chapter 3

“So, tell me about you” Luther said. “Do you still see your family? Can they hear you? Do they know you’re… still… around?”

Lucy chuckled softly. “Nah. I did stay for a while after my death though. It was a confusing time. I figured I was dead, but there was no transition or anything, at least not that I can recall. I was alive and then I wasn’t, or at least my body wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why I was still there or what I even was. There was no bright light, no guide. Nothing. I was just alone in this space with these people I loved.”

Lucy went quiet for a few minutes. Luther looked around, trying to figure out where she might be, waiting for her to go on.

“I had heard a few ghost stories in my life, seen plenty of scary movies” Lucy began again. “I didn’t want to haunt my family, to scare them. I wanted them to be able to move on. It was also starting to become deeply painful to watch my family in their private moments, mourning or joyful, and be unable to provide comfort or participate in any of it. Early on, I tried to move things but was unsuccessful. I gave up because it was frustrating, and I didn’t want to scare anyone. What good was it going to do anyway, knocking a lamp over?”

“It would be pretty cool” Luther said.

“What? The lamp thing?” Lucy asked.

“Yeah! I mean, maybe not a lamp, but being able to move stuff around. What about a Ouija board or something?” Luther asked.

“Like I said, I gave up.” Lucy said.

“Would you try again?” Luther asked.

“For what? To communicate one letter at a time? To scare the shit out of people? Also, I can tell you that I have not once run across a situation where anyone had a Ouija board at the ready when I was around. It’s a very specific thing, if you think about it.” Lucy said.

“Yeah, I guess so. I could get one, though, if you wanna practice!” Luther said, excited.

“Luther. You can hear me. Why do we need a Ouija board?” Lucy asked, mild irritation in her voice.

“Oh” said Luther, feeling both dejected and kind of stupid. “Right.”

“Why does this matter to you?” Lucy asked.

Luther shrugged. “I dunno, I guess I just want you to be able to move things because I feel like I would want to move things, and, selfishly, if you knocked over my lamp I would know where you are and I’m not afraid of you.”

Lucy laughed. “Luther, you don’t have a lamp.”

“Oh, shit. I guess I don’t.” Luther said, laughing as well.

“And I don’t have a body anymore, so I’m not really anywhere. I’m just here… if that makes sense.” Lucy said.

“None of this makes sense, Lucy,” said Luther.

There was an abrupt banging at the door that made Luther jump.

“Luther!! Who’s in there? Open this door right now!!” came the voice from the other side of the door.

“Shit” muttered Luther.

“Who is that??” Lucy said.

Luther frantically put his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture, eyes wide.

“She can’t hear me” Lucy said.

“Are you sure?” Luther hissed.

“Pretty sure.” Lucy replied.

There was another round of banging, followed by the voice. “I know you’re in there Luther! You open this god damned door right now or I’m gonna bust it down!”

Luther closed his eyes and took a deep breath, steeling himself, then opened the door to the sounds of an argument and a dog barking.

“You need to mind your god damned business, Sandy and shut that little rat up” said the woman at the door. She turned her attention to Luther. “About god damned time, Luther! I’ve been standing out here all damned day listening to that old bag. She’s lucky I just got my nails done or I’d have popped her one! Who the hell have you got in here? I heard you! Don’t lie to me!”

“Calm down, Darlene,” said Luther.

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Darlene said, shoving past Luther in the tiny doorway, wedging herself inside, looking left and right, seeing no one. “Who were you talking to? I heard you!”

“Darlene, I was asleep. I don’t know what you heard” Luther lied.

Darlene narrowed her eyes at Luther and proceeded to rip open the small bathroom door. “Aha!” she said, face falling when there was nothing inside.

“Happy now?” asked Luther.

Darlene made a face, cocked her head and crossed her arms, drumming her fingers on one arm, long sharp nails menacing as they flicked up and down. Her clothes were too small and too tight. Her skin was too brown, and her hair was too blonde. The smell of her filled up the small space, powder and cheap perfume, hairspray and booze. Suddenly, she cocked her head and smiled, coquettish, and opened her arms to Luther. “Oh, come here baby. Of course, you didn’t have anyone in here.” Luther moved slowly, grudgingly into her embrace. She wrapped her arms around his head, he was a good bit shorter than her, and pulled his face forcefully against her breastbone. She rocked him there as though he were a child.

“Who… is… this?” Lucy asked.

Luther scrunched his face up, uncomfortable with the question and his current position, unable to answer. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed himself out of her embrace.

“What are you doing here, Darlene?” Luther asked.

“I need a reason to come see you?” Darlene replied, offended.

“I guess not.” Luther said.

“I missed you, baby…” Darlene said, slinking toward him, suggestively.

“Uh, um…” Luther stammered, moving away from her but quickly running out of room, ending up with the backs of his knees against the bed.

Darlene continued her forward motion, hooking a finger into her tube top and pulling it down to reveal a small, withered breast, stark white in contrast to her deeply tanned chest. She reminded Luther of a naked mole rat and he smiled despite himself, pressing his lips tightly together to keep that smile from becoming a laugh. Darlene stopped in her tracks. “Something funny to you?” she asked.

The amusement fled immediately from Luther’s face as he said “No, no…I was just…”

“You were just, WHAT?” Darlene said, roughly pulling up her top.

“I’m just not awake yet, that’s all.” Luther said.

“You think you’re so hot?” Darlene asked. “You think anyone else would spend time with your short, fat ass? I’m doing you a favor.”

“You’re right, you’re right.” Luther said, hands up, head down.

“You stinky little shit in your little shit hole.” Darlene continued.

“I’m sorry Darlene, really.” Luther said.

“I’m outta here.” Darlene said, shooting him a final disdainful look before turning and walking out the door, slamming it behind her.

Luther unlocked his knees and sat down hard on the bed, blowing out air in a whoosh.

“Dude” said Lucy. “Is that your girlfriend?”

“I guess,” said Luther.

“You guess?” Lucy replied.

“Well, she’s kind of forceful,” said Luther.

“Yeah, I’d say so” Lucy agreed.

“So, she says she’s my girlfriend and I just went along with it.” Luther said, shrugging.

“Luther. I know I made a crack about your kitchen earlier, but you can do better,” said Lucy.

“Can I though?” Luther asked.

“I’m sure of it and I can help.” Lucy said, with confidence.

TO BE CONTINUED

Lucy and Luther – Family – Chapter 2

Luther made his way back to his bed and sat. He looked around, seeing no one, but accepting that he had company. “Lucy, do you mind if I get comfortable? I don’t want to be rude” Luther asked.

There was a moment where Luther thought maybe there would be no response and when it came, he was startled, if only slightly this time. “I don’t mind at all” Lucy replied.

Luther settled back down in his bed, arm behind his head. He stared up at the roof of the RV, contemplative. “I haven’t talked to my family in a while,” he started, “it’s not so easy to keep in touch when you move around as much as I do. It’s been even longer since I saw any of them. I think it’s been, gosh, five years or more.”

“Wow” said Lucy. “That’s a long time not to see your family.”

“Yeah,” Luther agreed, “it went by so fast though. I feel bad I guess, but it’s hard for me to be around them.”

“Why?” Lucy asked.

Luther took a deep breath and blew it out, making a little poot noise in the process. “I’m a disappointment to them and I know it, but I don’t feel like I should be made to justify my choices just because they weren’t expected. I don’t have a big fancy house or a degree, I don’t make a ton of money, but I get by.”

“So, what? They are mean? They don’t accept you?” asked Lucy.

“Quite the opposite. They love me very much, so much that they go out of their way to be supportive, but it comes across patronizing. In one breath, they tell me how much respect they have for the ‘road less traveled’, no pun intended, but then offer all this help that I didn’t ask for and don’t need.” Luther sat up, annoyed, swung his feet to the floor and continued, pantomiming wiping tears. “I know, poor me, right? I know how it sounds. I know how many people around me would kill for my problems.”

“I had a great family too,” said Lucy. “They did absolutely everything for me but, if I’m being honest, it was still hard to be around them sometimes. I wished that one of them would lose it in front of me, reveal their pain and frustration. I knew it was there, behind their tired smiles. I resented them sometimes for their martyrdom and oppressive positivity. I was dying and I knew it and so did they, but we all pretended it was fine and it sucked. Dying was a relief for all of us on many levels.”

“That’s heavy,” said Luther.

“I think that’s just family,” said Lucy. “I’ve watched a lot of them over the years and they are all broken to some degree. Somewhere, someone isn’t getting what they need. You think you are a disappointment to your family, but maybe they think they disappointed you. That your choices are a result of some failing on their part that they need to try to fix. It’s so hard to know.”

“I never thought about it that way.” Said Luther.

“I get to see more than most and I have plenty of time to think.” Lucy said, with a smile in her voice.

“I wish I could see you, Lucy.” Said Luther.

“I wish you could too.” Lucy replied. After a pause, she asked, “So… why do you move around so much?”

Luther flopped backwards, feet still on the floor and said, “I don’t really know how to answer that. It’s just what feels right to me.”

“Have you tried anything else?” Lucy asked.

“Sure! I’ve tried all kinds of things. I went to college for a while, I’ve all kinds of jobs and apartments and girlfriends. I did everything I was supposed to do for a while and then I stopped.” Luther said.

“Stopped? What you mean by that?” asked Lucy.

Luther sat back up and clapped his hands on his knees. “I drove away from it all and I have Betsey to thank.”

“Betsey?” Lucy asked.

Luther opened his arms, gesturing to the RV, repeating, “Betsey.”

“Ah” said Lucy “and how did Betsey come into your life?”

Luther laughed. “I bought her as a joke. My brother and I were supposed to go on this cross-country bonding trip, my mom’s idea. Neither of us wanted to go but mom was insistent and has this romantic notion of the two of us in an RV for days on end, emerging with some newfound understanding of one another. I was responsible for acquiring the transportation and mom gave me enough money to rent some monster land barge, which happened to be enough to buy Betsey outright. I will never forget the looks on their faces when I pulled up to the house.”

Luther broke into a fit of laughter, remembering, then continued. “Mom had this smile plastered on her face, unwilling to admonish me for my poor decision making, supportive to a fault. Alistair, that’s my brother, he made no effort to hide his disdain for me or my vehicle of choice. Alistair was, and is, all about appearances and heaven forbid one of his investment banker buddies saw him in this jalopy.”

Luther grew serious. “I thought it would be funny. I really did. I mean, I was trying to get his goat, sure, but he was so, so angry. Mom tried to calm him, and he was nasty to her which pissed me off and we ended up having a screaming match on our quiet street. Mom was mortified. My sister, Meg, came running out to see what the fuss was and burst out laughing at the RV. Alistair and I stopped to stare at her, me because that was the reaction I was expecting and Alistair because he felt even further aggrieved by what appeared to be her taking my side. Alistair started in on Meg and I jumped to her defense and then both Mom and Meg were crying, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I just hopped on board and drove away. I had taken time off from work for my road trip anyway, so I decided to take it alone.”

“Wow” said Lucy.

“Yeah” said Luther. “I still feel really bad about Meg.” He sighed and continued. “But there I was, on the road. I loved the solitude and the freedom. I didn’t miss anything that I left behind and after a while, I couldn’t imagine turning back to that life, so I didn’t.”

“Is it hard?” Lucy asked.

“Sometimes, sure” Luther said. “But whose life isn’t?”

“Are you really happy though?” Lucy asked. “You don’t seem happy to me.”

“I don’t know, Lucy.” Luther said. “I don’t think I’d be any happier elsewhere, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“No, it’s not that.” Lucy said. “I get being transient. I’ve been wandering for years. I’m wondering what you might be missing though, besides roots.”

Luther was quiet. He looked down at his feet.

“You don’t have to tell me.” Lucy said. “We just met after all, it’s none of my business.”

“I don’t think I’m very happy. No. Not lately,” said Luther. “I think I’m lonely.”

“I’m sorry. I know how that feels,” said Lucy. “It’s been really nice talking to you.”

Luther looked up and smiled with shining eyes. “It’s been nice talking to you too.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Lucy and Luther – They Meet – Chapter 1

Luther rolled over in bed and groaned. He scratched his balls, brought his fingers to his nose, recoiled then sniffed again.

“That’s nasty” came a voice from somewhere in the RV.

Luther sat up quickly, surprised, and fully awake. He was alone. Wasn’t he?

“Who’s there?!” Luther asked. There was no reply.

“Interesting…” came the voice again. A girl’s voice.

“What’s ‘interesting’? … Come out now, whoever you are!” Luther demanded, weakly, since he had no idea where anyone could be hiding. From his spot on the bed, he could easily see the small kitchen, bathroom, and through to the driver’s cabin.

“Can you hear me?” said the girl.

“Yes! I can hear you! Where are you? Who are you? Luther asked, annoyance supplanting fear.

“I’m Lucy! Can you see me!” the girl said, excited.

Luther stood up, his hairy belly hanging over the waistband of his dirty boxer shorts. “Where are you?” he asked.

“I’m in your, what is this, a kitchen?” Lucy said, a note of disgust in her voice.

Luther sat back down heavily and put his head in his hands, muttering to himself, “I really have got to lay off the sauce. I am officially losing it.”

“I guess that’s a no, then.” Lucy said, disappointment evident in her voice. “But I guess one out of two ain’t bad.”

Luther shook his head and said, “I’ll go to a meeting or something. Get a chip. Do some steps. See if any of those church charities have a shrink on staff.”

“Those all sound like great ideas. I know we just met, but I think you could use some help. This place is a wreck. I doubt you’d be able to get a girlfriend, living like this.” Lucy said.

“Hey!” Luther objected, then caught himself. He stood up again, threw on a thin robe and headed out the door. He had to get some air. He squinted against the sun and shielded his eyes with his hand, his untied robe flapping open with the motion.

“Luther! There are children here!” said Sandy, Luther’s neighbor at Murmuring Breezes RV Park.

Luther sighed and tied his robe, squinching his eyes closed as he did so. “Sorry Sandy.”

Sandy harumphed. Luther blinked rapidly and adjusted to the light enough to see Sandy and her dachshund, Duke, waddling away.

“That’s a cute dog.” Said Lucy from beside Luther.

Luther shrieked, jumped, and flapped at the voice, which was now laughing at him.

“You need to calm down, sir. You are going to give yourself a heart attack.” Lucy said.

Luther tightened his belt and walked resolutely away from the RV. Someone was playing some kind of joke and it wasn’t funny. Let’s see the speakers or whatever else they rigged up work out here, he thought.

“Where are you going?” Lucy said, her voice right in front of Luther, stopping him in his tracks.

“This isn’t funny!” Luther called out to the sky, to whoever was listening. He didn’t want them to see him cry but he could feel the tears pricking at his eyes.

“I’m sorry, buddy, don’t cry. I’m not trying to scare you. It’s been so long since someone could hear me, I guess I just got excited.” Lucy apologized.

“I’m not crying, and I’m not scared!” Luther said, turning right and left, kicking up a cloud of dust. His robe stayed tied, but was gaping open on top, exposing his tiny breasts, jiggling with his effort. “I’m also not laughing!”

It grew quiet, all Luther could hear was his breathing and a little bit of nose whistle. He closed one nostril with his thumb and shot air through the other, expelling a glob of snot with force. It kicked up its own little cloud of dust when it landed. He looked right and left, then completed a full circle. He stood up a little taller and straightened his robe, triumphant. He began walking back to the RV, stopping occasionally to look behind him.

Luther entered his RV with relief. He couldn’t imagine who would want to play such a joke on him, or why. Then he returned to the theory that he might have just had a light psychotic episode. He retrieved the bottle of whiskey from the cabinet, opened it and tipped it back for a swig.

“So much for cutting back, eh?” Lucy said.

Luther spit the whisky all over his kitchenette. “God damn it!” he said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

“Oh man, sorry again. I was trying to be quiet. I didn’t even say anything when you did that gross thing with your nose, even though it was super gross.” Lucy said.

Luther said nothing. He just stared in the direction of the voice.

“I can explain, or at least tell you as much as I know. That might help.” Lucy offered.

Luther’s mouth hung open.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Lucy said, then continued. “My name is Lucy, like I said. I’m what you would probably call a ghost, though I’m not sure if that’s entirely accurate. I was fourteen when I died, but I’ve been whatever I am now for about thirty years. It’s weird aging, but not. My life, or death, I guess, has been very boring. Very few living people have ever been able to hear me, that I know of, and I don’t know if anyone has seen me. I like to think someone has, but neither of us realized it. That’s kind of my fantasy, I guess, but I have others. I also like to think that…. “

“Hold on.” Luther interrupted, voice calm. “I’m supposed to believe I’m talking to a ghost? The ghost of some teenage girl?”

“Well, yeah, I mean, like I said, I don’t know if I’m a ghost exactly, but you get the idea.” Lucy said.

“I’ll bite.” Luther said. “Let’s say this is real, and I’m not saying I believe it is, but for the sake of argument, how did you die?”

Lucy sighed. “Such a boring question in light of what I’ve told you so far, also morbid and irrelevant, but if that’s really what you want to know…”

Luther looked down, sheepishly. “Ok, I get it…”

Lucy laughed. “I’m just messin’ with you man.”

Luther smiled, relieved.

“It was nothing exciting, I’m sad to say. I was born sick and stayed sick until I died. Death was a relief for me, if I’m being honest, and I know that it was a relief for my family. They loved me, sure, and they were sad when I died, but it had been a hard life for all of us.” Lucy explained.

“I’m sorry, that sucks.” Luther said.

“Hey, we all die, right? I was surrounded by people who loved me at the end. I’ve met some like me that weren’t nearly as fortunate,” said Lucy.

Luther had forgotten all about his disbelief. He was having a better chat with this ghost, or voice in his head, than he had with any actual human in years. It felt good to have someone to talk to.

“So, what about you?” Lucy asked. “Luther, right? That’s what that lady called you earlier, so I assume…”

“Yeah, that’s me and what do you mean, ‘what about me’?” Luther asked.

“I mean, what’s your story? How does one come to be… here?” Lucy asked.

Luther thought he detected a tone of judgment and didn’t appreciate it. “I didn’t ask you to be here. You’re in my space. If you don’t like it, you can leave the way you came in.”

“Whoa, whoa… sorry dude. No offense meant. It’s just a unique situation. I haven’t seen one like it before, so I’m curious. C’mon, I told you how I died, lighten up.” Lucy chided.

Luther grinned. “I’m sorry. I’m used to people making fun. I guess I can’t blame them.”

“Sure, you can!” Lucy assured him. “People can be curious without being mean. I know because I was totally mean earlier, about your kitchen. Sorry about that.”

“It’s ok. I know it’s a mess in here.” Luther conceded. “Maybe I’ve made some bad choices here and there, but life is hard, and shit happens.” He caught himself, clapping his hand over his mouth. “Excuse my French.”

Lucy chuckled. “No worries, Luther. Don’t forget, I’m technically in my forties and I’ve seen a lot of… well, shit. Please, carry on.”

Luther inhaled deeply, blew out a long breath and said, “I don’t know where to start.”

“How about you pick a thing. One thing and tell me a story. What about your family?” Lucy asked.

Luther winced. “That’s a long one.”

“I’ve got time.” Lucy replied.

TO BE CONTINUED…