Recap: in Part 1 of my new novel-in-progress, “NoMoRobocalls,” Lucinda takes on the robocall problem with a Heckler & Koch automatic weapon. Not her best decision. Uninterested in basking in celebrity, she splits Boston and drives to her parents’ home in northern New Hampshire to ponder the point of life, the universe, and everything. Not her best decision either.
Given her diminutive stature, Lucinda may not have looked tough. Cute, charming, sexy, yes, but in truth she was a fearsome young woman who would not stand down before anything, be it animal, vegetable or mineral. Some of this feral attitude could be attributed to the fact that her father’s choice in bedtime stories was Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” not fairy tales. And given her mother’s straight-laced Christian parenting, it wasn’t that she grew up unable to discern the difference between right and wrong. It was that she simply could not determine which one was real or imagined.
She had turned off I-93 north, then headed west for half an hour before reaching the New Hampshire state sign that read, “Entering Killarneyville, Pop. 477.” She hadn’t been back here in more years than she could remember, but it still looked just the same. There was Willie Grimes’ handsome two-story Colonial on the first right-hand corner, built with the proceeds from his marijuana cultivation. Vacant lots with the remnants of stone foundations stretched for a country block or so, then Sarah’s Country Store, the post office, and the Killarneyville Inn, still closed but considerably more weatherbeaten. The winters here, just fifteen miles south of the Canadian border, were hard on the land, the clapboard buildings, the people. Lucie wondered again, for the thousandth time, why people stayed here. For Lucie, the best view of Killarneyville was in her car’s rearview mirror.
Across the two-lane road stood Ronnie Meacham’s domicile, a blue plastic tarp covering its sagging roof, his “TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” sign still on his barren lawn. Next to it was Arthur Kostanza’s filling station, the site of more oil spills than the entire state of Alaska. She hung a right at the long-defunct little red schoolhouse and, tromping the gas pedal, pushed her tired Corolla up the steep gravel road for half a mile before crowning the hill at her parents’ farm.
Lucinda pulled into the gravel driveway and shut the car down. The only sound was the plink! plink! of the cooling engine. Dusk was falling like the final curtain on a Civil War-era melodrama. Warm light poured from the windows. Smoke trickled from the chimney. The house and barn needed a coat of paint, for sure, but otherwise looked pretty good. She was suddenly seized with another one of those fantasy-or-reality moments: she could get out of the car and go inside, or she could start the engine and get the hell out of here before the end of the world started up.
She sighed and hoisted her backpack from the passenger seat, opened the car door, and dragged her feet and her sorry ass up onto the porch.
“Lucinda Brianna McKellar,” said her mother through the screen door, “What on earth you a-doin’ here?” Lucie could hear her father’s roar, then his stomping across the squeaking wooden floorboards toward her and her mother.
“Gurl, you get on outa here, right now!” he bellered. “Don’t you know yer placin’ yer ma and me in graaave danger? Go on now, git, ‘fore I give you a whuppin’!”
Lucinda stood there, looking at their diffused faces through the rusty, dirty, sagging screen mesh. She silently murmured to herself, Why don’t I learn from the past? Is it that history is . . . bad? That humanity doesn’t understand the Kondratieff waves? But what she said was, “Lemme in. I’m tired.”
“Gurl,” her father growled, “you have any idee how that phone is been ringin’ off the hook, them pooperpazzi or whatever they’s called, all lookin’ for you? They get one whiff of you holin’ up here, they’ll be all over us like that cat on a mouse!” He pointed at her cat, Jezebel, sitting at his feet. Jezelbel yawned.
“Your daddy is right,” said her mother. “We’s too old to put up with you and your – your –”
Lucinda curled her lips around her teeth and said, “And just who pays the mortgage on this place for you every month? Now, for the last time, lemme in!”
To be continued . . .
Next week on The Saturday Review: Michael Connelly’s “Fair Warning” Audiobook
Two weeks hence in your bowl of Grape-Nuts: Video highlights from the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE.org) conference