“You are an hallucination,” said Lucy.
LUCIAN HOBART, known as Lucy, age 92, tends sixteen mousetraps — they hang on strings from the handgrips of a high-tech walker his grandson’s shop class built for him. SARAH DRYE, an estranged daughter, has decided it is high time her father died; she will move in to help: “I am a Death-Doula, a midwife of sorts. I help you to die. The Death-Doula assembles meaningful things — art, music, poetry — from your life. You help her. You decorate, hand paint your coffin. Cardboard is preferred, biodegradable.”
“I am already biodegradable,” says Lucy Hobart. Sarah is the fruit of Lucy’s wartime romance with CLEAR-EYED ALICIA DRYE. Her father was a bombardier on the MISS TAKEN IDENTITY, a B-24. Lucy assumes the identity of ARCHIMEDES DRYE, a turret gunner, for the liaison. Sarah’s mother believes her daughter is a chicken, but loves her in spite of that.
Considering the inevitability of death — someone’s, not his — Lucy will have things to do. But in 100 years what has he not done? In the house Cat, CATHERINE HOBART, Lucy’s wife, smiles — she has nowhere to go, really. Misty twilight murmurings from the always-on bedroom television tell her of baseball and Olympic rowing, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. It is enough. Caught between despair and boredom, she opts for joy.
At the Radio Shrine of the Little Flower, CHARLES E. COUGHLIN, the Radio Priest, finds there is a broadcast parishioner who believes in him; it is Cat. “One out of ten million ain’t bad, father,” says DAVE PEEL, a fallen angel.
Lucy’s pursuit of the kernel of his being takes him among everyday citizens of the Midwife’s world — camp followers, close talkers, spirits, prophets and disgraced angels, larcenous ladies and upright gentlemen, eminences, footpads, shady real estate agents, hookers, pimps and household pets. To Brooklyn barrios; the cottage of JOANNA SOUTHCOTT, a prophetess, in 18th century Devonshire; New York City for the assassinations of a corrupted judge and, years later, a corrupted drug dealer; to Midlothian, Ohio and Alicia Drye, his mislaid love; to the Super Stud Ranch, an all-male brothel in Reno, where IAN EMORY HOBART, a grandson, is the featured gigolo; and at last to the Hobart farmstead in Willipaq, Maine.
Lucy visits a Chevy 6, the 1938 sports coupe wherein his son ELLIOT was conceived in the rumble-seat only to die forty years later in a fall from a ladder while painting the eaves. Wedged behind the steering wheel is the carcass of a deer, a six-point buck, its eyes gone and its flesh hanging loosely where last fall’s maggots bred and fled. Lucy hoists a hammer, a two pound maul, and takes a mighty swipe at the deer’s head. The corpse falls to loll against the driver’s side window; its antlers locked to the steering wheel. “Sorry, I have made other plans.” says the deer.
“You are an hallucination.”
“You bet your ass, kemosabe,” says the deer.
There is an attending chorus of JUDGE JOSEPH FORCE CRATER, Joanna Southcott and Charles E. Coughlin. They pay little attention to the tale of Lucy and Cat as they squabble among themselves. “There is a miraculous child among us. The new revelation might well be at hand. On the other hand... we’d still have Superman. Did you watch the TV show?”
The miraculous child is DAZL, the offspring of SAMANTHA CHERRY HOBART, a great-granddaughter, and a stolen semen sample. DazL discovers his great-great-grandfather is entertaining; he can chew gum and hypnotize a chicken. Oh yes, and a weasel. The usual crowd. Take a bow, kids.
And in Conclusion...
Lucy pauses his walker at the edge of the state road; just enough off the asphalt that if he is hit by a passing car, he could sue and win. The sky is moving in ever-widening arcs above Lucy’s head, a behavior no properly built Creation would exhibit. The mailbox has no name on it, no address. This interleaves with what might have been; fiction trumps truth, and unhappiness, poverty and anxiety are airbrushed away to give happy endings to otherwise meaningless lives. Glamor calls; Days of Our Lives wins a daytime Emmy; in Florida a giant sinkhole swallows a mall parking lot and a Jiffy Lube. Everything happens at once.
“Kay, bye,” says someone.
“Things could be worse,” says the Ferryman.
“A favorite saying, I’ll just bet,” says Dave Peel, a Fallen Angel.
copyright 2020 Rob Hunter