A relentless teller of truths, real or imagined, Lucy figures he has a good shot at immortality, but his family keeps getting underfoot. Lucy spreads agitation in his wake as he mourns a son dead fifty years, and attends the demands of a not-quite-demented wife.
Cat made a break for it, once. This was in 1993. A visiting physical therapist had dropped back to the Hobart house the afternoon of her bi-weekly morning visit and left her leased car running in the driveway. Practical jokes by a terrorist underground, the Illuminati, the Kardashians, al Qaeda, whoever, are right on schedule in her realms of the probable. The fall of the World Trade Center was on TV so it had to be real. Like Jeopardy or Hollywood Squares.
Sarah is presentable and 40-ish; men find her attractive. She is Lucy’s daughter by Clear-eyed Alicia, the wife of his best friend, Archimedes Drye.
He falls from a ladder while painting his gutter line in 1960. He was 35.
The only memorial to Elliot Hobart. “Painting the eaves. Huh,” says Lucy, his father. “Forty feet straight down and he lands on his head.”
Lucy’s daughter-in-law. Mother of Ian Emory and perhaps of Ed Hobart, she discovers Samantha, perhaps her dead son Ian’s daughter.
He dies in Vietnam. Perhaps.
She means well and brings a child, DazL, into the mix, “I was raped. In the bathroom. I never caught his name,” she lies.
“I impregnated myself with a turkey baster and a stolen semen sample. Now I’m taking DazL to the temple for his presentation to the elders. The semen sample’s parents.” Samantha rolled her eyes.
The County Agricultural Agent. He pines for Heidi Nichols, his secretary. She is authoring an e-mail scam with Jerry Levy, Sarah’s boyfriend. The two have never met.
The estranged bride of Amberson Nichols, Heidi is contacted by a telephone evangelist from a parallel world, a different dimension, maybe in Cleveland, or another time, place. Elder Jesse Youngblood tells her what she wants to hear.
Amberson Nichols, Heidi’s soon-to-be ex, an anesthesiologist from Texas A&M. See Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction.
A buxom, jolly woman of middle years—of great renown among the deceased community. No relation to William Ashley “Billy” Sunday the evangelist.
Ed and Sue had been lovers five years ago; she was Sue Murray then. She married Jim Maldonado, who manages organic cranberry bogs.
While not totally ephemeral, Francyann Kennealy has made up a significant portion of herself. Genetically she is the daughter of Philomena’s half-sister, making her a quarter-sister she supposes. There is no Kennealy. It is a name she saw on a bail-bondsman’s office after a luncheon of sauerkraut and frankfurters in 1938. This is one of those family funny stories.
A turret-gunner in the B-24, Miss Taken Identity. In 1943 Archie made it home from the Romanian oil fields, albeit dead by shrapnel, upside down in his turret harness. All that blood made the floor plates slippery.
Sarah the Death-Doula’s boyfriend. They meet while jogging. They live in a basement apartment brokered by:
At the corner, the New Deal had raised a monument to evenhandedness in housing, the Projects. Now the huddled masses were afraid to leave their apartments.
Jesse is blind and hunts groundhogs with a .22 repeating rifle on Sundays. Elder Jesse’s duties are light—the reading aloud occasioned by the post of deacon is no trouble. Jesse has Scripture by heart.
“Just ’cause there’s snow on the roof don’t mean there’s no one home,” said father. Old Doxology’s face was an archival map of passion deferred.
Old Doxology could deny her nothing. That her birth canal had been untampered with was a medical surety, and their secret. Lucy was said to be early, impatient to breathe and squall his anger at being so soon removed from the Palace of Joy.
It was at the Wanamaker Terminal that Clear-eyed Alicia Emmons had met Lucian Hobart. It was 1945 and she was sixteen, out of a job and headed back to Midlothian, Ohio. A chill chokedamp of apprehension pressed on her heart.
From an Olympian remove the two watch with detached interest the conception of Elliot Hobart. Lucy Hobart’s Chevy 6 heaves with a regular, unhurried motion. “Nice moves,” says the god. “But you’d think being all powerful and all we’d have a better seat. The perspective. I mean, and while we are eating. Really.”
The angel expertly rolled a large lumpy cigarette and lit up. “Dominicans. Domini Cani...” He exhaled a cloud of blue-green smoke, sweet, like lilac. “The dogs of God. Latin? It’s a pun,” Dave assured Fr. Coughlin. “That’s why they wear the collars. Attack dogs.” Dave paused to let the tidbit hang between them in the blue, smoky air of the radio station hallway. “Ever hear of the Third Order of St. Dominic?”
are discovered by Clear-eyed Alicia, as surely any thought that appears in her mind is worthy and therefore true. It would be sheer foolishness that the Almighty created a useless untrue thing. Alicia accepts the three prophets: Judge Crater, Joanna Southcott and Charles E. Coughlin, O.P. The Prophets have their own problems and pay little attention to the story of Lucy and Sarah unfolding at their feet.
He would not face life without a wet bar, a dry sink, Chippendale armoire and Persian rugs. Plus a pliant trophy of a wife to manage his household, to set off vintage porcelain vases she stuffs herself with armloads of irises cut from her very own dooryard. He is murdered by police assassins and buried in a shallow grave under the Coney Island boardwalk.
The face in the pier glass rippled. Charles E. Coughlin, The Radio Priest, viewed himself with alarm and some surprise. Fr. Coughlin stuck out his tongue and made a face. His reflection did the same. “Well, I am still in there. Or here. Hello, Charles.” Two Charlie Coughlins waggled their little fingers. His sinuses throbbed and tears filled his eyes; he pretended some adjustment to a vase of lilacs, and turned quickly to catch himself unawares. The reflection looked red-eyed and bloated.
Mary, the New Eve—Fr. Coughlin can see her. “The air is thick with that goddamned incense, priest. Stinks,” she says. “Crank another window, would you? You mean well, but save us both while there is time. Thirty seconds to brain death you know—a little something I picked up from an ambulance driver at Lourdes. I granted him a new set of tires.”
She was commanded to write as the Spirits dictated, channeling the hairy, smelly prophets of old. The Southcottian nose was raised and wrinkled, nonetheless she was commanded to write it down and get it right, then disseminate the Word to a waiting world. No one cared.
Reamer of Virgins, the Horned One, Most Conspicuously Antlered Herne of the Hernia. A major demon drawn from the imaginings of the screaming ladies of a satanic bridge club filtered through Corporate Services and billed by the hour. A Prince of Darkness analog, you know the type.
A pimp. Ronnie comes to treasure his memories of Willipaq and its citizens who, whatever their faults, never remarked on the arrival (or departure) of an extremely tall black man amongst their lily-white (and short) population. Such color-blindness, inclusive and welcoming, stymied nosy law enforcement types.
A follower of Joanna Southcott whose curious sect was forming up among the nonconformist parishes of England, and now the New World: a circuit rider, a proselyte-chaser. When questioned on theology he would hold forth on whatever rippled the quiet pool of his perception and have it accepted as the latest bulletin from on high.
Dick Lavery did not want to stop flying bomber sorties. In contravention of orders, he took his squadron up for a raid—there were only three B-24s left by then. Over Ploesti, Rumania the anti-aircraft batteries were silent, out of ammunition, their gunners dead or fled. The war was over; the Nazis had surrendered. Lucy shoots Capt. Lavery in the back of the head and dumps him out over the oil refineries: “To this day I pray that his corpse did not land on someone when it hit. That’s a lie. I didn’t give a shit; I wanted to go home.”
“I’m the Electrolux man, Tad Needy, Jr. Tad Two, they call me.” Tad II is the son of the Tad Needy who eavesdrops on Cat’s radio as she listens to Fr. Coughlin. This is long ago but is in the story anyway. Tad the First pretends to write on a pad he carries in his vest pocket. There is nothing on the pad; he just likes the girls to know he has his eyes open.
He had married Betty Reynolds, the Big Bee—thirty years of married life with Old Willoughby kept her slim and trim.
A parable. His skull is now kept at the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School, alongside the tamping iron that penetrated it, which is inscribed as follows: “This is the bar that was shot through the head of Mr. Phinehas [sic] P. Gage at Cavendish, Vermont, Sept. 14 [sic], 1848. He fully recovered from the injury.”
Pauley is a close-talker, a poster child for the forgotten, mad and neglected, God’s forever curse right after zits and gonorrhea. Fueled by a warranted paranoia, Pauley collects left-handed lightbulbs from subway ceiling fixtures. A street singer, he thinks he knows you.
Jimmy Walker, New York City’s mayor from 1926 to 1932, a charismatic and colorful character, but a questionable administrator. It appears that near the end of his reign Joseph Force Crater, a Judge of the Supreme Court of New York, disappeared off West 45th Street in Manhattan never to be seen again.
A flapper and a dancer in the Roxy chorus, she was to be Judge Crater’s undoing. The Judge’s last sight was Necrophilia batting her Wedgwood blue eyes as she teased a spit curl with her little finger. “I was smitten; what could I do but follow the call of the glands? I allowed myself to be murdered.”
The patron of derelicts and wanderers, she haunts Manhattan's vest-pocket parks: “The pigeons are mine,” she cackles, “...the souls of departed aldermen.”
The only suitable suitor who had ever come to call on Francyann Kennealy. He played out his part in their comedy of romance with squared shoulders and a dab of jam on his chin. He was not very good-looking, but at eleven years old Francy was grateful for whatever came her way, date-wise. “Not a substantial man, nothing inside. Like a chocolate Easter rabbit,” said her father.
Jerry’s late wife. “I saw her as an allegory and so did the Jersey mob. She came out in a thong bikini with a bunch of bananas—a whole stalk. She peeled and ate the bananas and told jokes.”
“Damned cat. Useless for anything but conversation.” Lucy carries spare mousetraps and a plastic bag from the Red and White. That the names of Lucy’s wife, Catherine Armstrong Hobart, and the species of the barn cat were the same had never occurred to anyone.
A Sixth Choir angel, one of Heaven’s enforcers. Favorite color—blue. Favorite quote—“You are not crazy, not yet.” A tough customer.
Lord High Everything Else, cozy with C.G. Jung and Jesse Ventura. Click here for more.
For more about plumbing the wonders of Midwife in the Tire Swing, see the notes pages for Joanna Southcott, Bride of Christ and Ludus Litterarum.
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