Lucy Gets Her Ring

“Lucy, baby, I really don’t think we should be here.”

Bryce Williams shifted his shoulders uneasily as he surveyed the ramshackle trailer where his soon-to-be brother-in-law lived. The trailer sat off a back road on a weedy plot of land, its cheap green siding peeling in the summer sun. Torn screens covered the windows. A fly-infested garbage heap emitted its distinctive sweet-sour tang a dozen feet from the front door—phew! Bryce pinched his handsome nose, but the smell didn’t lessen. No wonder the people in town had taken to calling Lucy LeBeau’s brother Crazy Jim.

Lucy kicked a rusty can off the porch step with the toe of her cowboy boot. Her red hair coiled down her back. “Oh no? You think I should just keep quiet and take this lyin’ down? You think I should turn the other cheek and let Donna walk away with what’s rightfully mine? I don’t take nothin’ lyin’ down, Bryce Williams, and if you’re gonna marry me you better learn that real quick. Anyway, what’re you scared of? Jimmy’s truck’s not here.”

Lucy scanned contemptuously around the clearing, her small jaw set, breasts jutting against her shirt the way they always did when she was indignant.

“I know, baby, but—” Again, Bryce shrugged uncomfortably. He tipped back the brim of his white cowboy hat. The last thing he wanted was for Lucy to think him a coward. That little woman was so damn feisty, a regular red-haired banty rooster, he sometimes didn’t know how he was going to keep his skin intact once they got hitched. Not that Bryce couldn’t stand tall when the need arose, or so he believed. It was just that the exact need had never arisen and with any luck, never would.

Lucy yanked open the trailer door. “Huh, it ain’t even locked. Shit, would you look at this place? Barely two months since Donna moved out, and already it’s as bad inside as out.” She kicked her way through the debris on the floor: fishing gear, hunting magazines, work boots, a clump of greasy towels, all dropped wherever the need for them had ended. “Uh-huh, I knew it.” She pointed to a nest of whiskey bottles surrounded by empty potato chip bags and stale slices of bread. “Going right down the same path as Daddy. I warn you, Bryce Williams, there’s a bad streak in our family, and it’s gonna take one strong man to break it.”

“Anything for you, baby, anything,” Bryce proclaimed. He held out his arms and puckered his lips. Lucy’s idea of breaking a bad streak usually meant firing up the pistons and pumpin’ till the bed sheets burned, and Bryce’s mouth watered as he contemplated his fiancée, the sweetest little ass in the tightest blue jeans in the whole damn county.

“Glad to hear it,” Lucy walked straight past his outstretched arms, “‘cause I’m not here to waste time. We’ll start on the bedroom since that’s the most likely place. I want every drawer emptied, every closet searched bottom to top. This trailer’s such a mess, Jimmy’ll never know we been through it.”

Bryce’s arms dropped, and heaving a sigh he followed Lucy to the bedroom and waded through the clothes strewn over the rug. Bryce’s cousin, attorney Bobby Lee Atkinson, had warned him that what Lucy proposed was breaking and entering, and if they found the ring, theft. But Lucy only retorted she wasn’t paying Bobby Lee no goddamn attorney consultation fee for his worthless advice.

“Here, you investigate the bureau, I’ll clear these shelves,” she ordered. “Throw everything on the bed and be careful you don’t pick up any lice. I say this is all Donna’s fault, walking out on Jimmy, then pretending to be the innocent victim, instead of stayin’ and whippin’ that man into shape like she ought. She’s a clever one, all right.”

“You know, baby,” Bryce peeped into a drawer of underwear and flinched, “nothing would make me happier than to buy you a ring of your very own. You could pick any style you want—a diamond, a sapphire to match your pretty blue eyes. We could get something real nice at that jewelry store in the outlet mall.”

Lucy’s hands clamped onto her hips. Exasperation radiated from her petite frame like a heat shimmer on a country road.

“Bryce, how many times do I gotta explain this to you? That ring is a family heirloom. Daddy bought it for Mama with the only sober money he ever earned, and now I want it for tradition. Besides, you have any idea how much those sparklers might be worth in this day and age?” Her eye lighted on a nightstand and she pounced. “Help me, damn it, this drawer’s stuck!”

“Well, don’t yank it, baby.”

“And don’t you yell at me!”

“I didn’t. Now you’ve busted it.”

“Too bad!” Lucy flung away the splintered drawer. It hit the wall and bounced off a chair. She huffed a breath of air toward her forehead, damp with perspiration in the June heat. “This whole thing wouldn’t be happenin’ if Mama hadn’t been so birdbrained to give that ring to Jimmy in the first place. I’m the daughter. It shoulda come straight to me. Damn, I oughta had the old woman declared incompetent that very minute. Wait, here’s a jewelry box! Maybe Donna did leave my ring after all.”

Bryce’s eyes widened and his Adam’s apple bobbed in anticipation as Lucy uncovered a blue leatherette box and pried at the catch. “Well, get it open, baby. How much you think the ring’s worth?”

“I bet three, four thousand at least. It had four big diamonds, for Christ’s sake.” Lucy snatched a fingernail clipper from the bureau, jammed the metal file into the lock, and popped the catch. “Quick, Bryce, help me sort this stuff. Maybe it’s a good thing Mama didn’t keep the ring. If she’d taken it with her to the asylum, one of those sleazy attendants woulda stole it right off her finger.”

Lucy dumped the contents on the bed, and they dug into the jumble. Bryce pushed back his lanky blond hair and sighed. “This is junk, Lucy, junk. Burnt flashlight bulbs, broken key chains, pocketknives, fishing weights—it’s all Jimmy’s stuff besides. Why in heck is he saving old cigarette lighters?”

Lucy pawed through the clutter. “I don’t know. They used to be Daddy’s. Except, wait, I remember—when he was a kid, Jimmy used to like to sniff the lighter fluid. Shit.” Lucy straightened, eyeing and mentally eliminating other hiding spots around the room. “Well, at least now we’re sure Donna took my ring with her. If she thinks I’m buying that crap about it being legally and rightfully hers, she’s got another thought comin’.”

“Seems to me she ought to have the decency just to give it back.” A plaintive whine crept into Bryce’s voice. More trouble was coming, he knew it. He tried hard to picture himself standing tall.

“Yeah, well, some women don’t know what it means to be a lady,” Lucy retorted. “Damn! I got everything else planned—the church, the flowers, my dress, the catering, the VFW hall—now I want my ring.” She stomped her cowboy boot. “Let’s go, Bryce. The white gloves are off. Nobody but nobody is gonna stop me from havin’ the perfect wedding.”

*****

“Donna, hi, honey, how’d it go yesterday? You look a little tired. Want some lemonade before you tie on your apron?”

Peg Perkins offered a tall glass from the rack behind the café counter. When Donna nodded her appreciation, Peg shoveled in a scoop of ice and held the glass under the juice dispenser. It was only ten a.m., and already the air conditioner was laboring in the muggy heat. She just hoped the old ice-maker would keep on chugging—wouldn’t do for Peg’s Place to run out of cold beverages on a thirsty day.

Donna took a stool and sipped gratefully at the pale drink flecked with tart pulp. “Thanks, Peg.” She flipped back her curly hair and fluttered the blouse of her cream-and-brown waitress uniform to let air down her chest. A touch of mascara fringed her hazel eyes. “I’ll do the blackboard specials if Pete’s got any.”

“I’ll ask him. Hey, Pete,” Peg pushed open the kitchen door and hailed the scrawny figure rolling out a pastry crust, “what’re we pushing today, the chicken pot pie? How’s four ninety-five sound? And what about that leftover macaroni? You want to toss it in some mayonnaise and mustard, and we’ll call it pasta dijonnaise? We’ll serve it with chips and a pickle. Donna’s going to write up the board.” Peg let the door swing closed and turned back to the counter. “So how’d it go in court, honey? Everything okay?”

“I guess.” Donna nodded in a so-so fashion. “I got the restraining order.”

“H’mm. Jimmy’s not going to like that.”

“I know. But he has to obey it, Peg, or he’s going to land himself in jail. The judge says he can’t step within two hundred feet of anywhere I happen to be.”

“Then he can’t barge in here anymore—hallelujah!” Peg raised her hands in prayer. “That last time, I thought he was gonna bust up the place for sure. Well, I guess you going to that Women’s Center was a smart move.”

Across the café, a customer punched a number on the juke box. Donna tipped her head toward the music and sighed. “Now I just have to wait for the divorce to be final. What a mess, Peg. Three years ago I was walking down the aisle in a white lace dress with my head full of dreams. Now I’m walking out with a pile of debts and a suitcase in my hand. That’s what comes of believing all those songs about how a good woman can turn a man around.”

Peg gave her a consoling pat. “You’ll make it, honey.”

“Darn right, I will. And if it’s okay with you, I’m going to run over to the mall on my afternoon break. I got an appointment at the jewelry store for them to appraise my ring.” Donna held up her left hand, and four diamonds sparkled from a gold band. “With any luck, this’ll put me even with the creditors so I can get a fresh start. Now hand me the board and chalks and I’ll get to work.”

Peg reached below the counter and passed over the supplies. While Donna drew, Peg rang up the bill for a family of four. Twenty-five years ago when she opened her highway café, she’d dabbled with names: Peg Perkin’s Place, Peg’s Palace, Perky Peg’s. But “palace” was never in the cards, and even at the sprightly age of thirty, some premonition had warned her that “perky” might be a tad difficult to live up to when your hair turned gray and your definition of excitement was having the day’s receipts balance on the first try. So she settled for the more durable “Peg’s Place,” and durable was exactly what she had become.

“What do you think so far?” Donna paused for a sip of lemonade and held up the blackboard for approval.

“Ooh, honey, look at that nice pot pie you did, all flaky and plump. How’re you going to show the pasta dijonnaise?”

“I’ll draw it on a plate beside the pickle.” Donna fished a green chalk from the box. “You think the truckers are going to know what pasta dijonnaise is?”

Peg laughed. “Probably not. But since that outlet mall opened down the road we’re getting more tourists, and the wives seem to like that French stuff. You know, you got a real flair for drawing, honey. Talk about a fresh start—you ought to sign up at an art school.”

“You think so?” Donna scrutinized her work. She had been a waitress before she married Jimmy LeBeau, and here she was back in an apron again. But she liked the work, she liked the people, and she liked the feeling that you didn’t owe anybody anything at the end of the day. Still, it was nice to hear a compliment on her art.

“Sure, you could take a couple of courses, meet some nice people, add a new dimension to your life.” Peg swiped a cloth over the counter to catch the melt from Donna’s lemonade. “You got a real talent, honey, and you ought to develop it. I swear I never saw anybody draw macaroni as good as you can.”

*****

Owwwww.

The tan pickup hit a dip in the highway, and Jimmy LeBeau rubbed his sore head, his numb lips, his stubbled chin. His shirt smelled like somebody had used it to wrap fish. Damn! There was nothing he hated like a hangover, and this one clanged in his skull like a steeple bell. It had got into his gut, too, rolling up and weighing there like a marbleized bowling ball. Must have been the combination of whiskey and Cheese Whiz. What he needed was a good puke, and as his truck jolted along the pot-holed highway the motion seemed likely to deliver the results he required. The early part of the morning was a blur, stumbling around the trailer in search of leftover food, trying to contain the pounding in his head. His condition wasn’t much better now, but at least he could see the road clear when he squinted one eye. Jimmy braced for another dip—here it came—oww! There was nothing he hated like a hangover, except maybe women, and one woman in particular.

“Donna.”

He said the name aloud as the truck passed the sign for Peg’s Place. He’d come back, oh yeah, soon as he took care of that other important business. Actually, he had a lot of important business to attend to: shoot those raccoons that’d been clawing at the screens, get a job, put his fist in Ben’s face and demand back the money Ben had cheated out of him at poker. His mind began to wander…Where was he going again?

Honk!

Jimmy lurched at the wheel and swerved the pickup back into its proper lane as a blaring semi thundered by. His head swelled, every membrane in his skull pulsed with pain, and when he cursed after the trucker, it only set up a secondary wave of agony. Tears came to Jimmy’s eyes, and he began to blubber.

“Oh, Donna, oh, Donna. I know I ain’t been the man I should. I know I never loved you enough. Oh, sweetheart, if you come back to me, I swear I’ll mend my ways. I’ll stay home every night. No more booze, no other women—I promise. Just you and me, lover doll, locked in each other’s arms till the sun rises and the bluebirds sing. Oh, Donna!”

Jimmy wiped at his eyes, his soft stomach bouncing over his belt as the truck sped along. He remembered where he meant to go, and he started feeling proud. He was a man about to turn over a new leaf, and to prove it he had driven right by Peg’s Place. Restricted from two hundred feet of anywhere Donna happened to be is what the judge said, so he was going back to the judge, aiming straight for the county courthouse they’d been at yesterday, to make his honor change his mind. Then he’d go to Peg’s Place, legal and sober, and take Donna home, where he’d thrash her good, the little bitch, for walkin’ out on him the way no woman ever ought to do. Just like Daddy taught him—his old man had known how to keep a woman in line and his kids, too. With a quick intake of breath, Jimmy recalled the bite of belt leather across his bare hide. Though when he did get tanned, it was usually Lucy’s fault. The little snitch—telling the old man about the firecrackers in the outhouse and what he used to do with the neighbor’s dog. Now somebody had told him Lucy was getting married, and he wasn’t even invited to the wedding. Jimmy growled in his throat.

Honk!

Another truck nearly cut him off, and Jimmy swerved and roared curses. On the passenger seat beside him, his hunting rifle slid toward the floor. Jimmy grabbed it and wedged it between the seats. The rifle was to convince the judge to lift the restraining order, not that Jimmy expected to need it. He’d handle this calmly, explain to the judge man-to-man that no matter what Donna and those dykes from the Women’s Center said, a little cuffing now and then was not abuse. Why, he wouldn’t harm a hair on his wife’s head.

“Oh, Donna,” he blubbered, the name conjuring visions of soft, warm woman-flesh. His fingers squeezed on the steering wheel. “Oh, sweetheart, I know I done you wrong. Come back to me and let’s make us some babies. That’s the only thing we’re missing in our home sweet home.”

A green exit sign proclaiming “County Government Center” loomed before his bleary eyes, and at the last instant Jimmy swung the tan pickup off the highway. Almost immediately, his stomach felt the change to a slower speed, and as he curved along the exit ramp, the bowling ball in his gut began to rise. Oh, it was coming now, rolling up the long alley of his gullet, gathering momentum. He tried to clamp his throat and tasted bile at the back of his tongue. Ahead was the courthouse parking lot, plenty of empty spaces. He swerved in, slammed the brake, threw open the door and heaved. Buckets of orangey-yellow liquid mixed with a few unidentifiable solids splattered onto the pavement.

Jimmy wiped his mouth on his sleeve and burped. He felt much better.

He wedged out of the truck, stepped over the mess, and straightened his fish-smelling shirt. His feet felt steady, and the tolling in his head had subsided to a dull echo. Jimmy headed up the courthouse steps. It was a fine building, gray stone columns, imposing double doors, a bronze sculpture of Justice holding her scales—made you proud to be a citizen. And it wasn’t busy today, no one else around, so Jimmy and his honor would have plenty of time to talk. He turned the door handle. It didn’t open. He tried the other one, twisting left, then right. The bolt rattled in the lock. With a furious roar, Jimmy launched himself at the door.

“Open up, you $%#@*&!! bastards!”

“Courthouse is closed!” A voice yelled at him, and Jimmy turned to see a groundskeeper mowing the grass. Above the noise of the mower, the man called again. “Courthouse is closed!  It’s Saturday!”

Jimmy thundered back to his truck muttering curses, wedged his rifle upright between the seats, and aimed the pickup toward the highway.

*****

“Now listen, Bryce, here’s what we’re gonna do.”

Lucy twitched herself up in the car seat, and Bryce edged back in his. He’d hoped the fruitless search of Jimmy’s trailer would have convinced Lucy there was nothing more to do, but no. Here they were parked outside Peg’s Place, and Lucy’s feathers were ruffled for a fight. Bryce’s heart felt faint at the idea he might finally have to stand tall.

Lucy pointed to the café, her eyes drawing a bead on the door. “We go in, sit down, order ourselves a meal. The main thing is to spot Donna right away and sit in her section. Then when she comes to serve us, check her hands for the ring. If she’s not wearin’ it, the only other place it can be is her apartment, and I’ll have to figure a way to break in.”

“What if she is wearing it?”

“Then you don’t do nothin’. Let me handle it.  Remember, it’s four big diamonds set in a row. Check both her hands in case she’s moved it off her wedding finger the way some divorced women do. What a nerve! I say, when you get married, it’s for life. Let’s go.”

Lucy hopped out of the car. Bryce swallowed hard on his Adam’s apple and followed. When they reached the café door, Lucy inched it open. Peering over her shoulder, Bryce saw a pair of truckers at the counter, families scattered among the tables. The café buzzed with lunchtime conversation. Lucy’s elbow dug him in the ribs.

“Oof!”

“Shh!”  Lucy jabbed again. “She’s here. Pay attention, Bryce. The one at the cash register is Peg, the owner. Don’t talk to her, she’s a nosey old buzzard. That’s Donna right behind her—brown hair, no hips—helpin’ that other waitress fill water glasses. Act natural till I figure out where they’re going. Look, Donna’s heading for the no smoking section. Quick!”

Lucy zipped to a table, and Bryce hurried after, pressing his ribs. As Lucy helped herself to a menu, he noticed her red hair fluffed from the heat, her blouse taut against her jutting breasts. Beneath the table, her cowboy boot was tapping.

“Why, Donna, fancy seeing you here.”

Lucy’s foot swung into the aisle, and Donna stopped short, a tray of dishes in her hands.

“Lucy. What do you want?”

Lucy clicked her tongue. “My, my. Is that any way to greet a customer? Why, we’re here for a meal, of course. What’s that on your blackboard, pasta dijonnaise? We’ll have two. I don’t believe you’ve met my fiancé, Bryce Williams.”

“How’d you do, ma’am?” Bryce rose awkwardly and tipped his hat. Donna didn’t at all resemble the type of woman he had pictured with Jimmy. She looked like a good, wifely girl who’d bake cherry pies and sing lullabies to the little ones. Sometimes he wished Lucy was that kind of woman, but then he thought of the sweetest little ass in the tightest blue jeans in the whole damn county, and he admitted with a sigh that a man couldn’t expect to have everything.

Donna recovered her politeness. “I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Williams. I’ll bring you both some ice water.”

“No, no, don’t you trouble.” Lucy gave her a playful tap on the wrist to make her stay. “What luck we’re sittin’ in your section so we can leave you a nice tip. So how you been, Donna? Waitressing is such hard work. Why don’t you set down that heavy tray and give your hands a rest?”

“I’m fine, Lucy. If you’ll move your foot, I’ll get your order.”

“Okay, you do that.” Lucy swung her boot clear. “Then come sit down and have a drink, so I can tell you about my wedding plans. Just because you and me had that little tiff about Mama’s ring doesn’t mean we can’t be on friendly terms. Oh, I see you’re wearin’ it even as we speak.”

Donna’s lips closed tight.

“See, Bryce, didn’t I tell you how pretty it was?” Lucy yanked Donna’s hand from under the tray, and the dirty dishes clattered onto the table. Peg and several customers looked their way.

Donna pulled her hand free and began restacking the tray. “Don’t even think about it, Lucy,” she hissed. “Thanks to your brother, I’m in a lot of debt, and this ring is my ticket out of the hole.”

“You wouldn’t be in debt if you’d kept Jimmy in line.” Lucy’s voice rose. “Any woman worth her salt knows how to keep a man home at night.”

“Is that right?” Donna thumped down her tray. “How would you know, you little tramp?”

“Tramp? Tramp? Bryce, are you gonna let her talk to me like that? I demand an apology!”

Lucy sprang to her feet, and Bryce reluctantly began to rise. He was five-foot-eleven-and-one-half inches, and for an instant he felt that if he had only been six feet, just one-half inch more, standing tall would be an inborn phenomenon. But not even the crown of his white cowboy hat could make up for that fatal difference. In the last instant of rising, he prayed something would happen to save him.

“EVERYBODY FREEZE!”

Jimmy stood in the café doorway, hunting rifle aimed to fire. Actually, what he’d meant to cry when he first burst in was “DONNA!”, to bellow out his claim to her like a raging bull, then throw her over his shoulder and take her home. But not seeing her that first instant, he had shouted the next best thing that came to mind. The reaction from the people in the café was so gratifying—customers screamed and ducked under their tables, a waitress dropped a full tray of glassware—that he decided to improve on it.

“EVERYBODY SHUT UP AND DON’T MOVE!”

Bleating, they obeyed. There, that was the kind of respect a man like him should have every day.

“Jimmy—”

Donna’s voice broke into his pleasure, and lowering his rifle he finally saw her in her cream-and-brown uniform standing by a table. She was shaky and her voice was breathless, but she hadn’t fallen to the floor or fainted like the tall guy in the white cowboy hat slumped into a pile of dishes. And who was that with him—Lucy? Jimmy frowned and rubbed at his stubble, temporarily forgetting his mission.

“Jimmy, what are you doing? You’re not supposed to come here. Put the gun down, and we’ll talk.” Donna pressed her palms toward the floor in a lowering motion. From the corner of her eye she saw Peg nod at her, then edge toward the kitchen. A pair of children crouched under a table with their parents began to whimper. Donna licked her lips and tried again. “Jim—”

“Jimmy! She’s got my ring! Make her give it to me, Jimmy!” In two quick jumps, Lucy landed between them, facing her brother and arms akimbo. She stamped her cowboy boot to get his attention. “Jimmy, listen to me. She’s got Mama’s ring, and I want it for my wedding!”

Jimmy’s frown deepened. He rubbed his head. All around, people were waiting—for the first time in his life, they were waiting for him—and he wanted to get this right. He searched his mind, sidestepping the last pockets of hangover and encountering a nagging memory about Lucy’s wedding. FREEZE. EVERYBODY SHUT UP AND DON’T MOVE. What came next? Donna—he was supposed to heave her over his shoulder. He swung toward her, the rifle following suit.

“All right, all right, you can have it!” Donna’s knees buckled as the gun leveled at her stomach, and she clutched the table for support. Any idea she’d had of playing the heroine, of keeping her deranged husband at bay while Peg phoned the police, vanished out of sight down that polished black barrel. Lucy sashayed toward her, strutting her hips, the buttons on her blouse pockets threatening to pop. Carefully, Donna worked the ring off her finger and dropped it in Lucy’s outstretched hand.

“Yippee!” Lucy slipped on the sparkling band and held her hand high. “A perfect fit and the last thing I needed to make my wedding complete. I got the dress, I got the D.J., I got the flowers, I got the VFW hall. Now I am outta here with my ring, and nobody can stop me.” She turned to strut back to her table. “I don’t take nothin’ lyin’ down!”

Wedding, that was it. Jimmy’s mind clicked. He wasn’t invited! With a roar he swiveled the gun toward Lucy.

Bang!

An ear-splitting shriek filled the café as Lucy spun a half circle in the air and crashed to the floor. Customers screamed, Donna dived for cover, Peg barreled through the kitchen door, rolling pin on high. At the first blow from Peg’s weapon, Jimmy dropped his rifle and his jaw, seeing stars. At the second blow, he pitched senseless to the ground.

Throughout the café, people crawled out from under tables, crying and hugging, and the commotion finally penetrated Bryce William’s peaceful sleep. He lifted his head from a soup bowl and pushed back the white cowboy hat that had fallen over his eyes. As his vision cleared, he saw Jimmy sprawled in a heap on the floor, Peg standing over him with a rolling pin, Donna helping a young couple comfort their children.

“Bryce! Bryce, help! I lost my ring!”

Bryce sorted the shriek from the other noises and turned his head. There on the floor lay Lucy, squirming and clutching her behind with one hand, the other groping across the floor. He ran to her and pried her fingers from her blue jeans, eliciting a yelp. A ragged edge of blood-soaked denim greeted his eye, marking the bullet’s glancing path across his fianceé’s tender derriere.

“My ring!” Lucy shrieked. “It fell off and rolled that way!” She gestured frantically toward the tables.

“Shh, Baby, stay calm. I hear the police siren, and we’ll get you to the hospital.”

“No, you don’t understand!” Struggling to her feet, Lucy waved both hands like signal flags toward the customers, causing them all to stare. “My ring fell off, my VERY VALUABLE RING with the FOUR REALLY BIG DIAMONDS, and somebody here in this café could find it and STEAL IT RIGHT NOW!” She stuck her bare left hand into the air.

When the cops burst in a moment later, they found Lucy fainted in Bryce’s arms, Jimmy conked out and ignored, and every other last person in Peg’s Place scrambling madly over the floor.

“Aw, Baby,” Bryce murmured to his slumped lady love. “Forget the ring. The only thing that matters is that you’re gonna be all right.”

Reverently, he removed his white hat and held it over his heart, head bowed in grief. Winged, he thought tragically, winged, and as he shifted his grip, the better to support the sweetest little ass in the tightest blue jeans in the whole damn county, something hard and round in Lucy’s back pocket met his hand.

“‘Course I’m all right,” said Lucy, opening one eye just long enough to wink. “Now get us outta here.”

(Copyright©Arliss Ryan, 1992)

~ Return to the list of stories ~