Fly Away Page 38

“Hey, Dorothy,” the pharmacist said.

“Hey, Scott.”

“How was the farmers’ market today?”

“Great. I have some honey for you and Lori. I’ll bring it by.”

He handed her the medication that had made such a difference in her life. “Thanks.”

She paid for her pills, pocketed the small orange bottle, and headed out. She went back out to the busy street, climbed onto her bicycle, and pedaled the three miles home.

As always, going up Summer Hill kicked her ass, and by the time she reached the top and turned onto Firefly Lane, she was sweating hard and breathing heavily. At her driveway, she wheeled left and hung on tightly as the old bike rattled down toward the house.

There was a note pinned to her front door. Frowning, she got off her bike, let it clatter to the ground. When was the last time someone had left her a note?


Tully is in Sacred Heart Hospital. Johnny says to hurry. Cab fare under mat. 426 E.


Dorothy bent down and lifted up the black rubber doormat. A dirty white envelope lay on the damp potato-bug-dotted cement beneath. Inside the envelope was a one-hundred-dollar bill.

Dorothy hurried through the rambler that had once belonged to her parents and now was owned by her daughter—the same house a much younger Dorothy had once lived in with a fourteen-year-old Tully. The only place they’d ever lived together.

In the last few years, Dorothy had done a little work on the place, but not much. The exterior was still beige and in need of paint; the roof still grew a green moss in places. Inside, she’d ripped up the avocado shag carpeting and found hardwood floors beneath, which someday she intended to refinish. The kitchen was still the Pepto-Bismol-colored apocalypse some renter had chosen in the early seventies, but the hideous gingham curtains were gone. The only room Dorothy had really gutted was the master bedroom. She’d ripped down the cheap blinds, pulled up the gold sculpted carpeting, and painted the walls a pretty cream color.

Dorothy opened her prescription bottle and took her pill, washing it down with a handful of warm tap water. Picking up the old-fashioned corded phone in the kitchen—an antique in this cell phone era—she opened the phone book, looked up the number, and called a cab. There was no time to take a shower, so she just brushed her hair and teeth. Braiding her stringy gray hair as she walked into the bedroom, she caught sight of herself in the oval mirror above her dresser.

She looked like Gandalf after a bender.

A cab horn honked out front. She grabbed her purse and ran out. It wasn’t until she was in the smelly brown velour seat, staring through a dirty window, that she realized one pant leg was still rubber-banded to her ankle.

She stared at her farm as the cab pulled out of the driveway. More than four years ago—when she’d finally accepted the idea of true change—this place had saved her. She often thought that her tears had been the moisture that made her vegetables grow.

She was grateful for the prescription drugs in her system. The veil they provided was chiffonlike, a softening of the world around her. Just a little. Enough so that her emotions—her unreliable and dangerous moods—were calmed. Without them, she knew she could spiral downward now, into the darkness that had been home for most of her life.

Memories clamored at her, pushing, demanding until she couldn’t hear the cabdriver breathing or the engine purring or the traffic zipping past them.

Time unspooled and wrapped around her and she had no will to resist. She gave up, gave in, and for a split second the world went utterly, completely still.

Then she heard a dog barking, a chain snapping taut, and she knew where she was, when she was: 2005. November. She was sixty-four years old, a woman who called herself Cloud, and her daughter was one of the most famous people on TV. Cloud lived in a broken-down trailer on a muddy lot off a logging road near Eatonville. The sweet, cloying smell of …

marijuana engulfed her. She was high, but not high enough. Lately, there wasn’t enough weed in the world to protect her.

Maybe a drink would help. She climbed out of the ripped brown Barcalounger and stumbled into the Formica coffee table. Pain bit deep into her shin and beer cans rattled and fell to the floor.

She moved cautiously through the mobile home, wondering if the floors were slanted suddenly or she was higher than she thought. In the kitchen, she paused. What had she come in here for?

She glanced dully around, noticing the stack of dirty dishes on the stove. She should do those before Truc got home. He hated it when she didn’t clean up … Were those flies buzzing around the pizza boxes?

She shuffled over to the fridge and opened the door. The light came on, illuminating some leftover sandwiches, a case of beer, and milk that looked vaguely green. She slammed it shut and opened the freezer. A fifth of vodka lay in the rack on the door. She was reaching for it with a trembling hand when she heard the throaty purr of a diesel engine.


She should start cleaning, but she was shaking badly and she felt sick to her stomach.

Outside, the dogs were barking, snarling. She could hear them leaping toward him, straining their collars, snapping against long coils of chain.

She had to meet him. She ran shaking hands through her long, tangled hair. When had she showered last? Did she smell bad? He hated that.

She shuffled to the door and opened it. At first, all she saw was a gray afternoon that smelled of diesel smoke and dog crap and wet dirt.

She blinked, focused.

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There was his big red truck parked by the woodpile.

Truc climbed out of the cab, his steel-toed boot splashing down in a pothole. He was a big man, with a belly that entered the room first and straggly brown hair that framed a boxy, well-traveled face.

The truth was in his eyes. They were small and black and the light in them could go dark in an instant.

“H-hey, Truc,” she said, snapping open a beer for him. “I didn’t think you’d be home until Tuesday.”

He came into the light and she knew he’d been drinking. There was a glassy look in his eyes, a slackness in his mouth. He paused to pet his beloved Dobermans, fishing dog treats out of his pockets. The snapping of their jaws seemed terrifyingly loud in the quiet night. She winced, tried to keep smiling.

Truc took the beer from her and stood there in the pale rectangle of light. The dogs were quiet beside him now, servile, slobbering their affection. Just the way he liked them. Behind them, the grassy field disappeared into a fog that cleansed the yard of its rusted cars and broken refrigerators and discarded furniture.

“It is Tuesday,” Truc growled. He finished the beer and tossed the can to the dogs, who immediately began fighting over it. He reached out and pulled her into his big arms and held her tightly. “I missed you,” he whispered in his gravelly, slurred voice, and she wondered where he’d been since his shift ended. At the Lucky Spot, probably, drinking boilermakers and complaining about cutbacks at the paper plant. He smelled of pulpwood and grease and smoke and whiskey.

She tried to stand very still, hardly daring to breathe. He was touchy lately, and getting touchier all the time. She never knew what would set him off. “I missed you, too,” she said, hearing the slur in her voice. Her mind was moving slowly, thoughts pushing through sludge.

“You’re not wearing the blouse I bought you.”

She drew back slowly. What blouse? Honestly, she couldn’t remember. “I … I’m sorry. I’m saving it for nice. It’s so pretty.”

He made a sound, maybe disgust, maybe acceptance, maybe apathy. She couldn’t tell. Her thoughts were too fuzzy, and that was bad bad bad. She held on to his hand, squeezing it as she led him into the mobile home.

The place reeked of pot, she realized suddenly. And something else; garbage, maybe.

“Cloud,” he said, so quietly that the hair on the back of her neck stood up. What had he seen? What had she done or not done?

Cleaning. She’d forgotten to clean. He hated dirty dishes in the sink.

She turned slowly, unable to even think of an excuse.

He kissed her lightly on the lips, so lovingly that she released a sigh of relief. “You know I hate a mess like this. With all I give you—”

She pulled back. “Please—”

Before she could even lift her hands in defense, he punched her in the face. She felt her nose crumple beneath his fist; blood sprayed everywhere and she stood there, bleeding down her shirt. Crying only made it worse.

* * *

She woke to the sound of heavy breathing. For a second she didn’t remember anything, and then pain reminded her. She pried open one eye and immediately winced. Pale light from the TV stabbed at her, made her blink. Her mouth was dry; she was trembling uncontrollably and everything hurt.

Take stock.

She’d woken up in this condition more times than she could count. She knew what to do.

She was in bed, with Truc sprawled beside her, his bulbous belly pointed skyward, his hairy arms outflung. It was dark out now. Night had fallen.

She inched out of bed and winced as she put her weight on her left ankle. Sprained in one of her falls, obviously.

She limped to the bathroom and saw herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. Her hair was a tangled mess and matted with blood. Her eye was swollen shut and the bruising around it was a sickening stew of purple, brown, and yellow. Her nose was in the wrong shape—flattened—and dried blood caked her chin and cheeks.

Hurting too badly to clean up, she dressed in what she could find, yesterday’s clothes or last night’s clothes, she couldn’t remember, and it hurt too much to look down to see if there was blood on the fabric.

She had to get out of here, away from Truc, before he killed her. She had thought this before, dozens of times, every time he beat the shit out of her, and once, about a year ago, she’d even left for a while, made it as far as Tacoma, but in the end he found her and she came back because she had nowhere else to go, and really, this was what she expected in her life. It was what she’d always had.

But she wasn’t young anymore, was old, in fact. Her bones broke so easily these days, and what if one of these times she hit the wall and her spine just snapped?

Do it.

She crept past him to the bedside table and fumbled shakily through his wallet, where she found three twenties. Fisting the money, she knew it would only make it worse for her if she didn’t get away, but she would get away this time. She had to.

As quietly as she could, she took a step.

The floor squeaked and Truc made a sound in his sleep and rolled toward her.

She froze, her heart pounding, but he didn’t wake up. Releasing her breath, she gathered up her two important belongings—a ragged, falling-apart macaroni-and-bead necklace and an old black-and-white photograph. She put the necklace on and tucked the photograph into the pocket of her flannel shirt, buttoning the pocket to protect it.

She turned quietly on her unhurt foot and limped out of the room.

Outside, the dogs immediately sat up, watching her intently. Mount Rainer loomed not far away, its snowy peak lit by the moon.

“Shhh, boys,” she said, edging past them.

She was picking her way around the ripped old Barcalounger when the first one barked. She kept going, didn’t look back.

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