Excerpt from Saint Catherine’s Baby – Stories.
LUCY IN THE SKY
The first gale of the season slammed inland from the frigid northwestern coast. It cut through her knotted muscles like a pickax breaking a block of ice. The howling wind attacked her defenseless anatomy with piercing needles of rain. There was no mercy. The cold didn’t care if she was animal, vegetable or mineral. It numbed her senses with fifty to sixty mile an hour gusts of furry; blowing her limber, toughened body two to three feet off the limb with each shot. If she hadn’t been watching the other branches submit to the storm’s passions and allowed her tiny ninety-eight pound figure to follow suit, she would have met a quick and lonely death. It was a sobering, hundred-foot fall from her precarious perch on high to the solid mass below.
Lucy had allowed the ancient redwood to keep her captive for six months. She saw no future in returning to earth’s sorry surface. Her short, twenty-six year old blond hair had turned white with constant exposure to the elements and the creases around her moss green eyes were etched deeply in her facial canvas. Her muscles felt like wet leather rope when she moved, slow as a koala, in the top third of the tree’s orbit. The numerous blisters on her hands and feet were covered with hardened calluses. The boils and scrapes on her face, neck and arms had left tiny blotches of fresh white skin where the scabs had completed their cycle and fallen with the trees flesh of decaying moss and bark.
She had first ascended the red giant in October, planning to stay for a few days, to protest government plans to cut down sections of her beloved, old-growth forest. When news of her action first hit the press she was barraged with admiration and contempt. Environmentalists thronged to her cause. Loggers and local mill-workers discounted her as a kook. Some came to hurtle insults, rocks and threats, but the distance and height gave her a cushion of immunity from both praise and defilement. What began as a single act of conscience had become a grueling marathon of determination, vigilance and stamina.
After the first weeks roar boiled down to a simmer and the journalists, ecologists and loggers went to fight other battles, Lucy remained embedded aloft in her swaying nest in the sky. Her good friend, Jenny, faithfully brought her essentials, including news and correspondence, three times a week. She bundled it all tightly in a large, green duffel bag, after replacing the empty containers Lucy let down by rope. Jenny wrote letters about her boyfriend, Zeek, and their latest breakup or fight. She told Lucy about recent rumors from Congress and various agreements to “protect” limit or sell “selective” acres for logging.
As the days began to shorten and weeks became months, Jenny pleaded with Lucy to reconsider her mission. “You’ve made your point,” she wrote. “Call it off. We need your help down here.”
The longer Lucy stayed, the more Jenny nagged. She didn’t mind the two-mile trek carrying in supplies week after week or the long absence of her room- mate. What had her worried and kept her awake at night were lingering images of Lucy’s face turning blue like frozen ice or finding her body splattered on the ground after a bone-breaking fall. She feared for her friend’s life, unable to understand that Lucy had never felt so alive. MORE