Lost and Foundling
The 747 touched down with a lurch and a bump. Its tires screeched for a moment on the concrete tarmac, and smoked an instant before they started spinning and supported the huge weight of the plane. Inside the cabin the sound of the tires was distant, nearly lost in the roar of the jet engines and the calculatedly reassuring rush of the air conditioning system.
The business-class passengers filed out into the air-conditioned airport, each quietly worried about his or her own private bits of the universe.
In the middle of the dispersing group, matching them stride for purposeful stride and worry for purposeful worry, a tall, redheaded woman just a few years over forty walked calmly.
She said nothing as she stood with all the others at the baggage claim. When the bags began to appear, the light of recognition dawned on her face. But a man in front of her startled her by picking up the suitcase she’d recognized and headed for the car rental booth. It happened several more times, with different bags and different people. Occasionally she frowned for just a moment before the next bag showed itself. Once she reached for a bag at the same instant as a woman next to her. Finally she recognized a bag that no one else recognized, and bent to pick up a suitcase with flower stickers all over it and wheels on the back. As she straightened up, she looked around, and started heading for the car rental booth. That was what people did after they picked up their luggage.
Rickety-clack, rickety-clack, rickety-clack, went the wheels of the suitcase behind her. She paused, and a frown flickered across her face. Then she began to walk again. Rickety-clack, Rickety-clack, rickety-clack…. She put her hand into her purse and found car keys there. Staring at them, she came to a halt. Then she turned and began walking again, this time headed for the parking garage.
Where had she put that parking receipt? She and a woman walking behind her pulled wallets out of their purses. The woman behind her found her parking receipt. The redhead frowned again, then put her own wallet away. A few moments later, she and a man near the baggage claim both patted their breast pockets, then pulled out the envelopes their tickets had arrived in. This time she found her receipt, but the man near the baggage claim remembered he’d put his in his suitcase.
She peered at the receipt. Long term parking. That was a different lot than the one she’d been headed for. She frowned for a moment again, then changed directions. She started walking again. Rickety-clack, Rickety-clack… she stopped, shook her head as though to clear it of cobwebs, and started again. Rickety-clack, rickety-clack. Finally she picked the suitcase up off the ground and the annoying noise stopped.
Eventually she tracked down the stall with her car in it. It was an ordinary, familiar car. There was a lot of stuff in the back, but that just made it homey. The car key fit. She got in and slowly threaded her way out of the airport, paying the attendant at the long-term parking lot just as the attendant expected her to, with the first credit card her fingers found in her wallet.
The car was familiar. And the city was familiar. It was flat, of course. There were no hills. Not like … Not like the city she’d been in. She frowned. What city had that been? She slowed down as she went through a bad neighborhood. She didn’t live here, did she? She’d thought she had, and all the houses seemed familiar, but…. No, she lived north. North past the lake, up the highway… and as she reflected on it, she knew how to get there. She turned, heading toward the canal and the highway.
Finally, she pulled up to a stop light on the way past Lake Pontchartrain, and an old black woman wearing faux gypsy clothes wandered up next to her car on the sidewalk. The light turned green, but the redhead didn’t move. The old woman on the sidewalk narrowed her eyes and stared, then cast a bundle onto the car’s windshield. The redheaded driver stared at it dumbly. Her mouth moved but no words came out. It was a leather bag containing who-knew-what, with feathers and colorful woven rags and a few dried weeds tied to it. And as Lucy had stared at it, the voices in her head had stopped.
Memories started to sweep over her, and other memories were pulled inexorably away. Lucy gasped and shook and cried as she came back to herself. “What the hell am I doing here?” she said finally. Her voice was soft and shaky. Behind her some cars started honking.
Next to the car, the old woman shook her cane back at the traffic behind Lucy. “Gib her a minnit!” she yelled through a toothless mouth. “I seed it happen befo, de Loa been ridin’ her an’ she jus’ got back, you fous!” She leaned over and snatched up the bundle, then made a sharp warding gesture against Lucy and scuttled off into the crowd.
Lucy started to drive home again. But this time she knew which home was her own. Jesus Christ, was that what it was like for Rose? She’d never really understood it before. And then she realized. “Oh my God. Rose,” she whispered.
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.