Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

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Christopher Moore The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
  • Название:
    The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
  • Автор:
  • Жанр:
    Современная проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1998
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    4 / 5
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The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Autumn in the sleepy California town of Pine Cove is turned upside down by the arrival of a Mississippi Delta blues musician, a huge sea serpent drawn to the sound of the steel guitar, the explosion of a tanker truck at a gas station, and a mysterious trailer that shows up in the local trailer park.

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THE LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE

BY

CHRISTOPHER MOORE

This one’s for Mom

Prologue

September in Pine Cove is a sigh of relief, a nightcap, a long-deserved nap. Soft autumn light filters through the trees, the tourists go back to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Pine Cove’s five thousand residents wake up to discover that they can once again find a parking place, get a table in a restaurant, and walk the beaches without being conked by an errant Frisbee.

September is a promise. Rain will come at last and turn the golden pastures around Pine Cove green, the tall Monterey pines that cover the hills will stop dropping their needles, the forests of Big Sur will stop burning, the grim smile developed over the summer by the waitresses and clerks will bloom into something resembling real human expression, children will return to school and the joy of old friends, drugs, and weapons that they missed over the summer, and everyone, at last, will get some rest.

Come September, Theophilus Crowe, the town constable, lovingly clips the sticky purple buds from his sensimilla plants. Mavis, down at the Head of the Slug Saloon, funnels her top-shelf liquors back into the well from whence they came. The tree service guys, with their chain saws, take down the dead and dying pines lest they crash through someone’s roof with the winter storms. Woodpiles grow tall and wide around Pine Cove homes and the chimney sweep goes to a twelve-hour workday. The sunscreen and needless souvenir shit shelf at Brine’s Bait, Tackle, and Fine Wines is cleared and restocked with candles, flashlight batteries, and lamp oil. (Monterey pine trees have notoriously shallow root systems and an affinity for falling on power lines.) At the Pine Cove Boutique, the hideous reindeer sweater is marked up for winter to await being marked back down for the tenth consecutive spring.

In Pine Cove, where nothing happens (or at least nothing has happened for a long time), September is an event: a quiet celebration. The people like their events quiet. The reason they came here from the cities in the first place was to get away from things happening. September is a celebration of sameness. Each September is like the last. Except for this year.

This year three things happened. Not big things, by city standards, but three things that coldcocked the beloved status quo nonetheless: forty miles to the south, a tiny and not very dangerous leak opened in a cooling pipe at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant; Mavis Sand advertised in Songwriter magazine for a Blues singer to play through the winter at the Head of the Slug Saloon; and Bess Leander, wife and mother of two, hung herself.

Three things, omens if you will. September is a promise of what is to come.

Admitting You Have a Problem

“Dear, dear, how queer everything is today! And yesterday everything went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is: Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

— LEWIS CARROLL,

Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland

One

Theophilus Crowe

As dead people went, Bess Leander smelled pretty good: lavender, sage, and a hint of clove. There were seven Shaker chairs hung on pegs on the walls of the Leanders’ dining room. The eighth was overturned under Bess, who hung from the peg by a calico cloth rope around her neck. Dried flowers, baskets of various shapes and sizes, and bundles of dried herbs hung from the open ceiling beams.

Theophilus Crowe knew he should be doing cop stuff, but he just stood there with two emergency medical technicians from the Pine Cove Fire Department, staring up at Bess as if they were inspecting the newly installed angel on a Christmas tree. Theo thought the pastel blue of Bess’s skin went nicely with her cornflower-blue dress and the patterns of the English china displayed on simple wooden shelves at the end of the room. It was 7 A.M. and Theo, as usual, was a little stoned.

Theo could hear sobs coming from upstairs, where Joseph Leander held his two daughters, who were still in their nightgowns. There was no evidence of a masculine presence anywhere in the house. It was Country Cute: bare pine floors and bent willow baskets, flowers and rag dolls and herb-flavored vinegars in blown-glass bottles; Shaker antiques, copper kettles, embroidery samplers, spinning wheels, lace doilies, and porcelain placards with prayers from the Dutch. Not a sports page or remote control in sight. Not a thing out of place or a speck of dust anywhere. Joseph Leander must have walked very light to live in this house without leaving tracks. A man less sensitive than Theo might have called him whipped.

“That guy’s whipped,” one of the EMTs said. His name was Vance McNally. He was fifty-one, short and muscular, and wore his hair slicked back with oil, just as he had in high school. Occasionally, in his capacity as an EMT, he saved lives, which was his rationalization for being a dolt the rest of the time.

“He just found his wife hanging in the dining room, Vance,” Theo pronounced over the heads of the EMTs. He was six-foot-six, and even in his flannel shirt and sneakers he could loom large when he needed to assert some authority.

“She looks like Raggedy Ann,” said Mike, the other EMT, who was in his early twenties and excited to be on his first suicide call.

“I heard she was Amish,” Vance said.

“She’s not Amish,” Theo said.

“I didn’t say she was Amish, I just said I heard that. I figured she wasn’t Amish when I saw the blender in the kitchen. Amish don’t believe in blenders, do they?”

“Mennonite,” Mike said with as much authority as his junior status would afford.

“What’s a Mennonite?” Vance asked.

“Amish with blenders.”

“She wasn’t Amish,” Theo said.

“She looks Amish,” Vance said.

“Well, her husband’s not Amish,” Mike said.

“How can you tell?” Vance said. “He has a beard.”

“Zipper on his jacket,” Mike said. “Amish don’t have zippers.”

Vance shook his head. “Mixed marriages. They never work.”

“She wasn’t Amish!” Theo shouted.

“Think what you want, Theo, there’s a butter churn in the living room. I think that says it all.”

Mike rubbed at a mark on the wall beneath Bess’s feet where her black buckled shoes had scraped as she convulsed.

“Don’t touch anything,” Theo said.

“Why? She can’t yell at us, she’s dead. We wiped our feet on the way in,” Vance said.

Mike stepped away from the wall. “Maybe she couldn’t stand anything touching her floors. Hanging was the only way.”

Not to be outdone by the detective work of his protégé, Vance said, “You know, the sphincters usually open up on a hanging victim—leave an awful mess. I’m wondering if she actually hanged herself.”

“Shouldn’t we call the police?” Mike said.

“I am the police,” Theo said. He was Pine Cove’s only constable, duly elected eight years ago and reelected every other year thereafter.

“No, I mean the real police,” Mike said.

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