The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Part One – ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
Part Two – PEER PRESSURES
Part Three – A HIGHER POWER
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 Stir 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 dips 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. (Montereypine 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 toawait 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.
Part One – ADMITTING YOU HAVE
"Dear, dear, how queer everything is today! And yesterday everything went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in thenight? 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 questionIs: Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!" -Lewis Carroll,Alice 's AdventureIn Wonderland one Theophilus Crowe As dead people went, Bess Leander smelled pretty good: lavender, sage, and a hint of dove. 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
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