Lucy Madison’s life is spinning out of control. After her grandfather crashes his motorcycle for the last time, this frustrated artist is left picking up the pieces (not to mention holding the ashes). But fulfilling his dying wish of befriending his pregnant girlfriend turns out to be even less fun than she expected. Add to that the return of her, uh, unstable brother, the tyranny of her nasty roommate, and the fact that boyfriend number whatever, has turned out to be Mr. Not in This Lifetime, and Lucy knows it’s time to switch cycles.
Good thing Grandpa left her his launderette. It’s the perfect place to sort through her mess, focus on her art and start fresh. Isn’t it?
|Publisher:||Red Dress Ink|
|File size:||1 MB|
Read an Excerpt
"Your prince could show up anytime, anywhere." My mother's words. Words not to be discounted, I'd decided. It hadn't exactly been a bumper year in the man department. Winter had come with a vengeance and I spent a lot of time shivering under my duvet, finding true love and sensual thrills in hot paperbacks and the occasional Belgian chocolate hedgehog, emphasis on hog.
To make things worse, Anna the Viking, legs that never quit, mind that never started, had moved in the month before. Ours was one of those West End Vancouver apartments just off Davie Street, post-war Bauhaus sterile, nice hardwood floors, but with walls made of meringue. It became pretty clear after a couple of weeks that Anna was going to be the star of an ongoing Bonkfest that I would have to endure through the connecting wall of our bedrooms. Anna was from Sweden and had men. . . and more men, and I don't think conversation ever blighted her relationships. But none of them were THE ONE, because she would have stuck with him for more than a night. Let's face it; it takes energy to find THE ONE, and I mean the kind of man who can walk, talk, dress himself and doesn't have his finger up his nose while sitting alone in his car waiting for the light to change.
I was running on empty that winter. Too long out of university to consider myself a student, I was determined not to run with my tail between my legs to my parents' mind numbingly tranquil suburb of Cedar Narrows. What would I do in Cedar Narrows anyway? It had all the vestiges of a self-sufficient town: shopping malls, cinemas, brand-new homes for families of ten, churches, schools, more shopping malls; it had everything but a soul of its own. For me it had always been like one huge waiting room in a train station. The last stop before the real city.
So I'd given in to financial pressure and let Anna move in. With her ThighMaster, her mini-trampoline and her G-string. I tried turning the heat right down but she still paraded mostly naked around the living room.
For the Viking's share of the rent, I'd packed up what had been my studio into cardboard boxes and toted it all downstairs to the storage rooms. It was like locking my children away. Okay, ugly and deformed children, but my children nonetheless. Besides, how could I call myself an artist when I wasn't even making art?
Not only was I a non-artist, but it had been so long since I'd had a decent relationship that I was considering the possibilities of romance on distant shores. I was still worth a couple of camels, at least.
There had been Frank, the "writer," the year before, but he didn't qualify as a decent boyfriend. He hadn't even been a diamond in the rough. He was a zircon, emphasis on con, and it was because of him that I was forced to rent the spare room to Anna.
Frank had all the requirements of a writer, the B.A. in English, the promising first half of a first novel rewritten a hundred times then abandoned for the first half of another promising first novel. He had the permanent three-day growth of beard, the scruffy corduroy jacket, the scotch and Gauloise halitosis, not to mention the scumbag buddies who always seemed to be flopping on my couch for the night. And could he talk! But lately, he confided in me, he was suffering from some kind of burnout or writer's block. He just couldn't seem to commit all those fine words to paper, just couldn't push past it. That would have required hard work and hard work, as I found out too late, wasn't really Frank's line. My bank account and I were relieved to be rid of him.
My only source of income was my job at Rogues' Gallery in Gastown. Over the four years I'd worked there, it had lost its glamorous sheen. I was still getting minimum wage and still being called the assistant manager, a term that meant glorified gopher. Being a gopher for my boss, the oh-so-miraculously thin Nadine Thorpe, meant an exaggerated number of trips to all the delicatessens and pastry shops in the neighborhood. But more about that later.
My situation was so tragic that winter that I even flirted with the idea of exploiting what little suppleness remained in my bod, a plumpish but pleasant twenty-nine-year-old bod, to find some rich old codger who would set me up as his bit of naughty. At least then I'd have a studio. But I just didn't have it in me. My parents, in spite of all the odds against it, had brought me up with moral fiber, as well as plenty of the other kind.
And it snowed a lot that year, something that doesn't happen often on the West Coast. The sky loomed steely gray then dumped far more than was needed to make the scene quaint. Heavy snowfalls would have been okay if it had been my dream life, the one where me and some gorgeous heterosexual man are walking through the white wonderland discussing post-post-modernism, then returning home to drink brandy in front of the fireplace that my apartment didn't have. Instead, it went on and on. The dark days of work at Rogues' Gallery, mounting dreary exhibits by gay friends of Nadine's, the works all heavily concentrated on the male member, Nadine drawling at me in her phony English accent to get the phalluses erected, then ordering me out to slip and slide through the slush to the bakery to get her daily ration of a couple dozen pastries; then the dark nights of insomnia, the Viking and her conquests sloshing and moaning in the waterbed next door, and me, with the pillow over my head trying not to listen.
And then one morning, I looked out my window, and the sun was shining. Not that brittle, illusive midwinter sun, but the sun you can feel when you've turned the corner into spring, the warming hardworking sun. I made myself a cappuccino and sat down to enjoy it at the kitchen table, thinking, good, now the snow is melting, the ground is showing through, the winter is finally over. And then the phone rang.
"Lucy." It was my father.
"Hi, Dad. How're things?"
"It's Jeremy." Jeremy was my father's father. My favorite grandfather.
"What about Jeremy?"
"He's dead." My father's tone was odd, like Jeremy deserved what he got.
I couldn't speak and when enough silence had gone by, my father said, "They tell me he was doing at least a hundred on his Harley. He went into a ravine up the coast. The funeral's the day after tomorrow."
"Will you be there?" I asked.
"I haven't decided yet."
"Your prince could show up anytime, anywhere." In which case it was going to be a beautiful day for a funeral. Going on the principle that our mothers can be right from time to time, I decided that if my prince was going to be there, I was going to make sure he didn't miss me. I look good in black, and thanks to my old university friend, Sky Robertson, I had the clothes.
Sky manages the Retro Metro Boutique for the owner, Max Kinghorn. Max lives in Seattle and is hardly ever there, so Sky has a free hand.
She and I share the same tastes in a lot of things, especially clothing. We have other worlds in our heads. One of them is black-and-white, with sleek women in well-tailored suits or dresses cut on the bias, men in tuxedos looking as though they were born in them and not jerking and straining as if they were dressed in straidackets. In our fantasy world, everyone gets to smoke, sip martinis and live in gleamingly smooth Art Deco high-rise apartments with views of bustling but not yet ruined cities glittering below. In our dreams.
Sky really pushes the Metro chic, the tough but sexy businesswonian. I think she pushes it too far. She doesn't want to be like her mother. Sky's mother went to Woodstock and spent the rest of her life paying for it. Both Sky and her name are souvenirs from those three days of music and muck.
Sky saves nice pieces that she knows will fit me, like the clothes I wore that day to the funeral. It was a little fifties number, maybe worn once by its original owner, a black wool crepe suit, jacket with three-quarter sleeves and velvet quite chic collar and cuffs, tightish skirt with a little kick pleat at the back. Jeremy would have approved of the black fishnet stockings and stiletto heels.
The day of the funeral, I got dressed, then went into the bathroom to work on my hair. Every day is a bad hair day for me because my hair is red, and curly, and if I'm not careful with it, it ends up looking like a bush. I keep it pruned to shoulder length and with enough gel and mousse and whatnot, I can make it cooperate.
Anyway, the bathroom, door was open and the Viking strode in and out, amused by me, a sneering little smile creeping into one corner of her mouth. There are women who undress to make a good impression and women who cover up every inch of themselves to make a good impressions considered myself to be in the second category, believing that if I were five foot eleven with mile-long gleaming sinewy bronze limbs I, too, would stride around the house naked, planning my next bone-crunching assault on the male population.
Anna depressed me. She reminded me of how much dieting, depilation and general suffering I had to go through to make myself desirable. I consoled myself with the fact that she still couldn't put together a proper English sentence, although she'd been in Canada for over two years. She had something to do with sports development in the physical education department at the university, but she'd never specified which sport, or how it was being developed. I had a few ideas though.
When I was ready, I called a cab. It was an extravagance, and I knew it, but I was going to remember Jeremy in style. I was going to take a little break from my miserable, penny-pinching daily life. When I got there, I paid the cabby, stood up straight, saying to myself, I am beautiful, I am beautiful, and walked through the cemetery gates. I must have looked quite chic until I hit the patch of snowy grass and my stiletto heels sank deep into the wet earth. I had to creep on tiptoes the rest of the way. By then Jeremy's death had become a reality and any attempt at being beautiful and finding the prince my mother was always yattering about, was going to be marred by the mascara streaming down my face. I missed the old scoundrel and couldn't stop blubbering like a baby when the moment of truth came.
At the graveside, there were quite a few people to see him off on his last big ride, so to speak. A number of women, all different types and ages, old girlfriends. A few older men in very natty suits standing at a distance. His real pals clustered close around the hole to watch the glittering heap of wrecked metal be lowered into the ground.
His friends had names tattooed on their fat, hairy, leather-bound arms, names like Spike, Snake, Muncher and Brewbelly. Instead of tossing flowers, they guzzled beer from tins, crushed and tossed the empties onto the corpse of the Harley, and belched with a lot of commitment and respect. A biker's ten-gun salute.
Jeremy's remains, on the other hand, had already been cremated. As far as I knew, there was no will, but his buddies knew how he wanted it all to be done. They were paying for the funeral.
My parents were there, too, my father being his only child, or at least the only legally recognized child. But they had no intention of coming nearer or joining the boozy group. They lurked behind some poplar trees, pretending to be part of someone else's interment a few yards away. From time to time, they sneaked distressed peeks in the direction of our group of geriatric rabble-rousers, then looked away before anyone could catch them at it.
My father is terminally conservative. He's the principal of Cedar Narrows Senior Secondary School, wears sock suspenders, and has spent most of his life in a state of mortification and denial over his biker dad. If he'd been born later, he would have been one of those kids that tries to get a divorce from their parents. I gather his mother, my grand-mother, was a biker babe. She abandoned them, found a bigger, badder man with a bigger, badder machine and ran off, leaving Jeremy to look after a newborn baby.
Jeremy was pretty amazing. He managed to raise my father and make a life for himself. He had a little income from his Laundromat business and so could devote himself exclusively to his son, and the gang on weekends and summer holidays.
And my father actually did okay until he hit thirteen and decided he didn't want to be who he was anymore. He started hanging out with the leaky-pen crowd at school, got religion, one of the noisier ones that involves near-drowning in a baptismal font the size of an Olympic pool, and became mortally tedious.
He met my mother at a church social. The joke was on him though. My mother, a resourceful woman at heart, was there under false pretenses, just trying things out, trolling different waters looking for a man. Over the years, she's been able to mess my father up a bit, making him a little less respectable. But she never really took to Jeremy, who kept making passes and lewd propositions.
My parents live in the 'burbs. My mother's idea of an orgasm is making Rice Krispie squares, vacuuming the beige wall-to-wall carpet and securing the plastic covers on the living room furniture. My father's is finding all his pens and pencils lying exactly the way he left them. He's a control freak. He goes to Mars if anybody moves his pens and pencils.
It wasn't that my father hated Jeremy. He just didn't know what to do with him. I adored Jeremy because he had taught me how life could be exciting in unexpected ways. He was always ready to see the funny side of things and never too interested in control. And when I started going to university, before I had an apartment of my own, he let me hold parties in his big old house.
I had trouble with Connie, though, Jeremy's last live-in.
Connie was at the funeral, too, standing a little apart from everyone, but still close to the grave. I just couldn't like her. Maybe it was because she was only four years older than me. Jeremy was over seventy when he died. I thought Connie was a gold digger. A gold digger who'd made a mistake because Jeremy wasn't rich. Her hair was big and platinum and when Jeremy wasn't looking at her, her face became haggard and hard. Her fashion sense was Las Vegas pro. That day she was wearing a red leather pantsuit, and frankly, she shouldn't have been because those tight pants made her look fat. She'd been with Jeremy for the last six years but she was rarely around when I got together with him. I guess he sensed my discomfort, as well as hers.
It would probably all go to Connie, whatever Jeremy had left. The big ramshackle Victorian house near Commercial Drive, his other bikes and the launderette. The building the launderette was in had five apartments. The rents from four of them would go to Connie. But there'd be no rent from the ground-floor apartment. And if Jeremy had arranged things the way he'd intended, she wouldn't be able to sell the launderette. Not in Bob's lifetime.
Bob was the tenant in the ground-floor apartment. He'd lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle accident and Jeremy had given him a lifelong rent-free lease. Bob managed the launderette and overhauled the washers and dryers when they needed it. I'd heard Jeremy promise Bob that the launderette would always be there for him.
When the funeral was over, the gang invited me to join them for a farewell brew to Jeremy at the Eldorado Hotel, a charming place where the cockroaches have running tabs. But I declined. I had to get back to work. Snake, the gang's leader, gave me a bear hug that nearly crushed my ribs and said, "Luce, he wanted you to have this." He thrust a paper bag into my hand. The thing inside was about the size and shape of a soup tin.
I thanked Snake and walked toward the cemetery gates. There were a few cabs idling nearby. I waved brightly to my parents and got into one, clutching the paper bag tightly. Once we were moving, I opened the bag. Inside, there was a small brass container with tape sealing the lid. I knew what it contained, but to be sure, I peeked, then closed the top quickly. Jeremy's ashes. I put the urn back in the bag.
When I got to the gallery, nobody was around but there were men's and women's voices coming from Nadine's office. A man was saying something and the women were laughing uproariously. I hung up my coat, took the urn out of the bag and set it on my desk, then entered Nadine's office. I couldn't believe it. My mother was right about princes showing up. There he was.
Copyright © 2003 Betsy Burke
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
this was absolutely the stupidest book I have ever read (or in this case, tried to read) I read 50 pages of it and couldnt take it any longer. Very "busy" with the dumbest plot lines and something always always running at you--to the point it becomes unrealistic. Stooopid. Waste of time and money. No wonder it is selling for only 25 cents. And that is 25 cents too much. I seldom comment on a book but this deserves big red flag.
A friend bought this for me just because my name was in the title. I laughed along finding that it's not just me but every Lucy out there has ridiculous troubles. A great read.
I thought this book was not a bad choice and I would recommend it to other people. The character was rather interesting and held my attention whereas the entire story held my attention. I was really interested in Lucy and Connie as characters and their entire interaction throughout the novel. I believe this was a decent book/read.
This book has a great concept. When I read the back of it, I thought to myself 'Man! this is going to be a great book.' The truth is though, it is an okay book. It took a VERY long time to actually get to all the good stuff and it took even LONGER for me to really see who Lucy was. There are a lot of characters in this book, so many so, that they were being introduced almost all the way through the book. I also found myself routing for the main love interest to not be the guy that Lucy gets because frankly, I didn't like him. Once you get past the 1st two-thirds of the book you finally get to the good stuff and the read picks up, but overall, I was really disappointed. This is my first RDI book that disappointed me... I can honestly say that I will still read Besty Burke's next book though.
I loved this book and couldnt put it down. I'd love to see a 'part II'. It's a great, light read.
I picked up this book. I enjoyed it. The could be better part was the ending . I felt the author could have written more. the book also was to short I read in one day. I would love to see lucy's part two or more books by this author