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Looking For Lucy

by Doz 

Posted: 22 October 2004
Word Count: 3024
Summary: First chapter of a novel, but could also be a stand-alone short story.

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Looking for Lucy.

1. Painted Lady

Coming down the red-carpeted steps he joined the river. A black river of bobbing, glossy crowns that flowed from the exhibition centre like an oil slick in the English Channel. Hong Kong was not that hot in late April, but steamy, oh so steamy, and it hit you as you left the aircon of the exhibition foyer. A cold beer would be more than welcome. Doubly so as it was Happy Hour for the next three hours, after which the price of a pint went from a reasonable twenty seven Hong Kong dollars to a mind numbing sixty or seventy. It called for some serious drinking in order to keep the profiteers at bay, but he felt he was up to it; the flight wasn’t until midnight. A cold shower to sluice the sweat away and a change of soggy hipster briefs were competing to be first on the list, but what were the odds of passing seventeen bars and their persistent hucksters before the hotel loomed into sight?
Not that he was a heavy drinker. No. The metabolism wasn’t suited to the twelve pints a night squad. Nor was the pocket. There’s no mileage in pissing your funds up against a wall night after night. He learnt that from his father. Well, not exactly from his father, more from the example that his father set. Twelve pints of Guinness a night. Every night. Until he hit the cirrhotic abyss at the age of forty-nine. Not that he was any great loss after giving his wife and son a lifetime of abuse. It was more of a release, a burden lifted, a sigh of relief.
Although to be fair, this trip was costing him nothing. Not a cent. Not a brass razoo. A trifecta at Rosehill had paid for the flight and the hotel and then some. A fair bit some. So don’t let’s be too Calvinistic on this point. A couple of drinks wouldn’t go astray. Nor would four or eight for that matter, before he braved cattle class back to Sydney. Mind you, if he hadn’t have struck it with his last fifty, he would’ve been doomed to a month or two of pauperism, a Titanic struggle to pay rent, car loan and assorted luxuries like food, not to mention grog.
He tucked in behind a black suited figure, hair down below her shoulders. Incredibly black and screamingly healthy. He ran his hand through his own limp, sparse and inexorably receding follicular survivors. Nuked by a combination of genes and hair shampoos the strands lay limply like gossamer across his sweating skull. A will-o’-the-wisp, hair today, gone tomorrow. Have to get a haircut soon. Maybe he should get it cut weekly. Who was the American recluse… was it Howard Hughes, who had his hair cut every day until it was standing up like the bristles on a hairbrush by the time he was seventy. Mind you, by the time you’re seventy you probably need more than healthy hair to pull the birds. But there again, seeing as he had a zillion dollars to his name, he could’ve pulled practically any bird in the world, hair or no hair. And then of course, there was the American movie star who claimed that his hair was still aggressively healthy at the age of fifty plus, due to his nightly habit of tugging handfuls of it in order to promote blood circulation. He winced at the thought, visualising a filigree of precious dun coloured hair adorning his pillow in the morning.
Not that he was bald. No. Just that the hairline seemed to be relentlessly receding. Not at a great rate, but in a sly, insidious manner that caught you unawares. Suddenly the shocking truth of a photo told you that the tide had ebbed a further half-inch or so. Bastard. Was it too late to strengthen hair at the age of forty-five? Probably. Nothing got stronger at that age bar bad breath, B.O. and melancholy. But then, why was it that the hair on your head fell out faster than troops deserted Saddam’s army but the hair on your ears, nose, arse, eyebrows and around your dick sprouted with renewed vigour each passing day? And this wasn’t normal hair. No. It was indestructible; you pulled it out by the roots, and six weeks later it was back, longer, thicker and more luxurious than before, this super hair, this Kryptonian hair.
And is if hair loss wasn’t bad enough, he’d started to go grey. Nothing dramatic yet, just a sprinkling at the temples and around the back. He’d cut them out, as best he could with a razor, and pulled the eyebrow insurgents with tweezers, but to his horror, he’d recently noticed grey pubic hairs. Was nothing sacred?
Genetics could have something to do with it. In this case the sins of the mother – being born to a father with a hair loss problem – were passed on to the son. He could vaguely recollect from his very early youth seeing an old man, after a long train journey to Scotland, with a fringe of white hair circling a bald skull, no doubt the follicle bequeather. Not that the paternal side of the family had been of any more help. A Brylcremed quiff that was attacked in a pincer movement in middle age until it surrendered unconditionally before it reached its 45th birthday.
A narrow waist led down to a pert arse. Two watermelons fighting to get out of a black cotton/polyester 80/20 prison. Gorgeous. He tried to visualise her walking action if she were naked. The gentle contiguity, thigh upon thigh, lip upon lip. Was it true that Asian women had no pubic hair? He doubted it. Probably more like Indian women. Lustrous black, rivulets of hair halfway down the thighs. Something to smother your face in before parting the waves.
Mind you, Tricka was no slouch when it came to the cot. A bagful of tricks that caused a stirring down below. Although, come to think of it, he’d noticed a definite cooling of late, a ho-hum reaction to his hand slipping between her legs. And just as disconcerting: her nipples didn’t harden any more; maybe five years had taken its toll. But let’s be honest: the only thing on his mind at this moment was Lucy. She was the sole reason for him being in Hong Kong. She was the sole reason for him spending his hard earned winnings, his grudging payout from the Shylocks who’d taken many pounds of flesh over the years. Bookies were like bad wives: they drained you financially and spiritually, sucking the very blood from your body in return for a rare, oh so rare, ten seconds of ecstasy.
The river wended its way, through office buildings and covered walkways to pedestrian footbridges: from icy aircon 18 degrees to out door 28 plus 99% humidity. At intersections parts of the river wheeled to the right or the left, Spitfires seeking a foe. But they were quickly replaced by newcomers, and the river flowed on, through plush, carpeted tranquillity to the traffic roar and the smells of Hong Kong: body odour, drains, sewage, incense and above all, food.
Not that he’d fall into the marriage trap again, oh no. Tricka gave him everything a wife could offer. Well, almost. Let’s face it she could be a bit of a bitch, tended to sulk for days on end. Moody. Objected to him coming home pissed. Not that it happened all that often, not since he passed forty. And other little things like say, peeing in the shower and looking at other women, something that all men did (looking at other women, that is).
Of course, this Hong Kong trip had not gone down well with Tricka. Ostensibly a trip to see Roo play rugby against an expat side, she had sensed that there was more to it than a five day piss-up plus one footy game. She was smart, was Tricka.
She was moving fast, weaving and checking, ducking and diving, cutting and carving her way along the clacking river. He lengthened his stride to keep up with her, jostling his way through the pack until he was directly behind her again. She had a trade fair carry bag that looked to be full of brochures in her right hand and an expensive looking leather shoulder bag on the other side. He caught a glimpse of her face in profile, a strong chin and a full mouth. He liked a full mouth on a women; it showed character and a sense of humour, unlike the small-mouthed small-minded, querulous women he’d tangled with in the past. And eyes, oh, eyes of the deepest brown, almost black, framed by the black curve of narrow eyebrows. Almond eyes, no not almond shaped but fuller, rounder, eyes to die for. Maybe there was something in the dash of the tar brush dictum. Milky coffee coloured skin leading to the silky blackness of the mons Veneris before reaching the darkest place of all. A delicious cordon bleu concoction. A small butterfly adorned the back of her right hand, either a temporary or permanent tattoo, maybe collected from the trade fair, maybe one of a number of body adornments. Now there’s a body of art worth studying. She was tall for an Asian, a little taller than him. Maybe the slightest dash of European blood.
Not that he was tall. No. Severe rickets as a child had put paid to his yearning to be taller than his father’s 5’11’. In fact it’d condemned him to a measly five and a half feet or so, another genetic millstone added to a necklace that would’ve crippled Hercules. Then of course, he had to contend with asthma, shortsightedness and legs like broom handles. Not to mention a pasty, acne prone complexion. Oh to be six foot two with thighs and biceps like tree trunks and a full head of black, Kryptonian hair.
But his overriding concern at this point in time was Lucy. The sole reason he was in Hong Kong was Lucy. The deal was that he meet her at the exit to the trade fair at four that afternoon, and they could then spend the next four or five hours together, well worth the six thousand mile trip. And the six thousand miles back. She was on a tight schedule, spending only the one-day in Hong Kong before flying on to Tokyo for two days, then back home to England. And there he was, at the exit at three forty, despite a crushing hangover. And there he stayed, until the trickle of departees became a flood at around six. And she never showed. The whole three days and four grand wasted; down the tube, never to return. Bitch. Fucking bitch.
What a body blow, what a face-in-the-shitter, eighteen-carat kick up the arse. Not to worry, he’d had a good time with Roo and the rest of the team. Two nights of trawling the bars of Wan Chai until the early hours. Christ knows how Roo and the others had managed to walk on the field yesterday morning, let alone actually win by four points. Constitutions of stainless steel, the lot of them. Mind you, the other lot were no spring chickens; pommie expats, many of them carrying excess baggage that would’ve seen them barred from Qantas or BA.
He drew alongside her. Pretty. Very pretty. It called for a pass of some sort. Time was running short. She glanced at him. The fleetest glance. A nanosecond. Perhaps half. Was it too short a glance to detect interest? But no, a glance was a glance.
He turned to her and simultaneously found himself cannoning into a man mountain. A turbaned Sikh who towered over him had appeared from nowhere, coming against the flow of the river and blocking his path. He looked up at a smiling bearded face; a giant in a blue suit, red tie and white shirt showing speckled signs of last night’s vindaloo.
‘I’m most terribly sorry sir, please be forgiving me for my clumsiness, but I had to stop you and tell you sir, tell you that I see great fortune in your face, great fortune’.
Ha! A bloody fortune-teller, just what he needed. Push past the bastard and move on, he had enough problems. But there again…he had a lot of time for Indians; they seemed to be one of the more courteous races of the world. None of this arrogance that you experienced with many other nationalities nowadays. Humour the man, let him have his say.
‘Sir, I have to tell you that you have had some good and some bad luck recently, but your fortunes are going to be changing for the better, much, much better, believe me sir.’
The river eddied past them, and she was swallowed up, gone forever. Shit, what was he doing, listening to this drivel?
‘Sir, I can see that your fortunes will improve gradually over the next two or three months, but you will have great fortune in September, believe me sir, great, great fortune.’
He glanced at his Swatch, nearly six-thirty. Valuable drinking time was drifting by and there was no way he’d be able to get a shower without a sizable bribe, being long past the check-out time. He made a forward movement.
The Sikh moved slightly, not aggressively, but just enough to bar his way. ‘But sir, I can see that you are not believing me, which saddens me greatly, and in order to convince you of my abilities I will give you this proof.’
As he spoke he took a small writing pad out of his inside jacket pocket along with a pen and wrote something down. He tore a part of the sheet off and crumpled it in his hand until it was a small ball of paper. He handed it across, saying ‘Sir, I want you to hold this very tightly in your left hand for me.’
Ah, the winner of the three-thirty at Happy Valley tomorrow no doubt. He clenched it firmly in his left hand, content to give him another two minutes.
‘Now sir, I am a yogi, and we yogi’s have the power to see into the future, but only with certain people, people in who’s face we see certain things, and your face is such a one, and I can tell you that there is great fortune in your face, great fortune…
If he were to forego the shower and change of clothes, it would leave him say, three hours drinking time, which would take you to 9.30…
…And our family have always been yogi’s, for many generations, sir, many generations, and I can tell you…
…that would leave him half an hour to pick up his luggage…
…Skills that only the yogi’s possess, the power to see into the future, the power to foretell certain events and various fortunes and misfortunes that may befall…
…and catch the express MTR to the airport…
…So many people that I have assisted not only here in Hong Kong but…
…which would take about 25 minutes…
…Currently travelling the world spreading the word of the yogi which is…
…so in reality, he could probably stretch drinking time to around 10…
...And hope and enrichment, so I would ask you...
…and still be there an hour before take-off, maybe a little more...
...although, what with all these bomb threats they would prefer that you arrived far earlier...
‘Sir? Your lucky number?’
He had the pad in his hand again with pen hovering. Lucky number? He didn’t have a lucky number, every horse that he backed, regardless of number, was usually unlucky. But here’s an opportunity to put this persistent prick in his place. Of all the numbers, four had to be his unluckiest number. Four was certain to be a loser, guaranteed to be unlucky. He’d never, to his recollection had a win on four, be it lottery, horse, dog or pools. Why he ever backed four was a mystery. It was a loser. No wonder the Chinese refer to it as death.
‘Ah, four. And now sir, what would be your favourite flower?’
Favourite flower? What man had a favourite flower? May as well ask a man what his favourite colour was, or his favourite curtain material, or his favourite lipstick. Some of the camellias were beautiful, so were lilies, orchids…the most beautiful was probably the rose, although the plant itself was ugly. Yes, as flowers themselves go, it has to be the rose. But let’s not make it too easy, in fact, let’s make it impossibly hard. He thought for several seconds until an image came into his mind, yes, there was a huge display of flowers at the trade fair reception area where he’d been kicking his heels for two hours or more…irises, yes, it was a big bunch of irises, something that no man would choose as his favourite, surely.
‘Well look, I don’t really have a favourite flower, not something I would call a favourite, sorry.’
‘Sir, it doesn’t matter, any flower you like, any flower at all, anything.’
‘Eress. Now, tell me sir, how are you spelling this, e, r, e…’
‘No, no, i, r.’
‘Sorry sir, i, r, e...
‘No, i, r, i, s.’
‘Please excuse my clumsiness sir, i, r, i, s, now I think I have it. Now then sir, would you please be good enough to show me what is written on the piece of paper in your left hand.’
He took the sweaty ball of crumpled paper from his fist where it had been tightly clenched for the last ten minutes or so and carefully unravelled it. Carefully smoothed it out, read it and re-read it, focussed and re-focussed. His mouth went dry; he actually experienced a moment of giddiness, his knees weakened slightly. He stood staring at the slip of creased paper, this tablet from the mount. In clear, well-formed letters it simply said:


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Comments by other Members

tonouno at 14:02 on 23 October 2004  Report this post
Well written piece by a formitable writer. It's difficult in this cybermedium to really get a handle on what it would be like to read it properly formatted on paper (much to the chagrin of our remaining trees.) It wants to be a book I gather, and go for it. Check out my work on www.piscesbooks.com and the new Las Vegas story posted here just today. Do it, Doz, and I think you should WRITE THE BOOK!

Nell at 16:32 on 26 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Doz, and welcome to WriteWords and Fiction 11. I found this an interesting and well-written piece - there are a few typos but I think you'll find them easily enough. Some good descriptions here too. You've given the reader a lot of information about your MC in this first chapter, and possibly some sections could benefit from a little judicious editing - it's particularly important in the early pages to not only to hook your reader but to give them no chance to fall off that hook. I'm thinking in particular of the hair section which seemed to go on for too long. After that however, things suddenly picked up with glimpses of his complex and exotic sex life. I noticed that you often use the device of making a statement and following it with '....not that...' or partially modifying/qualifying it it in some way, and this became noticable after a while. Perhaps there are other ways to impart the same information. Just my opinion - see what others think. I love the way you've left the chapter on a cliffhanger, and the mystery of the letters on the crumpled paper. Write on!


Salty at 11:57 on 27 October 2004  Report this post
Doz, welcome to fiction II.

I enjoyed reading this, and perhaps this is me being picky, but I will make a suggestion about formating. Try reading some of the other work on the site to pick up tips on spacing, it just seems to make the work easire to digest.

I look forward to reading more of your work.


Heckyspice at 14:15 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Doz,

Welcome to the group. I have just managed to get round to reading your first chapter. Nell is right, some decent editing would make this flow better. Certainly there is too much repetition about hair both scalp and pubic, stuff like this only detracts from the core of the story. Smaller and smarter observations would be help the pace. What we need to know is; who is Lucy? Why are they meeting?. The meeting with the yogi is tantalizing, perhaps if the yogi had been mentioned earlier , say the MC may have seen him hassling other passers-by and wanted to avoid him, then the skill of the yogi becomes more interesting.

I am sure that you have a lot of ideas to improve the story and no doubt we shall see them in due course. I hope that we see more of your work soon.

Best wishes,


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