MARCH 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 3
SHARON LAFRENZ, a native of Portland, Oregon, is new to the Internet and "comparatively new to the writing world." She recently had her first story accepted for publication. A resident of Calgary, Alberta, LaFrenz is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine.
Moonlight on Lake Lotsahoochi
"Misery does love company, don't she," said the old fellow, nodding toward the other end of the small, dimly lit bar.
The bartender, Ruby, glanced at the two dishevelled women huddled together, their plaid flannel shirttails hanging out over their jeans, boots hooked into the legs of their barstools. Their ragged coats were piled on the stool beside them.
"I'll throw their butts out if they give me any more trouble like yesterday," said Ruby. "Hate to, though -- it's so damned cold out there. I may have to borrow Hal's blowtorch to get my car door open tonight."
Ruby lit a cigarette and glanced again at the two women. Tossing her thick black braid over her shoulder, she blew smoke toward the ceiling. Not my problem, she told herself.
The larger of the two women, Maxine, was saying, "You got your big ol' white poker chip moon, just hangin' up there in this ... blue-ink sky, with like about a zillion twinklin' stars, eh? 'N this whole glitzy, sparklin' picture is like ... mirrored in the still waters of Lake Lotsahoochi, 'n then --."
"Whoa! Excuse me?" said her friend, Trina, cutting Maxine off in mid-stream. "Lake Lotsahoochi? Ha! That's a good one!" Trina slapped the bar with her hand, threw her head back and laughed out loud. The few other patrons at Hal's Hideout that afternoon glanced in her direction, but Trina nor Maxine took any notice of them.
"You wanna hear about the night I met him or not?" said Maxine, her eyes narrowing to dark slits as she glared at Trina, who grinned and shook her head.
"The water was like glass that night," Maxine went on, "not a twitch of a breeze. We were like skinny dippin'; butt-naked, all of us."
"All of you?" Trina raised her eyebrows and leaned back on her barstool, nearly losing her balance. "How many were there?"
Brushing her limp, dark hair back from her forehead, Maxine took a sip of her drink and thought for a moment. "'Bout five or six, I guess."
"You guess? Maxine, you're tellin' me about the night you met the love of your life, in a lake called Lotsa-hoo-chi," Trina rolled her eyes, "with you-dunno-how-many butt-naked people?"
Maxine replied evenly, "I was already in the water, all by myself, when the others showed up."
"Weren't you afraid?"
"Nope. It was a group a' nice young guys 'n girls, real friendly-like -- polite 'n all, you know? 'N it was like ... such a beautiful night. It all seemed ... I dunno, natural-like."
"So what happened?" Trina asked, leaning her elbow on the bar and waiting for the rest of Maxine's story, which she'd been listening to most of the day. They were nursing their drinks, the last ones they had money for, trying to avoid the frigid weather as long as possible.
"Well, we all got to shootin' the bull, you know," Maxine went on. "Then after a while some of 'em started leavin'. Then it was just me 'n Graham." After a pause, Trina said, "And so?" Maxine had been telling her about Graham, about the long history of his lonely life, how he was a kind of holy man. He had the "gift," she'd said. When Trina had asked, "What gift?" Maxine had replied, "I'm gettin' to that part."
[ CONTINUED: the reprimand and the gift ]