Paula Friedman

For Lucy

Well yeah, it’s not what you usually find between the snap peas and the new organic bean sprouts. I wasn’t buying veggies by intent, besides; I’d planned old-fashioned for tonight: small steaks (t-bone!), mashed potatoes, retro as a dog outside a picket fence signed “Lassie, come on home.”

Right. So there it was, all the while I was staring down the aisle and seeing Lucy, Lucy my beloved Lucy lass, so tiny, blond as chicken, soft as everything I wanted in a woman but, as happens when you come on your ideal, I wasn’t, as she told me, hers. Okay, and so I blinked and saw fluorescents. Saw the dimmed (to save Vanishing Resources!) pale lights; I saw the frozen chickens far away, and turkeys, baby quail, ducks, red-blue canned goods stacked beyond on pallid shelves. Again I blinked, tears to my lashes, thinking Lucy, Lucy, I’d have loved you, loved our baby (we’d have had a baby), I could have been good to you. Reblinked. Looked down.

It was there.

A month old? Two? Three weeks? At any rate, alone. Unblanketed—or rather, wrapped in a yellow fleecy thing. And waving, as if cilia, its little and no-way chubby (I hate them chubby) arms.

“Goo-goo.” Who said “goo-goo”? Not I. Oh no not I, said the father to the sky. Up to the sky, the camera like an eye, eye high up in the sky—or on a scaffold, maybe, there behind those tiles along the ceiling panels, watching, yes; was anybody watching? “Goo,” I answered, decided.

My neckerchief was like a cowboy’s, red white green. I twisted it away, kept back my head, and held my shoulders down. No hunching, nothing one bit strange—ohno no way I’d give away the game. I bagged my bean sprouts, put two heritage tomatoes in a green organic produce sack, picked up the child wrapped in its fleecy, squeezed it tight, and, looking neither left nor right, took three steps to the main aisle onward toward the check-out stand.

O Lucy, Lucy, what I’ve got (I glanced around but only quickly, just enough to see no mama stirred). O Lucy, Lucy lovely, what I’ve found us. Love, O squeeze again, our miracle.

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Paula Friedman’s stories and poems have received a Pushcart nomination and awards and honors from New Millenium Writings, Red/Green Press, Oregon State Poetry Association, etc., and have appeared in Earth’s Daughters, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Future Is Short: SF Microstories, Out of Line, and over 50 other literary journals. Ursula Le Guin called Friedman’s first novel (The Rescuer’s Path) “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic”; Cheryl Strayed termed it “humane, vivid, and wise.” Friedman edits books for university presses and formerly directed the Rosenberg Awards in Jewish Poetry and founded/facilitated the Open Cell literary review/collective.