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Chapter Seven: Lucia

Everyone called Eloy and Lucia "the twins." This despite the fact that they were born on different days, to different mothers. They were inseparable nearly from birth. Their mothers had been the same way. Inés met Sonia in grammar school, and their friendship had never ebbed for a moment, to hear Inés tell it later. They had dated together, broken up together, married the same year, bought adjacent houses in the East Valley, found themselves pregnant the same summer. When Sonia came to Inés' door, face tear-streaked and holding a crumpled telegram from the Army, Inés scolded her. No, she was not going to be raising the baby alone. How could she think such a thing?

Lucia was born a week before Eloy. She never let him forget it. Eloy was only too happy to be bossed around. She only took advantage of it a little, ordering him to come out into the sunshine and play with her when he would otherwise have moped, hidden in the garage playing with clay.

On Sundays they rode their bikes. One day when they were five years old they made it all the way to Indian School Road, two miles away. It seemed the edge of the world to them, and Eloy was a little frightened. Beyond there be dragons, or Scottsdale, whichever came first. They turned around. They didn't tell their parents where they'd been. Around the corner was the library, a rented storefront with shelves to the ceiling. Lucia was already reading chapter books. Eloy liked the ones with pictures. They'd bring a few books home, and Lucia would read to Eloy, a chapter or two at a time, in the sparse shade of the arbor Eloy's father Jimmy had built.

One day, after a few weeks of her coaching him, Eloy read a whole chapter book aloud to Lucia out in the yard. At the end she squealed in delight, squeezed him and kissed him hard on the cheek.

One Friday evening Sonia dropped Lucia off at Inés', kissed her daughter, made her promise to behave. "You take it easy on Eloy, do you understand me?" "Yes, Mama." Sonia smiled indulgently. She went to the kitchen to speak with Inés for a moment, then gathered her purse and car keys, kissed her daughter again and Eloy as well for good measure. She went out the door, started the car. She drove off to meet her date.

She never came back.

Eloy fidgeted throughout the mass and the graveside service. He was restless to the point of panic during the dinner at Lucia's home. He wanted to sit with Lucia. Lucia was on the couch in the hallway with her grandmother Lupe, wearing a black veil, talking to no one. A stream of strangers came into the house bearing flowers and food. They patted Lucia's hair, spoke in low tones to Sonia's mother. Eloy felt the boredom threatening to overwhelm him. The bric-a-brac shelves beckoned. Sonia had collected salt and pepper shakers. One set was a pair of cats that mewed when you turned them over to season your food. Eloy made the cats cry over and over. Jimmy made him stop. "You're going to drive the women nuts with that," he told Eloy.

"When can we go home, Dad?" "It'll be a while longer, kid. Try and be patient. I know it's been a hard day. Go talk to Lucia," he said. "You haven't talked to her all day."

Eloy was sullen. He scuffed across the room, stood next to Lucia. He looked at his feet. Lucia looked at her knees, pressed together in black leotard on the couch. A distant cousin was asking Sonia's mother where Lucia would live. Eloy had not considered the notion that Lucia would move away. "With her uncle in Denver," said the old woman, "or perhaps in Hermosillo with Sonia's sister. It will be difficult. They have so little room." She sighed.

Lucia shrunk into herself, a black hole of grief. She sobbed. "I want my mama! Mama!" Old women rushed to surround her. They murmured consolingly, dabbing at their eyes with linen. Soon Lucia was crying in earnest.

"She is going to stay with me!"

The room fell silent. Two dozen pairs of eyes turned to Eloy.

"She is going to stay with me! She is not going away! Lucia will live with us in our house!"

Lucia's grandmother reached for him. "Mijito. We are all very sad today."

"You can't take her away!"

Lucia had stopped crying, almost. Her mouth was a bow, its ends pointing down. She looked at him fiercely, pleading.

Eloy would never forget that look. It cut through his six-year-old self-absorption. Grief-stricken as he was at the thought of losing her, feeling his need for her so keenly, the thought dawned behind his tears that she needed him even more.

"She's already staying with us. She already has her own room. She doesn't know anybody in Hermanseeo."

Inés moved to Eloy. "'Loito, that's enough. You're upsetting everyone."

Jimmy, his cheeks suddenly wet, stared wide-eyed at his son. He tried to speak. "You …" He choked on the words for a moment, coughed.

"You know, Eloy has a point."

"Jimmy."

"No, think about it. It makes sense, just for a while at least, until her family decides. We have the room, and she and Eloy…"

"We'll talk this over later."

"Sure, okay, I just wanted to say that... "

"Please, Jaime." Inés laid a palm on her husband's chest. This is not the time or the place. Please. We'll discuss it."

Jimmy nodded. He turned to Sonia's mother. "Tia Lupe, I'm sorry. I just... I'm sorry."

"No te preocupes, Jaime. You, Inés... you're family. I know you... Lucia, why don't you take Tio Jaime and Eloy outside for a while." The women set to talking.

Lucia stayed with Eloy, her twin.

The next summer they rented a cabin outside of Show Low, up in the pine forests atop the Mogollon Rim. Eloy had never seen the mountains so close at hand. He stared rapt at the landscape as the station wagon rolled through Superior, then Globe.

"Why are they called the Superstition Mountains?"

Lucia looked up from her book. "It's because of the Pima Indians. I read that. They didn't like to go in there. And the settlers thought it was because they were afraid of ghosts. Also there's a lost gold mine in there, I think."

They had come to the Salt River Canyon, a broad gash in the green and russet landscape. The road switchbacked down and down.

"I think there are ghosts in those mountains," Eloy said.

Lucia gazed for a long moment out at the Salt River, far below. "Me too."

The next day they were on the lake. Lucia came out of the cabin wearing her bathing suit, and Inés gasped. "Sweetheart, what did you do?"

"I didn't do anything!" "No, how did you get that bruise? Come here. Let me look." It was ugly and purple, near-rectangular. "Oh, honey, that's where you were sleeping on your book. But why would you bruise that way?"

"I don't remember, Aunt Inés."

Lucia was tired for the rest of the week.

She was in the hospital that Christmas, and Eloy whined to be taken to visit. Jimmy was doing a sinkful of dishes. "They don't let eight-year-olds visit the hospital, big guy. It's against the rules." Eloy sulked. "You can see her when she comes home next weekend."

"But I don't want to wait until next weekend!"

"I know, kiddo. I know. Hey, why don't you write her a letter? She's really bored in there, and the television hurts her eyes. I can take it to her tonight when you mother gets home."

Now that wasn't a bad idea, Eloy thought. He ran to his room, tore a page from his notebook, and wrote.

"Dear Lucia. How are you? I am fine. I want you to come home. I miss you so much. I looked at a map, and Indian School Road goes almost all the way to the [he went to the kitchen and asked his father for help spelling] Superstition Mountain Range. We could ride our bikes.

"Get well soon, love Eloy."

Lucia was gaunt the next weekend, deep purple crescents beneath each eye, a sickly pallor. Jimmy carried her from the car. Eloy was jubilant.

"Lucia! I got a book from the library to read to you! We could sit in the yard."

"I don't feel like it right now. Maybe tomorrow."

The next day Eloy sat by her bed, reading to her about the Lost Dutchman Mine.

By March Lucia was in the hospital more often than not. When she was home she mainly slept. The cancer had reached her bones, and she went from waking torment to morphine drowse and back again. Eloy picked a bunch of globemallow from the lot next door, took them to her. "Why are you bringing me stupid weeds?" Lucia was furious. "I don't want them!"

Inés found Eloy in the yard, poking at an anthill with a stick. "Honey, Lucia wants to talk to you." The globemallow was in a glass vase on her bedside table. Lucia looked at him through heavy-lidded eyes. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, Eloy. I like the flowers. They're so bright and orange. I shouldn't have yelled at you. My legs just hurt so much."

"It's okay," said Eloy. "I know you're sick. I'm gonna go to the library and get a book to read to you. What should I get?"

"The Great Brain," Lucia said.

An hour and a half later Eloy was back. "I got your book, Lucia. I can read it to you now, okay?"

"I don't want you to read me any stupid book! Leave me alone!"

"It's OK, Lucia. I know you don't mean it. I'll read softly so that it doesn't hurt you."

"No!"

Eloy turned to the first page. "Most everyone in Utah remembers 1896 as the year the territory became a state. But in Adenville"

"Stop, Eloy!"

"...it was celebrated by all the kids in town and by Papa and Mamma as the time of the Great Brain's reformation."

"Get out of my room!"

"I was seven years old going on eight."

"You're hurting me! Stop it! I don't want to hear you say anything else!"

"But you wanted me to"

"Stop talking to me! Don't say anything more!"

"Lucia..."

"Don't say anything ever again, Eloy!"

Eloy left Lucia's room. He lay on his bed all afternoon and evening. At ten that night Inés put a blanket over him.

The next morning Lucia screamed. She couldn't move her leg. There was a phone call to the doctor. Eloy watched Jimmy carry her out to the car.

It was fully two weeks after the funeral that Inés realized Eloy had been silent since Lucia's death. She and Jimmy were understandably concerned. She was his soul-mate, Jimmy said. It makes sense he'd be bereft. They tried patient reasoning, sympathy. Surely a catharsis would come and unstop his tongue. A month passed. The grief counselors were called in, and then the psychologists. There were batteries of psychological tests. They didn't show anything out of the ordinary. Then came the neurologists. Eloy's reflexes were normal, and his electroencephalogram unremarkable. X-rays showed no abnormality at all. Inés and Jimmy tried everything.

And then, after a long time, they stopped trying.

What had started as an act of sullen rage slowly transformed itself. At first he'd intended merely to show Lucia that even after her death he would do as she said. Wouldn't she be sorry, looking down from heaven and seeing him suffer because of her! That rage passed, and the attention paid him by his worried parents took its place as the impetus for his silence.

And then that passed. The quiet became habit, and then comfort. And then it became discipline. He felt an odd power in his silence, a sloughing off of distraction, a way of carving away the extraneous noise just as surely as he'd pared this piece of steatite down to the figure latent there, hidden within.

He had been working a long time, and the new piece wasn't far from ready. This soapstone was nicely porous. He liked the green of the naked stone, but it was only after oiling that the deep black color - the true color, as he thought of it - was made manifest. He looked the work over. Eighteen inches tall, the woman waved graceful, exaggeratedly long and slender arms from beneath a cloak. Her head was canted upward, her chin outthrust slightly, as if she were watching the sky or looking up a long slope. Her face was blank, aside from a horizontal solid line incised into the stone where her eyes might have been.

Something about the fabric's folds wasn't quite right: it was draping oddly by her left knee. He reached for the coarse rasp, scraped increments of stone from the cloak. Anything worth saying he could say in stone. How much more precise than words. How much more impenetrable. How could he have described in words the tilt of the subject's head just so, the deep black cascade of her wind-rifted hair, the resigned set of her shoulders? An eighteenth of an inch scraped from the fold and she was right. He would have to sand that patch again, and he was out of 100 grit paper. It would have to wait until tomorrow, and he might as well get a new dust mask or three anyway. Cora was always nagging him about his certain looming and untimely death from sculptor's silicosis, asbestosis, and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis. A new package of filters would keep her off his back for a little while.

He tilted the sculpture down onto its bed of foam and cloth, strapped it down against an earthquake. It was tricky to get those arms as long as they were without breaking them off. He grabbed a diamond stylus, engraved the piece's title into its base. It took ten minutes, Eloy blowing the grit away every few seconds. He stood up, wiped the dust from his shirtfront. In neat informal letters the piece read "Lucia #43".

One early morning a month after her funeral he'd grabbed his bike and pedaled hard to Indian School Road, where he made a right turn. The sun shone in his eyes as it came up over the mountains. It was a long ride, ten miles at least, and it took him more than an hour. He jumped the bike over deep potholes, felt an odd, viscid breeze coming off the Arizona Canal. Mist rose off the water in the desert morning. He stood on the pedals through Scottsdale, the old donut shop men watching him pass. A sign announced the Salt River Indian Reservation. The buildings were fewer there.

And then, at the great barren dry wash that was the bed of the ass-end of the Salt River, the road just stopped. He had misread the map. He had made it only halfway to the Superstition Mountain Range, where the ghosts lived. A fortress wall of dark, backlit rock, it seemed no closer than it had when he had started. A fire went out of his heart and he turned for home.