I'm currently working on a new novel, and although I wrote this for it, I'm afraid it doesn't belong. So, here is a chunk of writing, presented in four parts over the next week or two.
Lucy Laurent stood in the middle of the living room naked underneath an ivory bathrobe, dripping water onto the floor. She had a wrinkled lotto scratch-off in one hand, a grimy quarter fished out of the bottom of her purse in the other, her body poised in a feminine rictus of anticipation: poised, articulate and sturdy. The coin warmed in her hand, seemed almost to sweat in her fingers. Her heart began to thump; she felt the pulse of blood pressing behind her eyes. Thoughts crowded her. Miles of deep black ocean is separated from endless blue sky by only the smallest molecular skin. Exactly when does water turn to air? Are surfaces beginnings or ends? Perhaps they are their own breed entirely. Lottery jackpots, car accidents. Brain diseases. We are always one flashing instant away from a new life.
Lucy took the edge of the quarter and pressed it to the flat silver panel of the ticket. She scratched back and forth, concentrating, moving fluidly from one side to the other, leaving no stray bit of gray. The printing came off in rubbery curls which stuck to the moist knot of her fist, and when she tried to brush them away foggy streaks appeared on the glass tabletop. First, two fat piggybanks appeared, bursting with green bills and grinning, their eyes morphed into shining dollar signs, almost possessed; Lucy blew air through her cheeks and groaned. The possibility that there could be another hiding underneath the third square was too much to consider, and her mind began to swirl with ideas, with new and ornate futures.
“Okay,” she said out loud. She took a deep breath and laid the ticket on the corner of the end table.
Lucy did not need the money. She was not exactly rich, though she once had been—two apartments in Paris, a Spanish-style beachside sprawl in Miami, a small farmhouse in the South of France, where she went when she didn’t want to be bothered—and as her career slowed down, she sold them all to younger, richer actresses whose breasts seemed to get larger and larger as the years went on. She lived comfortably, mostly off residuals from a French television series in which she starred. “Les Trois Reines” ran for five seasons in the early eighties, and was still in syndication around the globe, translated into twenty-three languages at Lucy’s last count, sometimes airing three or four times daily. The critics called the show predictable and derivative; audiences loved it.
Lucy never intended to be a great actress, just a working one—she once laughed out loud when she heard another actor talk of the indignities of doing your own laundry unless of course the part called for it—and the celebrity that came with a television career was both flattering and unpleasant. People named their babies after you, they wrote detailed sob-story letters asking for money, they acted like you were old friends. But restaurants often brought complimentary champagne, and she always got the best hotel rooms. Lucy was rather legendary in Europe though no one recognized her in California—the show was deemed “too French” for Americans. That was okay. Strangers did not expect her to be funny on command. (The show had been recently released in a DVD box-set, which Lucy habitually and mistakenly called DDD. It provided a new audience, a younger audience, and she had once or twice been recognized by admirers here and there—if she spent the day in San Francisco, for example—all of them proclaiming that they were her “biggest fan.”)
Overall, she was happier now than she had ever been, which in itself was something to be happy about, the gradual upward slope which proved so elusive, a life not benchmarked by weddings and children and other standard charts of successes, but more what she felt was the real deal.