Francine Witte
Hayward Fault Line Winner

Like prehistoric ooze, my lover’s heart changes its shape each month when the moon goes zero. That’s when he turns animal and leaves me in search of other prey.

Me, I always follow. I got head stuff you wouldn’t believe. A right-thinking woman would have dusted this man off her hands long ago.

This time, I have followed my lover to Tucson, AZ. He’s hooked up with a pancake waitress. He liked the way the batter dotted her chin, and they left in a flurry of suitcase and car exhaust. Told me not to trail them. “Keep your dog nose outta my stuff” is what he said, “I don’t need you sniffin’ us down.”

I give him a two day start.

Then I got his Tucson address from his mother. I told her I’m carrying her grandkid, and don’t he have a right to know?

So, tonight I am in a strange motel surrounded by ghost towns and cactus. The manager asks if I need anything, and I don’t know where to begin. I could tell him I need the man I am chasing to make up for a lifetime of love I never got. Instead I ask for a wake up call. “This ain’t the Holiday Inn” is what he says.

Next morning, I’m up at 5 a.m. The sky outside is in ribbons. No back home sunrise ever looked like this. Colors I don’t even have names for. Pinks and purples bursting the sky.

“Tucson morning,” the manager winks. I drink free mud coffee and ask him which way’s Baker Street.

“What’s a pretty girl like you want with Baker Street?” is what he wants to know. “Nothing but losers and thugs.” He is a narrow man made out of wingy bones and blood red eyes. Looks about 70 and ready to fold up like a lawn chair.

I say I’m lookin’ for my brother cause our poor daddy died, and he points to a Chevy truck out front all scabby with rust. “Get in” is what he says.

The truck smells of gasoline, and the radio scratches with Tucson news. Local burglars and the women who love them. “See, it’s not just me.” is what I tell myself.

On Baker Street nothin’ but broken houses in patchy light. I check the address. The old man waits in the truck. I walk up the stony sidewalk. Even from here, I can hear them squabbling over money and such.

No surprise. Each month, my lover comes back, arms full of roses. He says new love turns old love awful quick. He says I should be fluid.

My hand balls itself into a fist about to knock.

First published: February 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'