“Sorry.” He shrugged, as if this would help him to shake it, once and for all. “I just can’t get that visual out of my head. It was—”
“Crazy,” I finished for him, as Lucy, sitting between us on Wes’s side porch, exhaled loudly before picking up another crayon.
“More like kick-ass,” he said. “I mean, that’s the way I’ve always wanted to quit jobs but never had the nerve, you know?”
“It wasn’t kick-ass,” I said, embarrassed.
“Maybe not to you.”
Truthfully, for me, it just hadn’t sunk in yet. I knew that across town something bigger than the mega-tsunami had hit and was already reverberating, sending shockwaves that would eventually ripple out to meet me. I could just see Jason at the library, listening with that same incredulous expression, as my desk leap was described, in SAT verbal perfect words, by Amanda and Bethany. He was probably already calling my cell phone to demand an explanation, which was why I’d turned it off, deciding to give myself at least until six, when I had to meet my mother, to try not to think about what happened next. For now, I just wanted to do something else. Like color.
Thinking this, I glanced at Lucy again. When we’d come back with the mayonnaise, Delia had been beyond frazzled, frantically boiling huge kettles of water while she and Bert chopped a small mountain of potatoes in the garage. Lucy, hot and bored, was underfoot, and Delia had handed her off to us, asking us to just entertain her until it was time to start mixing everything up. Now I watched as she pushed one of her tight black curls out of her face and pressed an orange crayon to the paper, zigzagging across it. “Cow,” she said, with authority.
“Cow,” I said.
A breeze blew over the porch then, ruffling the trees, and suddenly there was a flash, something glinting around the side of the house, that I caught out of the corner of my eye. I leaned back on my palms, craning my neck, and saw that in the side yard there were several angels, big and small, as well as a few works in progress: large pieces of rebar twisted and sculpted, a couple of whirligigs that were still only gigs, missing their moving parts. Behind them, lining the fence, was what looked like a small salvage yard, pile after pile of pieces of pipe, metal car parts and hardware, gears in every size from enormous to small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
“So,” I said, nodding toward that side of the house, “that’s where the magic happens.”
“It’s not magic,” he replied, watching Lucy scribble orange all across the top of the page.
“Maybe not to you,” I said, as he made his modest face. “Can I see?”
As we came around the corner of the porch, Lucy, who was toddling along ahead of us, immediately ran down the stairs and toward a large piece that was made up of hubcaps attached to a twisted center pipe. “Push! Push!” she demanded, slapping at one of the lower parts with her hand.
“Say please,” Wes told her. When she did, he gave one of the top hubcaps a big push, and the entire piece began spinning, some of the circles rising up, while others moved down, all of it circular, catching the light again and again. Lucy stepped back, watching entranced and silent until it slowed a couple of minutes later, then creaked to a stop.
“More!” she said. She was so excited she was hopping up and down. “Wes, more!”
Wes looked at me. “This,” he said dryly, “can go on for hours.” But he pushed it again anyway.
“Wes?” Delia’s voice carried over the trees. “Can you come over here? I need something heavy lifted.”
“I said I can do it,” I heard Bert protest. “I’m stronger than I look!”
“Wes?” Delia called again. Poor Bert, I thought.
“Coming,” Wes replied. To me he said, “You okay with her for a minute?” When I nodded, he headed around the side of the house. Lucy watched him go, and I wondered if she was going to start screaming. But instead she began walking across the yard with what for a two-year-old seemed like a strong sense of purpose.
When I finally caught up with her, she was at the back fence. Looking over her shoulder, I saw a row of three small heart-in-hand sculptures, miniatures of the one by the side of the road. Each one was slightly different: in the first, the heart had a zigzag across it, like it was broken. In another, the edges of the heart were jagged, pointy, and sharp looking. My favorite was the one on the very end, where the heart in the center of the palm had another, smaller, hand cut into its center, reminding me of the little nesting dolls I’d had as a kid. All the sculptures were especially rusted and dirty: clearly they’d been there for awhile before Lucy pushed aside the grass covering them.
Now, she turned her head and looked at me. “Hands,” she said.
“Hands,” I repeated. I watched as she took her small hand and pressed it to the hand in the first sculpture, her fingers overlapping the rusted ones, the pale, smoothness of her skin contrasting with the dark, ragged metal. Then she glanced back at me and I did the same, pressing my hand to the one beside it.
I felt a shadow fall over us and looked up to see Wes coming back across the yard, with Delia beside him. Lucy turned her head and, seeing her mother, scrambled to her feet and darted across the grass, hurling herself at Delia’s knees. Delia looked down at her, shaking her head, and pulled her fingers through Lucy’s dark curls.
“What are you guys doing?” Wes asked me.
“She was showing me these,” I told him, nodding toward the sculptures. “I never knew you made small ones.”
“Just for a little while,” he said, dismissively. “They never really caught on.”
“So,” I said, standing up, “is it time for potato duty?”
“Nope,” Wes told me. “False alarm.”
Delia pressed Lucy against her legs. “It’s the strangest thing,” she said, shaking her head. “Right as we’re about to start boiling all those potatoes, I get this phone call from the client. Turns out that they don’t want potato salad after all, that they’d rather do coleslaw and macaroni and cheese, which we have plenty of, instead.”
“I tried to tell her,” Wes said, “that this is a good thing.”
“Of course it is,” I told her. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
She smoothed her hand over Lucy’s head. “It’s just . . . weird. I don’t know. It makes me suspicious.”