LUCY: AnU e q u e l ND E R NE A T HPr
LUCY: An UNDERNEATH Prequel by
J. Patrick Lemarr
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Copyright UNDERNEATH and LUCY: AN UNDERNEATH PREQUEL Copyright ÂŠ 2012 J. Patrick Lemarr. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
LUCY Lucy Abernathy took a long, smooth sip of her iced tea, praying to whatever gods might be listening that it would turn into a whiskey sour as it touched her lips. Lunching with her mother often drove her to imbibe, most especially when Madge Abernathy (“of the Philadelphia Abernathy’s,” Madge would often announce) was two cocktails into her tiresome tirade. The lobster salad on Lucy’s plate remained untouched as she waited for her mother to steer the S.S. Uncomfortable Conversation from the choppy waters of the Bay of Wasted Talents toward the crystal clear shores of her other favorite subject. “I ran into Mark Fitzsimmons the other day,” Madge offered. “He was having dinner at La Moyen with…well, I shouldn’t say. Mark’s a high profile attorney, after all, so you can imagine the sorts of clients he works with.” “Mediocre,” Lucy said, pushing her plate to the side. “The best and brightest this state has to offer,” Madge insisted. “If I mentioned who was with him, you would understand my discretion.” “No, Mother, I was pointing out that la moyen is French for ‘mediocre’ or ‘average.’ I don’t care enough about Mark or his clientele to join that part of the conversation. It just struck me as odd that anyone would choose to eat at a restaurant called La Moyen. The owner must’ve thought it was clever.” “Well, he asked about you,” Madge said. “I think he still misses you.” “The owner of La Moyen?” “Why must you play these games, Lucy? Why can’t we just have a civilized conversation over lunch like other mothers and daughters?” “There’s nothing civilized about trying to pawn your daughter off to a man she finds repellant, Mother, nor is it the height of civility to carry with you some mental laundry list of ways I have disappointed you. Daddy would never—“ “You’re father was a dreamer, God rest his soul. If he hadn’t married someone who knew how to climb the social ladder, he never would’ve made that first million.” Madge took another sip of her martini before continuing. “I don’t ask for much, Lucille, but I cannot remain silent as I watch you throw your life away in that…poverty farm…when I know you could have so much more.” “You mean ‘we’ could have so much more, don’t you, Mother? Are you finding it difficult to maintain your status among upper crust widows with your ever-dwindling fortune?” “Is this you trying to hurt me, Lucy? Is that what this is?”
“You’d have to have a heart for that,” Lucy thought. But she didn’t say it. “I’m not trying to hurt anyone, Mother,” she replied. “That ‘poverty farm’ is a school like any other. And, like other schools, it has a great need for teachers who can impact its students. I do what I do for the kids, not the paycheck. I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but expensive lunches and verbal assaults will never change that.” “Honestly!” Madge said. She sighed and dabbed her lips with her napkin. “You act as though it’s wrong for me to want the best for you.” “No. It’s wrong for you to assume you know what’s best for me,” Lucy countered. “I love you, Mother, and that will never change, but these conversations are pointless and may eventually be enough to drive me away.” The waiter placed the bill on the table and asked if he should take Lucy’s untouched plate and box it up for her to take home. When she declined, he left them to their conversation. Madge, however, remained silent for a few moments as she swallowed down the last of her drink. Lucy, likewise, said nothing as she dug through her purse for her wallet. “Lunch is on me, dear,” Madge said. “I invited you. As always.” “No, Mother, this is my treat,” Lucy said, producing a virgin credit card from the confines of her handbag. “If I’m adult enough to stand up to you, the least I can do is buy you a meal.” She gave her mother a weak smile, but Madge didn’t seem to notice. “You know…I miss your father, in spite of what you might think,” Madge said, her eyes never leaving the olive in her glass. “I may have pushed him to grow his business, but it would never have happened if he wasn’t so extraordinarily talented. People wanted whatever he was selling, Lucy. They flocked to him like children around the ice cream truck. I can see that same talent in you—that same natural ability with people.” “Yeah, that’s me all over today,” Lucy mumbled. “You and I are just different animals,” her mother continued. “You have much more of your father in you, which I admire, dear. Just because things are not easy between us doesn’t mean I can’t see your amazing potential.” “Potential that I’m wasting as a teacher?” “Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps I’m just too set in my ways to properly assess such things.” “Perhaps they aren’t yours to assess,” Lucy added. Madge sighed once more. The waiter returned to take Lucy’s credit card. A moment later, he was back for her signature. She couldn’t afford the upscale restaurant and her mother damn well knew it, but Lucy was enjoying the warm flame of her defiance and was in no hurry for it to be quenched. She was, however, in a rush to leave her mother in the rearview mirror.
“Look, I still have a few errands to run before I head back to Melville,” she said, signing the receipt. “Will you be okay getting a cab, or should I drop you home first?” “I’ll have the maître d’ call for a service,” Madge said softly. “I was thinking of visiting your Aunt Elaine this afternoon.” “Yeah, well… tell her I said to keep on truckin’, would you?” “Honestly, Lucy.”
The drive back to Melville had been painfully slow due to a three car pileup on Interstate 76 just outside Chesterbrook. It had grown late—nearly time for dinner—but Lucy’s stomach was still sour from her mother’s derision. Melville was less than 10 miles ahead when she remembered the dive bar on the outskirts of town. It was a place for the miners to go and blow off a little steam after a long shift, but they would likely serve alcohol to anyone who could afford it and damn, but that whiskey sour has been on my mind since I left the restaurant, she thought. Clutterbuck’s was more “old west saloon” than “chic modern disco”, but its lot was nearly full as Lucy parked her Pacer and made her way inside. A miner sat on the hood of his truck, nursing a Coors. She gave him a smile, he gave her a nod and then she was inside, awash in a torrent of country music and coal black workers of the Underneath—which was how locals often referred to the mines. She brushed past the crowd and ordered her drink at the bar. “I don’t get much call for mixed drinks,” the bear of a bartender said. “Just straight liquor for men aiming to forget that deep down dark.” “Is it always this busy?” she shouted above the music. “You bet,” he replied. “Especially the first few shifts after payroll.” He finished mixing her drink and placed it on a dirty coaster. “It’s none of my business, ma’am, but some of these men get a bit ornery once their livers get nice and lubricated. It might be for the best if you finish your drink and head on home.” Lucy felt that fire in her belly spring to life once more. The bartender’s assumption of her weakness was nearly as offensive as it was unnecessary. Miners were good men, strong in their values and work ethic. It was one of the main reasons she had settled in Melville as opposed to the other districts that had scrambled to bring a Temple graduate into the fold. She could’ve called the bartender on his outdated, sexist leanings, but she had come to relax and have a drink and she would do just that. Before she could thank him for his concern, another man approached the bar— the miner who had given her the nod outside. He slid a five dollar bill to the bartender before Lucy could even reach for her purse. “Stop trying to the scare the little lady,” he told the bartender. “Most nights we
“Stop trying to the scare the little lady,” he told the bartender. “Most nights we have to be content to stare at your ugly mug, Bert. It’s a real treat to have someone around pretty enough to brighten up this dump. Her drink’s on me…and any others she orders, too. I’ll keep the boys off her back. They know if they mess with me, I’ve got plenty of other folks that could do their jobs.” The bartender took the bill and nodded. “I’m just trying to look out for the lady, Cyrus.” “I know, Bert,” he said. “That’s mighty Christian of ya, too.” The man turned his attention to Lucy and offered her a kind smile. “Bert wasn’t aiming to scare you, Miss. We just don’t get many decent ladies to step foot in here. You must’ve needed that drink something fierce.” Lucy chuckled. “I had lunch with my mother this afternoon and it drove me to drink. How sad is that?” “Well, I would guess that would depend on the sort of mother you have,” the miner said. “Some really know how to get under your skin. Mine sure as hell did.” He offered her his hand. “My name’s Cyrus. I work down at the Charlton lease.” “Lucy,” she said, shaking his hand. “I teach school here in town.” “Well, pardon me if this strikes you as forward, Miss Lucy, but I never had a school teacher anywhere near as pretty as you.” “No?” “No, ma’am. Most that I can recall had granny moustaches and humps on their backs.” Lucy hadn’t realized how badly she needed to laugh until it came bubbling up out of her. By the time she caught her breath, she felt as if a bit of the cloud that had hovered over her since lunch had, at last, dissipated. She clinked her glass against Cyrus’ beer bottle. “Thank you, Cyrus. I needed that laugh.” “My pleasure,” he replied, gulping down the last few drops of his beer. “You aren’t aiming to get drunk, are you, Miss Lucy? I can pretty much promise you that no amount of liquor can fix a family squabble.” “It’s a start,” she said. “And if not liquor, then what?” “Short of killing her, I can’t imagine,” Cyrus said. “I’m no Donahue.” She grinned. “I love Donahue.” Lucy finished her drink in a few gulps and took a deep breath. “Alright. That was just what the doctor ordered. Now, I’m going to follow Bert’s advice and head home. I have a stack of book reports waiting for me that won’t grade themselves.”
“You sure you can’t stay for one more?” Cyrus asked. “It’s on me.” “I’d love to, but I’ve already wasted half my weekend and they have to be done by Monday.” He offered his hand again and she shook it. “It was nice meeting you then, Lucy. That offer for another drink is a standing one, so you come back anytime. I’m here most nights after shift…either to get hogged up or drive home the boys that do, so you’ll not have any trouble claiming it.” “Thank you, Cyrus.” Her drink had left a pleasant warmth spreading throughout her body, but the chill of the Pennsylvania air fought to drive it from her bones. When she got home, she would crank up the furnace in her tiny frame house and snuggle in deep beneath a few blankets. The grading could wait until tomorrow, she decided. Sleep seemed like a much better pursuit. When her car wouldn’t start, she cursed beneath her breath and tried again. The Pacer whirred and coughed, but refused to turn over. She tried several more times before admitting defeat. There was no pay phone in the parking lot, but she assumed Bert the Bartender would have one she could use. She marched back into Clutterbuck’s, bobbed and weaved through the drunken, dancing miners, and approached the bar to find Cyrus still sitting where she had left him. “Don’t tell me you already changed your mind about that drink,” Cyrus said as she approached. “I just dropped my last fiver on a pitcher for my crew.” “No,” she said with a pout. “My stupid car won’t start. I don’t know if it’s the cold or—“ “I’ll call for a tow,” Bert said, having overheard them. “But I gotta warn you, ma’am, the closest tow truck’s a good half an hour away. The towing service we had here in Melville went under several months back. Bank got it, so I hear.” “It don’t matter,” Cyrus said. “Let me take a look under your hood. I ain’t a mechanic, but I’m not unhandy with a wrench. If I can’t get ya back on the road, Miss Lucy, ol’ Bert here can call for that tow.” “That’s wonderful,” Lucy said. “I’m not sure I could even afford a tow after the lunch I bought my mother.” “That must’ve been some lunch,” Cyrus said with a laugh. “You just stay inside where it’s good and warm and I’ll have me a look-see. One way or another, we’ll get you back to town safe as houses.”
According to a handful of witnesses present that evening at Clutterbuck’s Tavern (now called O’Malley’s) just outside the Melville city limits, school teacher Lucille Rae Abernathy left
(now called O’Malley’s) just outside the Melville city limits, school teacher Lucille Rae Abernathy left the bar a little after 9 p.m. She returned moments later citing car trouble. Patron and Charlton Mine foreman Cyrus Adams discovered a loose distributor cap to be the cause of the problem and got Abernathy back on the road by 9:30. According to Bert Larson, the barkeep at Clutterbuck’s, Abernathy was in good health and perfectly sober when she said her goodbyes. Per Larson, Adams had even offered to follow the young lady home in case she had more car trouble, but Abernathy declined. Lucy Abernathy’s car was discovered just two miles away from her home in Melville by a trucker—one Mitchell Frank Kline of Melville Freight—the following morning. Abernathy, however, was nowhere to be found. Police discovered a single droplet of blood on the driver’s side floor mat matching the woman’s blood type, but DNA analysis proved inconclusive. Abernathy was considered a missing person for three years before her mother, Madge Abernathy, widow of real estate magnate Virgil Abernathy, filed for her Death in Absentia with the courts. The final fate of the young school teacher—much loved by her 4th grade students and the staff at Melville Elementary School—remains unknown.
Learn the truth behind Lucy Abernathyâ€™s disappearance. Uncover the secrets of the Underneath.
UNDERNEATH a horror short story by J. Patrick Lemarr
Available as an eBook Single or Limited Edition Chapbook featuring illustrations by Jason Webb. www.writecrowdpublishing.com/underneath
Published on Jul 9, 2012
After a difficult lunch with her mother, Lucy Abernathy stopped for a drink at a local dive bar. She was never heard from again.