A flash fiction piece in preparation for the novel-in-progress Ellipsis: Annie and the Second Anasazi, by Jeff Posey, set in the year 2054. Sign up for notification by email here.
Lydia Roth protected her daughter Annie like a worried mother bear. Lydia’s looks alone, when revealed, were enough to silence most people. The lower-left third, including half her mouth to her left eye, were melted as if by a wind-blown flame. Her good eye, the right one, had no eyelashes, though not from the effects of fire.
The irony in life weighed heavily on Lydia. Her first daughter’s face had been similarly burned by Lydia’s first husband. Then she died alone on a mountaintop named for the Ute word for “hot water.” Shortly thereafter, Lydia’s face burned in a fire set by her former first husband to kill her, and she embraced her disfigurement as if she enjoyed the stunned reaction of others upon seeing her.
Lydia liked to categorize people by how they looked when she revealed the remains of her visage. At home and in the office, she did nothing to conceal it. In public and meetings outside her office, she wore a tasteful and expensive black-and-orange silk scarf folded into a triangle tied across half her face. At first glance, most saw a beautiful but oddly veiled woman. When she spoke for the first time, she would remove the scarf. That’s when she diagnosed the viewers’ categories:
- Childlike. Open curiosity and awe followed by empathy and grief…the more of this the younger emotional age of the child. Adults who reacted this way often exhibited almost unbearable grief as if paying penance for their own flaws consumed by less-visible flames.
- Blank. Meaning no reaction. Complete self-control. Eyes would lock with her good eye or perhaps her good forehead when the person looked her direction, denying themselves even the flicker of a glance at her hideous side. Strong believers of any faith and high-powered professionals, such as attorneys and physicians, exhibited such polished reactions. About a third of the people she met in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, fell into this category. After she moved to Fort Worth, Texas, eighty percent or more struck her as Blanks. An amazing change due to locale alone.
- Peepers. They did not have the unveiled honesty of the Childlike or the shiny steal exterior of the Blanks, and they cheated and stole glances, sometimes open stares, at the bad part of her face. She suspected most of the professional Blanks possessed exceptional peripheral vision that effectively turned them into secret Peepers.
Very rarely there would be a fourth. Once an autistic child crawled from her mother’s lap into Lydia’s and began stroking her face. The only other, an old woman, called to her on the street in Durango, Colorado. She approached, her face like weathered pillow lava, black scarf over her pulled-back pewter hair. She stared into Lydia’s bad eye, touched her arm, and then took a thumb-sized metal crucifix from around her neck and offered it to Lydia, who shook her head and refused, but the old woman put it into her hand and curled her fingers tightly over it. She grinned and nodded, and then turned away without a work. Lydia still carried that crucifix, though not around her neck. She kept it in a small clutch bag that doubled as briefcase and purse. And the memory of the touch of the autistic child never fled far from her mind. The caress meant more to her than that of her husband.
Of these types of people, she least trusted the Blanks who betrayed themselves as religious zealots or fundamentalist capitalists, who she knew in her heart were repressed Peepers. People of such unnatural willpower were unworthy of her largesse or attention.
The only reason she would ever agree to meet Reagan Newcastle a second time was because of the implied threat to Annie. A classic case of born-again businessman who grated on Lydia’s nerves like the combination Blank Peeper she deemed him to be. Yet Lydia paid Reagan Newcastle’s company, 2G Inc., half her monthly profit in the business she inherited from her rich uncle, the recently renamed Annie’s Liquor Emporium, headquartered out of Fort Worth. In return, she bought time. To think and to plan. For her husband, Tucker, and his accomplice, Samuel Langhorne Serles, to be able to figure out how to overcome the vise grip that 2G Inc. gradually placed over most of Texas and the Old South with the full support of the voting majority.
Meanwhile, she protected Annie like a mother bear, baring her face as necessary to back people away, while Tucker and Serles crept around like wolves looking for ways to kill the beast before the beast killed them all, before she lost another daughter on a mountain of man-made scalding water.
Ellipsis: Annie and the Second Anasazi, set in 2054 A.D., is about a migration of intellectuals into the deserts of New Mexico where people live like the ancient ones because of changing climate coupled with an intolerable mix of politics and religion that rises in the cities of the American South. Annie is the daughter of Tucker and Lydia Roth of Girl on a Rock. Serles is the ancestor of the character by the same name in The Pump Jack Potion.