Le Grand Dérangement

Lenore wasn’t ugly by any stretch. She wasn't cute, either. Unconsciously comparing her to the prevailing norm, a lot of people at first glance would pigeonhole her to themselves as 'odd-looking'.

Actually, she totally bypassed the cornfed, cornflower-blue-eyed, California-pretty phase that most of her contemporaries seemed to pass through, and became, without ceremony, beautiful. Yet her beauty was anything but conventional, compared to the pert-cheerleader types her ex-boyfriends had all seemed to gravitate to, eventually.

Lenore was tall, and a little sleek from the k-ration diet she'd grown up on. Her eyes were unusually large and prominent. Her straight narrow nose was upturned over a long sensual slit of a mouth filled with a jumble of sharp white teeth. These took a slightly concentric, inward set, so that when she smiled, she seemed subtly lamprey-like, even vampiric.

She had a great head of thick auburn hair with flaming highlights, that looked sensually windblown on the calmest days. Her hair, perhaps sensing this at some sub-molecular level, constantly tied itself into knots without provocation. Her small breasts were set over a slim waist and broad hips that would certainly ease the pain of childbirth. She seemed to narrow upward into a slender neck, where her head balanced like a regal billiard ball enthroned atop a sportscar gearshift.

Taken together... maybe Lenore was nothing like the models-des-jour in the Seventeen Magazine of the era. Those carbon copy cutouts tended toward the girl-next-door type, but with too much make-up.

But she certainly drew second looks from all the men and women that saw her. And thirds.

"I like to get high and fuck", she would eventually tell a runoff audience at a teen beauty contest she'd entered. "That’s when I feel best. The war in Vietnam, all the hate in the world, just evaporates. And it makes me feel darn proud and free and glad to be a part of this great country."

Right after she was disqualified, her proud and honorable father had tossed her out of the married quarters, for slagging what he slurringly insisted was 'a proud and honorable war that keeps a roof over our heads'. Lenore had thanked him less than politely, and suggested her mother also get the fuck out while the going was good. Then she'd walked out of Vandenberg's main gates with her earthly possessions in a small backpack, never looking back.

Instead, she'd immediately called the number on a business card one of the camera guys from the community tv station had handed her. She managed to get into a position -- well, a bunch, really, each more convoluted than the last -- making porn loops for a couple of smalltime skin trade producers with Mexican connections.

She used the cash flow to augment a scholarship that covered her first year's tuition, renting an off-campus apartment at Berkley. But she got pregnant almost right away, so lost the job. The producers had said, flatly, "No preggos. That's just sick."

Like they'd know.

She had to quit school to boot, right after a baby boy whom she named Armand, was born. It was about then that Lenore realized that she hated men -- all of them. But she loved to get high and fuck, so she really was stuck between a stone and a hard place.

A hustle here, a hustle there, to survive any way she could. Lenore got a little lost. Every time she had to let go of another cheap apartment, she seemed to drift further south to rent the next, even cheaper one. At some point, the Spanish she picked up making peepshow loops started to come in real handy.

Then one evening, in a pick-up strip poker game in a barrio somewhere in Mexico City, she'd cleaned out the pot. It had included an old aluminum-bodied Grumman-Olson curbside van, so the next morning she loaded it up, let her last apartment go, and headed south with young Armand tied more or less upright to the folding shotgun seat, picking up anybody who looked like they needed a ride.

Often, before they got very far, they'd park, get high, and fuck.

As Lenore motored down a southern secondary road on a near-equatorial night many months later, alone again except for Armand, she'd spotted a shadow that had turned into a man in an oversized duffle coat. What looked like the neck of a liquor bottle hung from one ripped pocket.

Milo Pavlov, almost casually, had turned from peeing into the dark on the gravel shoulder. His unashamed gaze had somehow leapfrogged over the glare of the headlights to bore into Lenore’s eyes. He'd stuck out his thumb, and she'd slowed down...