Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1 | Spring 1985

LORENZO VALENCIA'S But in many ways for Lorenzo it is the best of times. He works at a travel agency. His degree was in art, and he has a few good drawings to show for it, but there A NUCLEAR LOVE STORY By Catherine Lord Illustrations by Liza von Rosenstiel ometimes when the planes fly very close overhead they make a £low, sonorous blare, and Lorenzo trembles a little and thinks: this is it, the final clarion, the last blast, the storm before the eternal calm. Lorenzo lives too near the airport. Once it was sonic booms, now it's nuclear bombs he worries about. He reads the newspaper too much. He suffers Black Box Syndrome. He writes the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility—asks them, is there a cure? But before he receives a reply, he hears one of them on the radio, Dr. Gremlin, who gutturally describes the futility of evacuation plans and the President's civil defense program, in a way it excites Lorenzo; thinking he will live to die from it gives him a chaotic pleasure. was no money in that. Painting, traveling, isn't it all the same, Lorenzo reasoned, and so he went to work for a travel agency while there were still jobs. Now Lorenzo helps travelers secure passports, understand visa regulations, learn foreign currency and exchange, select wardrobes for tropical climates, meet health requirements and custom regulations, insure their baggage and bodies, obtain traveler s checks and letters of credit, rent cars, see sights, request vegetarian and kosher meals on the plane. Lorenzo pays his annual dues to the National Association of Travel Organizations; he studies the history of travel. In 1841 Thomas Cook, an Englishman, invented the guided tour. Cook escorted English gentry on camels past the pyramids of Egypt, on carriages through the narrow streets of gay Paris, on gondolas past the ancient castles nestled on the banks of the Rhine. And now, in 1982. Lorenzo Valencia works for a travel agency called Camels and Castles. He makes enough money to pay his bills and travel. He has his own BMW sports car from Bavaria. Persian rug, cinnabar vases from China, and a blonde girlfriend, Heather, light as a feather, from upstate New York, who paints Lorenzo and knows all his muscles and their origins intimately and by name. Heather paints Lorenzo in greens and murky blues while he reads to her from the newspaper. A headline reads: REAGAN LIFTS GRAIN EMBARGO ANOTHER YEAR. It's okay to trade with the Russians. Lorenzo reads an article on the next page. Reagan implores the British not to buy Siberian gas from the Russians. It s not okay to trade with the Russians. Trade, don’t trade. Stop, don’t stop. Lorenzo knows just how the President feels. He had read A Tale of Two Cities in college: it was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Sometimes life is just like that, Lorenzo thinks: contradictory. “Listen to this,” Lorenzo says. “Don’t move your arm," Heather instructs him, and she repositions his clavicle in burnt orange. “Governor Fob James of Mobile, Alabama asked that a law suit regarding school prayers be dismissed on the ground that God is not in the legal jurisdiction of Mobile.’’ “Are you sure you don’t have that backwards?" “What, my arm?" “No, Fob James. Shouldn’t it be James Fob?” “It says right here, Governor Fob James.” Heather shrugs her shoulders, then paints Lorenzo’s shoulders. “Sounds backwards to me," she says. “Anyway. I know a little about law suits. My father had a leisure suit once, but mother left it in the dryer too long, and it got all wrinkled. She tried to iron it, but the polyester melted under the heat. Father tried to blame it on the Semites—they have all the oil, and polyester is petrol-based, you see. Still, the last time God was on earth, at least to my knowledge, wasn’t it on Mt. Sinai? And I think that’s in a Semitic legal jurisdiction. Maybe they should have their trial there. Lorenzo, please, you know how much trouble I have with hands, now sit still and don’t move!" “The Falkland Islanders are suing the British government for damages suffered when they were driving out the Argentine junta." “Well, doesn't that beat all?” “It says here, one person is suing for a jar of jam." “What kind of jam?” “What difference does it make what kind of jam?” As he turns the newspaper over, Lorenzo wishes Heather were more politically astute. “Don’t move, Lorenzo." She moves down his torso to his loins, where his body is still. “President Reagan got stuck in an 8 Clinton St. Quarterly