j. l. navarro

Sweet Emily

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Emily Uberri was just a hair over 2 feet 11 inches tall.  She had reached that height when she was six years old and had not grown any taller when she met Jon Sutton shortly after she celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. Nevertheless, what she lacked in physical stature she made up for in a surplus of brainpower, possessing an I.Q. of 140.  She graduated with honors from Arizona State University at the age of sixteen and received her Ph.D in sociology from UCLA three years later.  Yet, even though she was a mental dynamo, she knew she could never clime Mount Everest.  And she wanted to.  She also wanted to hang glide over Maui and run a 10K marathon through the streets of Geneva.  She would never do these things either.   The best she could do to satisfy her cravings for excitement was to maneuver her power chair as close to the edge of Sunset Cliffs as she could without losing control and ending up like a cracked egg on the jagged breakers below.


On a Saturday afternoon in July, he arrived at her home in Mission Hills and discovered a note taped to the doorknob.  It said: John, please come in.  I'm in the backyard.  He had called the day before after answering an ad in the classifieds.  The last person he had worked for was a ninety-year-old man with Alzheimer's who had died the month before.  It had been a respite position, part-time, but enough to pay the bills.  And now he found himself walking through Emily Uberri's home in search of another job.  The house was spacious and clean, much like the neighborhood, nothing too expensive except perhaps for the baby grand piano standing mutely in a corner of the living room.  He found her in her power chair facing her flower garden. When he saw her, he was momentarily stunned, disbelieving she was real.  Her eyes were closed, and the texture of her hair, cut short, was a very fine silky brown.  Her skin was porcelain white with a rosy flush on her cheeks, and her features, though small, were well proportioned. The first thing that came to mind was that he was looking at a very lifelike doll.  Had she had wings he believed he would have been looking at an angel.  


After standing there transfixed for some moments, he said, "Excuse me, I'm Jon Sutton, spelled without the H."


"Like the French," she said, not opening her eyes to look at him, but allowing a sly smile to bend her thin lips.  She had the voice of a child.


"Yes," he said.  "Like the French."


"Grab a chair, Jon Sutton.  Tell me about yourself."


Her eyes remained closed as if wishing to evaluate him by his voice alone.  After seating himself, he began spinning a brief history to her.  First off, he wanted her to know that he didn't smoke, had three years experience as a home attendant, and could supply current references, all local. He was twenty-eight and had studied photography for a short time at Grossmont College.  Someday, he told her, he would like to go to New Zealand and write a book.


"About what?"


"I don't know yet.  Maybe it's just an excuse to go there."   


"Have you ever been in jail?"




"That's too bad," she said.




"Because," she said, turning her head, eyes opened to look at him, "criminals are such intriguing people."


"It wouldn't look very good on my resume."


"That depends on who's reading it."




This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.