Richard Johnson is a black veteran, back from Vietnam and trying to rebuild his life by attending college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He's smart and handsome, yet haunted by memories that plague his sleep and send him flying for cover at sudden noises.
Kathy Woodbridge is a white student in one of Richard's classes. She's pretty, idealistic, and drawn irresistibly to Richard's combination of charm and aliveness. It leads her into a relationship different from any she had expected -- and to a tragedy greater than any she can face.
Lacey Greer is a secretary in San Pedro, California. When Kathy shows up at her office and is hired with no record of her past, Lacey wonders what Kathy could be running from. She's determined to find out, and to help if she can.
Set in the early seventies, "Pacific Avenue" explores themes of love, belonging, helpfulness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, interracial marriage, and healing from the trauma of war.
Anne L. Watson, a retired historic preservation architecture consultant, is the author of several novels, plus books on such diverse subjects as soapmaking and baking with cookie molds. Anne has lived at various times in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and San Pedro, California, the settings of "Pacific Avenue." She currently lives in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the San Juan Islands, with her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard, and their cat, Skeeter.
I chose a window seat on the Greyhound, but I didn't look out. For almost the whole trip, I stared at the rough tan upholstery of the seat in front of me. It had a rip on one side and three dark stains.
A woman settled into the aisle seat. She raised her footrest, but it clunked back down. When I glanced her way, she caught my eye and smiled.
"How do you make these things stay put?" she asked.
I meant to answer -- the words were lined up in my mind. But before I could say them, they slipped apart like beads when the string breaks. I gave up and studied the seat cover again. Still tan, still ripped, still stained. The next time I looked, the woman was gone.
Evening came, but I didn't use my reading light. Late at night, awake in the breathing dark, I imagined running my fingers over the seat back, erasing the stains, mending the seam. In the morning, I almost believed I could fix it. So, I took care not to touch it, not to find out for sure.
In the afternoon, the bus left the freeway and crept through downtown traffic. I turned then, and peered through the mud-spattered window. As far as I could see, Los Angeles was a city of warehouses. I sank back into my seat.
When we reached the station, I claimed my suitcase and dragged it through the waiting room to the street. Outside I found blank walls and empty sidewalks. No direction and no one to ask.
Well, I ran away from college, then from New Orleans, and then Baton Rouge. Is it too soon to run away from here?