The Trouble with Liza Hatter
On the evening before his college graduation, Tristan Mackey walked into the campus library, probably with the notion of trying to steal or deface a book or two - he couldnt seem to remember exactly now, but probably to do something of the sort, something to make him feel more like himself and less like the other self, the one that seemed like a version of Tristan borrowed by other people in order to suit their own purposes. At any rate, he was bent on making some sort of trouble, probably because he was a little drunk already, and the library, because it was quiet and secret, offered the sort of trouble he seemed to be looking for, which was quiet and secret trouble, the kind of trouble that would only be known to himself, that would have no consequences outside of his own head, that wouldnt keep him from graduating.
The trouble he found there was Liza Hatter, a girl from his political science class. He found her in the second-floor reading area, wearing shorts and a sleeveless top that showed her long limbs to advantage, thumbing through the latest issue of Lucky magazine, bored, killing time, her flip-flop sandals clicking softly on the floor. Liza Hatter had a thing for him, Tristan happened to know, in the same way he almost always knew, was almost never wrong, almost never made a false move or assumption when it came to love, or sex, or however you wanted to refer to it, as if Tristan cared one way or another, the object generally being the same.
In Liza Hatters case, it hadnt been difficult at all to figure out, the signs having been there from the first day of spring semester when he walked into the classroom, and readily apparent on the few occasions when he had run across her in the downtown bars of Moscow, Idaho, and readily apparent now, also, here in the library, the darting eyes and flickering lashes and the rising color in the neck and cheeks, particularly noticeable because Liza Hatter had a pale complexion inclined to a ruddiness that matched her auburn hair, and the nervous agitation of the fingers flipping the magazine pages, and the feet shuffling constantly in the sandals. Tristan had long ago noticed the signs, but he had up to now filed Liza Hatter away for future reference, labeled her as a girl who would do in a pinch, never feeling any urgency in connection with her due to a) her obvious and therefore not very interesting availability, as it was always more gratifying to have to wade through a layer of subtle oppositions to get to the ultimate goal, and b) the fact that, from Tristans perspective, she lacked the one quality he valued most highly in the opposite sex, that being a pretty face. She was no dog, certainly, and in fact her high cheekbones and widely spaced greenish eyes and rather full lips and her svelteness and her prodigious heightshe was easily five-ten, almost as tall as Tristanqualified her as hot, a term that Tristan detested but also knew applied in this case, at least where other guys would be concerned. But not so much for Tristan, who found her looks a bit over-refined, a bit cold and aloof, very similar in fact to the pictures of the women in the magazine she thumbed through, and none of the women in the pictures met with his particular approval. No, hed rather have a good, buxom country girl any day, which was a good thing when youd grown up in Idaho, where there were plenty available. But as noted, the shorts and blouse Liza Hatter wore in the library accentuated the positive, and there wasnt any other action around at the moment, the idea of stealing or defacing books having receded all of a sudden, and Tristan was definitely in a pinch.
He had moved out of his apartment in Moscow the week before, back to Garnet Lake, where he was renting a duplex with money hed inherited from his grandfather, who, in Tristans view, had been a lunatic, full all the way up to his white hairline with patriotic zeal and religious nonsense, but who had also been filthy rich and very kind to him, so that he felt badly in his less charitable moments toward him. But now he was back in Moscow for one night only, by himself, having talked his parents and his two older sisters out of coming down for his graduation by threatening not to walk in the ceremony if they attended, claiming it was a waste of time and effort on their part, but for no better reason really than that he hoped to get laid one more time in Moscow before returning to his hometown, where the selection of women was more limited and less interesting, although he hadnt entirely admitted his motives to himself. But with the apartment unavailable, the apartment in which hed had sex with so many girls that it had become almost embarrassing, more for the girls themselves than for him, because he had started to feel toward the end that they probably should have known better, he had no place to sleep for the night, and had either to crash in the car, fall back on the hospitality of one friend or another whom he didnt really want to see, or find a girl to shack up with, which was, of course, Plan A. And Liza Hatter was looking like a good candidate.
Excerpted from The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris. Copyright © 2008 by Keith Lee Morris. Excerpted by permission of Tin House Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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