Excerpt from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dive From Clausen's Pier

by Ann Packer

The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer X
The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
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    Apr 2002, 384 pages

    Apr 2003, 384 pages


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"Having visitors means a lot to him."

I met her glance and then looked away. Nothing meant anything to him, that was the problem, the tragedy--that and the fact that his spinal cord had suffered an injury that could leave him paralyzed for life, quadriplegic. Thinking that way, though, that my visiting would mean nothing, made me feel churlish, a dweller on the bad side.


She was staring at me, her still-young face lined with concern. Of course I'll go, I wanted to say. I wanted to take my thumbs and run them over her forehead and cheeks. When I spoke, though, I sounded distant, even to myself. I said, "I have to work, but I'll go afterward."

She nodded, then reached across the table and took hold of my left hand. She touched the tiny diamond on my ring finger. "Michael was so happy the day he bought this, it was like something he'd made at school, he was so proud. Julie made a remark, about how it wasn't that big or something, and his face just fell. He got that hangdog look on his face and he said to me, 'Mom, do you think Carrie'll like it?' " She let go of my hand. " 'Do you think Carrie'll like it?' He loves you very much, dear."

I looked away from her. "I know."

We drank our tea silently. After a while I told her I wanted to go up to his room, and I climbed the stairs and turned down the hall, going past framed photographs of all three Mayer kids, school pictures mixed in with casual shots, two or three of Mike in hockey gear, his helmet off so you could see his wide grin.

At his door I hesitated, then went in. There was a musty, unused smell, and I wondered, with the air conditioning going so strong, if his windows had been opened at all since the accident. I crossed to the bed and sat down, running my fingers up and down the ribbed blue bedspread. On his bedside table there was a picture of me from high school graduation, and I picked it up and looked at it. It was a familiar picture, but the girl in it seemed only tenuously connected to who I was now. Her hair was up in a way I never wore my hair anymore, and she wore more eyeliner than I'd had on in ages, but mostly she looked sure of herself, sure she'd stay on Mike's bedside table for years and years and be happy about it.

Mike had never left home, and his room bore traces of all the different stages of him I'd known: trophies next to textbooks next to the briefcase he'd begun carrying the year before, when he started working. He had a job in new accounts at a bank near the Capitol, and as I looked around I thought of how he'd been talking lately of finally moving out, saying that since he was making good money he should get an apartment, teach himself domestic life so he wouldn't sabotage our marriage. Three or four times he'd said it, and I'd never responded. It killed me to think of it now: Mike trolling for something--just Good idea or No, better keep saving your money--and how I gave him nothing. Not even a wedding date: I deflected that question, too. Later, I kept thinking. Next year, the year after. Or I tried not to think about it at all.

I set the picture back on the bedside table, on the precise spot where it always stood. Then I lifted Mike's pillow to my face and breathed in his smell, a mixture of Dial and Right Guard and a clothes-and-body smell that was simply him.

I worked at the university library, where I'd had a work-study job while I was a student; when I graduated they offered me thirty-five hours a week, and so I stayed on. I could take or leave the job, but I liked being on campus: walking to the Union on breaks, heading up State Street to window-shop. My job was in the rare books room, where the only staff member close to my age was a graduate student named Viktor, from Poland. He was at the desk when I arrived, and I could tell right away he was in a good mood.

Excerpted from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer Copyright 2002 by Ann Packer. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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