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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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At the elevators I found Julie, her arms crossed over her chest: her cheeks were flushed, her eyes brimming with tears. She pushed her hair away from her face. "I don't want to hear it, Carrie, OK?"

I was taken aback. "I wasn't going to say anything."

"My mother's an idiot. I can't believe I never figured that out until I was nineteen."

"Better late than never."

She half smiled but then quickly shook her head, as if she didn't want to be derailed. "Do you know what she was doing when I got home this afternoon? Ironing tablecloths. Do you know when the last time we used a tablecloth was? Christmas! Do you know when the next time will be? Thanksgiving!"

"She has to do something," I said.

"Then why doesn't she do something about Mike?" Julie cried. Then she burst into tears. "Because there's nothing to do," she sobbed. "There's nothing to do."

I put my arms around her and pulled her close. Why hadn't I cried? Why couldn't I? I felt stony. I ran a hand down her hair and felt her shoulder blades, how bony and angular they were.

She palmed her face, wiped her hand on her skirt, then looked up at me. "Why couldn't it have been Rooster?" she whispered fiercely.

As if it had to have been someone: I'd thought the same horrible thing. "I don't know," I said to her. "I really don't."

Rooster was still in the lobby when I got there, standing near the exit, talking to the same blond nurse. Her hair was down now, a sweep of pale waves, and she carried a shoulder bag. After a moment he looked up and saw me, then motioned for me to join them.

"Have you guys actually met?" he said. "Carrie, this is Joan. She's from Oconomowoc, believe it or not."

I nodded: his parents were both from Oconomowoc; it was where he went for holidays.

"You know who Carrie is."

Joan smiled at me. She was taller than I'd realized, nearly six feet, with clear, fair skin and extraordinary pale blue eyes. "I'm sure sorry about Mike," she said.


"It's way too soon to give up hope, though."

"Exactly," Rooster said.

Joan headed for the exit, and I watched Rooster watching her, his eyes on her even once she was out the door and heading into the parking lot. "Nice," he said at last.

"Nice what?" I was used to his ways. Nice legs. Nice ass.

"Just nice."

He put his hand on my shoulder, and after a moment we started toward the door together. It was muggy and hot outside, the sky a glaring white. Heat blew toward us from the parking lot, thick and exhaust-tinged.

"Let's go for a drink."

I glanced up and found him watching me closely, face flushed, red hair damp at the hairline. I looked away. "I don't really feel like it."

He stopped walking and put his hands on his hips. "Come on, Carrie, be a friend for once, OK? One beer, I promise. We'll go somewhere quiet."

"For once? Why did you say for once?" My eyes burned a little, and I thought it would be incredible if this were what finally made me cry.

"I didn't mean it like that."

"How did you mean it?"

He rolled his eyes. An impatient look came over his face, and he stared out at the sea of cars baking in the late sun. Finally he looked back at me. "I didn't mean it at all, OK?"

I sighed. Rooster always got his way eventually, through sheer force of will. I could go on resisting, but what was the point? "All right," I said, "one beer."

We drove separately, then met up in front of the University Bookstore. While we were standing there trying to decide where to go, we ran into Stu, who talked us into the Union terrace. Rooster stood in line for beer while Stu and I got a table. Lake Mendota was a rippled silver, like a vast piece of silk spread out but not yet smoothed. I remembered the morning, how both lakes had disappointed me, and I decided they'd been tainted: by my failure to visit Mike the day before.

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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