"This looks like the place," I said.
"Okay," said Stacey, getting out of the van. Ashley was still staring out the window. Stacey took a couple steps toward the trailer, then looked back at us. "Lee?" she said, irritated.
"Coming," said Lee, and opened her door. I thought, is that what she calls herself now, Lee? I still wasn't sure it was even the girl I had known.
Before she put her feet on the ground, Lee said, "Listen, Jennifer?"
"Do you mind coming along with us?" She looked up at the trailer. "In case this guy is sketchy?"
I nodded. "Sure," I said.
As it turned out, the trailer was way sketchy. Four busted-up cars sat on cinder blocks. An old red truck was pulled up next to the back door. On the back windows were two decals. The first one said, SHOW US YOUR TITS!
The second one, in Gothic script, read, YOUR COLLEGE SUCKS.
Stacey knocked on the door and waited. No one answered. She knocked again.
The pit bull came over, snarling and bouncing and wagging.
"Aww," Lee said. "Pretty girl."
I had no idea who she was referring to. It didn't appear to apply to anyone present. Then she kneeled and started petting the pit bull, which in turn licked her face. "Pretty girl," she said again.
Stacey kept knocking on the back door of the trailer. I looked around the yard, which was all mud. There was garbage and rusted pieces of metal and broken auto parts in every direction.
"I guess he ain't home," said Stacey.
She came over to where we were standing, and looked at the dog. "Wow," she said. "She's great."
Lee looked up. "What do you think?" she said. "You think we should just take her?"
We all thought about it. The guy was giving the dog away, after all. Still, it seemed odd that he wouldn't be here, especially after Stacey had just called him on the phone. Was it possible we were at the wrong house? If we just took the dog, it was entirely possible we'd wind up getting arrested for dog larceny. These girls seemed to be exactly the kind of characters to whom such things happened.
"Wait," said Stacey. "Something's moving in the house."
We went back to the door and knocked again. Stacey turned to us with a look of urgency. "He's only wearing a towel," she said.
Lee looked at me urgently. Please, save us, she seemed to say.
But I didn't think I could save anybody anymore.
Speed Racer, clad only in a towel, unlocked the back door. "Sorry," he said. "Didn't hear ya. Come on in. Let's get some clothes on."
Well, yes, that sounds good, I thought. He vanished. Then Stacey and Lee and I looked at each other and considered our next move.
"I guess we just--go in?" said Lee.
"Uh-huh," I said.
They let me go first.
A moment later we were all standing in a filthy kitchen. Dishes were piled high in the sink. There was a calendar of a topless woman on one wall, and my first reaction was, what's the deal with men and nudie calendars? Is it just so they can show everyone how stupid they are? Then I caught hold of myself. I sort of remembered what the deal was.
Excerpted from She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan Copyright© 2003 by Jennifer Finney Boylan . Excerpted by permission of Broadway, 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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