Standing at the urinal, I read the first graffiti to mar the freshly scrubbed wall of the school bathroom: Viet Nam sucks and Kristi Casey is a stone fox. In the fall of 1971, I was a senior new to Ole Bull High, and while I had formed judgments as to the former (I agreed, the war did suck), I had no idea who Kristi Casey was and whether or not she was a fox, stone or not. When I met her it only took a nanosecond to realize: Man, is she ever.
From my perch on the top row of the football bleachers, I used to watch her and the other cheerleaders, their short pleated skirts fanning out as they sprang into the air, screaming at the Bulls to go, fight, win! as if the continuation of human civilization depended on their victory. The late sixties still bled its influence into the early seventies, and many of us considered ourselves too hip in a mellow make-love-not-war way to look at those bouncing, pom-pom- punching, red-faced girls without thinking, Man, are they pathetic. Except, of course, for Kristi. Every time she tossed her dark blond hair, cut in a shag like Jane Fondas in Klute, every time she bent down to pull up a flagging crew sock, every time she offered up a sly dimpled smile, it was as if shed handed us our own personal box of Cracker Jack, with a special surprise inside. She was the kind of girl who could do uncool things like act as secretary for the Future Farmers of America after-school club or solicit funds for Unicef during lunch hour (she told me having a wide range of interests looked good on college applications) and the consensus would still be: Wow.
Darva Pratt was not part of the consensus and, in fact, loathed Kristi Casey and all that she stood for.
Look at her, said Darva, as if I needed prodding. It was during halftime, and as the marching band played the theme song to Hawaii Five-O, Kristi kept time on a bass drum she had strapped over her shoulders. God forbid the band steal some of her spotlight.
After they played the bridge, the band quieted, playing two notes over and over as Kristi began a rhythmic duel with the bands official bass drummer. She pounded out an uncomplicated beat, which the bass drummer answered. The crowd cheered, and then it was the drummers turn. His was a more complicated rhythm, which Kristi echoed, no problem. The crowd cheered again. This went on, the fans growing wilder as each drummers challenge increased in speed and difficulty. Finally Kristi beat out a tempo so intricate, so tricky, that after a few beats her challenger threw down his mallets and bowed deeply, his long furry hat practically sweeping the ground. Flashing her bright, white smile, Kristi held up her arms in victory as the crowd exploded, the drum major signaled, and the band played the last measures of the song at full volume.
Wow, I said after we had all sat down. That girl can drum.
Of course she can, said Darva. Shes our golden girl.
I laughed. Jealous?
Now it was Darvas turn to laugh. Yes. Its my lifelong desire to be the wet dream of hundreds of high school boys.
Language, Darva, I said, putting a little gasp of shock in my voice. Language.
The third quarter began, and we sat in the bleachers, warmed by the mild autumn sun, watching the game. Under a great bowlful of blue sky, the trees themselves cheered us on, waving their maroon and gold leaves in the breeze and dislodging a squad of crows who cawed their cheers; it was as if all of nature was throwing a pep rally for a bunch of high school kids. I shut my eyes and raised my face to that solar warmth, but my respite lasted only a moment before Darvas sharp elbow found purchase in my lower ribs.
Look at what your girlfriends doing now.
Excerpted from The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik Copyright © 2007 by Lorna Landvik. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, 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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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