It had taken virtually no coaxing whatsoever to get her out of the library, where she had come simply to escape the heat, an unusual heat for Idaho in the middle of May, and over to her apartment, where she drank margaritas and he drank beer. And it took only two margaritas to prompt from Liza Hatter the sort of confession that Tristan dreaded hearingthat she had been infatuated with him for months now, and not only that, but her roommates, too, who would both be so jealous when they found out, which, as it happened, they never would, or at least Tristan would soon come to hope not.
Liza Hatter had in mind for the evening something she called nesting, which involved a trip to the grocery store to get more beer and margarita mix, and a trip to the video store to pick up movies. By the time shed reached the part about cuddling on the couch Tristan had begun to grow bored, and he hated boredom more than anything else, probably because it was the state at which he arrived more often than not when he was with other people, because when it came right down to it he didnt find people all that interesting, as they all seemed more or less to have the same kind of thoughts, perform the same sort of actions, very little variation occurring between the experience he had with one person or group of people and the next, and this was disturbing to him, because he was a conscientious person in the large ways and the deep ways if not in the small and everyday, and so wanted to think of himself as someone who tried to be helpful, someone who cared, even while he realized that he wasnt very helpful and usually didnt care, at least not until long after the fact, so that he passed up new opportunities for helping or caring due to his preoccupation with the missed opportunities of yesterday or the month before or last year. Right then, in fact, he was thinking about a girl named Kelly Ashton whom he had slept with last weekend at his parents lake house and never called afterward, which was more than a little puzzling to Tristan, since he had been in love with Kelly Ashton as far back as junior high. He mulled this one over, this surprising lack of feeling for Kelly Ashton, while Liza Hatter ticked off in an excited voice the potential choices of new releases on DVD, and in thinking of last weekend Tristans mind got settled on the lake house for some reason, and a potential avenue for escaping his increasing boredom started to take shape, an avenue that seemed to offer the possibility of at least being able to tolerate the several-hour prelude to sex with Liza Hatter, and so he laid out to Liza this plangrab a twelve-pack and make the three-hour trip to the lake house, spend the night there, come back the next morning for his graduation.
Thirty minutes later they were driving north on Highway 95 out of Moscow. It was from this point on, Tristan decided over and over again in the following weeks, that he had been home free. Of greater concern to him were the meeting at the library, the entry to and exit from her apartment, the stop at the convenience store for beer and snacks, although she hadnt gone inside with him.
Of the trip to Garnet Lake Tristan had very little memory, a not uncommon problem for him since the events of that night, the very last event of which his mind dwelt on obsessively, so that the time following the event and the time preceding the event, the rest of his whole life, in other words, seemed to be shoved aside in either direction, like the waves that constituted a boats wake, until like those waves they had diffused and disappeared.
He remembered the familiar landscape better than the conversation. He remembered that Liza Hatter had begun to talk, and that he had begun not to listen, because to listen, to really pay attention, would have been to become that other self, the one that smiled and nodded, the one that seemed to be on loan to someone else, the one that had completed his four years of college education, the one that had tried for years to please his parents and succeeded very well in doing so, the one that had made him popular, admired, and envied by virtually everyone hed been around every day for the last half-dozen years, so that he felt a huge chunk of his life had been used up by this other self on loan to these other people, answering their demands, giving pleasantry for pleasantry, joke for joke, sage advice for the asking, while the self he wanted to be and felt most comfortable with, the self that thought and acted boldly, erratically, somewhat dangerously on certain occasions, was a private self that had not gotten all it asked for, ever, and could seldom go about its business unhindered, and it was that self, there in the car, that tried to shake loose from Liza Hatters conversation, sought escape through the windows into the woods and the wheat fields, the fireworks stands and the casinos on the reservations, the dusty streets and violent taverns of the reservation towns themselves, and then later, after it had turned dark, into a little game that this self liked to play, and in which Liza Hatter had joined to the best of Tristans recollection, a game that involved leaving the brights on and drinking from a whiskey bottle, kept always under the seat for this purpose, each time another driver on the lonely highway flashed them, which was often enough that Tristan felt fairly dizzy by the time they pulled off the highway and onto the road to the lake house.
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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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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