The details of the ten-mile drive from the turnoff to the lake house at Garfield Bay presented themselves to Tristans memory more clearly, as if in moving closer to the event things became sharper due to their proximity, like a kind of foreshadowing, or maybe just the opposite, that the event itself in its startling vividness had shone a light backward over the preceding hour. Even now, warming up for dart night at the 321, thinking about how Russell Harmon had been in the john for such a long time and what sort of drugs he had in his possession and whether he might be willing to share, because something like that might help him relax, he could recall the sight of the lake that night as they drove, visible through the cedar trees, sparkling with moonlight. He could recall also how the night had turned colder, how the wind curled in through the open window and helped to sober him as he took the winding turns, how from the stereo Mick Jagger had sneered his way through Midnight Rambler. And he could recall the conversation then, too, or not so much his own words, if there had been any, but Liza Hatter spilling out her life to him as she had been for the last three hours, poor dizzy Liza Hatter, dumber than a post, dumber even than Russell Harmon with his dart league and his score sheets and his puffed-up pride in his trivial abilities.
Liza Hatter, he recalled, had talked for several minutes about her plans to switch her major to veterinary science. She had already begun to take courses in preparation for the switch, and although she was sure shed made the right decision because she just loved animals so much, she had been disturbed by a class in which her professor her squeamishness at the opening of the sternum and the examination of the viscera, disdain for her sentimentality and lack of professional rigor, for her teary-eyed assertion that this was someones best friend, this was once someones little puppy. It seemed pretty nigh hopeless for Liza Hatter ever to become a veterinarian, but he allowed her to believe in his sympathy and understanding even while he was starting to hate her a little. And yet this conversation came back to him now daily, hourly, with a kind of poignant irony.
They arrived at the lake house. They carried their things inside. He searched through his parents CD collection, which wasnt much to shout about, and put a Ray Charles disc in the player, the old Ray Charles stuff from the time when he still wrote his own songs and hadnt yet become a clown. He showed her around the house, listened to her ooh and aah at the view of the lake from the tall windows, a view that he could have appreciated more himself if hed been in the house alone. They sat out on the deck and drank beer and Liza Hatter scooted in close to him and kissed him and he lit a cigarette, because he didnt want to kiss her then, was still finding her slightly repugnant, even despite the perfume shed dabbed on in the upstairs bathroom.
It was her idea to go skinny-dipping. He agreed reluctantly, bored, bored, bored with the predictability of the suggestion but agreeing to play along, and preparing himself already for the iciness of the water at this time of year, an iciness that he knew would surprise her and probably send her swimming frantically back to the dock as soon as she dived in, so that he could escape for a few minutes and swim out into the lake alone.
They stripped at the end of the dock. The moon was almost new, and even with the lights shining down on them from the house there was a swarm of stars. To left and right were the rocky cliffs of the cove, the pine trees rising up and up in the night air, whispering faintly in accompaniment to the music from the house. They were entirely alone, he and Liza Hatter, he had to keep reminding himself of that these days, that there were no houses close enough for anyone to see or hear. Liza Hatter stood before him naked, as if she were backlit on a thrust stage. The long legs, the auburn hair, the coy smile, the soft and rather dainty breasts, the thin line of dark pubic hair - again he found something unsatisfying about her looks, and wished hed had the patience to wait around longer for someone else.
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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