The subject of Ethan Figman was now lost for the night. The crumble went around a few times, and everyone's lips became tribally blue, and then the girls lay down in their separate beds and Jane Zell told them about her twin sister who had a shocking neurological disorder that sometimes caused her to slap herself in the face over and over.
"Oh my God," said Jules. "How awful."
"She'll be sitting there, just totally calm," said Jane, "and she suddenly starts to smack herself. Wherever we go, she makes a scene. People freak out when they see it. It's horrible, but I'm used to it by now."
"You get used to whatever you get," Cathy said, and they all agreed. "Like, I'm a dancer," Cathy continued, "but I have these enormous boobs. It's like carrying around sacks of mail. But what am I supposed to do? I still want to be a dancer."
"And you should try to do what you want," Jules said. "We should all try to do whatever we want in life," she added with sudden and unexpected conviction. "I mean, what is the point otherwise?"
"Nancy, why don't you take out your cello and play us something," Ash said. "Something with atmosphere. Mood music."
Even though it was late, Nancy got her cello from the storage area and sat on the edge of her bed, her bare legs opened wide, intently playing the first movement of a cello suite by Benjamin Britten. As Nancy played, Cathy stood on someone's camp trunk, her head perilously near the slant of the ceiling, and she began to perform a slow, free- form routine like a go-go dancer in a cage. "This is what guys like," Cathy said confidently. "They want to see you move. They want your boobs to swing a little, as if you could hit them in the head with them and knock them unconscious. They want you to behave like you have power, but also like you know they'd win the battle if it ever came down to it. They are so predictable; all you have to do is move your hips in a kind of swivel, and get a kind of jiggle rhythm going, and they're completely under the influence. It's like they're cartoon characters with eyeballs popping out of their heads on springs. Like something Ethan would draw." Beneath the pink T-shirt her body moved in snake segments, and once in a while the shirt would ride up so that the vaguest hint of pubic darkness was revealed.
"We are the modern music and porn teepee!" Nancy cried with glee. "A full- service teepee, to meet every male's artistic and perverted needs!"
All the girls felt fired up, overstimulated. The stark music and the laughter, drifting from the teepee and scribbling among the trees, headed toward the boys, a message in the darkness before lockdown. Jules thought of how she was nothing like Ethan Figman. But she was nothing like Ash Wolf either. She existed somewhere on the axis between Ethan and Ash, slightly disgusting, slightly desirablenot yet claimed by one side or the other. It was right not to have agreed to go over to Ethan's side just because he had wanted her to. As he'd said, she had nothing to feel sorry about.
Excerpted from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Copyright © 2013 by Meg Wolitzer. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead 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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