"You're wrong, Gudrun," said Goodman. "It's just the scent of my Canoe."
"No, you are having a pot party in here, I think," she went on.
"Well," said Goodman, "it's true that there's been an herbal component. But now that you've made us see the error of our ways, it'll never happen again."
"That is all well and good. But also, you are consorting with mixed sexes," said Gudrun.
"We aren't consorting," said Cathy Kiplinger, who had rearranged herself on the bed right beside Goodman, neither of them appearing flustered to be seen so close together.
"Oh no? Then tell me what you are doing."
"We're having a meeting," said Goodman, lifting himself up on one elbow.
"I know when my leg is being pulled on," said Gudrun.
"No, no, it's true. We've formed this group, and it's going to be a lifelong thing," said Jonah.
"Well," said Gudrun, "I do not want to see you sent home. Please break this up now. And, all you girls, please go back through the pines at once."
So the three girls left, heading away from the teepee in a slow, easy herd with their flashlights leading them. Jules, walking down the path, heard someone say "Julie?" so she stopped and turned, training her light on the person, who was revealed to be Ethan Figman, who had followed her. "I mean, Jules?" he said. "I wasn't sure which name you preferred."
"Jules is fine."
"Okay. Well, Jules?" Ethan came closer and stood so near to her that she felt she could see right into him. The other girls kept walking ahead without her. "Are you a little less high now?" he asked.
"There ought to be a control. A knob on the side of your head that you could turn."
"That would be good," she said.
"Can I show you something?" he asked.
"Your head knob?"
"Ha-ha. No. Come with me. I'll be quick."
She let herself be led down the hill toward the animation shed. Ethan Figman opened the unlocked door; inside, the shed smelled plasticky, slightly scorched, and he threw on the fluorescent lights, which stuttered the room into its full majesty. Drawings were tacked up everywhere, a testament to the work of this freakishly gifted fifteen- year- old boy, with some nominal attention given to the work of other animation students.
Ethan threaded a projector, then shut off the lights. "See," he said, "what I'm about to show you are the contents of my brain. Since I was a little kid, I've been lying in bed at night imagining an animated cartoon that plays in my head. Here's the premise: There's this shy, lonely little kid called Wally Figman. He lives with his parents, who are always fighting, who are basically horrible, and he hates his life. So every night, when he's finally alone in his room, he takes out a shoe box from under his bed, and inside it is this tiny little planet, this parallel world called Figland." He looked at her. "Should I go on?"
"Of course," she said.
"So one night Wally Figman actually finds that he's able to go into the shoe box; his body shrinks down and he enters that little world. And instead of being this nobody anymore, he's a grown man who controls all of Figland. There's a corrupt government in the Fig Housethat's where the president livesand Wally has to fix it. Oh, and did I say that the cartoon is funny? It's a comedy. Or it's supposed to be, anyway. You get the idea, I think. Or maybe you don't." Jules started to reply, but Ethan kept talking nervously. "Anyway, that's what Figland is, and I don't even know why I want to show it to you, but I do, and here it is," he said. "It just occurred to me in the teepee tonight that there was a slight possibility that you and I had something in common. You know, a sensibility. And that maybe you might like this. But I'm warning you that you might also really, really hate it. Anyway, be honest. Sort of," he added with an anxious laugh.
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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