She stared at her own foot, at his hand and his long, gnawed fingers, at the silver and turquoise rings eating up the light. "Ringo-Pan," she said.
He laughed. His hair was getting long at the back of his neck, spilling like string over the spool of his head, and his beard was starting to cohere. But his face-his face was small and distant, receding like a balloon swept up into the sky.
"I was milking the goats," she said.
Two kids--little kids--blond, naked, dirty, appeared on the periphery, flopped down and started wrestling in the dirt. Somebody was banging a tambourine, and now a flute started up, skirling and stopping and lifting away like birdsong. "Good shit, huh?" he said.
Her smile came back, blissed-out, drenched with sun. Everything was alive everywhere. She could feel the earth spinning like a big ball beneath her feet. "Yeah," she said. "Oh, yeah. Definitely."
And then it was night. She'd come down gradually through the course of a long slow afternoon that stretched out and rolled over like a dog on a rug, and she'd worked in the kitchen with some of the others, chopping herbs, onions and tomatoes for the lentil soup and singing along to the Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish. Somebody was passing a pipe and she took a hit or two from that, and she'd kept a fruit jar topped up with Spanada right next to her throughout the cooking and the washing up and the meal that went on like the Last Supper while a guy named Sky Dog or maybe it was Junior Sky Dog played acoustic guitar and sang verses he made up on the spot. The blond kids from the morning were there, naked still, lentil soup streaking their torsos like war paint, and there was a baby in a wicker papoose strapped to the back of a gaunt tall woman with eyes that were like two craters sunk into her head. People were everywhere, people she'd never seen before--the weekend hippies up from the city--and her brothers and sisters too. Smoke rose from joss sticks, from grass and hash threaded meticulously from hand to hand as if they were all collectively stitching a quilt in the air. A pair of rangy yellow dogs sniffed at people's feet and thrust their snouts in the bowls that lay scattered across the floor.
Star was perched up on a throne of old couch pillows in the corner, along with Ronnie and a new girl whose name she'd forgotten. She wasn't feeling anything but tired, and though the whole thing--the whole scene--was fantastic, like summer camp without the counselors, a party that never ends, she was thinking she'd had enough, thinking she might just slip off and find a place to crash and let the sleep wash over her like a dark tide of nothing. Ronnie's leg lay across her own, and she could just barely feel the new girl's hair on her shoulder like a sprinkle of salt or sugar. She closed her eyes, let herself drift. The music began to fade, water sucked down a drain, water that was rushing over her, a creek, a river, one pool spilling into the next... but then one of the kids let out a sudden sharp wail and she came back to the moment. The kid, the little boy with his bare abdomen and dangling parts and his missing front teeth that gave him the look of a half-formed little ghoul, slapped something out of his mother's hand--Reba, that was her name, or maybe it was Rena? He let out another shriek, high and mechanical, but that was the beginning and the end of it, because Reba just held a joint to his lips and then sank back into the pillows as if nothing had happened.
Nothing had. No one seemed to notice or care. Sky Dog had been joined by a second guitarist now, and they were working their way through the steady creeping changes of a slow blues. A topless woman no one had ever seen before got up and began to hump her hips and flap her enormous breasts to the beat; before long, a couple of the commune's more or less permanent members rose up from the floor to join her, swaying in place and snaking their arms like Hindu mystics.
Reprinted from Drop City by T. C. Boyle by permission of Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 T. C. Boyle, all rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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