Summer of the Dragonby Elizabeth Peters
The job was 600 miles away from home and that made it perfect. It didn�t even matter that Hank Hunnicutt had a reputation as a kook; he was, D.J. Abbott thought, merely eccentric. After all, didn�t he surround himself with every self-proclaimed practitioner of the occult arts who came his way? So, a thousand dollars a month, all expenses, the opportunity to spend some… See more details below
The job was 600 miles away from home and that made it perfect. It didn�t even matter that Hank Hunnicutt had a reputation as a kook; he was, D.J. Abbott thought, merely eccentric. After all, didn�t he surround himself with every self-proclaimed practitioner of the occult arts who came his way? So, a thousand dollars a month, all expenses, the opportunity to spend some time on an Arizona ranch. . . it was everything a young graduate student trying to prove herself might want. And it was . . . until Hank suffered an accident, then disappeared. Suddenly, the guests were eyeing each otherand D.J.with fear and suspicion. Only the person responsible knew what was going on, and when D.J. got too close to uncovering the truth, she discovered that some of the games being played by the people at the ranch have a deadly intent. And that she might just be the intended . . .
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I went to Arizona that summer for my health. Talk about irony...
No, I don't have asthma, or anything like that. What I had-and still have, for that matter was a bad case of parents. Two of them.
Mind you, they are marvelous. I love them. Separately they are unnerving but endurable. Together ... disaster, sheer disaster. Ulcermaking. Productive of high blood pressure, nervous tension, hives, indigestion, and other psychosomatic disorders.
I had not meant to mention my parents. I don't Want to hurt their feelings. However, there is no way of accounting for my presence at Hank Hunnicutt's ranch that summer unless I make unkind remarks about Mother and Dad. Pride prevents me from allowing anyone to suppose I went there of my own free will. Oh, well. It's unlikely that they would read a book like this. Mother only reads cookbooks and Barbara Cartland; Dad has never been discovered with any volume less esoteric than the Journal of Hellenic Studies.
I am not knocking my mother's literary tastes. She is probably the best cook in the entire Western world, and if, after a life which has included economic depression, World War II, and assorted personal tragedies, she can still believe in Barbara Cartland, then more power to her. I wouldn't mind her believing in Ro-mance, with the accent on the first syllable, if she didn't try to foist her opinions on me.
Mother thinks every nice girl ought to get married, read cookbooks, and have lots of children so she can be a grandmother. I don't know why she expects me to produce the grandchildren. I have four brothers and sisters. But I'm the oldest, and Mother's grandmotherlyinstincts began to burgeon when I hit puberty.
Dad thinks that every nice girl, and every nice boy, and all the boys and girls who aren't nice, should be archaeologists. He can't really understand why anyone would want to do anything else. He feels that there are too many people in the world anyway, so if they would just stop perpetuating themselves, then they could all live in the houses that have already been built, and grow just enough food to give themselves the strength to perform mankind's most vital endeavor digging things up.
If he had left me alone, I might have turned out to be a classical archaeologist. It was a case of overkill. The first toy I can remember playing with was not a doll, or a toy train, or a stuffed kitty. It was a Greek stater. (That's an ancient silver coin.) The reason why I remember it is because I swallowed it, and the ensuing hullaballoo, left a deep impression on my infant mind.
My room, during my formative years, was a horrible mixture of my parents' tastes. Mother contributed dons that wet their diapers and threw up. Dad sneaked in copies of antique statues. The walls were hung with drawings of Winme the Poch and photographs of the Parthenon. When I outgrew my crib, Mother bought me a canopied bed with ruffles dripping from the top. And Dad found, God knows where, a bedspread with heads of Roman emperors printed on it.
So it went, all the way along: cooking lessons from Mother, visits to museums with Dad. It's no wonder that when I went to college I promptly flunked the introductory Greek course.
At the time I was absolutely crushed. I studied for that course. My God, how I studied! Six hours a day. Id go in for an exam, smugly sure that I had memorized every ending of every declension, and then my mind would go totally blank. I can see now why it happened, but five years ago, when I was eighteen, I could only conclude that I was hopelessly stupid. I contemplated slashing my wrists. I mean, one takes things so seriously at that age. The day my adviser called me in, to tell me as kindly as possible that I had better drop Greek before it dropped me, I got sick to my stomach at the very idea of calling Dad to tell him I was a failure. I even got out a bottle of aspirin it was the deadliest drug I owned-and sat contemplating it for about two and a half minutes. Then I remembered that poem of Dorothy Parker's:Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.It made better sense than anything I had heard in Greek class. So I went out and had a double hot-fudge banana split and, thus fortified, called Dad.He didn't yell at me. I knew he wouldn't. He was just sweet and pitying and encouraging, which is lots worse than being yelled at. He"s felt sorry for me ever since. Poor girl, she will never be able to read Homer in the original....I slid into anthropology through the back door. It was the closest thing I could find to archaeology that didn't require any dead languages. If I ever get to my Ph.D., I'll have to pass an exam in German or French or something, but I do all right with spoken languages; and everybody knows how ridiculous those graduate language exams are.Anthropology had another advantage. It disappointed both my parents. I mean, living with those two required a delicate balance. International diplomacy is nothing compared to the skill and wit involved in keeping Mother and Dad more or less even in their fond disapproval of my activities. If I pleased one of them, the other fell into a deep depression, while the favored parent gloated offensively. No, the only way to handle them was to keep them both in a gentle sweat of frustration.I needn't mention what Mother's idea of a suitable college major was, do I? Right. Domestic science, or whatever they call it these days. I wouldn't know. I never got near that part of the university, if there was such a part. I took pains not to find out.
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