La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl

La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl

by David Huddle


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In this absorbing novel, the award-winning author David Huddle tells a provocative story involving the life of the mysterious painter Georges de La Tour and the echoes of his work across time.
An art history professor, Suzanne Nelson escapes her failing marriage by retreating into her research and the fertile world of her imagination. La Tour's ability to create luminous portraits of peasants stood in sharp contrast to his aggression toward the poor, but little information about his life exists, and Suzanne finds herself filling in the details, trying to understand how a man capable of brutality could create such beauty. Unwittingly looking to her own life and marriage, she invents La Tour's final painting sessions with a young model, a village girl. When the girl modestly disrobes for the artist, he discovers a marking on her back that she is obviously unaware of. By painting her, La Tour in effect reveals to the girl exactly who she is and who she is not. Her reaction is at once astonishing and utterly warranted. In Suzanne's mind, this encounter becomes a story of truth and lies, art and identity.
Deftly moving between the present and the seventeenth century, Huddle reveals the surprising repercussions of history and art in modern life. In the process he asks the biggest questions: How do we come to define who we are? Which secrets must remain our own and which can we justify giving away? LA TOUR DREAMS OF THE WOLF GIRL is both passionate and fascinating, a wonder of narrative invention and emotional depth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618340774
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 06/18/2003
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.48(d)

About the Author

David Huddle’s fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Esquire, Harper’s Magazine, Story, the New York Times Magazine, and The Best American Short Stories. Among his books of short fiction are Tenorman, Intimates, and Only the Little Bone. He is the recipient of two NEA fellowships.

Read an Excerpt

PROFESSOR NELSON can't get free of Stevens Creek, Virginia. Nine
miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, marked on only the most
detailed maps, it's a cluster of maybe a hundred houses, a store, and
two filling stations. During her childhood, the hamlet had two or
three times as many of its young men serving time in the penitentiary
as it had students attending college. Hostility was part of its
weather, but she was never that way. Quiet though she was, Suzanne
always wanted to be close to somebody. Her two older sisters, Bonnie
and Gail, turned cold toward her when they were little, though
Suzanne still tries to be companionable to them. On their birthdays,
she sends her sisters cards, but they forget hers every year. At
Christmas she buys gifts for them and their kids, knowing that she
will receive neither gifts nor thank-you notes.

Her parents are friendly, but in a superficial way. They're
guarded in their dealings with her; when Suzanne calls them to chat,
she senses how they maneuver to end the conversation.
The estrangements hurt Suzanne. Distant as her life is from
theirs, she's done nothing to warrant her sisters' unfriendliness,
nor has she ever given her parents cause to be wary of her. How could
she help being the freak of the family? She didn't realize that she
was smarter -- a lot smarter -- than her sisters and her parents
until she was in eighth grade. That's when she had to ride the school
bus thirty-five miles a day, to and from the consolidated high
school. The teachers there who'd taught Bonnie and Gail were so
stunned by Suzanne'sability that they told her, compared with her
sisters, she was a genius. Compared with most of the children who
rode the bus in from Stevens Creek to Galax, Suzanne was a female
Of course she's the only one in her family who doesn't have
that mountain accent -- her intuition obliterated it, starting with
her first day of eighth grade. People in Galax spoke a more
sophisticated version of Appalachian English than did people in
Stevens Creek. The way the town kids mocked the country kids was so
ruthless that most of Suzanne's Stevens Creek school-bus
acquaintances became predictably hostile and all the more determined
to hold on to their mother tongue. Suzanne was the only one who began
It was a talent she had -- listening, analyzing, imitating.
By her sophomore year, the only ones mocking her way of speaking were
a few of the more surly Stevens Creek kids, who took her Galaxized
speech as a sign of betrayal. Mostly, though, the Stevens Creek kids
thought of her as the one who could compete in that school, the one
who had a chance of beating the Galax snobs at their own game.
Nowadays Suzanne is pretty certain that the reason she
changed her speech was to make friends among the smart kids. It
didn't work. She was popular. Again and again she found herself in
groups of Galax girls; she was invited to spend the night at this
girl's house and that one's. She made an effort to cultivate the
friendship of several girls she admired, but intimacy never
developed. She came to see how jokes and manners and the slangy small
talk of the day were actually ways of pushing people away. Stevens
Creek boys didn't ask her out because she was too smart; Galax boys
didn't ask her out because she lived eighteen miles away. Her
remembrance of that time in her life is like a nightmare, with her
frantically running toward a familiar boy or girl who smiled and
beckoned but who then was sucked backward through space, so that no
matter how tirelessly she ran, she could never close the distance.
There was, however, the Mute. The Limeberrys, his family, had
lived on the outskirts of Stevens Creek for as long as anybody could
remember. But the Mute had a foreign look -- dark skin, converging
eyebrows, a beak-like nose, eyes with whites that caught your
attention. The Mute could speak, but there was a nasal harshness to
his voice -- it sounded as if his words were squeezing through some
weird tube behind his nose. From his first day in first grade, he'd
been brutally teased. By fourth grade, he'd shut up. He shook his
head when his teachers called on him. He'd do that, shake his head
yes or no, if you politely asked him a yes-or-no question. He did his
homework, all of it printed neatly. When he absolutely had to
communicate with a teacher, he'd print a quick note and carry it to
the teacher's desk. The Mute also learned to fight well enough --
that is, he could exact enough pain -- to convince the school bullies
to lay off him. Thus, he became a completely isolated boy. In his
classes and on the playground, in the cafeteria and the hallways, he
moved among the children, but no one spoke with him. No one, as his
teachers and the school administrators put it, interacted with him.
He wasn't antisocial, as far as anyone knew; he just didn't carry out
spoken intercourse with anyone. The Mute made himself almost
What took place between Suzanne and the Mute seemed, at the
time, just something that happened. In retrospect she thinks it may
have been the most significant moment in her five years at Blue Ridge
High School. That first August morning of eighth grade, when she got
on the school bus behind Bonnie and Gail -- of course they'd pushed
ahead of her -- there was no place to sit. She couldn't know it then,
but for a Stevens Creek kid, the most brutal politics of high school
life had to do with where you sat on the school bus. So there she
was, standing at the front, one step past the driver, looking down
the aisle all the way to the back, and there was no place for her.
There were several empty spaces, but each was a window seat being
saved by the kid sitting on the aisle. Among all the faces staring at
her, there wasn't a friendly one. Bonnie and Gail each had a pal
who'd saved a seat; now they sat staring at her, too, with that
gleeful look Suzanne recognized as pure sibling vengefulness. She
felt her face reddening. She was twelve years old and probably the
youngest kid on the whole bus. She had on her new first-day-of-school
dress, and she didn't think there was anything wrong with how she
looked, but there was no way she could make somebody give her a seat.
She glanced over her shoulder. The bus driver was waiting for her,
watching in his mirror to be sure she was seated before he started
the bus moving. Twenty-some pairs of eyes blazed at her. She was
about to open her mouth to let out what she knew would be a yelp, a
wail, a shriek, a moan. That was when the Mute scooted over and gave
her a place.
When she had settled into the seat, she murmured, "Thank you,
Elijah." She didn't say what any other kid would have said: "Thanks,
Mute." She was taking a chance, saying his whole name instead of the
nickname Lige, which she somehow knew he wanted to be called. From
far back in school, when he was still willing to speak, she must have
remembered his telling someone that was his name. Since first grade,
they'd been in the same classroom. She remembered a whole catalogue
of humiliations he had suffered from their schoolmates over the
years. She'd never spoken cruelly to him or done him any harm, but
she'd never tried to help or defend him, either. She was his witness.
That was what she meant to convey by using his full and proper first
name -- that and her extreme gratitude, which "Lige" would not have
signaled. "Lige" was merely "Thanks," whereas "Elijah" was "Oh, my
dear schoolmate, I can never adequately thank you for the noble
gesture you just made in that most painful moment of my twelve years
of life." And her gratitude was only slightly diminished by her
suspicion that he had taken the seat-saving aisle position to avoid
the shame of having every bus rider turn down the open seat beside
She thought about Elijah while she sat beside him for the
long ride to Blue Ridge High School. What kind of parents named their
child Elijah? Well, she knew what kind. Religious. And she thought
about Elijah's last name: Limeberry. She couldn't imagine how anyone
ever got to be named Limeberry, and in her concentration on such
matters as his family and his name and the history of suffering that
had produced his silence, Suzanne received -- as if it were a divine
revelation -- a blast of empathy. She could feel exactly what it was -
- even down to the thuds of his heartbeat, his breathing, his body
odor, his flat butt on the vinyl seat, and his dozens of unspoken
remarks -- to be Elijah Limeberry. The transmission of that boy's
life into her life lasted no more than about fifteen seconds, but it
gave Suzanne a brief spasm of shivers.
So for the five years until they graduated they rode the
school bus together each morning. In the afternoon, Suzanne got out
of sixth period with enough time to make it onto the bus and claim
her own seat. If she'd chosen to sit with Elijah, or if he'd chosen
to sit with her for the second time in a single day, they'd have been
accused of being "in love." She understood the absurdity -- and maybe
even the kindness of it. The bus kids allowed them the morning ride
together because it was necessary -- it was what they had to do to
survive -- and every kid riding with them understood that. But they
wouldn't tolerate Suzanne and Elijah openly choosing each other's
So now, when she got on the bus, Elijah automatically scooted
over to the window seat to make room. He'd always sit over there,
curled away from her and everyone else, and that gave him a little
pocket of privacy. He did something with his notebook while he sat
there. Suzanne didn't make much of that -- most kids did their
homework on the bus. For a lot of them it was the only time they ever
did homework. Suzanne herself always read on the bus, though it was
usually a book that didn't have anything to do with her classes. She
read, and he did whatever he did. That was how it was, because within
a few weeks after that first morning, they had settled into an
unsentimental acknowledgment of their arrangement. She even found
herself occasionally slipping back into thinking of him not as Lige
or Elijah, but as what he was called by everyone else on that bus --
the Mute. And Elijah had gone back to meeting her eyes only for the
small moment each morning when she got on the bus and he scooted
over. There were no further exchanges.
But that morning on the bus, for whatever reason, she
happened to glance his way. At the time it seemed a coincidence; she
didn't mean to look at his notebook, and he didn't mean to reveal it.
What she saw astonished her; he'd drawn a boy struggling with a
monster before a crowd of faces. In her momentary view of the
picture, Suzanne saw that the struggling boy was Elijah and that her
face was at the front of the crowd. He'd even drawn her fingers
touching her mouth to suggest concern and horror. The other faces
were fixed in demonic grins. The monster, however, was the dominant
image: many-eyed and many-handed, a dark mass of slime that evidently
could wrap itself around the boy, take hold of his arms, legs, neck,
and torso, envelope him in utter shadow. Quite clearly, the monster
would prevail in their struggle. And the boy's -- Elijah's -- face
held an expression of noble determination. One fist was poised for a
blow toward a pair of the monster's eyes. The other hand pushed away
a grasping set of dark fingers. But anyone could see that the fight
couldn't last more than an instant or two. Elijah was about to be
consumed by the slimy darkness.
He caught her staring at the picture. Their eyes met and held
for a few uncomfortable moments, as if he'd caught her secretly
trying to hurt him. But of course she hadn't been doing that. Even
now, Suzanne can't think of the word for what passed between them in
that look, though it was something like a contract. He agreed to let
her know that drawing pictures was what he did, and she agreed not to
talk about it with anyone. Well, of course there were no words to the
understanding, but that had to be it, because she never did tell
anyone, and Elijah did allow her, from time to time, to see his
pictures. What she really wanted was to watch him draw, but he never
did so in front of her. He might add a little touch of shading if she
was looking. When he was really concentrating, he turned away and
curled over the notebook, as if he created the drawing within a
secret cavity of his body. He worked with a blue pen and a black pen,
and sometimes, when his shoulders made a certain movement, Suzanne
was pretty certain he was switching from one pen to the other.
When Suzanne recalls their unspoken agreement, she realizes
that if Elijah revealed a drawing to her, he did so in a way that
would prevent any other kid from seeing it. And she was unobtrusive
in her looking. Actually, in the hundreds of mornings they rode the
bus together, he probably showed her only a dozen pictures. And when
he did, the two of them shielded the picture from the sight of the
kids around them. What amazes her is that as intricate as the
arrangement was, she gave little thought to it once she stepped off
the school bus. Perhaps in the mornings, as she stood by the road
waiting for the bus, she wondered what bizarre vision Elijah might
show her that day. But during her school hours, and while she was at
home, there was no place in her thoughts for Elijah "Lige" Limeberry,
a.k.a. the Mute. It was as if she stashed him away in a special
compartment of her mind.
That remembrance disturbs her now. What is it about those
long-ago days that nags at her? At first she can't grasp it, but as
she pushes her memory of Elijah, it begins to take hold. His pictures
have lingered in her mind. They are there -- is that right? Even now,
she holds vivid images that she knows were drawn by Elijah's hand.
Except that isn't right, either, because several of the black and
blue images in her mind were not drawn by Elijah. She herself made
them up.
Suzanne begins to see certain parts of her daily life in
terms of Elijah's pictures. Or she remembers pieces of her experience
as if Elijah had drawn them.
One day at lunch, there was a fight between two Galax boys,
football players, in which the one ripped the other's shirt, and the
other screamed foul names and brandished a cafeteria chair. Suzanne
saw the fight, and she knows Elijah didn't -- because unless the
weather was freezing cold, he always took his brown bag outdoors to
eat by himself. But she remembers that fight as if Elijah had drawn
it, the fighters looming, huge and furious, one boy's veins popping
in his neck as he stood cursing the other. Elijah would have shown
the faces in the background -- maybe one of them hers -- and he would
have shown the vice-principal pushing his way through the crowd to
stop the fight and take the boys to the office, even though that
didn't really happen.
The only pictures Elijah showed Suzanne were related to
school. He drew one that is as clear in her memory as if it were a
painting she had studied and written about. It was of Mrs. Childress,
the librarian, drawn mostly in blue. She is a miniature human being
in comparison with the great oafs, drawn in heavy black lines, who
surround her in the library. Elijah had perfectly captured the
woman's precarious authority over them all. He'd invested her with
blue beneath black lines so that the blueness is like energy held
within her. As if even in her smallness, the librarian is the
finished human being, whereas the students are the doofus creatures
who don't know what to do with themselves and depend on petite Mrs.
Childress to bring a moment of focus to their lives. The boy drawn at
the front of the line was famous for his unruly behavior in school, a
boy who defied teachers and administrators but who was known to
revere Mrs. Childress. Suzanne is sure that only she and Elijah ever
noted the unacknowledged stature of that woman in the school, which
she -- Suzanne -- wouldn't have known how to describe. But once
Elijah had set it into a picture and allowed her to see it, she could
grasp what she already knew.
There was a stretch during her senior year, however, when
Elijah showed her no pictures and when he seemed not to notice her at
all. The place beside him was available each morning; he no longer
sat on the aisle side, pretending to save it, because by then it had
been established that the place was hers. Also, he'd stopped catching
her eye at any time during the bus ride or the school day. In the
general chaos of her life in those days, however, the change in
Elijah's behavior was barely noticeable. Occasionally Suzanne
wondered whether she'd done something to anger him or hurt his
feelings, but nothing came to mind. And other matters demanded her
attention. She'd got caught up in applying to colleges and discussing
scholarships with her guidance counselors and teachers.
One cold January day when she got on the school bus, she
found the seat empty, Elijah not there. Everyone on the bus seemed to
be staring at her. Elijah had never missed school. Something made
Suzanne glance back at the bus driver. His eyes were on her, too, in
the mirror that let him monitor what went on behind him. "His mother
died," the driver said quietly. "She'd been sick a long time."
Suzanne nodded but said nothing. She took her seat, and the bus
driver let the clutch out and started the bus. She didn't dare scoot
over to the window; even with Elijah not there, it would have been
wrong to take his place. She sat with her book bag in her lap, as she
did every morning when he sat beside her.
The more she thought about him, the more her face burned with
shame. That his mother had died was horrible. If she'd been a friend
to Elijah as he'd been to her that first morning, she'd have found
out why he'd been holding himself away from her all that time. Or
she'd have just known -- she who had once experienced what it was
like to be Elijah! Everybody else on the bus -- though no one said a
thing -- seemed to have known. All that time he'd been sitting beside
Suzanne, he'd needed her to know his mother was ill, but she'd been
thinking of herself and her future and the days of freedom that lay
ahead of her at college. As she noticed how quiet the other kids
were, she realized that tears were falling down her cheeks and
splashing onto her book bag. Embarrassed, she turned toward the
window and curled around herself, as Elijah did when he worked in his
notebook. And it happened to her again, that sharp blast of empathy,
which was like a magic trick in which she lived in Elijah's body and
mind for about twenty seconds. It made her face burn all the more.
Throughout that day in school and the ride home and in her
dealings with her parents and her sisters -- all of them leaving her
completely alone, now that they knew she was making her escape to
college within the year -- she was preoccupied. Before her mother
called her down for dinner, she sat in her room, trying to draw a
picture that would show her embracing Elijah to comfort him in his
grief. But she had no talent for drawing, and even if she could have
drawn what she meant, the picture would have been wrong. She had no
desire to embrace him -- she simply wanted to let him know that she
felt his sorrow, that she was somehow with him in his sorrow, or that
she wanted to be with him. The more she studied her feeble attempt at
a picture, the more confused she became about what she wanted to
convey to Elijah. However, as she ate with her family -- who mostly
talked among themselves as if she weren't there -- she reconciled
herself to writing him a note. When she finished washing the dishes --
the chore that had fallen to her when she was twelve by agreement
among the family -- she went upstairs to compose her note to him. She
paced her room, she did some of her homework, she read in the library
book Mrs. Childress had recommended, and she composed draft after
draft of her note of condolence. No matter what she wrote, she hated
the words, so she finally settled on writing the thing she hated the
least, which, as it turned out, was the most impersonal version of
what she wanted to say.
Dear Elijah,
I am so sorry about your mother. Please forgive me for not having
spoken to you about her before this. I know this must be a terrible
time for you, and I hope you will let me know if there is anything I
can do to help make things easier for you.
Your school bus friend,
She had the note ready to give him the next day, but he
wasn't on the bus. That was a Friday, and the funeral -- she learned
from the biweekly county newspaper -- would be on Saturday. She
considered attending -- she could walk to the church -- but decided
it would be a mistake to make a statement like that to her family and
the townspeople. She was pretty certain he would be on the bus on
Monday morning, when she could discreetly pass him the note. All
through the weekend, she agonized, but she always came up with the
same answer: she couldn't pretend she didn't know what had happened,
she couldn't draw a picture for him, and she couldn't speak to him;
she had to give him the words she had written.
Monday morning Elijah was back in his seat, looking out the
window. When Suzanne sat down, he didn't move. The note, in its
envelope, was tucked into an outside compartment of her book bag;
she'd planned exactly how to pass it to him. She waited through the
next two stops, until Leonard Branscomb stepped up into the bus.
Leonard was a tall, red-faced farm boy who always had funny things to
say to his pals in the back of the bus. Suzanne waited until he was
directly beside her, carrying on as usual and distracting everyone as
he made his way to the back. That was when she said, quietly but
definitely, "Elijah," a few inches from his ear. She witnessed the
little jolt she'd caused him. When he turned his eyes to her, she
pushed the envelope against his hand, positioned so that he could see
his name on it. He took it and once more gave her a look, one that
struck Suzanne as fearful. Why should he be afraid of me? she thought
as he faced the window again, curling around himself in that way of
Relieved, she excused herself from worrying any further about
him or what he would make of what she had written. She opened her
library book and, her eyes on the page, began savoring a vision of
herself walking across a campus in springtime -- Radford College or
maybe V.P.I. She would be wearing new clothes; she would be in the
company of a boy or a friend; she would have the admiration of her
professors . . .
She heard her name in a belch of sound, as if croaked by a
whale or a porpoise trained to imitate human noises, and found
herself staring straight at Elijah's tear-streaked face. He grasped
her hand, tugging it and holding on to it. He uttered two more
syllables -- "Thank you" -- as if he were talking through his nose,
yet loud enough for the kids near them to hear. The whites of his
eyes gleamed weirdly. Then, perhaps sensing that she was repulsed by
his behavior, he released her hand and jerked himself back toward the
window, raising the hand that had grasped hers to wipe his wet cheeks
and eyes.
What she had to do was -- she knew it as clearly as if it had
appeared before her in letters of fire -- TOUCH HIm. But what she
really wanted more than anything was to move away, put some distance
between his flesh and hers. Of course there was no other seat, and
she probably wouldn't have moved even if there had been one. But she
couldn't will herself to put a hand on his arm or shoulder or knee,
couldn't force even a whispered I'm sorry. All she could do was sit,
locked in her sitting-on-the-bus posture. The moment passed. She
sensed that if she so much as brushed him with her fingers, he'd
strike at her in anger. Her face blazed with shame.
She heard noise behind her and across the aisle -- stifled
laughter. She guessed the kids sitting there -- Becky Stoots and
Mildred Coleman -- were talking about what they'd just seen happen
between her and Elijah. She could turn toward them and give them a
look, but that would make things worse. So she sat quietly, hoping he
would understand that she meant to endure the humiliation with him.
But she knew he wouldn't see it that way. He'd see it correctly:
she'd betrayed him. She'd written and delivered that note to make
herself feel better. And when he'd responded openly, she'd pulled
away from him. So if it was possible to make Elijah Limeberry's life
worse -- the life of a friendless boy who'd been brutally mocked from
his first day of school and whose mother had just died -- that was
what she'd done. That was how she'd repaid his kindness in rescuing
her on her first day of riding the bus.

Suzanne knows this episode is at the core of what she protects from
acquaintances who want to know where she came from and what it was
like to grow up in Appalachia. But this isn't all. There are probably
forty or fifty old betrayals and humiliations from those days that
radiate around that single moment on the bus with the Mute. Suzanne
can evoke an amalgamation of smells that come from that bus, from the
Colemans and Stootses and Branscombs and Mabes and Davises who got on
at this stop and that one. Some of those children were clean, but few
bathed regularly, and their clothes were rarely washed. One or two
had the fragrance of fried side meat clinging to them. The Porter
children came straight to the bus from milking cows and slopping
hogs. She can probably even bring back the exact fragrance of Mildred
Coleman's hair spray after she'd been caught in the rain -- the
memory of that scent oddly thrills Suzanne when it returns to her.
From her hundreds of mornings and afternoons on the school
bus, she can bring back snapped bra straps and cruelly flipped ears
and ripped shirts and thrown condoms and tampons and curses and names
called and blows struck and even the time Leonard Branscomb spat in
the face of Buntsy Russell and dared him to do something about it.
And there was Botch Arnold pulling a sharpened beer-can opener from
his sock and threatening Trenton Mabe with it; that memory is such a
squalid little treasure that Suzanne knows she will never let it go.
Though she has devoted most of her life to putting them behind her --
to denying them -- these people remain an essential part of who she
It isn't so much the squalor or ignorance or ugliness of her
former life that Suzanne wants to conceal. She knows she's locked in
this -- how to name it? -- posture of half-hearted empathy. All she
had to do was despise Elijah Limeberry, the way everyone else did.
He'd have understood, and she'd have caused him no pain. All she has
to do now to separate herself -- cleanly and completely -- from her
past is to despise it. But she can't.
He paid her back. When she remembers it, she grimaces.
Whether or not payback was all he intended, Suzanne will never know.
It was on one of her last days of school, when she was still giddy
from the offer of a full scholarship from Hollins College. She'd
applied there only to appease the English teacher, who was the most
passionate of those urging her to get a college education. The
scholarship stopped her parents' resistance to her going. They could
no longer say they weren't about to pay good money for her to go off
to some fancy college just to come back home and turn up her nose at
them. That spring, her senior year in high school, she was strolling
down a grand boulevard of possibility and opportunity. The episode of
her treachery to Elijah was fading from memory, and she had only a
few more days of riding the school bus before leaving it forever. She
and Elijah had continued to share a seat, but they both understood it
was for the sake of deflecting attention from them. If she'd sat
elsewhere, their bus comrades would have teased them without mercy.
So when she took her seat those last mornings, Suzanne endured the
discomfort she felt emanating from Elijah, as she supposes he endured
whatever feelings were coming from her -- though it troubles her to
name what they were. She tells herself, Sorrow -- I felt sorry for
what had happened between us -- but the truth is that she loathed
him. Now that she had betrayed Elijah, what she had to bear, while
sitting beside him, was loathing of such intensity that she must have
reeked of it, like the smell of cow manure that came onto the bus
with the Porter kids.
The grimace that comes to Suzanne's face now -- twenty-two
years after the fact -- is focused on her discomfort with that
feeling. Not that she thinks loathing is an unacceptable feeling, but
that she felt it for a boy in whose body and mind she actually lived
for about thirty-five seconds. And for a boy whose kindness had saved
her in a desperate moment.
The Mute left an envelope, with her name on it, stuck in her
locker door on the last day of school. He must have been paying close
attention to her and planning carefully, because it was the last time
she'd ever open that locker. And she wasn't going to ride the bus
home that afternoon, because she'd been invited to spend the night
with a classmate who was also going to Hollins in the fall and who
said she wanted to get to know Suzanne a little better. When Suzanne
saw the envelope, she knew immediately who'd put it there -- it was
exactly like the envelope she'd passed to him on the bus, except that
it had SUZANNE printed on it in black ink. She dreaded reading the
note so much that she carried it into the girls' bathroom, and though
there wasn't a soul there, at the end of the school day, she took the
envelope into a stall before opening it.
It was a folded card of good stationery -- the same as she'd
used for her note to him -- and when she unfolded it, she found the
inside entirely inked over. While Suzanne stood in the shadowy little
box with the toilet -- and the smell of the girls' bathroom making
her feel slightly nauseated -- she saw that there was blue ink
beneath the nearly solid blackness. The black pen strokes had just
enough space between them for a vague blue shape to be discernible.
She left the stall and carried the note to the window to study it in
bright light. And still she couldn't make it out. There was something
back there; she thought it was a face, but she couldn't be sure. The
no-image image nagged her to study it more carefully -- she thought
about looking at it at home with a magnifying glass. But as she stood
by the window, holding the card, something began to anger her.
Something sparked in her. She ripped it! Then she ripped the two
pieces into four. Those two rippings happened in an instant, and she
stood holding the quartered parts. Finally, she took them, with the
envelope, to the big trash can, where she tore the pieces into the
size of snowflakes. As she let them fall into the can, she took
special care that the SUZANNE on the envelope was so thoroughly
shredded that not even a genius of a puzzle worker could have
reassembled it.
That was perhaps the first time Suzanne had deliberately
destroyed something. Leaving the restroom and walking out of the
school building toward the parking lot to meet her classmate, she was
shocked by her exhilaration. Her hands still tingled from the
ripping. That was good, she thought. That was just fine, Suzanne
decided as she hurried toward the girl who wanted to know her better.

Copyright © 2002 by David Huddle

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LA Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
nicole_a_davis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ugh-- I think the author used the reference to La Tour just to make his book seem weightier and more important, and then neither the art or history had mcuh significance in the book.