Twisted Tree
165 pages

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165 pages

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This “beautifully written” novel about a murder in small-town South Dakota explores “a haunted territory of regret, longing and guilt” (Jess Walter).

Hayley Jo Zimmerman is gone. Taken. And the citizens of the windswept prairie town of Twisted Tree must come to terms with this tragedy—the loss, the repercussions, and the secrets they carry—as one girl’s short life unfolds through the stories of those who knew her.
Among them are a supermarket clerk hiding the terrors of her past; an ex-priest who remembers a lost love; an abused caretaker exacting a long-awaited revenge; Hayley Jo’s best friend, who fed her addiction; and her father, channeling his grief in desperate and unexpected ways. As Hayley Jo’s murder recasts and reconnects these left-behind lives, her absence roots itself in the community in astonishingly violent and tender ways.
One of the best contemporary writers on the American West, Kent Meyers takes us into the complexity of community regardless of landscape, and offers a tribute to the powerful effect one person’s life can have on everyone she knew.
“Meyers’s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams, and Peter Matthiessen.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Like Russell Banks in The Sweet Hereafter, Kent Meyers spins out his intimate life stories from the hub of a small town tragedy and takes us into places we never thought we’d go.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing



Publié par
Date de parution 24 septembre 2009
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9780547400808
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
Running Errands
A Real Nice Girl
Losing to Win
Looking Out
Delayed Flight
Prize Money
Quitting the Game
Running Alone
About the Author
Copyright © 2009 by Kent Meyers


For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Meyers, Kent. Twisted tree / Kent Meyers. p. cm. ISBN 978-0-15-101389-0 1. Missing persons—Fiction. 2. Loss (Psychology)—Fiction. 3. City and town life—South Dakota—Fiction. 4. South Dakota—Fiction. 5. Psychological fiction. I. Title. pS3563.E93T85 2009 813'.54—dc22 2009013288

e ISBN 978-0-547-40080-8

Portions of this book have appeared, in different forms, in Quarterly West , the South Dakota Review , the Georgia Review , the Southern Review , and on .

Lines from W. B. Yeats reprinted with the permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., from The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume I: The Poems , Revised, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright © 1933 by The Macmillan Company. Copyright renewed © 1961 by Bertha Georgie Yeats. All rights reserved.
To Zindie and Derek and Lauren and Jordan
A lonely ghost the ghost is That to God shall come.
Joseph Valen arrived in the area that would become Wright County in the 1880’s, though the exact date is unknown to this historian. He is generally accepted as being the first white settler, other than traders or soldiers, to claim land in the county and build a house on it. While others streamed to the Black Hills for gold, Joseph Valen saw his future in the land. It is to him, and men and women like him, that we owe our present lifestyle.
—BEATRICE CONWAY, A Wright County History (Lone Tree, SD: Brokenwing Press, 1999), 38.

“We believe it’s the same man. Both victims were female, extremely thin. And the broken bones. We’re checking missing persons files. We think there may be others.”
—CAPTAIN XAVIER HERNANDEZ , Spokane Police Department, “Is There an I-90 Killer?” Spokane Plain Dealer , August 3, 2003, A2.
THE FASTER HE DRIVES , the thinner the freeway’s painted lines become. He thinks, If I went fast enough I could reduce them to threads. In science fiction movies, he loves that moment before warp when even the stars thin to streaks and disappear. Insects had swarmed around him, obese with light, when he filled the Continental with gas above the Missouri River at Chamberlain. Now, as he accelerates down the ramp, they streak like meteors out of the night and fatten against his windshield. He floors the accelerator, the car downshifts, he feels his weight pushed back against the seat. But when the speedometer reaches seventy-seven miles an hour, he pokes the cruise control and sinks into the anonymity of ordinary traffic, barely breaking the law.
His headlights dilute to a broth in the borrow pit, speeding through dry grass and brittle weeds. When he reaches the broad lake of the dammed river, they disappear into the emptiness. He imagines a man in a boat in the blackness seeing his headlights pass on the bridge: his hand in the water, a dark spread of ripples. Then his tires quit booming, he’s off the bridge, passing Oacoma and the painted, oversize cement buffalo at Al’s Oasis. A mosquito whines in his ear. He lets the sound rise in pitch, hears it stop, waits for the piercing of his earlobe. Then, knowing the insect is trapped by its gorging, he lifts his hand and without hurry crushes it. He holds his palm near the dashboard: the smear of blood blackened by the green light, the crooked, hairlike legs and skewed, transparent wings. He fumbles in his back pocket for a Kleenex, daintily wipes his palm, and thinks of his Rapid City Ana.
He finds his Anas everywhere (their name a sigh, wind in a leafless tree), but his Missoula Ana was the best, and ever since he’s dreamed of them in bookstores—their dark eyes gazing out of skulls under stringy hair, their polite, shy offers of help, and colored titles on thin spines flickering as he follows them, the barest elegance of light. It reminded him (when he followed his Missoula Ana) of the smears of color on his fingertips when as a child he caught butterflies, such patient, almost breathless stalking, all of summer suspended waiting for his finger and thumb to close and clasp, and then the faraway, membranous struggle, the feeble legs disjointed in the air. When he rolled his thumb and finger together the tissue wings turned to colored dust. He dropped the crippled things, watched their stick legs pump mechanically as they crawled away. Up and down the legs went stupidly over the grass, dragging the shreds of wings. They were very small. He rubbed the dust stains on his fingers off onto his pants, then wiped his pants with his palms and his palms on the grass until he didn’t know whether the stain was gone or had permeated everything.
The Missoula Ana’s fingers moved in her brittle hair as she turned to him with a book in her hand like an offering. He began the small talk, he has to draw them out, they are so focused on their devastating god. But he knows so much about them—it might be roses, origami, running, in Missoula it was cuckoo clocks, their delicate knocking and exquisite gears, their little ticks so brief they have no beginning and no end. He spoke of these things to the Missoula Ana and held the book, she enthralled by his interest in her interest, thinking it chance, and all of it behind shelves where no one watched, with the smell of ink and paper and coffee.
It was the best, but he won’t repeat a bookstore. He refuses to be controlled, even by himself. He won’t make things that predictable. There is no shortage of Anas. He will find them waitressing, even, transparent as the steam off the plates they carry. He imagines their fragile arms breaking under the weight of ceramic, carrots, mashed potatoes. He likes to stop them— Excuse me, Miss —and as they turn to him lift a forkful of potatoes to his mouth and pretend he can’t talk, holding them mesmerized, with his fork describing little circles in the air. They watch him chew and swallow. They feel superior, proud, removed. But he knows them: birds who will come to his hand cocking their shy heads, tripping over their frail legs.

When he reaches Rapid City, he pays cash for a motel. The next morning he visits a pawnshop. Outside on the sidewalk, he touches the door, bows his head, breathes deeply, then pulls it open. The proprietor, leaning over a glassed-in counter under which hundreds of rings glitter, stares at him. He tells him he’s a collector of western memorabilia, he’s looking for anything to do with ranches or rodeo. The proprietor grunts. People don’t bring in old branding irons, he says. You want to see that kind of thing, drive out to Wall Drug.
Rodeo, he repeats. How about rodeo stuff?
The proprietor spreads his hands in a gesture of helplessness. But he can see it: the man remembers. Has he sold it already? No—it’s here, he doesn’t want to sell. But why would he care? For a moment the world wobbles. Then he sees the proprietor’s eyes cut to the wall.
I’ll take a look around, he says.
And sure enough, he finds it concealed behind a couple of dusty golf bags, hanging on a low pegboard hook. He holds it up: a gaudy belt buckle with the words FIRST PLACE, BARRELS engraved in a pretense of silver. He traces the words with his fingers, then takes the buckle to the counter.
It’s perfect, he says. Just what I’m looking for. He pays the asking price, then requests a receipt, to rub in the victory of finding it against the proprietor’s will. Before getting into his car, he opens his fingers and lets the wind blow the receipt away.
That afternoon he drives to the Rushmore Mall. In the store where he knows she works, he spots her, her hair cut short, her blouse as loosely hung from the slats of her shoulders as those, draped on wire hangers, that she stands among. From a distance he watches. It had been so hard to tease her out. He’d sensed her lurking, a virgin Ana, unadmitted, and tapped in questions.
When he first discovered the pro-Ana sites, he loved how they talked of protecting their Anas against the world. He heard Paul, Jeremiah, the Desert Fathers: the thorns of the flesh. He understood. He began to wander a wilderness between transcendence and shame, a prophet in a land of thistles and honey, where Ana spoke in the wind. Sacrifice as passion, saints risen up on denial. He understood. He understood it all: the more they controlled their flesh and sculpted their bodies, the more the irreducible bones emerged to shame them. Bones cannot be thinned or changed. Bones only become (he knows) more brittle: mandible, clavicle; radius, ulna; tibia, fibula; femur, humerus—liquid, chanting names for things so breakable. And, best of all, the scapulas rising under the skin, creating mounds of light, havens of shadow.
He moves through the racks of clo

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