Marilee journeys from Los Angeles to New Mexico to surprise her fiancé, Larry, who has taken a job on Holloman Air Force Base to gain, in one of his antithetical Zen experiments, an understanding of peace. Sympathy for Enoch, a hitchhiking dwarf, disrupts her orderly plans. In a separate voyage, Figman, an insurance claims adjuster on the run, relocates to New Mexico after surviving a lethal car crash that results in an unfair lawsuit against him. Now prone to migraines and the conviction that he is dying, Figman embarks on new adventures. Late in the novel, these two distinct love stories converge on a highway in near collision.
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They continued east toward Alamogordo. In less than an hour they would arrive and she would say goodbye to Enoch, dropping him off at the Y, perhaps, of maybe at a shelter. Then she would get out her map and find Larry’s street. She would knock on his door in the middle of the night, and he would open it and take her in his arms. Marilee stepped down harder on the accelerator.
Her muscles ached from driving; her lips tasted of salt. Brown dirt lodged in the cracks between her toes. “I could use a shower,” she said, more to herself than to her companion.
“A pool !” said Enoch. “I know a place. On the road to El Paso. It’s not far. I’ll show you.”
A pool sounded wonderful. Clean water in which she would bathe. Cool water in which she could float away under the stars. But it was out of the question. “I didn’t bring a bathing suit.”
Marilee felt a tightness grip her stomach. So this was it. This was where he’d jump her. Where he’d slip his little thing into her like a snake gliding into wet moss, and she’d end up with a little dwarf child she’d have to name Elwyn. And why not? Hadn’t she picked him up off the side of some road? What jury would believe her? They’d say she’d asked for it, wanted it even.
Yet a pool sounded wonderful. It was after midnight. Her hair stuck to the back of her neck like a clump of seaweed. It would be a shame for Larry to see her like this. Besides, she was bigger than Enoch. Stronger, probably, too. A pool was just what she needed. She would swim in her underwear.
“So tell me about the fire,” she said.
“You said you would. ‘Later,’ is what you said. I’d like to hear.” Marilee glanced across the seat at Enoch. His nose looked thicker in the darkness, and his face showed the first signs of stubble. “I told you about Larry,” she reminded him.