The seven magpies in the willow thicket reminded Harry of the West Washington Creek Book Coterie. (Harry had some hesitation in calling the group a “Book Club,” the reason for which will become obvious, presently.) The difference between the magpies and the coterie was that the magpies were not regularly emptying and filling water glasses with wine. Other than the absence of liquid stimulation, the gabble from the thicket was a fairly accurate similitude to the chatter of the women Harry and Del had had in their living room the night before. The magpies even had the left over quiche Del had “accidentally” left on the deck railing. Apparently Del had been correct, the birds did not think it inedible.
The book under discussion was Larry Watson’s Montana 1948. By Harry’s count, Montana was mentioned about five hundred times as a place made in heaven. Larry Watson, may have been mentioned three or four times in connection with Montana. 1948 was mentioned a few times, once significantly by Ginger Brazer who had been born that year and so “really identified.” She planned to finish the book if she could get past how “mundane” it made Montana seem. Only Del, Harry, Kathy Marsh, and Zorie Higgen had read the book in its entirety. And Zorie was already four sheets to the wind and giggly by the time she showed up with a gallon of rosé—already significantly depleted—and her leathery quiche. Andrea Stolz and Thelma Solers had not read the book.
Thelma had the sense not to say a word about the book all night. She joined Zorie on working on emptying what was left of the jug of wine.
“I read Bookrags on it,” Andrea said. “I mean. About rape and murder, for the lovagod,” she said. “Can’t we read some undepressing books once in a while? I thought we were over that with that Louise Erdrich thing.” Louise Erdrich wrote a very disturbing book called The Round House.
“You ever been murdered?” Zorie said. She hiccuped and giggled.
“Not yet,” Andrea said.
“It’s not about rape and murder,” Kathy said. “Like The Round House, it’s about that white, middle class, men expect to get away with it.” She had selected the book, and carried it like a Bible.
“Yeah,” Del said, “What I liked is how the hero was so?. . . so unheroish.”
“I like my hero(hic)s Alan Laddish of Lenard DiCaprioish.” Zorie said. She giggled again. Alan Ladd was a mid 20th century movie actor. Leonardo DiCaprio is still making movies.
“Well, Wesley is sort of Alan Laddish,” Kathy said. Wesley was the sheriff in Montana 1948. Kathy was trying to head off the digression before it faltered into nonsense.
“I didn’t think the book was so much about white men as it was about how being good has its costs,” Harry said. “I mean Wesley was. . . .”
“You know, ripped and on a horse and (hic) riding off into the sunset, problem solved.” Zorie said. She tipped another pint from the gallon into her water glass.
“You wan’ sommore?” she said to Thelma. Thelma grinned and held out her glass.
Kathy, with Del’s help, tried three or four times to get the discussion back on track. But after being interrupted, Harry pretty much figured the discussion was a hopeless cause. Besides it wasn’t his book coterie, he was participating because it was meeting in his and Del’s house and because Del’s invited him. “I guess we can let a MAN join us this once,” Zorie had giggled.
Mention of DiCaprio brought Andrea and Zorie to the merits of J. Edgar. Which they reviewed in a side bar. J. Edgar is a movie starring, as chance would have it, Leonardo DiCaprio.
Thelma’s only contribution all night was, “Nobody remembers Shane. Best movie ever.” Shane is an iconic American Western Film that happened to star Alan Ladd.
This ended the discussion on J. Edgar and DiCaprio, and Kathy tried one more time. “That’s what I mean, Wesley is sort of like Shane. Not really wanting to be. . . .
“Oh, Jesus.” Andrea said. “Shane? You gotta be kidding me. That kid saying “‘Shane, Shane,’ as the old cowboy rides off into the dust.”
“Ezzacly,” Zorie said. “My kina man.”
The magpies made regular trips to the quiche pan until it was pecked clean. They jabbered and squawked, not once mentioning Montana, 1948, Wesley, or Shane.