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Taps: A Novel

Luke Cartwright became for me a harbinger of death in that year. It was an ambient evening of early summer when he first came by my house. My mother was at a bridge tournament at the country club and would be late, and I was relishing the solitude from her injunctions. Earlier it had rained, and the trees arched in shadowy silhouettes, darkly green now before the coming of the heat, dripping with moisture in the cooling breeze. The hills began only a hundred yards from the house, and the whole earth sang with crickets and other nocturnal things. Soon the DDT truck came by, spraying for the season's first mosquitoes, known and acknowledged as the largest and most aggressive in Christendom, or so we believed.

I heard the wheeze of a motor at the front curb. I looked up and saw Luke Cartwright stepping out of his red pickup truck with its high boxed rectangular cabin and a black cat sprawled on his dashboard. I stood to greet him. He was in khaki trousers and a metallic blue sports shirt that glowed under the streetlamp. From a few feet away a frog jumped in an arc and landed with a whish.

"Ain't you a little old to be barefoot in your front yard in the middle of the night? How old are you, anyway?"

"Sixteen, almost."

"That's old enough."

I had never thought of it that way, if indeed I had considered it at all. Does the only child — the solitary son of a widowed and indomitable mother fraught with an inordinate propensity for intrusion — dwell on age? Especially when she teaches tap dancing? Survival, perhaps, although I would not have used the word then — nor escape nor improvisation nor even loneliness. Old enough for what?

"I hear you play the trumpet in the band. And you're good."

"Only pretty good," I replied.

"Can you play 'Taps'?"

Excerpted from Taps © Copyright © 2001 by JoAnne Prichard Morris and David Rae Morris. Reprinted with permission by Mariner Books. All rights reserved.

Taps: A Novel
by by Willie Morris

  • paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0618219021
  • ISBN-13: 9780618219025