His list of books had grown so long he put it in a spreadsheet -- on the laptop he borrowed from Doris Ann, along with Mr. Jeter, her second car, and their collection of Jefferson Airplane vinyl, the night he left for the coast. "Got to be, gone, to be -- sweet bluebells growing toward a tangle tree," is what he'd said in the note left on the kitchen table of the cabin overlooking Waller Creek. It was a line he remembered from his youth, something the Poet of Hilltown Lane had painted with a day-glo Krylon on the side of the Ford Econoline he lived in down the road. He didn't like computers, but needed something just to keep things straight. Straight in his head, that is, because he was certain that everything in the circled world was curved long before his sweet and slippery dome split the fleshy, tent flaps; and certain that anything as abstract as "straightness" could exist only in something as twisted as a mind.
And he ended up in Charleston not because he longed to live a faded, feudal dream of human cruelty, made genteel by constant applications of the highest self-regard. No. It was curiosity that steered the rusted hood of Doris Ann's old Plymouth. He'd found some well-used copies of Fitzgerald with his mother's things there when she died, and began to wonder if, in a place so clingy to antiquity, it might be possible that the women, between each fluttered, antebellum breath, beneath the Spanish moss draped canopy of their glistening lives, really danced inside to something like the Charleston.
It was curiosity, and an overwhelming need for something like an ocean. Something big -- not small thrills like the foreplay of exchanging summer, beach-skin glances with the tan and white nubility. He needed limits to his options. This problem he'd been living with for a time -- what his mother called his "bolting like six yards of cloth that's looking for a pattern," and what he tried to characterize with less grand hominy as just "a series of books" -- was getting out of hand, threatening to move out and walk the traffic on its own. He figured, with an ocean blocking the way east, staying put next time would be one-hundred-and-eighty degrees easier.
And he ended up on the Enola Goy because it was the only boat on the docks with a sign that said "Flounderer Wanted," and because Captain Jimmy, who'd fought in the Pacific in the war and had been drag-netting the shoals off Moses Slough for longer than anyone could remember, had the air of someone who didn't judge a fish just because it felt at home, working up the bottom.