Tripping on Books Presents: My Absolute Darling

Gabriel Tallent

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Turtle’s House

In My Absolute Darling:

“It is near sundown when they reach the turnoff for Turtle’s house. Caroline drives hard up the washboard gravel, just about six hundred yards, the Explorer lurching in and out of ruts. She keeps saying, “Look at this, Julia, goddess, if you knew how this place used to look.” The boys have their hands and faces pressed to the glass and look out at the fields with fascination. The driveway runs up the northern edge of the hill, and on their left it’s all shore pines standing above Slaughterhouse Gulch, which cuts west below them. Above them, they can just see the house at the crest of the hill, all of the windows dark. On their right the fields run until they meet the orchard, beyond which, and hidden from them, are the raspberry fields and Grandpa’s trailer. A stream cuts its way through the grass, visible only as a seam of thimbleberry and hazelnut.” Page i163

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Van Damme Beach

In My Absolute Darling:

“School’s fine,” she says. Grandpa puts the truck in gear and they pull out and go down Little Lake Road, beneath cypress hedgerows, make a left at the intersection, and start down the Shoreline Highway. Turtle bends forward under the seat and pulls out the jumper cables and old sweaters and under that a .357 revolver in a leather holster. She tosses open the cylinder, spins it, sights down the bore, and tosses the cylinder closed. Grandpa opens his coat and pulls out the Jack in a paper bag, seats it between his legs, unscrews the cap, and takes a drink.
“Did you ever get around to asking that boy out to the dance?”
“No,” she says.
He looks back at her. “No?” he says.
“No,” she says.
“That’s not good,” he says.
“I fucked up,” she says.
They drive out of town, across Big River Bridge, and follow Highway 1 past Van Damme beach. They’re going back to Buckhorn Cove. It’s only four miles—a six-minute drive, but it will take them longer. Grandpa takes the turns slowly, the paper bag gripped between his legs. ”  Page i245

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Fishing with Grandpa

In My Absolute Darling:

“They pull off onto a turnout just below Buckhorn Hill, just at the bottom of their driveway. Grandpa stomps the parking brake and shuts off the truck. He climbs out and holds the door open for Rosy, saying, “Come on, come on,” while Rosy gapes at him and shakes herself excitedly every time he says “come.”
Turtle fetches up an orange bucket from the truck bed and goes with Grandpa down the sandstone trail onto the beach, the cliffs forested in the thin, tilted stalks of columbines. Slaughterhouse Creek pours from a culvert into a muddy wallow where the trapped bull kelp is bleached colorless and soft as overcooked noodles. In the surf, the large round blue cobbles called bowling balls knock together.”  Page i247

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Buckhorn Beach

In My Absolute Darling:

“They duck through the barbwire fence, cross the highway, and climb down to Buckhorn Beach, a broad crescent of black shingle and white foam, blue-stone causeways diked with quartz, green waves among gardens of the large, round cobbles.”  Page i363

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Buckhorn Island

In My Absolute Darling:

“Buckhorn Island sits a hundred feet from the tide line, out between the two hooks of land that form the cove, and the backwash of the retreating waves funnels through the island’s cave and there meets the incoming set, booming the island like a drum, lofting slurries of white water through the blowhole, hanging foam into the island’s pines, the water slapping down onto the rock. On the southern arm of the cove, there is a redwood mansion and a gardener going back and forth with a lawn mower. These would be Turtle’s closest neighbors, within a fifteen-minute walk of her house. She’s never seen them. The sky is blustery. Beyond the safety of the cove, the surf breaks white on the bare, rocky islands that litter the coast here.
They set their picnic bag behind a driftwood log and Jacob takes off his shoes and rolls up his pants and carries the bucket out to the rocks. When the waves break against the island, the water surges into the tide pools, rises up, and retreats.”  Page i363

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Slaughterhouse Creek (Schoolhouse Creek)

In My Absolute Darling:

“It is beginning to rain. The drops patter down from the pines and stand trembling on the nettle leaves and sword fronds. She scrambles along the joists of the back deck and clambers down the hillside alive with rotting logs and rough-skinned newts and California slender salamanders, her heels breaking through the gooey crust of myrtle leaves and churning up the black earth. She comes cautious and switchbacking down to the wellspring of Slaughterhouse Creek, where the maidenhair ferns are black-stemmed with leaves like green teardrops, the nasturtiums hanging in tangles with their crisp, wet, nasturtium scent, the rocks scrolled with liverwort.”  Page i45

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Stanford Inn

In My Absolute Darling: 

“Turtle shifts the truck into gear and pulls back onto the road. She turns north onto the coast highway with no clear idea of where they are going. Jacob has not been to see her in the last week. To keep herself from going north, toward Jacob’s, she turns east onto the Comptche Ukiah Road by the Stanford Inn and the Ravens Restaurant. On their left, the slopes cut away to Big River.” i508

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Raven’s Restaurant

In My Absolute Darling: 

“Turtle shifts the truck into gear and pulls back onto the road. She turns north onto the coast highway with no clear idea of where they are going. Jacob has not been to see her in the last week. To keep herself from going north, toward Jacob’s, she turns east onto the Comptche Ukiah Road by the Stanford Inn and the Ravens Restaurant. On their left, the slopes cut away to Big River.” i508

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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MacCallum House

45020 Albion St, Mendocino, CA 95460

In My Absolute Darling:

“They eat breakfast on the porch of the MacCallum House, above the windswept Mendocino Bay. The server brings out breakfast burritos heaped with salmon caviar and garnished with nasturtium flowers and pea shoots. ”  Page i437

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Comptche

In My Absolute Darling:

“The light comes purple-green through the trees. Turtle still has no clear idea of where she is taking them. The girl is silent beside her in the cab. They come to a set of warning signs posted by the road, and then a long section of road where the left-hand lane has sheared away. They can see strewn plates of blacktop among the trees below. The road becomes a single lane that Turtle threads slowly, both of them looking at the ragged edge of blacktop. Then through the town of Comptche, a handful of houses fronting the road, a redwood schoolhouse with a couple of basketball hoops, a general store, and the junction with Flynn Creek Road.”  Page i508

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Forest Service Gate

In My Absolute Darling:

“Then through the town of Comptche, a handful of houses fronting the road, a redwood schoolhouse with a couple of basketball hoops, a general store, and the junction with Flynn Creek Road. Turtle keeps them on the Comptche road and they climb into the hills, winding past ranches, into narrower and more difficult roads. She drives slowly. The only way she knows to think about this problem is to imagine she is reaching out to herself some years ago. It is a bad idea, but she can turn up nothing else in her mind. They turn off onto a deeply rutted track of orange clay covered in oak leaves. They follow it for a quarter of a mile until they come to a yellow Forest Service gate, where Turtle parks.” Page i509

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Cypress Tree on the bluffs between Big River and Portuguese Beach

In My Absolute Darling:

“Turtle cracks a knuckle, looks up at Caroline, and can almost remember her from a dim past. She senses a need to go carefully here and to protect her own small life on Buckhorn Hill.
“Your mother and I used to tear up the town together, and I tell you, we did our fair share of tramping around in these woods, when we were a little older than you, and it was all kissing boys and dropping acid. After school we used to go down to the headlands, and there was this cypress on the bluffs between Big River and Portuguese Beach. We’d hang our feet over the bluffs and look down at the little hidden coves and out at the islands and we’d talk and talk and talk.”
Turtle is silent. She thinks, this bitch. This bitch.
“You have any good girlfriends in school?”
“No.”
“Nobody?”
“No.”
“How are you liking it?”
“Fine.”
“But there are women in your life, I hope?”
Turtle says nothing.
“And Martin? I bet he’s a wonder, helping you.”
“Yeah. He is.”
“He could explain anything, if he wanted.”
“Yeah.”
“He has a way with words, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he does.”  Page i157

In My Absolute Darling

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Mendocino Middle School

In My Absolute Darling:

“The bell rings. Turtle turns and looks back to the school above her on the hill. Low buildings, covered walkways, throng of raincoated middle schoolers, clogged downspouts sheeting water.”  Page i52

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Village Spirits

10546 Lansing,  Mendocino, CA 95460

In My Absolute Darling:

“Well, hey, sweetpea,” he says.
“Hey,” she says, looking up at him, smiling, pulling the hat brim up and off to the side. She isn’t surprised to see him, but still, it’s bad. This is what he does when she doesn’t come to the trailer. He goes to the little shingle-front Village Spirits at the base of the hill and then he drives up to the middle school and waits by the wall so she’s got to come past him to get to the bus. He never lets her go very long.” Page i244

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Mendocino High School

10700 Ford St, Mendocino, CA 95460

In My Absolute Darling:

“.”  Page i52

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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North Star Nursery

17901 CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

In My Absolute Darling:

“They’d arrived at North Star nursery as it was closing. The place was locked up and a young man in a green sweater and jeans and muddy work boots was walking to his truck when they pulled in. He watched them and then approached Anna’s Saturn as she parked and got out. “Anna?” he’d said, and Anna had said, “Tim,” and they’d hugged and then he looked at Turtle and he said, “So this is her,” and Turtle looked out west, to the clouds above the ocean. ”  Page i640

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Fort Bragg Right Aid

490 S Main St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

In My Absolute Darling:

“They drive through Mendocino, and up into Fort Bragg, where Turtle pulls off the highway and into the parking lot of the Rite Aid. She leaves Cayenne in the car and walks through the sliding doors. There are no other customers in the store. The lights are bleakly bright, and there is a single checker at the counter. Turtle walks to the back, to the closed pharmacy. She walks along the aisles until she finds the pregnancy tests. She kneels down in front of these, picks up a pink box, and walks quickly back to the front, where she pays with cash, peeling the bills off with shaking hands. The checker is an old woman with reddish, curled hair, and she does not look at Turtle, but says, “You all right, honey?”
Turtle picks up the box and stuffs it into her pocket. She says, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
The checker says, “Honey, you sure? You need anything?”
Turtle is about to turn and walk away, and the woman says, “You got somewhere to stay for tonight?”
Turtle turns back. She says, “I’m fine. Yeah, I’ve got somewhere to stay.”  Page i518

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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MacKerricher State Park

24100 Mackerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

In My Absolute Darling

“They cross the Noyo and go through Fort Bragg, the town ten miles north of Mendocino. They go on past MacKerricher State Park and across the Ten Mile River and they turn off the highway. They are a long day’s walk from Buckhorn Hill. Jacob’s house is a contemporary redwood structure at the end of a long, winding black drive. It overlooks the north bank of the river and is surrounded by coastal prairie.
“You live in a mansion?” Turtle says.
“It’s not a mansion,” Imogen says.
“Hey!” Brett says. “Hey, Turtle. I live in a double-wide trailer. So check your privilege, homeslice.”
“My what?”  Page i344

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Caspar

In My Absolute Darling:

“They drive north through Mendocino. Then through Caspar. Fort Bragg. Empty parking lots flash by, dark buildings. They wait at a streetlight with no other cars in sight. Then head on north.”  Page i595

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Ten Mile Bridge

In My Absolute Darling:

“They drive north through Mendocino. Then through Caspar. Fort Bragg. Empty parking lots flash by, dark buildings. They wait at a streetlight with no other cars in sight. Then head on north.”  Page i595

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Ten Mile

In My Absolute Darling

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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Jacob’s House

In My Absolute Darling:

“They cross the Noyo and go through Fort Bragg, the town ten miles north of Mendocino. They go on past MacKerricher State Park and across the Ten Mile River and they turn off the highway. They are a long day’s walk from Buckhorn Hill. Jacob’s house is a contemporary redwood structure at the end of a long, winding black drive. It overlooks the north bank of the river and is surrounded by coastal prairie.
“You live in a mansion?” Turtle says.
“It’s not a mansion,” Imogen says.
“Hey!” Brett says. “Hey, Turtle. I live in a double-wide trailer. So check your privilege, homeslice.”
“My what?”

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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In My Absolute Darling

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In My Absolute Darling

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In My Absolute Darling

 

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“They drive north through Mendocino. Then through Caspar. Fort Bragg. Empty parking lots flash by, dark buildings. They wait at a streetlight with no other cars in sight. Then head on north.”

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Go Tidepooling on Buckhorn Beach

In My Absolute Darling:

“The tide is not low enough for good tide pooling. Whenever they lift a stone up, the eels careen through channels, pools, fields of sea grass, Turtle and Jacob plunging their hands into the turban-snail-filled bottle necks. When Jacob pulls his first eel out, its head pushing from between his fingers, jaw open, it slithers free of his right hand and he catches it with the left and it slithers from his fist and is gone, winding madly across the rock, Jacob lunging after it, and then the creature is under the next stone. He braces his shoulder to it, and Turtle helps him. They heave the stone aside and the placid pool below is split by ripples as eels flee in every direction, Turtle lifting them by handfuls into the bucket and Jacob trapping one in a dead end. It is an oily-black monster, twenty inches long, thick as a garden hose. He lifts it out of the pool and it squirts out of his fist and he goes hard down on his knees, lunging, lifting it and again losing it. The creature flashes once across the slick blue rock and is gone beneath a wine barrel–sized stone. Jacob puts a shoulder to the stone, but cannot move it.”  Page i364

In Real Life:

In My Absolute Darling

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