Jack, a restless schoolteacher from Ohio, is en

   route to the Rocky Mountains. He hopes to enjoy

   the rugged beauty and clear his head enough to

   write a story. He never expected to become the

   story, but on a listless summer day, by the shores

   of a remote Nebraskan lake, he collides with a

   natural beauty of a far different sort—a young

   drifter calling herself Charlie. He catches her

   raiding his camp for food but she catches him in

   her own sticky web. She's playful, spontaneous

   and talented and he falls under her spell. She's

   taken by his kindness and sense of adventure

   and soon their passion boils over. The next day,

   as Jack walks to camp from the bathhouse, a car

   pulls up from behind—it's the Nebraska State

   Patrol and they're looking for a girl—a hitchhiker

   named Charlene.



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   Ed is an accountant and not a man to take

   chances—he feels safe in the world of numbers

   and in the secure but loveless world of his

   marriage. One night, along with his wife Caroline,

   he attends a party celebrating a sales milestone

   reached within his corporation. It's held at the

   swanky estate of the CFO and there's spiked

   punch, laughter and Brenda—Ed's favorite

   employee, his pet. Already smashed, she hangs

   onto his arm and giggles at another man's joke.

   Flush with punch himself, he feels bold enough to

   tell a tale of his own. But Caroline shoots his

   balloon out of the sky with a few words and it falls

   flat. He slinks past the punch table and walks

   outside to hide, lick his wound and ponder things.

   His reverie is interrupted when he's asked to drive

   Brenda, dazed and sick, back to her apartment. 



   It's ninety-five degrees out and Brian is trapped

   on the highway—traffic crawling, his temperature

   gauge needle drifting into the red. Driving home

   to Illinois, he decided to cut through the heart of

   Nashville—a big mistake unless you're a fan of

   the city's largest country music jamboree. Of all

   days—he's anxious to see his fiancee and this

   will make him late—or worse. Finding an exit, he

   escapes off the highway, hoping to backtrack to

   a by-pass. Instead he takes a wrong turn and

   gets stuck in crowds spilling out of honky-tonks,

   buses and cars—all marching toward the music.

   Managing a U-turn, he finds the street that

   connects to the by-pass. It passes through an          industrial area, growing ever more desolate—the  

   river crowds his left, its rail lines scattered with

   defaced cars, and on his right fences ring huge

   piles of debris. Up ahead another line bisects his

   path, then a guardrail where a crossing should

   be—he's come to a dead end.


   It's nearing midnight and quitting time when Billy

   spots her on the midway, steadily approaching his

   game trailer—another townie girl who doesn't

   know when to leave or has lost her ride home.

   But she stops before him and asks to shoot at his

   ducks, so he hands her a rifle. She's subdued but

   pretty, with fine blonde hair, and somehow

   familiar. She's cold, so he gives her his jacket to

   wear, then pulls a joke on her, messing up her 

   last round. She finally smiles and they agree to

   meet at the horse corrals in a half hour—an

   ordinary span of time within which his life will

   change forever.



        Like a busted dam he rambles on with words I

   didn't hear. I was staring out the window, feeling

   something far off at first, then getting closer, then

   getting urgent—like when ya gotta have a smoke

   or take a pee.

        "Whitey? Whitey?"

        "What? Oh sorry, come again?"

        "I just asked ya, where ya headed?"

        I look at Abe, my heart swelling like a kid on

   Christmas day, like it knew what I had to do, and

   I tell him, "I'm going home."


   An elderly man wanders the streets of Saint Louis

   on a beautiful spring day—confused and lost—

   until he meets a girl, an old geezer and a black

   dog—three guides who take him on an incredible





   Another horrible two days. Always anxious,

   always fearful and getting worse, I bounce from

   hope to despair within minutes. I have less than

   a week before I return to work, before my co-

   workers stare and whisper and my supervisors

   watch my every move. My parents want to see

   me but I turn them away with excuses—they don't

   know I've been suspended. Nights are bad and

   last night was no exception: more dreams, the

   ringing, then staring out my living room window

   in the dark, flipping a razor blade over and over

   between my fingers.


   Tamie Daniels, a twenty-five year old nurse, is

   suspended from Duke University Hospital and

   ordered to see a psychiatrist. She's reluctant to

   cooperate with her "doc" at first, but as her

   symptoms worsen, she finds she desperately

   needs his help.

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