His mark, the black girl, took a left from the classroom to the nearest exit doors and clacked down the stairs, out to the sidewalk, the main artery of campus, veering toward the library and finally inside it. To the second floor, past the circulation desk, the maps, the reference checkout, the daily newspaper racks, to a pocket of comfy lounge chairs hidden amongst gray metal bookshelves. She parked at a chair and sat, stretched because she thought no one was looking, unzipped a pocket of her backpack, glanced at her checkbook, replaced it, and unlatched another portion of the bag to pull out "The Dharma Bums," required reading for the class.

David had hatched a plan deliberate stalking. He had kept a comfortable distance behind her, attainable because, in the class, she sat in the row nearest the door, while he inhabited the far corner with the business majors and occasional zombies. He slipped into the metal rows once they passed the newspaper racks. And now he would approach her. He zigzagged the rows and in the final one he snagged a book for plausible cover and rounded the corner.

She had seen him. For certain. She anticipated his turn toward her. She sat back in the chair, legs held close together, crossing at the ankles, a hand holding the book to her right cheek and her chin set toward the floor, her plum eyes fixed on his midsection, as if he'd returned from the basement with some dusty scrapbook.

A bolt of pain thumped David's stomach; he managed a wobbly nod, blinked his eyes, and prepared to bolt, silently, across the pasture of furniture toward more sterile metal rows.

"Hey," she said.


She held up the book. "In the class, right?" Her voice was coarse, frogged up.


"Huh." And now he could leave. She shifted her gaze to the rat-a-tat-tat of Kerouac.

David considered her. He had a jones for the color of her skin; he knew blacks loathed comparisons of their skin to everyday items, like coffee, or caramel, but she was a deep, luscious brown, the color of sealed wood floors, and it was, for him, an immovable force. He stepped forward. "David." He held out a hand.

She took it. "Danuelle."



David nodded. She was small but not short. Mostly thin - she wore a green t-shirt, which blanketed her small breasts, and jeans. Her black hair was dry and straight, just past her shoulders. She had thin lips, the nose of a sophisticate. When she smiled in class her teeth clutched her lower lip for a moment, then retreated. Her brows had recently been plucked. Her fingers had a lot of rings on them; it reminded David of how he once believed any girl with any ring whatsoever was spoken for, and off limits.

"Like the book?" David asked.

"Mmm-hmm." She did not. She nodded at his book

David glanced at the spine. The last row had been in the zoology section. The book in his hand was entitled, "The Declining Population of the Bobcat in South Dakota: A Survey."

"Bobcat survey," David said.

She laughed. "What do you have that for?"

"Big Mammals of the Upper Midwest."

"A class?"

"Zoology. A minor."

"Which mammals are those?"

"Oh. Coyotes. Deer. Beavers. Bobcats. Otters. Pumas."


"Mountain lions."

"I know what they are. What else?"

"Bighorn sheep. Caribou. Wolverines. Those kind of things."

Dani smiled. "Bears?"

"No bears in the upper Midwest, actually."

"No bears, but pumas."

"Black Hills," David said. "I've seen them."

She laughed and closed the book, replaced it in the bag, and zippered it in silence. She stood. "This is admirable."


Finally, she sighed. "You wanna buy me a cheeseburger?"