The reader is reminded over and over that Tami is a straight-A math major. Here, stranded in Arizona in July, she begins her journey back to college in Vermont, furtively because she thinks the police are after her, with no clothes, no food, no money, nothing at all except her bare body and her wits.
Now, having finished her little mesquite nut and cactus snack, she looked down at her dusty feet, her dusty breasts, the dust on her concave tanned belly, then down at the stubble of her pubic hair starting to grow back in. She was dusty but her belly was full and she felt good. Now she had to pee, and she got up and squatted, elbows on her knees, cradling her head in her hand as she contemplated the scene before her. As the pee hit the dry sand and made a warm little yellow river coursing down in front of her, she looked across the blank sandy expanse to that ridge, far away, along which ran the eastbound interstate that she had to get back onto.
That road was real far away now, extending across her field of vision, a little farther away as it went to her right. She could just barely make out the big trucks on it as they slowly and silently moved across. How far was it? The only way to find out was trigonometry.
Tami Smithers, the straight-A math major, had no problem at all with that. She was always excited when she found a way to use all that abstract knowledge in her real life. A little straight branch stuck in the sandy gravel. Then, uncomfortable though it was, she lay on her belly to get a line drawn from where the trucks could be first seen, with another stick planted right in front of her eye. Little stones scraped her nipples, her tummy, her thighs. She tried to lessen the scraping on her thighs by balancing her legs on her big toes. Then a third stick in line with where the trucks disappeared on the right. She picked one truck and counted the seconds it took to go from stick to stick. One 1-thousand, two 1-thousand...
Two minutes, 20 seconds. She picked another truck and counted again. Roughly the same. She guessed they were going 70 miles an hour. She drew lines from stick to stick. The law of sines. This angle in front of her, it was possibly about 15 degrees. What was the sine? 30 degrees would be .5, as any math major knows off the top of her head. Fortunately she remembered the formula for finding the sine of half an angle, a pain because it involved taking a square root. She got up, brushing the little stones off her, and with a stick wrote out calculations on the flat area of sand in front of her. She was on all fours, her brow furrowed with thought, her toes behind her digging into the dirt, her breasts pointing downward and jiggling with the busy motions of her left arm. This was not an isosceles triangle; possibly the right side was as much as twice the length of the left side. . .
After checking her calculations, she found that the highway, at least where the trucks appeared, was at most 8 miles away.
She remembered walking to mass on Sundays in high school, it was about a mile, and took her about 15 minutes. Four miles an hour. She could make that eastbound highway easy, in two hours, plus some time to rest.
(“‘Tami Smithers Was Here’”, Part 7.)