Chapter One<br><br>Nick Dunne<br>the day of<br> <br> When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of<br> it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the<br> head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it.<br> Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the<br> Victorians would call <i>finely shaped head. </i>You could imagine the<br> skull quite easily.<br> <br> I’d know her head anywhere.<br> <br> And what’s inside it. I think of that too: her mind. Her brain, all<br> those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast,<br> frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling<br> her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down<br> her thoughts. <i>What are you thinking, Amy? </i>The question I’ve asked<br> most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person<br> who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every<br> marriage: <i>What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are</i><br> <i>you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?</i><br> <i> </i><br> My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian fluttering<br> of the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakening<br> was mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist- dummy click of the lids:<br> The world is black and then, <i>showtime! </i>6- 0- 0 the clock said— in my<br> face, first thing I saw. 6- 0- 0. It felt different. I rarely woke at such a<br> rounded time. I was a man of jagged risings: 8:43, 11:51, 9:26. My<br> life was alarmless.<br> <br> At that exact moment, 6- 0- 0, the sun climbed over the skyline of<br> oaks, revealing its full summer angry- god self. Its reflection flared<br> across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me<br> through our frail bedroom curtains. Accusing: <i>You have been seen.</i><br> <i>You will be seen.</i><br> <i> </i><br> I wallowed in bed, which was our New York bed in our new house,<br> which we still called <i>the new house, </i>even though we’d been back here<br> for two years. It’s a rented house right along the Mississippi River,<br> a house that screams Suburban Nouveau Riche, the kind of place<br> I aspired to as a kid from my split- level, shag- carpet side of town.<br> The kind of house that is immediately familiar: a generically grand,<br> unchallenging, new, new, new house that my wife would— and did—<br> detest.<br> <br> “Should I remove my soul before I come inside?” Her first line upon<br> arrival. It had been a compromise: Amy demanded we rent, not buy,<br> in my little Missouri hometown, in her firm hope that we wouldn’t<br> be stuck here long. But the only houses for rent were clustered in<br> this failed development: a miniature ghost town of bank- owned,<br> recession- busted, price- reduced mansions, a neighborhood that closed<br> before it ever opened. It was a compromise, but Amy didn’t see it that<br> way, not in the least. To Amy, it was a punishing whim on my part, a<br> nasty, selfish twist of the knife. I would drag her, caveman- style, to a<br> town she had aggressively avoided, and make her live in the kind of<br> house she used to mock. I suppose it’s not a compromise if only one of<br> you considers it such, but that was what our compromises tended to<br> look like. One of us was always angry. Amy, usually.<br> <br> Do not blame me for this particular grievance, Amy. The Missouri<br> Grievance. Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents,<br> blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the<br> Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV<br> and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back<br> when anyone cared about what I thought. I’d arrived in New York in<br> the late ’90s, the last gasp of the glory days, although no one knew it<br> then. New York was packed with writers, real writers, because there<br> were magazines, real magazines, loads of them. This was back when<br> the Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishing<br> world— throw some kibble at it, watch it dance on its little leash,<br> oh quite cute, it definitely won’t kill us in the night. Think about it: a<br> time when newly graduated college kids could come to New York and<br> <i>get paid to write. </i>We had no clue that we were embarking on careers<br> that would vanish within a decade.<br> <br> I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. All<br> around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to<br> a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy. Writers (my<br> kind of writers: aspiring novelists, ruminative thinkers, people whose<br> brains don’t work quick enough to blog or link or tweet, basically old,<br> stubborn blowhards) were through. We were like women’s hat makers<br> or buggy- whip manufacturers: Our time was done. Three weeks after<br> I got cut loose, Amy lost her job, such as it was. (Now I can feel Amy<br> looking over my shoulder, smirking at the time I’ve spent discussing<br> my career, my misfortune, and dismissing her experience in one sentence.<br> That, she would tell you, is typical. <i>Just like Nick, </i>she would<br> say. It was a refrain of hers: <i>Just like Nick to . . . </i>whatever followed,<br> whatever was <i>just like me, </i>was bad.) Two jobless grown- ups, we spent<br> weeks wandering around our Brooklyn brownstone in socks and pajamas,<br> ignoring the future, strewing unopened mail across tables and<br> sofas, eating ice cream at ten a.m. and taking thick afternoon naps.<br> <br> Then one day the phone rang. My twin sister was on the other<br> end. Margo had moved back home after her own New York layoff<br> a year before— the girl is one step ahead of me in everything, even<br> shitty luck. Margo, calling from good ole North Carthage, Missouri,<br> from the house where we grew up, and as I listened to her voice, I<br> saw her at age ten, with a dark cap of hair and overall shorts, sitting<br> on our grandparents’ back dock, her body slouched over like an old<br> pillow, her skinny legs dangling in the water, watching the river fl ow<br> over fish- white feet, so intently, utterly self- possessed even as a child.<br> Go’s voice was warm and crinkly even as she gave this cold news:<br> Our indomitable mother was dying. Our dad was nearly gone— his<br> (nasty) mind, his (miserable) heart, both murky as he meandered<br> toward the great gray beyond. But it looked like our mother would<br> beat him there. About six months, maybe a year, she had. I could tell<br> that Go had gone to meet with the doctor by herself, taken her studious<br> notes in her slovenly handwriting, and she was teary as she tried<br> to decipher what she’d written. Dates and doses.<br> <br> “Well, fuck, I have no idea what this says, is it a nine? Does that<br> even make sense?” she said, and I interrupted. Here was a task, a<br> purpose, held out on my sister’s palm like a plum. I almost cried with<br> relief.<br> <br> “I’ll come back, Go. We’ll move back home. You shouldn’t have to<br> do this all by yourself.”<br> <br> She didn’t believe me. I could hear her breathing on the other end.<br> <br> “I’m serious, Go. Why not? There’s nothing here.”<br> <br> A long exhale. “What about Amy?”<br> <br> That is what I didn’t take long enough to consider. I simply assumed<br> I would bundle up my New York wife with her New York interests,<br> her New York pride, and remove her from her New York parents—<br> leave the frantic, thrilling futureland of Manhattan behind— and<br> transplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri, and all would<br> be fine.<br> <br> I did not yet understand how foolish, how optimistic, how, yes,<br> <i>just like Nick </i>I was for thinking this. The misery it would lead to.<br> <br> “Amy will be fine. Amy . . .” Here was where I should have said,<br> “Amy <i>loves </i>Mom.” But I couldn’t tell Go that Amy loved our mother,<br> because after all that time, Amy still barely knew our mother. Their<br> few meetings had left them both baffled. Amy would dissect the conversations<br> for days after—“And what did she mean by . . . ,” as if my<br> mother were some ancient peasant tribeswoman arriving from the<br> tundra with an armful of raw yak meat and some buttons for bartering,<br> trying to get something from Amy that wasn’t on offer.<br> <br> Amy didn’t care to know my family, didn’t want to know my<br> birthplace, and yet for some reason, I thought moving home would<br> be a good idea.<br> <br> My morning breath warmed the pillow, and I changed the subject in<br> my mind. Today was not a day for second- guessing or regret, it was a<br> day for doing. Downstairs, I could hear the return of a long- lost sound:<br> Amy making breakfast. Banging wooden cupboards (rump- thump!),<br> rattling containers of tin and glass (ding- ring!), shuffling and sorting<br> a collection of metal pots and iron pans (ruzz-shuzz!). A culinary<br> orchestra tuning up, clattering vigorously toward the finale, a cake<br> pan drumrolling along the floor, hitting the wall with a cymballic<br> crash. Something impressive was being created, probably a crepe,<br> because crepes are special, and today Amy would want to cook something<br> special.<br> <br> It was our five- year anniversary.<br> <br> I walked barefoot to the edge of the steps and stood listening,<br> working my toes into the plush wall- to- wall carpet Amy detested on<br> principle, as I tried to decide whether I was ready to join my wife.<br> Amy was in the kitchen, oblivious to my hesitation. She was humming<br> something melancholy and familiar. I strained to make it out— a folk<br> song? a lullabye?—and then realized it was the theme to <i>M*A*S*H.</i><br> Suicide is painless. I went downstairs.<br> <br> I hovered in the doorway, watching my wife. Her yellow- butter<br> hair was pulled up, the hank of ponytail swinging cheerful as a jumprope,<br> and she was sucking distractedly on a burnt fingertip, humming<br> around it. She hummed to herself because she was an unrivaled<br> botcher of lyrics. When we were first dating, a Genesis song came on<br> the radio: “She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah.” And Amy<br> crooned instead, “She takes my hat and puts it on the top shelf.”<br> When I asked her why she’d ever think her lyrics were remotely, possibly,<br> vaguely right, she told me she always thought the woman in the<br> song truly loved the man because she put his hat on the <i>top </i>shelf. I<br> knew I liked her then, really liked her, this girl with an explanation<br> for everything.<br> <br> There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and<br> feeling utterly cold.<br> <br> Amy peered at the crepe sizzling in the pan and licked something<br> off her wrist. She looked triumphant, wifely. If I took her in my arms,<br> she would smell like berries and powdered sugar.<br> <br> When she spied me lurking there in grubby boxers, my hair in full<br> Heat Miser spike, she leaned against the kitchen counter and said,<br> “Well, hello, handsome.”<br> <br> Bile and dread inched up my throat. I thought to myself: <i>Okay, go.</i><br> I was very late getting to work. My sister and I had done a foolish<br> thing when we both moved back home. We had done what we always<br> talked about doing. We opened a bar. We borrowed money from Amy<br> to do this, eighty thousand dollars, which was once nothing to Amy<br> but by then was almost everything. I swore I would pay her back,<br> with interest. I would not be a man who borrowed from his wife— I<br> could feel my dad twisting his lips at the very idea. <i>Well, there are all</i><br> <i>kinds of men, </i>his most damning phrase, the second half left unsaid,<br> <i>and you are the wrong kind.</i><br> <i> </i><br> But truly, it was a practical decision, a smart business move. Amy<br> and I both needed new careers; this would be mine. She would pick<br> one someday, or not, but in the meantime, here was an income, made<br> possible by the last of Amy’s trust fund. Like the McMansion I rented,<br> the bar featured symbolically in my childhood memories— a place<br> where only grown- ups go, and do whatever grown- ups do. Maybe<br> that’s why I was so insistent on buying it after being stripped of my<br> livelihood. It’s a reminder that I am, after all, an adult, a grown man,<br> a useful human being, even though I lost the career that made me<br> all these things. I won’t make that mistake again: The once plentiful<br> herds of magazine writers would continue to be culled— by the<br> Internet, by the recession, by the American public, who would rather<br> watch TV or play video games or electronically inform friends that,<br> like, <i>rain sucks! </i>But there’s no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day<br> in a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink.<br> <br> Our bar is a corner bar with a haphazard, patchwork aesthetic. Its<br> best feature is a massive Victorian back bar, dragon heads and angel<br> faces emerging from the oak— an extravagant work of wood in these<br> shitty plastic days. The remainder of the bar is, in fact, shitty, a showcase<br> of the shabbiest design offerings of every decade: an Eisenhowerera<br> linoleum floor, the edges turned up like burnt toast; dubious<br> wood- paneled walls straight from a ’70s home- porn video; halogen<br> floor lamps, an accidental tribute to my 1990s dorm room. The ultimate<br> effect is strangely homey— it looks less like a bar than someone’s<br> benignly neglected fixer- upper. And jovial: We share a parking<br> lot with the local bowling alley, and when our door swings wide, the<br> clatter of strikes applauds the customer’s entrance.<br> <br> We named the bar The Bar. “People will think we’re ironic instead<br> of creatively bankrupt,” my sister reasoned.<br> <br> Yes, we thought we were being clever New Yorkers— that the<br> name was a joke no one else would really get, not get like we did.<br> Not <i>meta</i>- get. We pictured the locals scrunching their noses: Why’d<br> you name it <i>The Bar</i>? But our first customer, a gray- haired woman in<br> bifocals and a pink jogging suit, said, “I like the name. Like in <i>Breakfast</i><br> <i>at Tiffany’s </i>and Audrey Hepburn’s cat was named Cat.”<br> <br> We felt much less superior after that, which was a good thing.<br> I pulled into the parking lot. I waited until a strike erupted from<br> the bowling alley— <i>thank you, thank you, friends</i>— then stepped<br> out of the car. I admired the surroundings, still not bored with the<br> broken- in view: the squatty blond- brick post office across the street<br> (now closed on Saturdays), the unassuming beige office building just<br> down the way (now closed, period). The town wasn’t prosperous, not<br> anymore, not by a long shot. Hell, it wasn’t even original, being one<br> of two Carthage, Missouris— ours is technically <i>North </i>Carthage,<br> which makes it sound like a twin city, although it’s hundreds of miles<br> from the other and the lesser of the two: a quaint little 1950s town<br> that bloated itself into a basic midsize suburb and dubbed it progress.<br> Still, it was where my mom grew up and where she raised me and Go,<br> so it had some history. Mine, at least.<br> <br> As I walked toward the bar across the concrete- and- weed parking<br> lot, I looked straight down the road and saw the river. That’s what<br> I’ve always loved about our town: We aren’t built on some safe bluff<br> overlooking the Mississippi— we are <i>on </i>the Mississippi. I could walk<br> down the road and step right into the sucker, an easy three- foot drop,<br> and be on my way to Tennessee. Every building downtown bears<br> hand- drawn lines from where the river hit during the Flood of ’61,’75,<br> ’84, ’93, ’07, ’08, ’11. And so on.<br> <br> The river wasn’t swollen now, but it was running urgently, in strong<br> ropy currents. Moving apace with the river was a long single- fi le line<br> of men, eyes aimed at their feet, shoulders tense, walking steadfastly<br> nowhere. As I watched them, one suddenly looked up at me, his face<br> in shadow, an oval blackness. I turned away.<br> <br> I felt an immediate, intense need to get inside. By the time I’d gone<br> twenty feet, my neck bubbled with sweat. The sun was still an angry<br> eye in the sky. <i>You have been seen.</i><br> <i> </i><br> My gut twisted, and I moved quicker. I needed a drink.<br> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Gone Girl</b> by <b>Gillian Flynn</b> Copyright © 2012 by Gillian Flynn. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.