In the afternoon we drove off the interstate into Belfield, North Dakota, where we ate at The Trapper’s Kettle restaurant.
“If you didn’t boat or fish or swim,” Elle asked me while the waitress was laying our food on the table, “what did you do at Lake Yellowstone?”
“Mostly it was a touchstone.”
“I don’t know what a touchstone is,” Elle said, looking down at the sandwhich on her plate like the distance between the Trapper Kettle lunch special and a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries might be too great for her to travel.
“A touchstone is something that helps you orient yourself–something that you wake up to in the morning and when you see it, you remember where you are and a little bit who you are.”
Elle lifted up the top slice of bread on her sandwhich and poked at the chicken salad with her fork. “You saw the lake every morning when you woke up?” she asked.
“I could see the Lake out my cabin window, and when I stepped out onto the steps, it went off into the distance in three directions. It isn’t shaped like a coin the way a smaller lake would be; instead it’s like the outline of a Rorsach test.”
“I don’t know what that is either,” Elle said before closing her eyes and taking a bite of her sandwhich.
“It’s a personality test that uses images called inkblots that wing out from the center and are full of jagged edges with circles in random spots: the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake is like that because it just goes on and on, in and out, like it’s looking for something inland, like fjords.”
“I think there are fjords in this sandwhich,” Elle said, when she’d swallowed her first bite.
“I doubt that,” I said. “Fjiords are narrow bodies of water. What you’re tasting is probably mayonaise.”
“Right,” Elle said, and she set aside both her sandwhich and our conversation.