The narrator of this short novel by Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War, The Magic Journey, etc.) is a 50-ish writer living in New Mexico, in the process of divorcing his second and much younger wife. A college junior has written him a fan letter, following it up with a spate of raunchy missives culminating in news that she's coming West to spend some time in a writers' colony near where he lives. Their affair, therefore, is preordained; but, suffering from heart disease and feelings of failure, the narrator finds himself most of the time a step behind, disappointing them both. Plus the fact that a charm-school graduate the young woman's not: ``She said, `Just think. You'll be stuck underground, riddled with worms, while I'm hot in the throes of passion fucking some young stud. Cold icy snow will cover your grave while sweat makes my breasts and belly slimy.' '' With a sideways nod to Hemingway's no less feeble Across the River and Into the Trees, the story consists of scenes of the narrator trying to revere nature (often by killing it: trout- fishing, grouse-hunting) while trying to ignore the young woman's criticisms of his sport or else her persistent habit of removing her clothes under God's skies. Self-proclaimed elegy though this means to be, the little book Nichols milks out of the contrast is depressed, unerotic, and forced.