Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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The Lightning Tongues

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pp. 1-15

One of the pleasures of working day shift at the newsstand at the mall is popping open the paper bundles, arranging them by local, state, and national, and then taking one of each into the back room to keep me company through a large coffee and a Long-John from Donut Queen. ...

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Sorry I Worried You

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pp. 16-37

”Did you know,” Dr. Parrish asked, “that there are birds who learned to open milk cartons? They pecked and lifted until they could get at the cream at the top.” ...

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Cargo

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pp. 38-52

Just after 1 A.M., when I get home from another night of cleaning up after the basketball teams at our town’s small college, my mother is sitting on the couch and holding a copy of The Mother’s Encyclopedia in our darkened living room. ...

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The History of Staying Awake

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pp. 53-67

A hundred years ago, a scientist kept puppies awake to study the effects of sleeplessness. He had them poked and prodded to stay lively, and it took those puppies anywhere from four to six days to die. ...

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Piecework

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pp. 68-84

Miracles were my mother’s department. Rescue. Success. Healing. Everything came from God’s grace, and she kept that faith through her two-year bout with cancer that ended badly the summer before my senior year. ...

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The Serial Plagiarist

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pp. 85-100

Lou Rhoads was sitting as far from the door as his office would allow, but Susannah Grau stood in the doorway as if she meant to declare something important from across the room. “I’m in your class,” she said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays.” ...

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Wire’s Wire, until It’s a Body

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pp. 101-120

Coming home from his father’s funeral, late spring twilight settling in, Ray Salter felt a small jounce just outside of Lewistown. “What was that?” his wife said, slowing. ...

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Rip His Head Off

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pp. 121-149

“No, they don’t,” I said, but she was raking the anthill at the edge of our yard level with the grass and weeds around it, and I moved two steps back to put more distance between my feet and the black, scurrying ants. She stopped raking but stood among the ants as if to show me what a sissy I was to retreat onto the Kresses’ lawn. ...

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Book Owner

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pp. 150-164

After I had my tonsils removed, my mother bought a ream of ruled paper and drew columns on fifty sheets. “This will get you started,” she said. “You can print all the numbers as high as you want and see how you feel about going on when you finish.” ...

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Pharisees

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pp. 165-185

Jim Grayson taught good and evil. He had his students research the Catholic hierarchies to learn what the saints and the devils accounted for in this world that was going to hell now or even sooner. ...

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The Armstrong View

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pp. 186-201

”It’s a miracle,” Reynolds’s wife said, and surely his children believed it because all three of them, each old enough to be living away from home, looked awestruck. Their father had undergone brain surgery. His skull had been opened and closed again after a part of his brain had been removed. ...

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Gatsby, Tender, Paradise

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pp. 202-216

At quarter to eight, Saturday morning, Russ Bridgeford’s daughter enters the kitchen dressed and carrying her car keys. “This is special,” Bridgeford says. ...

Acknowledgments, Further Reading

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pp. 226-229