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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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Thanks to the following journals in which these stories first appeared: Tin House, “How to Be a Winner”; Image, “Child of God” and “Kids Make Their Own Houses,” reprinted in New Stories from the South 2006 and 2009; New Orleans Review, “Exit Strategy”; ...

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How to Be a Winner

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pp. 1-5

Men, when you have gotten to know me better, you will understand I am an individual who I am prepared to repeatedly demand or ask a question until I get my desired response. I am an individual who in my mind and heart there is constant focus on a goal. ...

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Child of God

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pp. 6-18

The moralistic hand-wringing of the older teachers, whose lives have become a thin gruel; the knowing grins of the twenty-somethings, still racked by their own bottomless appetites; the general adult glee of watching carefree youth dragged into the confraternity of woe; ...

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Exit Strategy

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pp. 19-32

Every time she used a kitchen knife, she imagined cutting her finger off. You know how your brain gets stuck, looping its junk on cue? Freaking itself out, filling time as it falls apart? Except that lately she’d been seeing it so vividly that she’d started to think it wasn’t dementia, her mind misfiring, ...

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In This Procedure

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pp. 33-35

Resentment often manifests as a knot of gristle beneath the jaw, sometimes a lump or node against the spine, and I have marked a typical spot for incision at the seventh dorsal vertebra. Patient is forty-one years of age, male. No known allergies. ...

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Arms

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pp. 36-48

That was a cliché, blinded by rage, but Joey knew that’s how he had gotten so close to Kell: her vision was steamed over by anger, and she hadn’t been able to detect his approach. He had walked right through the barbed wire and guard dogs of Kell, the foxholes and mines, and begun to do what he had been doing for a week now ...

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How to Be a Better You

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pp. 49-55

Your life is replete with inefficiencies. As your Eubios consultants, it is our obligation to state this plainly so you can face the problem clearly. Remember the DVD we played at your Orientation: Only by appraising yourself with a critical eye can you hope to achieve a life of meaning and focus instead of the life of shame and doubt your self-survey indicates. ...

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Profession of the Body

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pp. 56-68

A girl this time. With none of the daintiness heavy girls sometimes affect at meals, she stokes fry after fry into the scuttle of her mouth, building steam against the last three periods of the day. Her forearms glisten. Her eyes wear a private glaze. ...

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Or

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pp. 69-80

“There’s always Chinese,” my wife Margie said, ruining the idea of Chinese by presenting it as a default option whose choice would mean our wills had been too weak to name their true desire. ...

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Kids Make Their Own Houses

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pp. 81-97

This is a woman, I tell you, who could use words like standards and benchmarks with force and clarity, as if they were more than abstract terms handed down by the state. This is a woman who could make you believe no child need be left behind. ...

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How I Come to Be Here at the GasFast

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pp. 98-102

What happened would be it started with I purchase a scratch ticket and I’m scratching it in my truck, out by the pump. On the steering wheel, pressing light so you don’t accidental honk. So I scratch five dollars and proceed the ticket inside to redeem my winnings. ...

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Saints and Martyrs

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pp. 103-120

Don was still using Speed Stick then, the cinnamon kind, and his morning smell made me think of medieval times, cuts of meat preserved with holiday spices. A cook with dirty hands slices off the next gray hunk; outside the castle walls, lots of hay and plague. ...