Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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My ’49 Ford

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pp. 1-15

Though my mother kept telling me I was lucky, that these years would be the best of my life, I didn’t feel lucky at all, only glad to be driving. After three hours on the road, rain had sheeted down and left the pavement silver and black. ...

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Allegiances

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pp. 16-28

We were standing at the edge of the woods, looking back across the soccer field toward the dorm. J. C. puffed on a cigar and blew two perfect hoops of smoke, the wheels of some crazy bicycle that wobbled slowly toward the woods. Magic, like the mesmerizing card tricks he did in the dorm. ...

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Against Losing

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pp. 29-42

Uncle Jarek, leaning his brass-jointed cue stick against the bar, laughed and hit me with one of his patented expressions: “Don’t lose you!” He tightened the turquoise bola at his throat, then reached for the VO and milk he claimed was easier on his ulcer. I said, “Try me again.” ...

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Visitation

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pp. 43-67

Where Derek lived now, the only real snow was remembered, so it wasn’t until the patterns of farmland below the jet pod began to turn white that the purpose of his trip came back. At LaGuardia he had switched planes and was almost glad for the heavy weather that buffeted this small twin-engine DeHavilland. ...

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Ghost of Thanksgiving

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pp. 68-81

The wind rubbed a moaning sound from a loose pane in the kitchen window. Lester tapped the pane to stop it, then looked at the snowy yard. The rusted Coke thermometer read 34 degrees. He factored a number of things into his decisions these days, and temperature was one. ...

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Lights at Skipper’s Cove

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pp. 82-104

The water was a light turquoise, and clear to sixty feet down. Looking like iridescent parachutes, jellyfish drifted below us, a visual echo of the small puffy clouds overhead. The motor quietly hummed. My wife, Erin, was at the helm, watching the sonar and occasionally glancing sternward to keep our four lines straight. ...

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Friends

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pp. 105-116

“That felt good,” said Lynne, coming out of the water. She toweled her blonde-streaked hair and sat down at a table with Rick and Vivian. The deck of their neighborhood pool overlooked the narrow Tar River. They were drinking premixed gin and tonics under a big blue umbrella. ...

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A Perfect Time

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pp. 117-133

From the living room window in the rental cottage, Hank studied the ocean. It was sunny and blue, but still too windy, whitecaps all the way to a freighter that rode the horizon. On the beach, waves were tall and broke far from shore, giving long rides to the kids on boogie boards. ...

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Booger’s Gift

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pp. 134-150

Greg stood at the window, phone to his ear. He was watching a raccoon atop the bird feeder and talking to the same guy who called yesterday, a well-oiled baritone named Booger Siems. Booger lived about forty miles away and wondered if Greg could meet him just west of the city: ...

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Diving the Wreck

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pp. 151-168

Wendell didn’t want to be thinking bitter thoughts. Be thinking, period. That’s why he sat at the open-sided bar on the Reef’s back deck. A low sun left copper streaks on the water. Red and white oleanders swayed along the walkway to the finger piers where the charter boats moored. P. J. asked if he needed another beer. ...

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Family

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pp. 169-188

My cousin Cash phoned me late one night. Though my contact with her is minimal, I knew the voice immediately, a sharp, nasal monotone. At Christmas, she sends out cards with a generic letter detailing her political and church activities. Last year her card included a printed leaflet with a color photo of an aborted fetus in a surgical basin. ...

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Distance

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pp. 189-196

It was sunny, hot, late afternoon. We had been on the road since early morning. Even after New York City, traffic was heavy, stop-and-go, far into Connecticut. I lowered my sun visor. ...