Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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Yao’s Chick

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pp. 1-15

The family watched basketball in order to enjoy the Rockets’ new Chinese player. They took pride in him the way they would have taken pride in a Chinese astronaut or a new high-tech millionaire. Li En, sitting between her parents, tried to pretend that she wasn’t really paying attention to the TV. She looked mostly down...

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Indian Giver

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pp. 16-31

At first, Seymour Rubin thought his new employee was practicing voodoo—later he understood that it was only cleanliness. The tall goateed black man stood on top of the baler using a broomstick. Vinnie, the crane operator, held the 1,500–pound steel magnet in midair above him while Alonzo Johnson poked his stick into the...

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Proton Decay

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pp. 32-42

When Jerome Feldman addressed himself to the woman lodged beneath three thousand tons of water he decided that he would not be coy. He would tell her at once that he was serious, yet he would do it in a way that wouldn’t sound as if he was replying...

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Stabbing an Elephant

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pp. 43-50

I saw a colorful illustration—an ancient soldier wearing leather headgear and sandals jabbed his short sword into an elephant’s belly. Although the elephant’s knees buckled, the animal seemed otherwise undisturbed. The soldier looked up at the beast as casually as a mechanic...

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Peace

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pp. 51-63

On the fourth of July, Jay Wilson and his partner, Leo, always threw a big party. They gave away four or five cases of pellet snakes, a gross of sparklers, paper American flags, Uncle Sam masks, just about everything that was on page 5 of their catalogue. But this year they were short of goods, and Leo wouldn’t stop blaming the...

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Stepdaughters

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pp. 64-73

Our family life had been serene and moving toward joyful until Stephanie began shot-putting. Her eight-pound steel ball is now hammering all three of us. Stephanie is training for the state meet; Helen is fighting for her daughter’s female body, and perhaps her soul. I am...

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Sized Up

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pp. 74-85

All over the place, people much younger were sprouting diseases Ferguson had never heard of. Yet at forty-six, and not in love, he wanted a child. This was supposed to happen only to women, but here he was, stewing in male hormones and mushy every time he...

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Threads

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pp. 86-101

In a buenos aires warehouse, only a few blocks from the landing where travelers awaited the ferry to Punta del Este, Ira Silvers of Baltimore examined a replica of the interior of his Charles Street apartment. It was not an exact copy, but close, down to a version of...

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House of the Lowered

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pp. 102-112

As soon as he heard that Carlos was coming to visit him before the 92nd shipped out to Iraq, Elario decided to throw a party. “Barbecue, mariachi, the works,” he said. “The marine is landing in Houston.” Though he rarely saw his son, Elario talked about him a lot. “Carlos always knew he had a father,” he told me, “it wasn’t...

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Strawberry Shortcake

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pp. 113-123

Wife or no wife, bankrupt or not, on Sunday Sidney Goodman, the carwash king of Las Vegas, pointed his Chrysler LeBaron convertible toward Heritage Estates. There, surrounded by flowers in bloom and mostly healthy fellow seniors, his mother awaited...

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Adventures in Dementia

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pp. 124-135

Jenny Goodman, a perky eighty-four, with clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, and a nice set of natural teeth, remembered her only child, Sidney, but not her husband. The one-time tire store owner and man about the house had been dead since 1980; still, Sidney wondered, why no dad when Elvis, and President Kennedy, and even Elaine...

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Talker

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pp. 136-149

Vanessa had a hard time with the truth, she also had hair issues, and if there was ever conflict between hair and truth ...Well, hair happened, things happened, and when I got angry at her for not showing up as scheduled she took my reaction into account as part of the natural order. “There’s never been a time in the world without...

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The Jew of Home Depot

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pp. 150-182

The old man in Marshall, Texas, phoned the Chabad organization in August 1980. He got right to the point. “I’m eighty-five and dying,” Jerome Baumgarten said, “and I’m surrounded by Gentiles. If you can send me a bunch of real Jews, I’ll pay their way and...