Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

This book, maybe more than most, has been a communal effort. First, I required the support of friends and loved ones to live in the way chronicled here, which was no small thing. Then many, many writing mentors helped shape that lived experience into a coherent narrative. I’m grateful to everyone...

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The Nearest Walmart

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pp. 1-9

The KOA campground in Amarillo, Texas, sits in a surprisingly seedy neighborhood, more urban than I had expected. A very middle-class couple with impossibly wide smiles advertises an adult video and novelty store from a billboard before the final turnoff to the campground. Cattle graze...

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These Small Affections

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pp. 10-21

Once Mot and I are comfortable with each other again, we fall back into our Morgantown pattern of nonstop chatter and long drives to no place in particular. Easy conversation and a love of empty hours are part of what binds us together. He is the first friend I’ve had in years with the time to...

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Mot Sleeps

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pp. 22-32

The rich steakhouse dinner doesn’t sit well, and I’m up and down all night. Careful not to wake Mot, I search in the dark for my left shoe, my jacket. Under the red and black blanket, Mot sleeps on his belly like a baby in a crib—one hand by his face, the other tossed far out to the side. His...

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Mr. Brooks

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pp. 33-40

On Friday morning, Mot wakes believing that his only remaining sibling, a sister named Elizabeth, has died. He knows, he explains, because she’s crying so loudly inside his head that he can’t hear me when I speak. Until today, she had not been one of the ones weeping in the background. Mot’s...

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Driving Home

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pp. 41-50

I’m awake by five, anxious to get the good-bye over with. I shower and get the last of my things together before waking Mot. “I’m going now,” I whisper, leaning over his head on the pillow. It’s the first time I’ve crossed the invisible barrier between his side of the cabin and mine in all the time...

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Mot from Afar

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pp. 51-57

The morning I go back to work is sunny and pleasant. The few people who wander into Friendship Room sit quietly reading or playing Spades. The pile of mail on my desk is manageable. I’m behind enough to be busy but not overburdened. For a few minutes, I imagine that the time away has...

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Wilbur

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pp. 58-67

On the day I met Wilbur, the snow was coming down so hard and fast I had to walk to work. My battered old car and its bald tires couldn’t be trusted on icy pavement, and already the snow lay in drifts as high as the front bumper. I was pulling a double at Bartlett House—8:00 a.m. to...

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In the Yellow House

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pp. 68-72

It’s the first weekend after Mot’s disappearance. Scotti is standing on the porch talking to the college kids we have hired to paint the house. I can’t hear what’s being said, but he is pointing to a spot where the old paint has started to peel away from the wood. I watch through the window...

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Alligator Gar

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pp. 73-80

Two weeks after he reestablishes contact, Mot and I meet up in Oklahoma City. Cell phones help. Staying in contact while I drive has robbed the Big Guys Upstairs of the chance to make a muddle of time or to convince Mot that they have somehow waylaid me. But more importantly, we are...

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Instant Pho

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pp. 81-93

On our second day in Oklahoma City, Mot and I wake up early to swim before the families take over the pool. His compromised left side makes swimming difficult. He tires quickly and can’t manage a straight line in the lap lane. But it’s nice to be in the water, cool in the already...

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Mot Breaks Down

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pp. 94-105

I’m a believer in early starts. By 6:00 a.m. on the day we’re to leave, I’m ready to hit the road, but Mot’s still sleeping that odd, dead sleep of his, never moving, his breath as shallow as a baby’s.
Mot’s car has gone from bad to worse while we’ve been at the koA. It overheated on the one short...

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Home

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pp. 106-114

Mot has agreed to stay awhile and is moving into an apartment. It’s a dump, with walls of cheap plywood paneling over bare studs and the musty smell of a carpet laid directly on a damp concrete floor. But it’s on the bus line, there’s a laundry room where the washers cost only fifty cents...

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Tashlikh

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pp. 115-121

The grapevines are overburdened with fruit, ripe and fragrant. I don’t know what to do with the bounty. Before the vines are divested of even half their burden, I have put up dozens of jars of jelly, more than Scotti and I can use or give away. Mot suggests that we make wine...

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The Secret of the Aquarium Tubing

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pp. 122-128

It’s another Walmart day, about a week after the grape fight, but this time I’m the one creating a scene. People in the adjoining aisles are starting to stare at us. Mot’s trying to stand up, and I keep pushing him back down. “Take it again,” I demand, holding him in the chair in front...

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Car Talk

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pp. 129-134

The Saturday after Mot gets out of the hospital, I’m on Car Talk. Mot and I sit in his apartment, listening together as Tom and Ray consider the question of the summer thermostat.
“Next we have Sarah from Morgantown, W.V.,” one of them says. I have a hard time telling the two men...

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Mot, Gone

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pp. 135-139

The apples on our trees are at the point where they must be used or lost. I had promised Mot I would come by early this morning, but instead I pick a basket of apples and make pies. Scotti hovers around the kitchen. It’s a rare day when he doesn’t have to run off to the office or see Rita...

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What’s Left Behind

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pp. 140-148

In the weeks after Mot leaves, I am forced to face an unpleasant truth about myself: I’m as relieved that he’s gone as I am sorry. I wanted to be his friend for the long haul, but as his delusions shifted and his trust in me eroded, the work of trying to keep up with the machinations of the...

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Epilogue

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pp. 149-152

I’ve just finished baking Lucy’s birthday cake. She’ll be twenty-one in a few days, and she and her girlfriend are coming over this evening to celebrate. I’m no longer married to her father, but she is still very much my stepdaughter. She and Kayla now live in the old yellow farmhouse. Scotti...