Cover

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Title Page

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv

Dedication

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pp. v-v

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-vii

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Chapter 1 - Last Call of the Passenger Pigeon

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pp. 1-17

Darren Felt his boots being embraced by the mud. He felt the wind crinkle his ears. He felt the old man’s finger poking into his arm, into his skin, bone, muscle, fat—there were so many layers in a human being— and then the old man made a tight shrill cry, nothing like a man. He did it again and again: keck, keck, keck...

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Chapter 2 - Amar

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pp. 18-26

Yesterday amar ate half a box of raisins, two crusts of bread cemented together with toasted cheese, seven grapes, and three squares broken off of a chocolate bar. He didn’t have time to be hungry. Benji required the hours of the moon, and the restaurant demanded the hours of the sun, and the skin- heads, their hate as dark as an eclipse, stole ticks of the clock from both celestial objects...

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Chapter 3 - Maria

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pp. 27-36

Night haunts the sacred forest, but to believe this, one must view it head-on. I never liked watching from the wings of the stage. You could see the pulleys and winches that made the curtains slip up and then crash down. You could see the backs of the chorus members’ tunics where the stitches remained raw. You could see the (real) wood hammered up to support the (fake) trees. I liked it when Maria secured a ticket, when...

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Chapter 4 - The Chez du Pancakes

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pp. 37-40

Tiananmen bent down before the The Chez du Pancakes as if he were praying. Then we saw the flames. When he ran down the street, churning away from the juts of smoke, we ran as well. We were a great mob designed to bring him comfort. Except maybe this is the end of the story. We tend to get ahead of ourselves sometimes. Then we smash and bump into one another. We elbow and push. Beer gets spilled. We suffer bruised feelings and body parts. Swearing spreads like the heebakibees...

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Chapter 5 - Boy, Sea, Boy

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pp. 41-46

The sea offered bits of spite, parts of the ship. All splinters. First Mate waited for something of substance, a dead body, his chess set, buildable wood. The sea offered none of these things. First Mate neither cried nor mourned. He had hated them all—Cap- tain with his lispy orders, Sebastian with his receding hairline, a head like a cobwebbed egg; he could supply more too, more people, more...

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Chapter 6 - The Kids

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pp. 47-54

Paul chaSeD them away. “Get out of here,” he yelled. They scattered. Four of them running off, howling in the dark. The green plastic can was tipped onto its side, its innards spilled out and all over the patio behind the garage. Paul looked at scraps of used napkins, a pile of something vaguely larval, traces of white paste (mayonnaise? chunkified sour milk?). In...

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Chapter 7 - Black Box

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pp. 55-66

The mission overflows with false angels and the sting of broken teeth. Our missing parts yell at us. My molar aches from a distant landfill, and the ghosts we never believed in tug at our sleeves, stare us down, keep us on a trajectory we did not choose. I imagine voices from the clouds. They sing and beg me to join in on the chorus...

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Chapter 8 - The Dirty Boy

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pp. 67-76

They tell the story to scare freshmen: There’s a guy who lives in a park downtown, and he doesn’t bathe, and he’s covered with filth, and he’s really, really famous, and he’s so gross it messes with people’s minds. You don’t believe them. You could have stayed home at BU or even Tufts (your SAT scores were that good, and you ran cross-country, and you did public service...

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Chapter 9 - This Document Should Be Retained as Evidence of Your Journey

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pp. 77-83

Patterson pulled on bleach-stained khakis, glared at his sleeping wife, tucked frustration into his waistband along with the tail of his shirt, and glared again. He helped lots of kids, troubled or not, but that didn’t mean he liked them sleeping in his house. “I’m awake,” Vicki said. “I feel you looking at me.” “Love,” he said, “I’m going to wake that kid good and up.” The stranger was...

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Chapter 10 - The Collection

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pp. 84-91

Those were the days when I mainly talked to myself. “There’s Betsy Ross’s left-handed needle, Marion Barry’s crack pipe, the hatchet George Washington didn’t use when he didn’t chop down that cherry tree.” The Collection was designed to astound and thrill, to astonish and free the mind. It was the morning after a dream. I wept for it...

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Chapter 11 - Five Stories about Throwing Things at Famous People

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pp. 92-97

Sometimes they called him by this nickname (I don’t even like to think about it), like Sir February, except the title wasn’t Sir and the month wasn’t February, but you get the idea. This wasn’t the only reason he seemed so haughty, but it was one of the reasons, as if they had given the month his name, rather than vice versa. Then those candy bars came out with his picture on them. They were called Jackie Bars!! (With two exclamation points. Two of them!!) And despite my misgivings, I...

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Chapter 12 - El Americanito

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pp. 98-105

When he first discovered the strip bar at the end of the boiling avenue, Evan adopted a limp and spoke in a slow low tone, something he considered mature and raspy. He soon gave up his affectations. They didn’t care how old he was. He had American dollars, and the girls patted his head, called him Americanito, called him muchacho. He ordered cerveza, and they brought him pineapple juice poured into...

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Chapter 13 - Big Springs

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pp. 106-109

Ronnie didn’t always look this way, cropped blond hair like a boy’s and stubbed fingernails. She scrapes the plaque off your teeth, and you spit when she says, “Go ahead.” You fear her comments about flossing and her tone as she reshapes your misconceptions about gum disease. Years ago, you wouldn’t have imagined letting her fingers into your mouth....

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 110-112

Even if these thanks stretched for miles, I’m still afraid I would leave out I would not be writing stories at all if it weren’t for the guidance and support of three excellent writers and mentors: Tom Lorenz at the University of Kansas, Trudy Lewis at the University of Missouri, and John Vernon at Binghamton University. They told me what I needed to hear ...

Back Cover

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