Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Series: Juniper Prize for Fiction
“A Certain Samaritan” originally appeared in North Dakota Review, “Gophers” (formerly titled “Animal Wrongs”) in Between the Species, “Reading Erica Jong” in Hotel Amerika, and “Twenty-two Flamingos” in Northwest Review. ...
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The Black Mercedes
The call came at six p.m. I was in the study patching up this Mayan fertility thing with Epoxy Plus. “Arthur?” Just that one word on the phone at first, the name drawn out with a rising inflection, but not without effort. Such a rickety-rusty voice. I explained that Arthur and his wife were on vacation, told the caller ...
Chapter 2 - A Certain Samaritan
Billy Stengel’s daughters are asleep in their car seats, Jill sitting beside him up front, explaining how to rearrange the living room, get the sofa away from the window so that something more dramatic can be done with that spot. Billy listens but hears mainly the music in his head happily pumping as she repositions ...
Chapter 3 - Gophers
Just one of the details Violet remembered: nobody on the animal rights panel wore leather shoes. She had easily noticed their feet, the panelists seated behind a folding table on a low stage. One of the men was actually wearing plastic sandals over socks, if you can imagine. That was the gentleman from back East who ...
Chapter 4 - The Paisley Arms
No microwave in the time-warp apartment, but how charming, this ancient hot plate complementing a like-vintage, small refrigerator, humming in its dotage. In a bad light, but a hopeful mood, I continue the tour, regard the faded elegance: walls wainscoted in ascension to high ceilings, a cherry wood armoire, small ...
Chapter 5 - Buster
The second time my brother Buster’s life flopped, he positioned himself by the on ramp to the interstate, hoisting a thumb and a hand-lettered, felt-tip sign reading “Now Accepting Rides.” Buster had just lost everything to the lawyers of the second wife whose calumnious family, adding insult to penury, gang-tagged him with invective, tattooed him with slander. Yet he maintained ...
Chapter 6 - The Sleep Machine
It was the summer following the summer of the overwhelming fires, a summer when the fires merely whelmed as usual, Southern California’s smog smudged with extra particulate as the ash rode the thermals, July giving way to August, Le Tour de France moving aside for Le Tour de Democrats, then Olympians, finally Republicans. June, as hoped, had been cool, marine air advancing on our inland valley every evening and malingering until ...
Chapter 7 - Oceanside, 1985
Lucinda, how very pregnant, wades into the Pacific, ankle deep and then some. She’d like to float straight out there, so far, and be whale-watched by cetologists. “You big, blue ocean,” she says, and the addressed ocean splashes her, a dialogue of sorts, conducted as a paprika sun pinkens, slips, dissolves. No green tonight. Some ...
Chapter 8 - Gisela
So what’s to be done about a wayward wife, hitherto faithful and such a brick for twenty-one years, not to mention nurturer of two college-settled sons, one even in the Ivy League? What to do now that the midlife mess-up I was priding myself on avoiding afflicts her instead, as, my God, I should have expected in this day of gender equity but had acknowledged only in theory, in stats, but ...
Chapter 9 - Twenty-two Flamingos
Beryl is often blue, considering letting it all slide, jettisoning her principles as she did the grapefruit diet. She looks at the neighborhood, how it hangs there, like cellulite on the civic body, a place to make you think that, very locally, entropy has speeded up. What sorts out as a yard sale elsewhere is, in these streets, a family’s things more or less spread. Nothing for sale but nearly everything ...
Chapter 10 - Persimmons
Ernie Vesuvio climbs to his carport roof from a stepladder, boosting with his arms before swinging a leg up and over. But his springing from the aluminum ladder tips it, leaving one foot to flail the autumn air. That cartoonish motion, or the clattering of the ladder on the patio bricks, startles a scrub jay from the persimmon tree, and Ernie, now flush with the roof, watches this bird flap westward. He pulls up to his knees, turns about, peers down. The ...
Chapter 11 - Reading Erica Jong
Joey Carbone is staring out the window, squinting, relaxing the squint, squinting another one. “It come outta nowhere,” he says, not turning from the window he leans into, the sill supporting his elbows, like the window was cut in the wall to suit him personally, Joey Carbone. ...
Chapter 12 - Cartography
Raymond Kiefer sits in back but with a view of the panelists. He’s watching the speaker, a woman who has to be Trish, despite some changes, a few of them arguably attractive. The way she used to fidget her hands, there’s only a bit of that left, and it works into effective gesture. The unruly hair she complained of appears disciplined now but still thick, some honest gray to it—not that anyone ...
Chapter 13 - Bring Everyody
When two of Leonard Dirkson’s friends died within three months of each other—his only two friends, he told himself— Leonard began looking to his own mortality with moderate urgency, even while recognizing the predictability of such a reaction. His medical checkup argued for increasing dietary fiber and drinking more water while cutting back on coffee and martinis. He resolved to give it a try, although considering ...