Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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p. ix

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Witching Hour

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pp. 1-2

WHY DO WE WAKE EACH NIGHT IN THAT SPIRITLESS moment between worlds, we mothers and daughters and wives? And why does the night abandon us to twinkling worry, to the rattling ...

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Feeding the Lions

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pp. 3-4

MY FEET FLIP-FLOP LOUDLY INTO MY FATHER’S ROOM. In the months that I have been taking care of him, I have become noisy, like a Hmong girl with jangles on her ankles to shoo away the ...

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Away from the Woodsman

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pp. 5-8

I JUMP OUT OF THE JEEP ALMOST BEFORE DADDY CAN park. Lucky bounds after me as the December morning burns my...

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Ichthyophobe

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pp. 9-12

LESLIE WAS ONLY FOUR WHEN SHE FOUND HER MOTHER doubled in pain on the bathroom tiles. Water trickled down her ...

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One Candle Left

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pp. 13-18

LITTLE WALTER SAT ALONE AT THE END OF THE LONG table in the noisy Doughboy Pizzeria, where fourteen kids from his third-grade class had come for his birthday. They were scattered all ....

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Laughter and Caprice

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pp. 19-22

As a student teacher, this was her first day handling the classroom alone. She knew it was risky to begin the morning with a joke—one about spitting, no less. But what better way to endear herself to the...

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Queen of the Nile

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pp. 23-26

A single, East Coast transplant to Chicago, Amelia carefully shielded her personal life from her business partners. She kept no pictures of her family on her desk. Her flirtations always walked...

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Reporting for Duty, 1959

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pp. 27-36

Curtis tried not to think about what their father was about to do to them. Instead, he looked intensely out the window, noticing with terror that the oil wells were now moving so slowly past them that he...

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Know the Mother

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pp. 37-38

AS I WASH MY MOTHER’S BACK, HER SCENT FILLS MY nostrils. Already, she smells like a garden unearthed, a freshly dug grave. I soak the cloth in warm water and witch hazel; she sighs as I ...

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Princess Lily

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pp. 39-40

OBJECTS WITH LIKE CHARGES REPULSE EACH OTHER. Objects with opposite charges attract each other. That’s what Miss Powers said. She was the physics teacher at Kubasaki High. I was ...

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Cartoon Blue

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pp. 41-42

MY DESK IS MOLASSES BROWN WITH CLARET undertones. My chair is Williamsburg blue, tufted with gold buttons. It’s on casters so that it rolls easily on the mossy carpet. My phone has...

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Night Coming

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pp. 43-54

Nikki hesitated for a second in the early dusk, wondering if she was at the right house—whether the hundred-year-old, rambling Tudor was really where she had lived the past three years. She put ...

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Mourning Chair

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pp. 55-58

I WISH THIS SEAT WERE A ROCKING CHAIR. THEN I COULD pretend that this is just another long night in the nursery, you burning hot in my arms. ...

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Ceiling

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pp. 59-60

THE LAW FIRM WAS NO PLACE FOR A WOMAN, LAW review or otherwise. He said as much, sucking the end of his pipe, eyes gazing past his glasses to her tender breasts. She tried not to ...

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Origins of Sacrifice

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pp. 61-64

FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR, KATE WAITED TENSELY FOR her husband to arrive home from work. She jostled their fussy newborn as the teenage sitter watched her pace. Maybe Jim had forgotten that he had promised to take Kate out—just a few hours away from ...

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In the Ginza

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pp. 65-68

BOBBIE JEAN PUSHED THE STROLLER THROUGH THE crowded market and silently rehearsed her textbook Japanese. “Ohayō”—pronounced just like Ohio—for “good...

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Home for the Holidays

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pp. 69-72

“STILL MAD?” RASHAUN’S SLEEPY VOICE CAME FROM THE passenger’s seat.

“Nope,” Renee said tersely. She was still mad but didn’t want to talk about it. She’d rather make the last hour of their trip from Detroit to Baltimore pleasant. Instead of casting a plastic smile at....

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Fifteen Items or Less

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pp. 73-76

AFTER LEAVING WORK LATE AND PAYING A SMALL fortune to spring the kids from daycare, Jackie realized she had no milk at home. Or cereal or applesauce....

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Soft Landing

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pp. 77-80

ONE NIGHT, AS I LAY AWAKE IN THE SWELTERING darkness, the stars called me back to the beginning. I went outside and gazed skyward where Orion hung low and the Milky Way dangled ...

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Something Falls in the Night

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pp. 81-84

JUMP UP, RUN SWIFTLY OVER THE HARDWOOD FLOOR. Don’t worry about your thin gown or your ungirded body beneath. Creep into your son’s room and pinch him from his dreams. Greet his...

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Leftovers

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pp. 85-86

THE SUN WARMS THE WINDOWPANES AS I LINGER ON the edge of a dream. Downstairs, I can hear Cassie squealing like a piglet and Brandon is not using his inside voice. I should go and see...

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On the Rim

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pp. 87-88

A TRIO OF LAZY BURROS CLOMPED ALONG THE LIP OF A sheer crevasse, each entrusted with one of my three boys. I was the last one in the mule train, unable to reach the children should one of ...

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The Disappearing Girl

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pp. 89-92

MY MINIVAN CHURNS IMPATIENTLY AS I WAIT IN THE long queue. Up ahead, it’s easy to spot my daughter in the gaggle of starched, school-crested shirts and navy-blue pants. She’s the only...

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Graveyard Love

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pp. 93-96

JAN SMILED UP AT STEVE AS HE GENTLY PLACED A CUP of tea on the end table. The waft of bergamot encircled her as he kissed her...

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Nocturne

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pp. 97-100

AT AGE SEVEN, JEANINE LOST THE FAMILY DOG. SHE HAD been practicing scales on the piano—eyes closed and head bent toward the music—when her mother yelled from the kitchen that it was time ...

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Postbellum Love Story

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pp. 101-104

PEEKING THROUGH THE STAINED-GLASS PORTAL OF their Chesterfield home, Toya watched the unmarked squad car drop off her husband under the cover of darkness. Affably, Clarence unfolded ...

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Second Sleep

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pp. 105-106

YOU WAKE TO DARKNESS. THE MOON TINGES YOUR room cadaver blue, but beneath your closed door seeps the warm amber of a hearth. People are...

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To the Bone

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pp. 107-110

DAILY, A PIECE OF CRACKLING BREAD, A BOWL OF BOILED turnips, fried fatback. Pa and the boys would get extra pieces of the salty meat whenever there was any to be had. They worked at the mill ...

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Requiem for a Dress

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pp. 111-114

WHAT IS TODAY—TUESDAY? I GUESS I’D BETTER GET UP and do the laundry if I’m going to be ready when Margie comes to take me to see Zoe. Margie is such a stickler for time. Maybe it’s ...

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Open Sky

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pp. 115-118

The removal of her shoes, much to Betty’s horror, was just the first indignity of air travel. Alex stripped Betty of her light summer sweater, her chiffon scarf, and her tapestry purse. Then Betty stepped...

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The Massage

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pp. 119-122

EMMA LAY STIFFLY ON HER BACK AND PULLED THE THIN sheet to her chin like a child afraid of monsters beneath the bed. The sheet sloped uphill from her saddlebag breasts to the apex of her stomach. She sucked in deeply, wishing that she had followed her right mind ...

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Acknowledgments

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p. 123

THE ART OF LIVING AND THE ART OF WRITING ARE SO often at odds, especially for women. I could never have pursued both without the love of my parents, the support of my brother, and the...