Cover

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Frontmatter

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Half Title

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Title Page

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Dedication

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Contents

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p. vii

Acknowledgments

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p. ix

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1. Ducklings

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pp. 1-15

Marjorie just loves babies! By the time she is twenty, she is going to have four: two girls and two boys. The girls will be identical twins, but she won’t be the type of mother who makes them wear matching dresses with white pinafores. Marjorie is well aware of the importance of individuality! She will have their eyes checked routinely. ...

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2. Another Cancer Story

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pp. 16-30

My younger sister Molly calls, interrupting my bedtime ritual of red wine and Marlboro lights (My friend Toby always asks, How can you smoke when your mother is dying of cancer? I answer, How can you not?). I check the clock. One a.m. No matter how many late night phone calls I get from Molly, the adrenaline rush ...

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3. What She Should Do

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pp. 31-34

Everyone in her family assumes Jane’s a lesbian, even though she frequently wears skirts and keeps her hair long and her dating history is one long sit-com situation after another. Each holiday dinner, she waits for the pause in conversation before the question is asked by her aunt/grandma/ married cousin(s). ...

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4. Wanted

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pp. 35-48

Late in the summer, a series of gruesome murders hits Chicago. First, it is one woman’s body found. Then two. Then three—triplets named Annabelle, Amber, and Karen. Women are buying Rottweilers and Pit Bulls. They are purchasing stun guns, pepper spray, brass knuckles, screamers, and Chinese stars. Some are even said to carry ...

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5. In Mem

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pp. 49-62

Mem’s name is short for Memory, which Mrs. Pototnick, her third grade teacher at the new school, calls “ironic” because Mem has a hard time remembering anything— the names of all the major internal organs, where Illinois appears on the United States map, the street address of her aunt’s house where she’s living now. ...

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6. Runaway

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pp. 63-64

What he took: his entire Yankees baseball card collection that he kept in neat rows according to team and then divided into alphabetical order. Some T-shirts, his blue high-top sneakers with his name written in blue ink on the sides and two pair of jeans stuffed into our dad’s worn brown suitcase that snapped shut but didn’t lock. ...

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7. Girls

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pp. 65-82

One Sunday, my mother brought home a little girl. We were staying in Omaha in another of a series of barely livable apartments. This particular one remains distinct only because of a faint brown water stain on my bedroom ceiling shaped like a huge descending claw. ...

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8. Snowball

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pp. 83-97

The night before my science project was due, I had my head on the card table, a musty smelling volume of Encyclopedia Britannica (S through Sn) open in front of me. The book was something my mother picked up at a garage sale in Jupiter, Florida, for three dollars. From this book, I could do my project on: Saskatchewan, Scoliosis, ...

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9. Our Last Supper

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pp. 98-105

It is that last night of my sister’s stay and I am determined to get her drunk. Her visit has been a complete waste of my life. I can tell she is reaching a point where she feels she must ask me something significant about my existence. There’s a hesitancy about her, as if she were saying “ahem” every time she looks at me. ...

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10. Six Different Ways to Die in the Windy City!

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pp. 106-112

In the elevator riding up to the 27th floor to work, Betsy stares at the lighted number circles that ding as they tick slowly by each floor. If she stares hard enough at the buttons, the elevator will continue upwards all the way to her floor without stopping to let anyone else on. This is the power she has. ...

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11. Tribute to an Optometrist

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pp. 113-125

A small fire has started in Thea’s apartment kitchen, sparked by a second-hand coffee pot and faulty wiring. Thea stands watching it, in a moment of disbelief. The flames are pretty: blue and gold and yellow and the smell is pleasant, like a gasoline cap. It is all her fault for pulling everything she owns out of dumpsters and alleyways: ...

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12. Look at the Sky and Tell Me What You See

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pp. 126-133

I’m going to a funeral, and for the occasion, I’ve chosen a knee-length black Donna Karan dress (Flashy Trash, $15), black lace bra and panties, garter belt, sheer black stockings and brown snow boots with my “For Funerals-Only” black pumps stuffed in a Hello Kitty backpack. If I didn’t care at all what people think, ...

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13. Words to Live By

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pp. 134-136

He’s confused. Too shy. His sister died of leukemia when he was thirteen. He’s not over his wife yet. He’s intimidated by your sarcastic sense of humor. You’re smarter than he is and he can’t handle it. He’s lost. He doesn’t know what he wants. He’s never had a long-term relationship. He’s young. He works too hard. ...

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14. The Last Dead Boyfriend

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pp. 137-147

Two weeks into my voluntary detox program at the Center for Drunks and Five Star Screwballs, my recently dead boyfriend shows up. I promised myself if I ever saw him again, I’d laugh in his face, Bette Davis style, perhaps make fun of his tiny penis and rapidly disappearing brown curls. I’d tell him I never loved him; in fact, ...

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15. Wonderful Girl

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pp. 148-160

Evie is a good daughter in some ways. When her stepfather keels over suddenly from a heart attack, she takes off two weeks from work to fly back to Iowa. She helps her mother organize the kitchen cabinet, separating the canned goods from the pasta boxes. She lets her weep and brings her Kleenex after Kleenex. ...

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16 Encore

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pp. 161-162

In fifth grade, Philip Knight asked me to go steady with him, presenting a greenish gold bracelet to me. When we broke up, he threw rocks at my bike. Bobby Dittmer wore blue All-Stars and played keyboard in a Christian rock band. I made him take the Lord’s name in vain. The drama major read me a Native American prayer. ...