Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Interment for Yard and Garden: A Practical Guide

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pp. 1-28

When a death is expected—as in the case of a family member, such as a parent—perhaps an elderly parent—or even more specifically, in the case of one’s father, for example—decisions must be made as to the means of final disposition of the body. For the urban Jew, this usually constitutes burial in a cemetery outside the city limits, but those in suburban settings may consider interment in a yard or garden. To that end, a journeyman Soil Shifter can be had for hire. As...

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Paradise Field

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pp. 29-40

The father calls, as he does, in a voice flown away. Florida, he tells the daughter. An airstrip, he tells the girl. Look for the town of Okeechobee.
Where?—says the girl—Are you making that up? She shoves aside homework and checks her map. She flips through her book of geography.
It’s east of the Gulf and west of the ocean, the father says above the static that crackles through the air....

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The Renoir Is Put Straight

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pp. 41-62

L’Auberge. The sign can be seen from the road. The child will remember the vine that winds around the post. She will remember the willow in the yard.

The cottages are clapboard. The main house and the stairs to the dining room are stone. The dining room windows face east. A Renoir print hangs above the table where they always sit. Girl With Watering Can. The frame is gilt....

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The Song Inside the Plate

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pp. 63-66

The corner seat is where I sit. Sissy sits by the window. Father sits so no one can get out. The kitty is under the table where the floor has a bump. Sometimes the kitty stands on two back feet just like a person stands. Mother stands. She goes where the stove is or walks around and carries dishes. Sissy keeps her lamb in her lap. Where his hair is gone away Mother made a patch. Sissy pets the patch. She always lifts the lamb...

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As Those Who Know the Dead Will Do

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pp. 67-82

They went to where there would be canyons, where the daughter had once walked in her younger years, had traveled along the bluffs and ledges, had seen those vast regions of sage and mesa cleft with chasms of stone and the rivers of their incision—and now wanting the father to see—while there was still time, while there was still breath and sense and flow through those most turbulent of tributaries within his fisted...

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Arrow Canyon

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pp. 83-98

Out here where we are, down this end of the county, we don’t have much in the way of attractions. Not any more, anyways. Unless you’d call the Ute jerky stand an attraction. Or even Arrow Canyon—that used to bring folks in. Used to be you could get yourself up in one of those little rock shelters and haul out all sorts of crap. What they call artifacts—those things the ones they call The Old Ones made: carvings and whatnot, clay pots and such. There’s nothing left of course....

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Irregulars

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pp. 99-104

He was still working all the while his heart was going bad, still running the business—a garment business of sorts—but it was nothing glamorous, nothing trendy or chic. No, this was the business of buying up dry goods for next to nothing—big batches of damaged stuff—then selling it off dirt cheap—an enterprise he had started with two partners soon after the war, two buddies from the same squadron, who—in short order—turned out to be loafers and spongers—useless early on. But they were long dead...

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Somewhere in the North Atlantic

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pp. 105-112

The big woman sleeps and sprawls full out, her bulk unleashed upon the king-sized bed, having room enough for two. Her nylon nightie clings to her sweating immensity: the puckered thighs, the heft of rump. She shifts her thick limbs. The bed frame sags. Posts lean and bed slats ever-so-slightly bow. Bolts work loose and screws destabilize unseen, unwinding thread by thread, slower than a glacial melt. Her bed is a freighter, a breaker of ice, bearing her through dreams in...

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Two Things

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pp. 113-114

I call my sister on the phone. No hello. What? she says.
Listen, I tell her. I’m working late. There’s a couple of things that Daddy needs. Can you stop and pick them up? Just this once? Just two things.
What? she says.
First thing, I tell her: Seafoam Strips. Not the powder. The powder won’t hold. And not the paste—it squishes all over. And not Tooth-Tight. Forget Tooth-Tight. Sure sure, if...

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Mitzvah

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pp. 115-138

Down at the desk, they can always see you coming. They can see the visitors and the patients and the Call-Lights that blink above every door. There is little you can hide from the Desk People at the end of the corridor. There is little that they will not see.
Sometimes you must head down to the desk. You must speak with the Desk People about certain things, important...

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Recognizable Constellations and Familiar Objects of the Night Sky in Early Spring

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pp. 139-152

To all, welcome.
Our program will be starting momentarily, so find your places.
The first stars of the evening are beginning to appear.
We have a number of small children in our audience tonight.
Please remember that they must remain quiet and seated at all times during the presentation.
Your eyes will adjust as the doors close behind you and the lights slowly dim.
There will be ample time to grow accustomed to the dark....

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Jerusalem

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pp. 153-176

Consider the gladiolus, the mums, the marigolds along the big window. Consider the petals fallen bedside, the stems slightly bent.
The father is positioned so: knees drawn up, padded along the rail, cushioned against the bone.
Sacrum, coccyx, iliac crest: here and there the skin has gone papery thin. The daughter inspects and makes notes. “Erythema,” she writes. “Induration.”...

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Details of Grief

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pp. 177-186

It is not quite spring. The threshold—yes, but not yet the frantic tug and sweet hum and tweak of life. Some birds of the past season still live, still hold on. Winter doves amble amid the rows of stones. Geese going over take a wide turn seeking early open water or patches where the snow has been cleared for digging. Crows watch from steeples. Starlings sit along chimney rims in the shimmer of forced heat. Trees are still bare of...

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Badly Raised and Talking with the Rabbi

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pp. 187-190

This? I’ve had this for years.
No, not black. More of a charcoal.
Not that black is even necessary nowadays.
Dark colors, on the conservative side, isn’t that what they say?
Anyway, there just wasn’t time to shop.
She was hell-bent on getting him in the ground today.
The daughter, that’s who.
I had absolutely nothing to say about it....

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Inscription

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pp. 191-192

HE NEGLECTED THE HEDGES, BUT
HE CALLED HOME ABOUT CLOUDS

Can’t do it, says the man who letters stone. Too long. Can’t be done.
They stand in a yard full of stones—an assortment of rough-cut and polished rock; a display of styles of chiseling, of ways of engraving dates and names. The man has a chisel. The man has a hammer....

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The Rhythm of Digging

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pp. 193-194

The shovels rise and dip. The soil is flung. Wind takes away the dust. What is lifted out to make a space becomes a mound on the grass where the grass has been trampled flat. Clod, pebble, soil, shard, pieces of root, pieces of rock. There is a stone on the heap.
The daughter is grown and growing older. She was once a daughter who liked clouds made of cotton. She was once a girl who kept stones on a shelf....

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There’s Nothing Here You’d Want

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pp. 195-204

Broom clean, the realtor had said. Don’t give the buyer a reason to renege.
Certainly not. Not after so many delays: the dickering over price, the demands for repairs before the closing date.
One last look, the daughter decided, arriving with broom in hand for a final sweep.
By now, of course, cabinets had been cleared. Belongings had been sorted. Discards had been bagged and stuffed...

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In This Last Slipping-Past Year

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pp. 205-212

Uneven strands, the roughness of stubble—the father’s appearance had become one of dishevelment and neglect. This look of the unkempt, the daughter decided, simply would not do. In this the year of the faltering father—of a man in disarray—the father was continually in a mess: pillow askew and damp with drool or sweat or spill, his hair a silvery wisp at his forehead and pressed flat at the occiput. She saw the shadowy...

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In Other Hemispheres

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pp. 213-228

The land slips by below him—towns and treetops, bridges and rivers. Upland fog. The glitter of water.
The father tries to see. Ground, he says. Low visibility. Ground, come in.
Shh, the daughter says.
Tower? the father says. Do you read me on this frequency?
You’d better hold it down, the daughter says.
Attempting to land. Trying to get home....

Acknowledgments

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p. 229