Cover

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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Contents

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p. ix

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Quality of Life

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pp. 3-15

Mr. Fulger called when he wanted to see her and she obliged. For a while it was all very matter-of-fact, like a visit to the library, the reasons for going unequivocal. Regret rarely played a part. And there was little premeditation, as far as she could tell. Mr. Fulger, when not with her, resided on a plane that did not intersect her own, and after her initial period of infatuation ...

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Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry

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pp. 16-31

Antonio Martedi, a painter and sculptor who had sold what he sometimes boasted were his least interesting works to American museums, told his granddaughter, April Walsh, on what turned out to be the day before his death, that he had not lived in fear of mediocrity so much as the disdain of beautiful women. He had made art because he wanted to be loved, ...

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Twelve Twelve

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pp. 32-46

Someone in the alley three stories below my window was calling out to someone else and what he was saying was not very nice. Maybe he did it because we were all stuck in an ugly, listless March, ice visible everywhere and clinging to our lawns like a dense gray scum. We were exhausted and cynical under cloudy skies, our pants cuffs perpetually caked in grit and ...

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You’re So Different

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pp. 47-63

Over the past two hours, she has heard a number of very personal complaints from people she knew twenty years ago, most of whom she hasn’t spoken with since they were in high school together. The hall the party planners have rented is poorly maintained and stinks of rotting wood and damp plaster, the water-stained ceiling flaking in the corners. Tickets, in-...

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By the Way

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pp. 64-80

And what, in the hidden, velvet-lined chambers of his heart, do I think he holds most dear? There must be, fixed but quivering, a boyhood coonskin cap, an Alaskan cruise taken at age fourteen, a championship Pac-man score and several issues of Mad Magazine, a large serving of truly celestial lasagna, a half-dozen Bruce Springsteen songs, and maybe, if I’m really ...

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Alex Rice Inc.

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pp. 81-100

She finds his name on her roster two days before the start of the fall semester and then can only stare at it. At first she doesn’t want to believe it. It seems a petty joke, meant only to disorient her. But he is there with twenty other names, as rumors all summer have claimed he would be, this thirty-two-year-old movie actor, now a full-time student at the university ...

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Interview with the Second Wife

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pp. 101-116

Eleven years ago, a young man traveled through four states to meet with me. It was a few months after Patric had died, and until yesterday, I don’t think I had thought about this man in a few years. His name was in yesterday’s paper, not on the front page, but this is a newspaper at least two or three million people read each day, and there was his picture, section 2, ...

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For Once in Your Life

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pp. 117-130

Sunday was the day of arguments. Most of the time people stood up to argue too—there was no prim bickering across the table or the room. They had held in grudges and suspicions all week, and after church, with those who went or not, the complaints came out in a bitter torrent. Sunday was not a day of rest with casseroles and long naps, nor of peace and ...

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A Million Dollars

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pp. 131-146

For one, I am not as dumb as some people seem to think I am. He should know that only morons would ever fall for that old line—“Have I seen you somewhere before? Because you look like a model. You have to let me take your picture.” That one ranks right up there with “If you start selling these vacuum cleaners, you’ll soon be so rich you’ll only have to ...

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Walled City

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pp. 147-154

Wednesday is the day with the highest number of calls, the phone ringing as often as seventy-five times an hour, some of the calls going to voicemail because the operator cannot bear to put another irascible person on hold. Friday is the quietest day, the calls tapering off around one o’clock to only a few an hour, though there’s a flurry right at five, most of them left to ...

Back Cover

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