Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents and Acknowledgements

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pp. vii-ix

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In Damascus

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pp. 1-10

Mrs. Mulholland sat under the catalpa tree in her pale straw hat, in a double layer of shade, watching her daughter Vic's eyes. Vic's glance seemed to pick up each one at the table in tum and stitch them together-Mrs. Mulholland's granddaughter, Jane, her older daughter, Alex, Mrs. Mulholland herself-three generations in...

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Eve and Adam, 1963

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pp. 11-23

The real reason they sent me to stay with Clesta that summer was sex. "How can we? With three pubescent girls in the house?" my mother would yell at my father sooner or later during every one of their battles. "That's why we fight all the time. It's the goddamn sexual tension!" The bedroom door would slam, and then the door to...

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Happiness

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pp. 24-40

"What do you mean, brother? I don't have any brother." Waiting for his shuddering heart to subside-when the phone rang he thought, absurdly, that it might be MaddalenaThurston leans against the kitchen wall and looks out the window. Live oak and acacia stand motionless in the deepening twilight. Further...

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Urban Fishing

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pp. 41-52

Jean watches her stepdaughter run down the steps to the ledge along the canal. Half an hour ago she was white with fear, stretching her arm out stiffly for Jean to hold while the doctor cut away her small pearly thumbnail and the infected tissue underneath. Her blood fell in bright round drops on the tile floor, not scarlet...

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Dancing Fish

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pp. 53-67

The first time his brother died, Seth was fifteen. It was November of 1973-Raphael's first weekend home since he'd started at U Mass--and Seth woke early from a dream of smooth, dark, faintly bitter skin, of warm breath across his ear. He swept off the striped woollen blankets and pulled out the sticky mess of the top...

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Salvage

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pp. 68-76

"Dziefz dobry, dziefz dobry, dziefz dobry." They are like figures in an old-fashioned dance, a vaudeville routine translated. He, tall and lanky and professorially stoop-shouldered; she, short and broad. He stands in the hall in late afternoon sunlight while she circles him as if he were a maypole. "Pan Professor," she...

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Someone Else

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pp. 77-87

Mary Rose Klossner fell in love with my husband when she was eleven months old. We stood in my kitchen doorway, thirteen years ago this fall, the four of us: Mary Rose and her father and Loren and me. Early evening: the last of the sun, slanting in through the open door, cut right across us. "We just, I don't know. We run out of just about everything...

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It Was Humdrum

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pp. 88-98

She picks up the phone on the second ring. She is in the kitchen anyway. "Hello?" "Hi, babe." Juan's voice, frayed from too many cigarettes too late at night. "I'm sorry. You have the wrong number." Maude hangs up. It's their signal for when she can't talk; but he will hate it anyway. She had to do it: Roger and Mary Lynn are both in the living room,...

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The White Hope of Cleveland

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pp. 99-106

The summer before I started high school, the summer of 1962, was the hottest Philadelphia had ever seen. My mother would send me out before breakfast with a basket of wash while the dew steamed off the grass. By ten o'clock the wash would be dry. I could feel it drying as I hung it up, prying open the stiff folds locked...

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Imagined Colors

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pp. 107-117

On the last night in May I lay beside my wife listening to the sound of her quiet snoring. Faith, who when we first slept together was so still that I sometimes laid my hand on her to make sure she was breathing, the way she would do with Donny and Joe when they were born. In every room my clocks were ticking, not...

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Nothing

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pp. 118-120

They must have been waiting all afternoon for someone like me to come along. Sitting in the narrow lane between a low bungalow with a green-painted porch and Bethel Baptist Church. Hot; at loose ends under that loud sky. Three of them had their backs against the stone wall of the church, legs in cutoff jeans stretched out...

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The Cost of Anything

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pp. 121-130

It is a funeral without a body. An oxymoron, my father would have said, leaning back and talking past his cigarette so that smoke ribboned out around it and dwindled to lavender above his head. My mother, kneeling beside me in her long-sleeved black dress, elbows tucked in at her sides, has done what my father wanted. With...