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The Quick-Change Artist


Cary Holladay

Publication Year: 2012

In these stories of magic and memory, clustered around a resort hotel in a small Virginia community, Cary Holladay takes the reader on an excursion through the changes wrought by time on the community and its visitors. From the quiet of a rural forest to the rhythms of rock and roll, The Quick-Change Artist is at once whimsical and hard-edged, dizzying in its matter-of-fact delivery of the fantastic.

Romance, a sense of place and belonging, and the supernatural—especially in the lives of children coming of age—offer windows into worlds beyond the ordinary throughout The Quick-Change Artist. In the title story, a young chambermaid is in love with a foreign magician who performs at the hotel where she works. In “Heaven,” set during the 1918 flu epidemic, a struggling mother and son rely on the support of their fortune-telling plow horse. The narrator of “Jane's Hat” recalls a childhood enlivened by an unusual school principal and a friend who starts finding beauty everywhere.

Horses and the people who love them, wanderers and those who feed them, creatures that disappear and those who search for them: these are stories with a constant heart.

Published by: Ohio University Press

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The Quick-Change Artist

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pp. 1-25

VANGIE AND HER brother Luke are fishing at Hidden Lake in the middle of the night. It’s almost the same as day for Luke, who is blind, totally and utterly, his eyeballs having been removed long ago...

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The Peacock

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pp. 26-37

SHE WAS BORN a long time ago, on a day when the bugs chewed the grape leaves into lace. Her mother in labor claimed to hear a rose by her bedside singing, swore that the rose was smiling even though you couldn’t see the smile. Why don’t more women talk about that...

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The Biggest and the Best

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pp. 38-53

ERIC WARING’S FATHER, Jody, bought the roller rink on a Friday night in May. With the real estate agent, they sat in their station wagon in the deserted parking lot, waiting for the seller. Pollen from a nearby...

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pp. 54-64

TOWARD THE END of 1918, with so many sick from flu, Margaret Taylor stopped receiving visitors who wanted to consult her prophesying horse; she was afraid they would bring the plague. The horse, Lady Wisdom, who spelled out answers by plunking her hooves......

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The Blue Monkey

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pp. 65-74

AFTER MY HUSBAND Ed and I lost our only child, our daughter Cyndy, we were invited to join a supper club. People felt sorry for us. We don’t belong in a supper club. That’s for lawyers and surgeons, people like that. I didn’t want to join, but Ed insisted....

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The Broken Lake

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pp. 75-100

AFTER A WEEK of hard, heavy rain, Castle Lake burst into Crystal Lake, and as one they split their banks and flooded out a section of railroad tracks big enough to hold an engine and twenty freight cars. The next morning, giddy sunshine threw its sparks over the receding...

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The Iron Road

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pp. 101-117

BRANDY MADE HERSELF small as a rabbit to crawl beneath the freight car. It was cool and dark there, a good place to hide. She clutched the wooden ties of the tracks, scratching her hands, and found a penny which she held outside the freight car’s shadow to...

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Syrup and Feather

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pp. 118-134

JULIA RESIGNED HER teaching job in February because she was getting married. She needed time to make her gown and trousseau for the April wedding. Embroidering daisies on fingertip towels, she had never been so happy or so alone, her future a bright blank stretch...

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Jane's Hat

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pp. 135-148

BACK WHEN STOCKING caps were in fashion, those long knit caps of bright yarn with tassels on the end, back when my friend Jane had the best stocking cap in school, Mr. Overton Underhill came biking up behind us and snatched Jane’s cap right off...

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Sailor's Valentine

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pp. 149-164

BOB WILLIAMS, DRUNK for seven years, surprised his wife by sobering up and opening a candy store in an abandoned boxcar that had sat for years beside the railroad tracks. He got the proper licenses, cleaned the place up, and made all the candy himself, old...

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The Interview

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pp. 165-180

LELAND RICHARDS WAS twenty-three, a farm boy from the Virginia Tidewater. Curiosity drew him to Niagara Falls in the summer of 1860, and the roar made him jump right in. The water yanked every limb from its socket. Just in time, rescuers hauled him out with...

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The Lost Pony

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pp. 181-201

WEST TO THE mountains, east to the sea; I used to hear my lost pony running on the road at night, the pony I’d won at a raffle the day the Glen Allen Youth Center opened, the pony that brought me such brief glorious popularity and then jumped his fence and...

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Snow Day

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pp. 202-224

NELLE FENTON WAS in Florida visiting John, the oldest of her seven sons, when she received the terrible news that her youngest boy, Dudley, had eloped with Nelle’s housekeeper. The woman, Mildred Murphy, was low-class, in Nelle’s opinion, and she was more...

E-ISBN-13: 9780804040273
Print-ISBN-13: 9780804010931

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City and town life -- Virginia -- Fiction.
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