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Tough Day for the Army

Stories

John Warner

Publication Year: 2014

The stories in John Warner's Tough Day for the Army move from hilarious and biting to unsettling and sad-sometimes within the span of a few pages. Mining the absurdities, confusions, and hypocrisies of our contemporary times, these stories raise questions such as: What would happen if Jesus Christ played minor league hockey before he became the Son of God ("Second Careers")? What would you do if a group of poets in search of inspiration appeared on your farm ("Poet Farmers")? Many of the stories upend expectations of the act of storytelling, as in "Corrections and Clarifications," written entirely in the form of newspaper corrections, or "Return-to-Sensibility Problems after Penetrating Captive Bolt Stunning of Cattle in Commercial Beef Slaughter Plant #5867: Confidential Report," which begins as a straightforward account of slaughterhouse operations but quickly devolves into something wholly surprising and different. Warner's relentlessly inventive stories are reminiscent of the works of Donald Barthelme, George Saunders, and Amy Hempel. With comic and tender rambunctiousness, his satirical voice parries and thrusts its way through each narrative, combining a strong wit with a soft heart.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Nelson v. the Mormon Smile

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pp. 1-18

Nelson was worried about his balls, and because Nelson was the kind of person who tended to put his thoughts into words, he leaned over to the cubicle next to him and said to his friend/coworker, Jürgen, “I’m worried about my balls.”
Jürgen held up a finger, signaling that Nelson should wait. Jürgen spoke into his headset mouthpiece, asking if Mrs. Luffnagel was...

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My Dog and Me

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pp. 19-24

I’ve been experiencing dissatisfaction with my dog. As a dog, he’s not bad—sleeps at appropriate times, fetches with moderate to high enthusiasm, never messes in the apartment except that one time I temporarily lost track of where we lived and hadn’t been home for maybe thirty-six hours. When I walked in and smelled the mess and saw the...

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Return-to-Sensibility Problems after Penetrating Captive Bolt Stunning of Cattle in Commercial Beef Slaughter Plant #5867: Confidential Report

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pp. 25-39

Purpose
To evaluate the efficacy of penetrating captive bolt stunning of cattle in Commercial Beef Slaughter Plant #5867 and identify potential causes of a return to sensibility among stunned cattle.

Purpose behind the Purpose
Stifling the complaints. In the opinion of this researcher, the combination of on-site protests; undercover, illegally obtained video aired...

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Monkey and Man

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pp. 40-52

So I was sitting on the couch, scratching behind the dog’s secondfavorite ear and humming a song of woe over Constance leaving us, when the doorbell rang. Through the cracked door I saw a vaguely familiar monkey dressed in tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and cummerbund, but no pants. He clutched a circular hatbox.
“Sorry, no monkeys needed...

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Corrections and Clarifications

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pp. 53-59

The caption for the photo of yesterday’s city council meeting (Section 1, Page 2) misidentified Lawrence Billings as Horance Willings. We regret the error.
In Wednesday’s lead editorial, we declared that Sheriff Jack Seager is an ineffectual public servant whose slipshod leadership is plunging our town into a death spiral of crime and corruption. We regret this...

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Not Schmitty

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pp. 60-67

Here we are in the house weight room, though it is not really the weight room because it is the boiler room, the place where the boiler is, the boiler that heats the house we live in together as brothers.
It is an old house. And at night, in the cold months, the boiler clangs and clanks, which tells us that it is working at least.
It is a fraternity...

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Second Careers

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pp. 68-72

I don’t think that Christ would be shy to shake off his gloves and protect his teammates.
—Stu Grimson, NHL enforcer/born-again Christian

Jesus? Jesus Christ? Yeah, sure I remember him, a scrapper, a real character guy. I mean, Jesus Christ, he was Jesus Christ, you know?
— Bob Morrison, Jesus’s Coach with the Saskatoon Bear Trap...

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Homosexuals Threaten the Sanctity of Norman’s Marriage

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pp. 73-86

They started in on a Tuesday, late fall. It was morning, and as Norman took the garbage to the curb, he could see them loosely huddled near the bagged leaves that waited for pickup. Damn it, he thought. Homosexuals in the yard.
They’d come to threaten the sanctity of his marriage, but Norman wasn’t having it.
“Morning,” he said. Norman tries to...

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My Best Seller

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pp. 87-96

I’m going to write a best seller.
Because women buy most of the books, my best seller will have a female protagonist.
I’m going to call her Greta because I’ve always thought Greta is a pretty name.
In addition, I have become aware that the supernatural is hot, that people enjoy elements of mystery and magic in their best-selling books, that otherworldly creatures...

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Notes from a Neighborhood War

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pp. 97-101

Billy Turner and Jimmy Elliott were ten years old.
“Oh yeah?” Billy Turner said to Jimmy Elliott.
“Yeah!” Jimmy Elliott said back to Billy Turner as he kicked Billy in the shin and then socked him in the gut, dropping him to the sidewalk. Billy held his shin with one hand and his stomach with the other and moaned up from the...

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Tuesday, the Bad Zoo

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pp. 102-115

Feeling the approaching jet as only an ominous rumbling that shakes her subterranean, brick-walled lab, Dr. Thornwood, Jane, lifts a blackened organ from the most recently deceased lynx and weighs it on the overhead scale. Jane sighs and pushes her glasses up on her nose with the back of her wrist as she records the organ’s weight and...

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What I Am, What I Found, What I Did (Attachments Enclosed)

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pp. 116-122

It is important that certain things be cleared up. What I did was not a protest, and I am not nor ever have been affiliated with any anti-government, citizen militia group. I am not an Islamist or anything like that. I’m not entirely sure what an Islamist is. What I did should not—and I cannot emphasize this enough—be compared to the tragedy...

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Poet Farmers

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pp. 123-126

Ruthie saw them first. She shaded her eyes with a hand and pointed at a group kicking up dust along the drive. Capes flapped behind as they walked, and each one of them clutched a wire notebook and pen. “Shit damn,” Ruthie said to Roy. “Looks like we got poets.”
The leader, pale and pointy-nosed, scooped up a handful of dirt...

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Tough Day for the Army

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pp. 127-134

The army waits, nerve-jangled, for the word.
Waiting, the army sits, awkward and uncomfortable on the molded orange plastic waiting room chairs. The chairs offer little cover from ambush or sniper. In normal times (which these are not, but when are they ever?), the army would never willingly choose this location.
Forward scouts were dispatched...

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A Love Story

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pp. 135-154

“How long?”
“Excuse me?
“How long have you loved her?”
I was almost always the last out the door of Señora Nuborgen’s Spanish class. My last name, Zimmerman, kept me pinned in back of the alphabetically ordered rows, and I also spent most of every class daydreaming, or sometimes sleeping, and was always a beat behind when it came...

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Acknowledgments

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p. 155-155

This book is dedicated to my teachers, of which there are too many to name them all, but special thanks to Philip Graham, Robert Olen Butler, and John Wood. Thanks as well to friends and colleagues from whom I’ve had the pleasure to learn much along the way, including, but not limited to Nick Johnson, John Griswold, and Marlene...


E-ISBN-13: 9780807158036
E-ISBN-10: 0807158038

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2014