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Quality Snacks

Stories by Andy Mozina

Publication Year: 2014

In a wide range of forms and tones, the fifteen stories in Andy Mozina’s new collection, Quality Snacks, center on high-stakes performances by characters trying to gratify both deep and superficial needs, often with unexpected consequences. Driven by strange ambitions, bungled love, and a taste for—or abject fear of—physical danger, the collection’s characters enact the paradox in the concept of a quality snack: the dream of transmuting the mundane into something extraordinary. Two teenage boys play chicken on a Milwaukee freeway. A man experiencing a career crisis watches a seventy-four-year-old great grandmother perform an aerial acrobatics routine at the top of a swaying 110-foot pole. Desperate to find a full-time job, a pizza delivery man is fooled into a humiliating sexual demonstration by a couple at a Midway Motor Lodge. A troubled young man tries to end his father’s verbal harassment by successfully hunting a polar bear. After an elf civil war destroys his Christmas operation, Santa Claus reinvents himself as a one-man baseball team and ends up desperate to win a single game. And in the title story, a flavor engineer at Frito-Lay tries to win his boss’s heart with a new strategy for Doritos that aims to reposition the brand from snack food to main course. While some stories embrace pathos and some are humorous and some are realistic and some contain surreal elements, all of the stories in Quality Snacks share striking insight and a cast of compelling, well-conceived characters. This collection, in an earlier form, has been a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, the Elixir Press Fiction Award, and the Autumn House Fiction Contest, and a semi-finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize. Readers of fiction will be satisfied by the variety of fare offered by Quality Snacks.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Praise, Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Dogs I Have Known

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pp. 1-22

It is said that dogs are good. People with dogs live longer, are happier, and are less likely to have their homes burglarized.
I have never owned a dog. This is in part because I am afraid of them, but also because I do not want to take care of an animal. My daughter would love a dog, but I will never buy her one.
So I guess you know what kind of person I am....

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Pelvis

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pp. 23-28

In his house, there are beautiful things. In the Jungle Room, there are statues of monkeys and a waterfall. In the Pool Room, there is a twist of tapestry for a ceiling. There is red and gold everywhere. He himself is a work of beauty—sideburn, lip, pelvis. What’s known as a human god. Above men, though with them. Born among us,...

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Overpass

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pp. 29-46

When Jack stepped off the city bus, wind blew into his open coat, drying his sweaty shirt and chilling him. The ride home from high school often made him motion sick, but there was nothing he could do about it, just as there was nothing he could do about the high school itself, which was large and old, with tall corridors that always seemed underlit. He zipped up his coat, licked the pimple at the corner of his mouth, and started home....

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Proofreader

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pp. 47-56

I had turned to James, one of my proofreaders, to guide me in matters of love, to keep me from making mistakes. This now itself seemed to have been a mistake. On top of this, his work had begun to suffer.
So I called the jackal on the phone and ordered him over to my office, where he might not be so comfortable, where I might pull his forearm hair or pinch him with my staple remover. But when he...

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Séance

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pp. 57-62

The woman had moist. Damp pod inside. Intimate times, she was boiled snow pea slick. Months postmeeting, couldn’t form a sentence. So directly affected by her, did I was. After we lost our baby, I sometimes went “yit” or “jit jit,” my brain damp and _, while she absorbed the pain and gave off aseptic smiles. Current problem: I had raked the leaves into a pile. While she fumed, the leaves kept falling. Was I supposed to know piles of leaves aggravated her?...

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A Talented Individual

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pp. 63-80

When had it dawned on him that he was a talented individual? Was it on the first day of second grade when Sister Rose asked him if he wanted yet another sheet of math problems while other kids struggled with their first? Was it the eighth-grade forensics tournament in which he placed first in extemporaneous speaking? Or was it his MBA in marketing from the Kellogg School at Northwestern, a top-five B-school?...

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Helmet of Ice

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pp. 81-82

It was a cold November day, and our dry boats rested one hundred yards from a sea broken into churning black heaves of water between jostling bergs. I feared my father would chase me with his ax, as a joke, forcing me to run over the hard creases of shore ice, which were sharp enough to cut through my sealskin pants and gash my legs. My mother lay on her stomach among the women. For some...

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Quality Snacks

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pp. 83-102

Assembled there in a fifth-floor conference room at the North American headquarters in Plano were twelve of Frito-Lay’s finest minds. No, we weren’t the very top of the org chart—though Helen was VP for Consumer Strategy, Insights, and Growth—but we represented a crucial creative force. I believed a company was driven by its products. Period. As a senior project scientist for the Doritos...

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Self-Reliance

...morning but crossed the sky low and to the south, like a wobbly trucks hauled off the rubble. Some debris went by train. Borden?s still made milk and sherbet and ice cream at the plant on Highway 100, and Elsie the Cow?s red-and-yellow face still smile

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pp. 103-118

After Ronald Reagan became president, hard times found me in West Allis, Wisconsin. They followed me around, then they got ahead of me—like my shadow. The sun flew into the air every morning but crossed the sky low and to the south, like a wobbly punt that curved out-of-bounds. A wrecking ball was knocking down six-blocks worth of Allis-Chalmers. Twenty-foot-tall dump trucks hauled off the rubble. Some debris went by train. Borden’s...

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Woman of Peace

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pp. 119-134

By the time she turned seventeen, Meg Shannon had come to believe that the world pretty much sucked, but with the help of friends and family you could build a little tarp-covered shack in which you could ride out the shit storms.
She was raised in Justice, a southwest suburb of Chicago, where 294 and I-55 tangled and separated, where the late news was filled with shootings and fires and indicted politicians, where nearby...

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My Nonsexual Affair: A Tale of Strong and Unusual Feelings

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pp. 135-152

My nonsexual affair began on the day Linda and I had hot-fudge sundaes, in the park, near the fence, where most of the grass was dead and the weeds could not be identified by anyone who was not a trained botanist....

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Windows Reflect Some Light

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pp. 153-160

He was placing the sprinkler on his small front lawn when she got out of her two-tone Buick Le Sabre at the curb and approached. “It’s me,” she said.
She went right by him, up his porch steps, and into his house, while he stood on the lawn.
He had never seen her before. ...

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The Bad Reader

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pp. 161-174

Two grown men at the Dairy Queen consider a difficult case: a nephew gone astray, a gun brandished in a bookstore, shots fired. Red, the taller and older of the two men, wearing shorts and a blue polo shirt, stands by the plate-glass window, holding the stub end of his ice-cream cone at his side, in a nonlicking position. His hiked-up white athletic socks cover his bowlegged calves without a wrinkle;...

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Always the Same Dream

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pp. 175-182

In the dream, I’m always eating a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on the green-line L train when a woman carrying a boa constrictor gets on at thirty-fifth Street. She sits across from me wearing a bobcat-print pair of stretch pants and a tiger-print top. She has her hair pulled up in an alarmingly vertical ponytail, kind of like ...

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No Joy in Santa’s Village

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pp. 183-204

It was the bottom of the ninth and Santa was down 43–1. After playing every position, taking every at bat, all game, he was tired. He was six for thirty-one with one run batted in, himself, in the seventh, on a fading drive down the right-field line that had curved around the foul pole at 353 feet. He’d taken his base trot slower than anyone had ever taken it. He was tired and he was resting himself....

Acknowledgments

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pp. 205-206


E-ISBN-13: 9780814340165
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814340158

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Made in Michigan Writers Series