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Ate It Anyway

Ed Allen

Publication Year: 2012

In the limbo bounded by rebellion and resignation, belonging and solitude, Ed Allen's middle Americans seem to be either freely adrift or uncomfortably vested in an exit strategy wholly inadequate for their circumstances. These sixteen darkly humorous stories gauge the tension between what we really feel and what we outwardly express, what we should do and what we manage to get done.

In "Celibacy-by-the-Atlantic," Phil negotiates a lingering, low-intensity regret brought on by the annual family get-together at his parents' beach house, where memories of his aimless, privileged adolescence mingle with forebodings of his aimless, privileged middle age. In "A Lover's Guide to Hospitals," Carl lies in bed, pining over a stillborn romance through a moody, post-op haze of painkillers. As a consoling needle through the heart, the object of Carl's unrequited affections also turns out to be his nurse.

In "Burt Osborne Rules the World," a precocious boy ponders his childhood in "a world protected against anything you could imagine doing to make it more interesting." Sensing that only more of the same awaits him as an adult, Burt charts a different course--as a class clown with a truly toxic sense of mischief. Others, like Lydia in "Ralph Goes to Mexico," assert their individuality more effortlessly, for they're just too naturally odd to be cowed by convention. Lydia's dilemma is whether she should have her leukemic cat stuffed and mounted or turned into a hat after he dies.

These lyrical tales celebrate the ordinary--and the not so ordinary--with a flourish of Nabokovian wit that combines grandeur, kitsch, and the author's broad empathy with his characters.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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River of Toys

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pp. 1-11

I love to walk with my eyes closed. At night, when I come back to my apartment from work, there are almost no cars on the road, and I can walk and walk until I hear a car coming from behind or until I see through my closed eyelids the light of one corning toward me, and I open my eyes and find myself walking in the middle of Highland Avenue. ...

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pp. 12-26

It was a clever idea, but the movie did nothing with it. The noncheerleader girls, wearing their boyfriends' leather jackets and popping gum in time to the music, swaggered between rows of combination lockers and advanced toward the camera in a phalanx of lipsticked smiles. ...

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Night of the Red Palm

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pp. 27-34

"One thing I ought to point out is that I don't think morgues are usually ever closed," Chuck said, perched at the edge of his rolling chair and looking down for a minute at the first draft of Kristy Roller's narrative essay and then back up to her face and the red hair around it, stirred, as if waiting to get back out in the wind. ...

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Wickersham Day

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pp. 35-44

Getting the dog off the roof meant that somebody had to pull Danny's Land Cruiser up to the kitchen door, as close as possible to the edge of the house, then Danny would climb on top of the car, while Booger would walk back and forth, not quite understanding that he was on the roof, ...

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Ralph Goes to Mexico

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pp. 45-58

Even at highway speed, the Ryder van's automatic transmission seems never to shift, just winds out faster and more frantic, like a washing machine on the spin cycle, revs up from ramp to interstate, to a high whinny at sixty-five. If Lydia tries to go any faster, some kind of governor comes on and literally pushes the gas pedal back up. ...

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Hungry Hungry Hippos

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pp. 59-65

In my first year out of college, I spent so much time staring into my old black-and-white television that I began to incorporate into my own eyes the tendency of the picture to roll when the tubes overheated. Drifting off to sleep, I often had vertical-hold problems: ...

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Burt Osborne Rules the World

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pp. 66-78

All day long, on that day in the sixth grade when my life changed forever and the world became a better place, everything had been smelling and tasting like overcooked eggs. I wasn't sick exactly; it was more that I was no longer friends with the taste of food. ...

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How to Swallow

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pp. 79-95

Frank Sinatra was dead, to begin with, but that wasn't the lead story. Cars were on fire in Indonesia, burning yellow and orange on the front page of the same newspaper in every vending box, which Jim could see every time the chartered bus stopped at a corner, the whole page bright with flames, leaving a narrow column on the right: ...

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A Lover's Guide to Hospitals

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pp. 96-105

In my oldest fantasy, everything is perfect after the giant bicycle accident. My friends and I clench our teeth as if imitating sharks, all our appendixes ruptured, such a crowd of us that they have had to call a second ambulance. The pain weighs us down on our stretchers as cleanly as a bag of sand. ...

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In a City with Dogs

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pp. 106-111

Other than a man I used to know from school who was collecting signatures on a petition to abolish the international police force, and the kid in Central Park who tried to rob me by saying he had a gun built into the shoe of his artificial leg, my memories of the months I lived in New York are more or less unpopulated. ...

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A Bend among Bumblebees

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pp. 112-122

We're sitting there waiting for our fake margaritas when we hear that sneezing noise of a charter bus pumping its air brakes, and in about half a minute La Sombrero is wall-to-wall with green warm-up jackets from one of those flag twirling and color guard squads that were competing this weekend at the HeiferDome. ...

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Ashes North

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pp. 123-138

Roy's two sons both cried on the phone when Bob finally reached them from the lobby of a pizza restaurant whose main dining area was filled with coin-operated cars and rocket ships. Bob had been calling their house every few hours, not knowing when they would get back from their camping trip. ...

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Hot Plate

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pp. 139-151

Cabrito al carbon. Salsa, roja. Blosser is thinking in Spanish, though he doesn't really know how to speak it, except for a few restaurant-related phrases, thinking as he always does on his last call of the day, even filling in on the blackboard at the back of his eyes those rolling diacritical squiggles that English doesn't have a name for. ...

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A Puddle of Sex Books

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pp. 152-162

How it starts is that a man is driving in the desert and a woman passes him in a car, and she is naked. Then there is something about how she pulls in for gas and somebody else sees her, maybe an old man. Or maybe by then she's curled up in the backseat of somebody else's car. ...

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Singing Pumpkins

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pp. 163-169

George was sitting with Life magazine opened to a page that showed Senator Barry Goldwater's face lit from below in the manner of kids in a tent trying to scare each other with flashlights. The sun had gone behind a cloud; he had read all his comic books twice; ...

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A Foolish but Lovable Airport

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pp. 170-182

It is very satisfying to be part of a dialogue in which a man invites a woman whom he's already given up on to come visit him at his parents' summer house, at the very moment when that woman has a man in her apartment watching basketball and waiting for her to come back inside with the barbecued chicken legs. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344812
E-ISBN-10: 0820344818
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820325583
Print-ISBN-10: 0820325589

Page Count: 194
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction