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Living with Snakes

Daniel Curley

Publication Year: 2013

In Daniel Curley's stories, passionate rage and cool, clear hatred alter the terms of even the most basic human relationships, etching odd patterns on the surface of the natural world--a man applies the methods of Mata-Hari to the task of keeping track of his ex-wife; the victim of a pickpocket plots psychological revenge on the criminal population of a Mexico City bus line; a spurned lover summons all his strength and courage to liberate a roomful of snakes held captive by his rival.

For the most part, the figures in the landscape of these stories are men and women performing the rituals that lead to and away from marriage. In "The First Baseman," a man in the process of getting a divorce falls in love with a player on a woman's softball team, but their conversation never goes far beyond the subject of her batting average. In "Trinity," an estranged couple brought together again by the death of their daughter finds that they cannot recreate either their love or their child. And in "Wild Geese," a man's dream about his childhood, when flocks of geese patterned the sky, is interrupted and finally shot-through by fevered images of a tedious dinner party.

Nature exists as a refuge in these stories, but it is a refuge mostly to be found in the shadow of the fear of death; in the recesses of memory; beyond the bars that isolate zoo animals from an unruly world. Demonically honest and sometimes violently funny, Living with Snakes tells of a world where love is at best a touch-and-go sort of thing, where sometimes men and women are bound together not so much by affection as by mutual loss, mutual pain.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-12

And then the Andersons met again at the deathbed of their child. Theirs had been a particularly vicious divorce. Every item of property had been the subject of separate and distinct acrimony, each book in the bookcase, each stick in the woodbin, each plastic spoon in the picnic basket. Their lawyers hated them. ...

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The Inlet

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pp. 13-25

Kiner rowed easily and well, but the wind out on the lake was very strong. The light aluminum boat went more sideways than ahead in spite of all he could do to keep it lined up with the mountain ash just over Judith's left shoulder. He looked behind him to see where he was. ...

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The Other Two

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pp. 26-40

I ran into Peter Watts at the gym today. I had just stepped from the bath looking like a god—I know very well how I look. Enough women have told me. Enough homosexuals have made their passes. When I have a beard I look like George V or Nicholas, czar of all the Russias, and that's godlike enough for any man. ...

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pp. 41-49

When Peter Dillon got off the bus at his hotel near the Angel in Mexico City, he took two steps and felt for his billfold. It was gone. He smiled. He was content. But as he approached his hotel he became aware of a man running toward him, waving his arms and cursing violently—at least Dillon assumed he was cursing. ...

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Wild Geese

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pp. 50-57

In his dreams she was always going away from him—going down corridors, going down escalators, jumping off buses. Of course he knew what that was all about, but the dreams went on anyway. Not that he was surprised. Even awake he couldn't accept the fact that he wanted to leave her. ...

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Reflections in the Ice

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pp. 58-70

Everyone knew about my father's two wives. Some said he married my mother and then the other one. Some said he married the other one first and then my mother. One day, standing beside a hole in the ice where he was seining for shiners, Robert Martin described to me in great detail a wedding with two brides and my father in the middle. ...

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Living with Snakes

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pp. 71-83

When Peter Watts moved into Indiana Price's house, the ground rules were explicit. He would have a room in the house, a Federal house near the village out the river road. He would be a presence in the house for her young son while she was traveling. She traveled a lot. She consulted. ...

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The First Baseman

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pp. 84-92

She had long dark hair that she pulled straight back and tied with a piece of bright, heavy yarn. It gave her face a forward-straining, eager look—something like a figurehead, very, very quiet. Just the same there was nothing wooden about her. ...

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The Contrivance

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pp. 93-106

Day after day I watched the old man swim. We always swam in the same lanes, side by side, and once we were started we always maintained the same relative positions. Some of that was conscious on my part. I don't know about him. ...

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Billy Will's Song

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pp. 107-119

Billy Will Jackson was in love with the world when he got on the bus in Moline. He was singing his song—"If this is all it is." Billy Will couldn't sing. Everyone told him so, but in his head he could hear the music, and it was just as good as Elvis—better, because that mother was dead. And he was alive. And drunk. ...

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Visiting the Dead

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pp. 120-134

Just after sunset three little green herons flew into a dead tree far out in the swamp. There was still enough light for binoculars to make sure of them. A mallard flew over, and then another. A kingfisher dropped from a bare branch, flew low over the water, shrieking, and rose sharply to a new vantage point farther away, almost out of sight. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344942
E-ISBN-10: 082034494X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820307671
Print-ISBN-10: 082030767X

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction