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Bright Shards of Someplace Else

Monica McFawn

Publication Year: 2014

In the eleven kaleidoscopic stories that make up Bright Shards of Someplace Else, Monica McFawn traces the combustive, hilarious, and profound effects that occur when people misread the minds of others. The characters—an array of artists, scientists, songwriters, nannies, horse trainers, and poets—often try to pin down another’s point of view, only to find that their own worldview is far from fixed.

The characters in McFawn’s stories long for and fear the encroachment of others. A young boy reduces his nanny’s phone bill with a call, then convinces her he can solve her other problems. A man who works at a butterfly-release business becomes dangerously obsessed with solving a famous mathematical proof. A poetry professor finds himself entangled in the investigation of a murdered student. In the final story, an aging lyricist reconnects with a renowned singer to write an album in the Appalachian Mountains, only to be interrupted by the appearance of his drug-addicted son and a mythical story of recovery.

By turns exuberant and philosophically adroit, Bright Shards of Someplace Else reminds us of both the limits of empathy and its absolute necessity. Our misreadings of others may be unavoidable, but they themselves can be things of beauty, charm, and connection.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x

Thank you to the journals that first published this work, occasionally in slightly different form: “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” Georgia Review; “Dead Horse Productions,” Gargoyle; “Elegantly, in the Least Number of Steps,” Confrontation; “Improvisation,” Hotel Amerika; “The Slide Turned on End,” Web Conjunctions; “Ornament and...

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Out of the Mouths of Babes

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pp. 1-22

He was nine years old. He had eczema. He scored very high on all tests that measured verbal ability. Some teachers mistook his brilliance for a smart mouth. Flossing was a point of contention, sometimes. He had a special diet—be sure to follow the special diet. He was different. A different child.
Grace had learned all this about the boy, Andy, in...

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Dead Horse Productions

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pp. 23-39

As if running through a great headwind, the horse’s eyes were squinted, the lips pulled back to show the teeth, the whole head snaked forward and the ears laid flat. The impression of speed and determination in something so hulking and still was disconcerting. So was the untouched hay a few feet off, so much the possession of...

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Key Phrases

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pp. 40-54

I had to fire Mol. Today was the day. The regional director had called me and told me, apologetically, that they had received enough complaints about Mol over the last six months to necessitate it, and that the previous person in my position had issued her several warnings, none of which had made any difference. “I’m sorry you have to be the...

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Elegantly, in the Least Number of Steps

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pp. 55-71

Behind a windowed storefront full of live butterflies, Aaron sat at an old Formica table surrounded by numbers. It was night, and the only light in the whole declining strip mall (the sub shop next door was now a check-cashing outfit, the laundromat gutted and for rent) came from his desk lamp. In his mind, the numbers around him were...

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A Country Woman

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pp. 72-74

There is a country woman now among us. We can see her from most of our backyards. Whatever you lack she will exemplify in your view—that is, if you are slothful and prone to depression she will be whistling and weeding in the single place in her yard that you can see from the recliner you have not left since last night. If you are needy and rattled...

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Line of Questioning

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pp. 75-85

The accused was excited. They walked him down the halls of the police station with the absurd gravity he had expected, but he had not been ready for how intense and real it seemed. My god! The more powerful man—that guy the rookie cop called Sergeant Ron—walked next to him with magisterial bearing, a rolling of the foot in leather...

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pp. 86-89

The play was a success, and all the actors crowded into the green room, gasping and talking loudly, still projecting as if on stage, their individual voices flung over each other like grappling hooks thrown to opposite ledges. The success was made all the sweeter by all the ways it was nearly not. Rosie, the lead, is grinning and crying with...

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The Slide Turned on End

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pp. 90-109

We were sitting in his home office in Concord, Massachusetts. O’Hara—a biologist by trade—explained his entry into the art world. “I was on my way to a conference on DNA lithography in Illinois, when I got lost. I stopped at an art museum, called the conference directors, and realized that I got the day and time wrong. I missed the damn...

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Ornament and Crime

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pp. 110-113

My father has died, and in my hand are his remains—ashes pressed and fired into a small flattish cube—and I’m laboring to insert him into something so that he sits flush. He always wished to be a geometric form (so often did he rail against “the tyranny of the organic” that I could tell myself he’d be happy), but he also hated bric-a-brac...

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Snippet and the Rainbow Bridge

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pp. 114-132

A pony hangs from a sling in the middle of a barn aisle in Indiana. His front right cannon bone is broken and in a thick white cast with a slight curve for the knee. He is a silver dun with patches of white on his head and belly and streaking his mane. His name is Snippet, and he is eleven years old and thirteen hands high. His past is...

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The Chautauqua Sessions

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pp. 133-164

My son, the drug addict, is about to tell a story. I can tell because he’s closed his eyes and lifted his chin. I can tell because he’s laid his hands, palms down, on the table, like a shaman feeling the energy of the tree-spirit still in the wood. I can tell because he’s drawing a shuddering breath, as if what he has to say will take all he’s got. He’s putting...

Other Works in the Series

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pp. 165-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780820347769
E-ISBN-10: 0820347760

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction